8 February 2005

Palestinian Election Success Auspicious, but Situation Remains Fragile, Says Secretary-General in Statement to Palestinian Rights Committee

NEW YORK, 7 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s statement at the opening of the 2005 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in New York, 7 February:

It is a pleasure to join you today, at the opening of a new session of the Committee.  The year ahead is a very important one for the cause of peace in the Middle East.

The year began auspiciously, with the successful conduct of the Palestinian presidential election.  Palestinians can be proud of the peaceful and competitive atmosphere which marked the election campaign.  The United Nations is glad to have been able to provide assistance to the electoral authorities, as we will for the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Council elections.

The Palestinian people voted in large numbers for a candidate opposed to violence and committed to implementation of the Road Map.  I applaud them for doing so.  And I congratulate the new President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, on the significant moves he has made in his first weeks in office.  I am pleased that Prime Minister Sharon has also taken important steps.

This new attitude of cooperation between the parties has already borne fruit.  Security coordination has been restored.  The two sides are now in almost daily contact.  And tomorrow, President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon will meet in Sharm El Sheikh, together with Egyptian President Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah.  This is a welcome initiative.

Yet the situation remains fragile. The parties must be encouraged to deepen their political dialogue, and to match their positive words with action on the ground. In his inaugural address, President Abbas confirmed his readiness to restart final status negotiations with Israel. He also committed himself to restructuring Palestinian security forces, strengthening Palestinian institutions, and carrying forward democratic reform.  I am sure he will move swiftly to act on these commitments.  On the Israeli side, I also look forward to the early implementation of Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement plan, in coordination with the Palestinian leadership, as an important step leading to the implementation of the Road Map.

I urge all Member States to help the parties meet their commitments and strengthen their cooperation, so that the opportunity for progress towards peace now at hand is firmly grasped.  The United Nations will continue to work with our partners in the Quartet for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace, based on Security Council resolutions, and within the framework of the Road Map.

Meanwhile, the economic plight of the Palestinians demands attention and action.  Alleviating their suffering and providing economic opportunity is a humanitarian imperative and an important contribution to peace.  United Nations agencies, including UNRWA, UNDP, WFP and UNICEF, bring help and opportunity to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who desperately need it.  Those efforts need the strong and sustained support of donors.

I thank this Committee for its contribution to the goal of achieving peace in the Middle East.  I wish you all success in carrying out your mandate during this year of such importance to the future of the Palestinian people.

* *** *