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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Annan hints refugees should not be given right of return to Israel

Last update - 06:09 13/12/2006

Annan hints refugees should not be given right of return to Israel
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan hinted Tuesday that
Palestinians refugees should not be granted the right to return
to the State of Israel.

In his final address to the Security Council, Annan said, "The
two-state solution - Israel and Palestine - must respect the
rights of the Palestinian refugees, but only within the context
of preserving the character of states in the region."

Annan ends 10 years on the job on December 31, and will be
succeeded by South Korean Ban Ki-moon.

Annan warned that tensions in the Middle East were "near the
breaking point," saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be
resolved in order to bring lasting peace to the region.

Annan also chastised supporters of the Palestinians for their
criticism of Security Council actions, where the United States
has vetoed most measures critical of Israel.

"Some may feel satisfaction at repeatedly passing General
Assembly resolutions or holding conferences that condemn Israel's
behavior," Annan said. "But one should also ask whether such
steps bring any tangible relief or benefit to the Palestinians."

Describing decades of resolutions and a proliferation of special
committees, Annan asked if this had any effect on Israel other
than to strengthen the belief "that this great organization is
too one-sided to be allowed a significant role in the Middle East
peace process."

"Even worse, some of the rhetoric used in connection with the
issue implies a refusal to concede the very legitimacy of
Israel's existence, let alone the validity of its security
concerns," Annan said. "What was done to Jews and others by the
Nazis remains an undeniable tragedy, unique in human history."

But he said that while "Israelis may reply that they are merely
protecting themselves from terrorism, which they have every right
to do ... Israel will receive more understanding if its actions
were clearly designed to help end an occupation rather than to
entrench it."

"Israel's democracy can thrive only if the occupation over
another people ends," he said.

Annan offered tough words for both the Israelis and Palestinians,
saying the two sides were equally responsible for bringing an end
to violence and making concessions toward reaching a two-state

Annan criticized the Israel Defense Forces' recent
five-month-long military operation in the Gaza Strip following
the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas-linked
militants, during which more than 300 Palestinians were killed,
mostly militants.

"The use of military force in densely populated civilian areas is
a blunt instrument that only produces more death, destruction,
recrimination and revenge," he said. "And as we have seen, it
does little to achieve the desired goal of stopping terrorist

Annan said, however, the Palestinians will not achieve their goal
of a forming a sovereign state without renouncing violent acts.
"No resistance to occupation can justify terrorism," he said.

He urged an immediate return to the stalled roadmap peace talks
backed by the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators - the United
Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.

"Tensions in the region are near the breaking point," he said.
"The opportunity for negotiating a two-state solution will last
for only so long. Should we fail to seize it, the people who most
directly bear the brunt of this calamity will be consigned to new
depths of suffering and grief."

But he said Quartet members needed to do more to restore faith in
its "own serious and effectiveness."

Israel's deputy UN Ambassador Daniel Carmon rejected the
assertion the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the "source of all
instability in our region," placing the blame instead on
extremism and radicalism. He cited as an example Iran's hosting
this week of a conference examining whether the Holocaust
actually occurred.

"Iran's denial of the Holocaust, its pursuit of nuclear weaponry
and its strategic backing of Hamas and Hezbollah - and who knows
what next - threatens peace and security," Carmon said.

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