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Mideast 'Quartet' Urges Courageous Action to Break Cycle of Violence


Representatives of the international community have urged Israel and the Palestinians to break their cycle of violence, and follow the international road map to peace. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan read a statement on behalf of the so-called Quartet group meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

Mr. Annan condemned the continued use of terror by Palestinian extremist groups, and he also expressed his "deep concern" over Israeli military actions that result in the killing of civilians.

"It is essential that a way be found to break the cycle of violence, counter-violence, and revenge. I believe there is agreement that moving along the road map's path will require determination and courageous decisions on both sides," he said.

Mr. Annan read a statement on behalf of the Quartet, which groups the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and Russia.

The meeting also included Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, and senior E.U. leaders Chris Patten and Javier Solana. Their talks on the sidelines of the economic forum were aimed at supporting and continuing to guide the peace process.

The Quartet urged all nations in the region to end support and financial assistance for groups that use terror and violence to diminish the chances for peace. It called for Israel to respect international humanitarian law, and to make all possible efforts to ease the plight of the Palestinian people.

Secretary of State Powell also criticized the killing of a senior Hamas leader by Israeli troops on Sunday, saying it could be an impediment to progress.

"It is a matter of concern. Having said that, it is still important for us to remain committed to moving forward, and to remind the parties of the agreements they entered into in Aqaba," he said. "We can not allow ourselves to be stopped, or to allow this process to come to an end because of these incidents. We have to keep moving forward."

The Quartet also welcomed news that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are negotiating the turnover of the entire Gaza Strip to Palestinian control.

Earlier, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said the two sides hope to reach a decision on the matter very soon.

Mr. Powell and the other Quartet members praised the Israelis for beginning to dismantle unauthorized settlements. He also praised what he called the new seriousness of the Palestinians in negotiating security issues with Israel.