Press Releases

    5 April 2002


    Welcomes Mission by United States Secretary Powell,
    As Parties Unable, on Their Own, to Find Way Out of Current Situation

    NEW YORK, 4 April (UN Headquarters) -- The following is the statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council on 4 April:

    The situation in the Middle East -- between Israel and Palestine, and across the "Blue Line" -- continues to deteriorate. All parties risk making serious miscalculations about the effect that their actions will have on each other. Such miscalculations can all too easily draw the region into greater and greater danger, whether intended or not.

    My purpose in addressing you today is to call on all members of the international community to consider urgently how best to intercede with the parties to persuade them to draw back from their present course.

    In the Palestinian-Israeli arena, Security Council resolution 1402 provides the elements needed to begin to de-escalate the present crisis, and resolution 1397 provides the framework for a permanent settlement. We all need to intensify our efforts to see that those resolutions are implemented without further delay.

    Israeli actions, since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1402, do not bode well for stabilizing the situation and renewing political talks. On the contrary, the Government of Israel appears to be moving in the opposite direction to that prescribed by resolutions 1397 and 1402 -- a sure path to further escalation. Israel has justified its acts as self-defence and "counter-terrorist" measures.

    However, we need to be very clear that self-defence is not a blank cheque. It is important to understand that responding to terrorism does not in any way free Israel from its obligations under international law, nor does it justify creating a human rights and humanitarian crisis within the occupied Palestinian territory. There is an urgent need to comply with all provisions of international law, particularly those that ban indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force, as well as the humiliating treatment of a civilian population.

    Forcing Chairman Arafat into exile would be reckless. He is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and his exile would only lead to even more violence and chaos. Deportation is specifically prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention. It would be a miscalculation of monumental proportions to believe that removing Chairman Arafat from the political scene and dismantling the Palestinian Authority would create conditions where Israel can achieve security for itself.

    I understand the bitterness, anger and disillusion felt by Israelis. But the military route undertaken by the Government of Israel will not pacify the Palestinians. Nor do I see how this approach can bring peace and security to Israel. Only a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement can do so.

    If we have learned anything from history, it is that it is a grave mistake for the more powerful party to believe that power alone will ultimately subdue the weaker party.

    In fact, what we are witnessing is an increase in the resolve and unity of the Palestinians, as well as increasing public anger across the Arab and Islamic world and beyond.

    I am not arguing that the spiralling violence is to be blamed on one party alone. The Palestinian Authority seems to believe that failing to act against terrorism, and inducing turmoil, chaos and instability, will cause the Government and the people of Israel to buckle. They will not.

    As we are seeing, this approach is only spurring on the Government in its present course; it also unites the Israeli public behind the military option. We should not forget that it was not so long ago that this same Israeli public was supportive of peace efforts by a large majority.

    Under direct assault from the Israeli military, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian security services are seriously limited in their ability to contain terrorism.

    However, even now, Chairman Arafat has the capacity to exercise political leadership, to set the course for the future of his people. Terrorism is never justified. The Palestinian leadership must acknowledge this and the Palestinian public must accept this.

    I would like to take this opportunity to call on the Government of Israel to give the Quartet full access to the compound of Chairman Arafat and to the Chairman himself.

    Together with General Zinni’s mission, the Quartet arrangement could be used as an effective instrument to pursue implementation of resolution 1402.

    There have been persistent reports about the limitations placed on access by humanitarian and medical workers to those Palestinians in urgent need of assistance.

    It is imperative that humanitarian workers and agencies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Red Crescent Society, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), be granted full access to those affected areas.

    There is plenty of reason for pessimism. But there is at least one recent positive development. The promise represented by the Arab League’s Beirut Summit marked a significant turning point. We need to ensure that the Saudi initiative endorsed by the Arab League does not founder.

    Let us hold onto and nourish that vision amid the encircling gloom and the worrying rise in regional tension.

    Here, I would like to express a very serious concern over events along the Blue Line. I recalled in the Council recently that Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon was in compliance with resolutions 425 and 426, and was recognized as such by the Council itself. We must make sure that all sides respect the Blue Line.

    Escalation along the Blue Line could have serious consequences for peace and security in the region, beyond Israel and Lebanon, as we know from the past.

    There seem to be efforts coming from Lebanese territory to deliberately create instability along the Blue Line.

    In addition to recent attacks by Hezbollah across the Blue Line, this morning Hezbollah elements assaulted a patrol of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) military observers.

    It needs to be made clear to Hezbollah and others who may be involved that attacks across the Blue Line -- whether into northern Israel or into occupied Syrian territory -- are violations of Security Council resolutions and are not acceptable.

    I strongly urge those with influence to ensure adherence to the Council resolutions on this subject. The Government of Lebanon will be aware that it is responsible for any hostile actions taken from its territory.

    In this connection, I have been in contact over the last 24 hours with leaders in the region. Also, my Personal Representative in Lebanon, Mr. de Mistura, and the Force Commander of UNIFIL yesterday met with Council members who have representatives in Beirut, as well as the Lebanese leadership, about the situation.

    Let me conclude by saying that the building blocks of peace, once broken down, are not easily rebuilt.

    Recent events have had a further, severely corrosive effect on mutual confidence. On both sides, bitterness and despair are at an all time high. We all need to cling to the conviction that, in the end, however long it takes, there will one day have to be a peaceful settlement of this conflict.

    Third-party mediation is needed more than ever as the parties are unable, on their own, to find a way out of the present situation. In this connection, I strongly welcome President Bush’s decision to send Secretary Powell to the region.

    The road back to the negotiating table will not be easy or smooth. But, all sides can take the first steps by exercising maximum restraint so as to reverse the current dangerous deterioration of the situation.

    Resolutions 1397 and 1402, taken together, provide the vision for a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the immediate security and political steps needed to move beyond the present crisis. Our efforts need to focus on implementing these resolutions.

    Thank you very much, Mr. President.

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