In a meeting lasting more than 40 minutes with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Mr. Annan underscored the need for Israel and the international community to support and strengthen the Palestinian Authority as it takes full control of the Gaza strip following Israel’s withdrawal.
“This includes providing the Palestinian people with a political horizon as the peace process moves forward,” a UN press statement on the meeting said.
It noted that Mr. Sharon told Mr. Annan Israel’s withdrawal would provide momentum for a furtherance of the peace process and stressed that the Palestinian Authority now had a responsibility to stabilize the situation in Gaza and prevent acts of terror against Israel.
The Israeli leader said he was committed to the Road Map plan drawn up by the diplomatic Quartet – UN, European Union, Russia and United States – which calls for a series of parallel steps leading to two states living side-by-side in peace, originally by the end of this year.
Mr. Annan noted the professionalism shown by the Israeli army and police during the disengagement process, and the two men also discussed ways in which Israeli expertise on agricultural and development issues, notably in combating desertification, could be used through the UN system to help developing countries.
In a later meeting Mr. Annan told Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa that the Gaza disengagement was an important opportunity and he hoped that it would be a step forward towards the full resumption of peace talks. He stressed the importance of moving back to the Road Map.
Mr. Al-Kidwa replied that the Palestinians realized the disengagement was an important opportunity for them but stressed that it would be impossible to solve all of Gaza’s economic, political and security problems without further movement forward in the West Bank as well.
He expressed strong support for the work of Quartet Special Envoy James Wolfensohn, entrusted with coordinating the withdrawal from Gaza and the economic and social transition there, and noted the importance of moving forward with all points on Mr. Wolfensohn agenda.