Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

Not for release before
6 a.m. (EST) Saturday 5 December
5 December 1998




Message to Stockholm Meeting Notes Enduring Contribution of Sweden
in Long-Standing Efforts Towards Final Settlement

This is the text of a message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to be delivered tomorrow (5 December) in Stockholm, at a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Stockholm meeting on peace in the Middle East; it will be presented on his behalf by Chinmaya Gharekhan, United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories:

It gives me great pleasure to convey my greetings and best wishes to all who have gathered in Stockholm to promote the cause of peace, security and stability in the Middle East.

Sweden has played a key role in this long-standing quest. Count Folke Bernadotte, as United Nations mediator, gave his life in the service of peace in 1948. Gunnar Jarring served as the Secretary-General's special representative in the Middle East following the adoption of Security Council resolution 242 in 1967. The Swedish Government has been generous in its humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian people. And then of course there was the initiative to which we pay tribute today: the meeting between President Yasir Arafat and a group of American Jewish leaders here in Stockholm in 1988, a breakthrough that helped move the parties further along the road to peace -- to Madrid, to Oslo, and most recently to Wye River Plantation. These and other acts of foresight and goodwill on the part of the Government and people of Sweden merit the enduring gratitude of the international community and, especially, the people of the region.

Today the peace process has reached yet another turning point. The recent signing of the Wye River Memorandum by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization is an encouraging development. Agreement came only after many months of concern about the future of the peace process fuelled by growing mistrust between the parties and rising tensions in the region. But it showed again that pragmatism and statesmanship are the path of choice.

Implementation of the agreement has started, although not without difficulties. The United Nations earnestly hopes that it will be carried out in all its aspects and will pave the way for the resumption of negotiations on all tracks. Regrettably, incidents of violence by extremist elements opposed to the peace process have continued to cost lives and mar progress. The United Nations has repeatedly condemned such acts. At the same time, we have appealed to the parties not to be swayed by such incidents but instead to redouble their efforts to carry out all obligations quickly and in good faith. Real progress is the best antidote to violence and the best answer to the forces of disruption, destruction and doubt.

A rapid improvement in living conditions in the Palestinian territories is an essential accompaniment to the peace negotiations. Gains in the fields of employment, health, education, human rights and industrial and commercial development are needed urgently. Towards that end, the pledges offered at the Conference to Support Middle East Peace and Development held earlier this week in Washington hold great promise. The United Nations -- in particular United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other programmes and agencies present on the ground -- will continue to do its part to strengthen the peace process in this way.

For more that half a century, the United Nations has been closely involved in international efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement to the Arab- Israeli conflict in the Middle East. Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 425 remain the basis of the negotiations. Our peacekeeping operations serve as important confidence- building mechanisms. The UNRWA and other United Nations bodies are a vital lifeline for some 3.5 million Palestinians.

For my part, like each of my predecessors I have made every effort to support the peace process by condemning terrorism, stressing the right of all parties to live in peace and security, and mobilizing the resources of the United Nations family to relieve suffering and provide assistance. During my visit to the region earlier this year, I witnessed the hardship and deprivation caused by decades of conflict, and heard the deep yearning on all sides for a peaceful, prosperous future. I appealed to leaders and the public alike to remember all that has been achieved thus far and to take, without delay, the difficult decisions needed to move toward full cooperation, reconciliation and peace. The peoples of the region have yearned for too long. Though complex negotiations lie ahead, it is time, once and for all, to answer their plea.

* *** *
For information media - not an official record