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Annan Critical of Israelis, Palestinians For Latest Violence - 2002-01-12

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, has strongly criticized both Palestinians and Israelis for the latest spate of violence in the Middle East. He is also calling on both sides not to abandon the peace efforts.

Kofi Annan has added his voice to those calling for an immediate cessation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. He made clear he holds both sides responsible for the latest outbreak, but insisted the peace process is not dead.

Mr. Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, released the official statement. "The Secretary-General strongly regrets that after a period during which the security situation had begun to stablilise there was a new attack on the 9th of January by Hamas inside Israel," he said. "The Secretary-General calls on the parties not to be deterred by this act of violence, which he deplores, from continuing efforts to resume security cooperation and implementation of the Tenet plan and the Mitchell recommendations."

The plans Mr. Annan refers to are a security arrangement devised by CIA Director George Tenet and a series of wider recommendations for all areas of the peace process outlined by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. In the past, both sides in the conflict have indicated a willingness to implement the bulk of these two recommendations. Yet the latest spate of violence threatens a political solution.

Mr. Annan also had strong words for the retaliation conducted by the Israeli army. "At the same time the Secretary-General deplores the recent action by the Israeli Defense forces in the Gaza Strip, where dozens of Palestinian houses as well as the airstrip have been destroyed," he said. "Such collective punishment is in violation of the Geneva Conventions."

Meanwhile, the UN's envoy to the region, Terje Roed-Larsen, expressed hope negotiations could resume soon. Yet he also made clear that while there is an interest on both sides for reestablishing the peace process, there are still significant differences between the Palestinians and Israelis on how to meet that goal.