9 May 2003

Road Map Very Clear About Goal, Steps to Reach It, Secretary-General Says in Message to International Alliance for Arab-Israeli Peace

NEW YORK, 8 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the third conference of the International Alliance for Arab-Israeli Peace in Copenhagen, 8 to 9 May:

I am very pleased to convey my warm greetings to all the participants in this year's conference of the International Alliance for Arab-Israeli Peace. Your initiative, courage and steadfast determination to pursue a negotiated peace despite great obstacles have been an example to all who seek to end the tragic conflict in the Middle East. You are meeting at a hopeful moment after a terrible period of death and destruction on both sides of the conflict. Last week, the Quartet -- composed of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- formally released the Road Map, on which both sides can read not only the final destination, but also each successive step of the road. This is a significant innovation in the peace process.

Up to now, there have been two approaches to peace in the Middle East. Either you set out a vision of peace based on fundamental principles; or you focused on the next concrete step, hoping to reduce tension and build confidence so that another step would become possible, and then another. Both these approaches are valid, but we have learnt that neither can work by itself. The vision of peace attracts both Israelis and Palestinians, but they do not see how they can get there, because neither people believes the other will make the concessions needed. And indeed, neither is willing to take those necessary steps, so long as it is not clear where the road will lead. Now they know.

The Road Map is very clear about the end goal, which is a secure and prosperous Israel, and an independent, viable, sovereign and democratic Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security, in a Middle East from which terror and violence will at last be banished. And the Road Map is equally clear about steps for getting there. It specifies not only who must do what, but also when. It recognizes that peace will not be achieved if each side waits for the other to move first. At every stage in the process, both sides must be able to see a tangible improvement in their situation, and an unmistakable movement towards the end goal. Otherwise they will not have the confidence to move on.

I am convinced that we now have a historic window of opportunity. No previous peace plan has enjoyed such broad support from such important actors as this one does: the United States, Europe, Russia, and key Arab States, including Egypt and Jordan. But let's be clear: the map may come from the Quartet, but it is Israelis and Palestinians who must travel the road. The continuing violence shows that both sides have tough decisions to take, as rejectionists try to drive them off the road with new terror attacks. Both must hold firm to their commitments, and not allow extremists to dictate the future.

Your alliance -- bringing together Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli leaders and activists -- has a key role to play in sustaining the process and conveying its promise, and its importance to your peoples. I wish you all success in your deliberations.

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