Mon 11 Dec 2006 4:07 PM ET
Ending Arab-Israeli war would help in Iraq -Annan
By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 11 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan, contradicting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said on
Monday that trying to end the Arab-Israeli war would help cool
other Middle East hot-spots like Iraq and Lebanon.
In his final report on the Middle East before stepping down on
Dec. 31, Annan also said the quartet of international Middle East
mediators appeared increasingly powerless to help move down the
path toward peace, due to internal divisions, and needed a fresh
He said the quartet members -- the United States, Russia, the
European Union and the United Nations -- had to join together to
revive the peace process and involve Israel and Arab states
directly in its work, as promised in September.
"Overall, the instability that prevails in the Middle East is the
greatest regional challenge to international peace and security,
and needs to be addressed far more thoroughly than it has been to
date," Annan said in a report to the 15-nation Security Council
to be presented on Tuesday.
After 10 years as secretary-general, Annan hands over to South
Korean Ban Ki-Moon on Jan. 1.
"I am convinced that the search for stability in Iraq, Lebanon
and elsewhere will be greatly served by a concerted effort" to
achieve a Middle East peace, Annan said.
"A regional approach is needed to resolve the various crises and
conflicts in the Middle East today, not least because progress in
each arena is to a large extent dependent on progress in others."
The Iraq Study Group, led by former U.S. Secretary of State James
Baker, told the Bush administration last week it must launch a
"renewed and sustained commitment" to solve the Arab-Israeli
conflict as part of an effort to address broader regional
tensions in Iraq and elsewhere.
Olmert, however, said it was wrong to link the Arab-Israeli war
with wider Middle East concerns, saying the region "has a lot of
problems that are not connected to us."
Annan urged the council and the quartet to make a fresh start by
working together to strengthen a cease-fire in Gaza, extend it to
the West Bank and deploy international observers or some other
mechanism to monitor it and protect civilians.
The two should also promote unconditional and open-ended talks
between the Israeli prime minister and Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas and set out an updated, credible political
framework for those negotiations, he added.
Annan pressed Syria to show its immediate neighbors -- which
include Lebanon and Iraq -- that it is committed to regional
peace and security. He also told Israel there could be no peace
until it returned the Golan Heights to Syria.
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