22 October 2003


NEW YORK, 21 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East:  “Towards a Two-State Solution”, organized by the Department of Public Information, in cooperation with the Regional Autonomous Government of Andalusia [La Junta Andalusia], Seville,  21-22 October, as delivered by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information:

You gather in Seville at a critical juncture. Seldom has it been more urgent to re-establish momentum towards a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

Yet with the apparent breakdown of negotiations and an increasing spiral of violence, the trend of events is distinctly in the opposite direction. This month has brought even greater violence and suffering to both peoples, with the potential for even worse to come.  In the days and weeks ahead, we must work urgently to contain the spread of conflict. The international community must continue to pressure the parties to exercise maximum self-restraint, avoid any further escalation, respect the provisions of international humanitarian law, and implement their commitments in accordance with the Road Map.  

Israeli actions -- including military strikes using disproportionate force, the construction of a separation fence, house demolitions and the expansion of settlements -- serve only to increase the misery of ordinary Palestinians.  They also undermine the Palestinian Authority’s ability to carry out its responsibilities, including the responsibility to prevent violence.  Moreover, the Israeli air strike against Syria marks a serious escalation of conflict in this already tense region.

However, such actions in no way justify suicide bombings by Palestinian factions.  Such acts of terror are immoral and must be stopped.  Quite apart from the appalling toll in lives, every new outrage diminishes Israeli support for reconciliation and does grave damage to the Palestinian cause.

Thus, each side doubts whether it has a partner for peace and both are pushed further away from the negotiating table.  This is especially tragic because, as the title of your conference indicates, a just and lasting solution is available:  two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. 

The United Nations stands firmly behind this vision, which is based on Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1397, as well as the Arab peace initiative of 2002.  The Road Map, as envisioned by those who framed it, offers a way to realize this vision -- meeting Israel’s need for security and recognition, while realizing the Palestinians’ right to an independent and viable State.

Even amid the carnage of recent days and the overall prevailing pessimism, it is encouraging to see that private efforts by notable Israelis and Palestinians -- such as the Geneva and Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiatives -- are now drawing possible ways to address final status arrangements.  As you are well aware, the last phase in the Road Map calls for an agreement on such sensitive final status issues as Jerusalem, settlements and refugees.  Such private initiatives, while not a substitute for official diplomatic negotiations between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, deserve praise as a courageous attempt to break the stalemate by civil society on both sides.  It is now of paramount importance that the parties start implementing the Road Map provisions without further delay.

Indeed, it is essential that people of good will everywhere, in both official and unofficial positions, devote their political energies and creative efforts to realizing the vision of peaceful coexistence between Israel and the future State of Palestine.  People such as you, gathered here in Seville, have a vital role to play.  I wish you all success.

* *** *