Magazine article UN Chronicle

Middle East

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Middle East

Article excerpt

The stalled Middle East peace process, the condition of the Palestinian people, regional economic cooperation, relations between Israel, Lebanon and Syria, and the United Nations development and peacekeeping efforts were high on the agenda during Secretary-General's Kofi Annan's first official visit to the region since taking office.

In Israel, in his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Annan was informed that the Prime Minister would seek Israeli Cabinet approval for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon. On 2 April, the Secretary-General responded to the decision by the Israeli Cabinet to comply with Security Council resolution 425 (1978), adopted on 19 March 1978, regarding Israel's withdrawal of its forces from southern Lebanon. While he was encouraged by the decision, he said its implementation would require discussions with all concerned in order to be fully effective. He urged all parties to cooperate in that process.

During his stay in Israel, Mr. Annan visited Yad Vashem, the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, where he laid a wreath in Remembrance Hall and asked what would have happened during the Second World War if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had existed. "Would it have given courage to the victims to resist?" he asked. "Would there have been more Raoul Wallenbergs?"

In a major policy address to the Israel Foreign Relations Council, the Secretary-General stressed that his visit was taking place at a time of considerable uneasiness in the region. He delivered a three-point message: he warned the parties of the potentially grave consequences should the Oslo peace process fail; he called for a new era in relations between Israel and the United Nations; and he asked Israel and its partners to make the difficult choices required for peace. Stressing that he had gone to Israel as a friend, he asked Israel to accept that, "just as you are entitled to ask your Palestinian partners to do their best to live up to their side of the bargain under the agreements reached, so they too are justified in asking you to fulfil your obligations".

On his arrival in Gaza, the Secretary-General was greeted by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, and other Palestinian officials, with whom he discussed the Middle East peace process, the conditions of the Palestinian people and the United Nations development efforts in the region. In an address to the Palestinian National Council, the Secretary-General affirmed "history will not deny you a harbour and a home . …

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