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UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


SG/SM/9655
21 December 2004

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TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN

AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, 21 DECEMBER 2004


The Secretary-General: Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

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The United Nations will also support Palestinian elections early next year.  We have an important opportunity for progress in 2005 towards the Middle East peace process, and the UN stands ready to advance the peace process through the Quartet.

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Question:  On the issue of the Middle East, you have indicated that the United Nations intends to play a bigger role in the Middle East in supporting the Palestinian elections.  How personally involved will you be in this process?  And do you think there is any indication that the United Nations will be allowed to play a bigger role within the Quartet?  Also, do you intend to visit the region?  And what are the prospects for peace in the wake of the Palestinian President’s death?

The Secretary-General:  I think the United Nations has been very active with the elections.  In an interesting sort of way, perhaps it is going to be one of the best-prepared elections because we have been working with them and on it for about a year.  The Israeli authorities have indicated that they will cooperate and remove some of the barriers or roadblocks to facilitate the movement of people during that period.  So, I am hopeful that they will have very successful elections and that they will cap the very smooth transition arrangements which the Palestinians have embarked on since the death of President Arafat.

On the question of the Quartet, obviously the United Nations, as a member of the Quartet, will play its role along with other members of the Quartet.  Indications are that all the members of the Quartet are going to be very active as we move into the new year.  We see that the dynamics on the ground have changed and there is an opening which, if effectively exploited, can move the process forward.  In addition to the Quartet, there are many other countries in Europe and elsewhere who have become very engaged in this process, as well as countries in the region that we hope to work with.

And so I think that the prospects for peace are brighter.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t have difficulties ahead of us, but I think we do have a real chance to make progress.

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