7 September 2006 – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for an end to killings in Gaza and deplored conditions facing Palestinians there while calling on both sides of the Middle East conflict to take steps that will foster lasting peace.
In a message to the UN International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, being held in Geneva, Mr. Annan said since the end of June, more than 200 Palestinians, including women and children, have been killed. “This must stop immediately.”
He underscored the toll of Israeli incursions, which have exacerbated already high levels of poverty and unemployment, destroying infrastructure and causing serious shortages. An elaborate system of checkpoints and closures makes the movement of people and goods next to impossible. “All of this combines only to foster bitterness and hatred,” he observed.
The Secretary-General, who recently conducted an intensive diplomatic tour of the Middle East, said he stressed during his talks in the region that there is an urgent need to prevent any further deterioration and violence.
In his message to the meeting today, he called for the opening of crossing points to allow goods and out of Gaza. “It is also important for there to be progress in releasing Palestinian Authority officials recently arrested by Israel, and in President Abbas’ long-standing efforts to secure prisoner releases,” he said.
“Achieving these goals requires Palestinian efforts, including the release of the captured Israeli soldier, the provision of security at crossing points and an end to rocket fire against Israel from Gaza,” he said, stressing that “quite apart from there being no justification for attacks that indiscriminately target Israeli civilians, such attacks serve absolutely no Palestinian interest.”
Another positive step would be the formation of a National Unity Government which can galvanize Palestinians, he said.
“The United Nations will do whatever it can to support these efforts,” he pledged, adding that civil society also has a key role to play by fostering trust, facilitating aid, upholding the basic principles of international law, and heightening awareness of the question of Palestine.
Sergei Ordzhonikidze, who heads the UN Office at Geneva, delivered Mr. Annan’s message to the meeting, which is being held under the auspices of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.