UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed to the UN Security Council to follow up its two recent resolutions on the Mideast conflict by exerting pressure to implement them. Annan told the council he fears the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will deteriorate in the absence of any international action and pose a regional threat to security. But beyond resolutions and statements, it was not clear what further action the council is prepared to take.
United Nations, 2 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has raised new concerns that the escalating violence in the Middle East could spread instability throughout the region.
Annan told the council in a closed-door meeting yesterday that the cycle of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, Israeli military action on Palestinian areas, and new attacks from southern Lebanon against Israel posed a risk to regional security.
The UN secretary-general spoke after marathon weekend efforts by UN diplomats aimed at defusing the crisis. The council approved a resolution early on 30 March calling for an immediate cease-fire by both Israelis and Palestinians and an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities.
Annan's spokesman said he made about 25 telephone calls to leaders in the Middle East during the weekend, as well as European leaders and U.S. President George W. Bush.
Annan told reporters outside the Security Council yesterday that the council's resolution is the best available instrument to move the Israelis and Palestinians away from more violence: "Now that the parties are locked in the logic of war, we need to do all we can to move them back to the logic of peace. But the leaders, the parties, have to be conscious that it is even more important that they pay attention to civilians and respect international humanitarian law, which is applicable even in situations of war."
Annan urged council members to exert their influence both collectively and individually to make sure the resolution is carried out. The resolution also called for both Israeli and Palestinian officials to cooperate with U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni to implement security arrangements to help prepare the way for further political talks.
But Annan said there has been an over-emphasis on security concerns in previous efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. He said he sees no prospect of breaking the current cycle of violence unless the core problems in the Middle East -- occupation, terrorism, and the economic plight of Palestinians -- are addressed at the same time: "We tried [addressing] security [alone] for 18 months, and what have we achieved? I think it is time for us to reassess and reconsider what other elements we should bring to the table."
After five hours of meetings yesterday, the council released a statement reiterating its demand for a cease-fire. The current president of the council, Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, was directed to meet with the Israeli and Palestinian envoys to the UN to stress the importance of carrying out council resolutions.
The council has scheduled more meetings on the Mideast today, including another meeting with Annan.
In comments to reporters yesterday, Annan suggested a more vigorous third-party effort was needed now that Palestinians and Israelis are so "thickly entangled with hatred and mistrust": "I think what is clear is that the parties, left to themselves, cannot resolve this issue. They need a third party to help with the mediation, and perhaps in other forms too."
Annan said that, in his discussions with world leaders at the weekend, the issue of independent monitors for the region came to the forefront again. Palestinian officials have pushed for some form of UN intervention several times in the past 18 months to end the violence.
Israel has said it would only agree to a limited mission by U.S. monitors. The U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, told reporters yesterday that any third-party intervention could not be imposed by the council but would have to result from agreements made on the ground in talks with U.S. envoy Zinni: "[The question of] any possible observer activity is something that would have to be determined down the road and that, to the best of my knowledge, is something that General Zinni and others have only talked about in the context of arrangements that would be mutually agreed by the parties involved."
Syria's ambassador, Mikhail Wehbe, told reporters that in closed-door council meetings, he has stressed the importance of easing Israel's blockade on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Syria, Israel's harshest critic on the council, has consistently sought stronger resolutions condemning Israel for its retaliatory measures following Palestinian terrorist strikes against Israelis.
Wehbe said that for Arafat to engage in political talks at this time, Israel must withdraw from Ramallah: "We asked, as well, to alleviate the siege [immediately] from the [Palestinian] leadership and from Yasser Arafat, to [enable] President Arafat to conduct his policy and his activities. Otherwise, how [can he] resume his political activities?"
Israeli officials have said their actions on Palestinian territory are necessary to uproot the terrorist network there. They say Arafat needs to be given a clear message that he must fight terrorism more effectively.