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Source: United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO)
23 October 2001
Press Release

Roed-Larsen says "the Middle East is at a critical juncture", calls for "courageous leadership" by both sides; says "it is still possible to see a positive future, but a political process is needed."

Gaza, 23 October 2001, UNSCO- UN Special Coordinator Terje Roed-Larsen said today that the Middle East was at "the most dangerous moment in a decade". He said that the international community was calling on both sides to take decisive steps. He said that these steps would be very unpopular and would require "courageous leadership." He said "there has been too much bloodshed. There are those on both sides who believe that blood must wash blood. The leaders carry a heavy burden to break this dangerous logic."

Yesterday, Mr. Larsen met Chairman Arafat together with US Consul-General Schlicher, EU Special Envoy Moratinos and Russian Special Envoy Vdovin. Mr. Larsen said they had urged Chairman Arafat to take specific decisive steps to enforce the Palestinian Authority's ceasefire orders and ' control violence in all its forms. Immediately after the meeting, Mr. Larsen called Prime Minister Sharon's office. In that telephone call, Mr. Larsen ; said that "it is necessary for Israel immediately to withdraw from Area A." Mr. Larsen met today with officials in the Prime Minister's office and repeated these messages in person. He repeated his earlier condemnation of the killings of civilians.

Speaking about the dynamics of the current situation, he said that it was necessary for both leaders to take very unpopular decisions which were in long-term security and political interests of the Palestinian and Israeli people - "this is the essence of leadership". He said that it was difficult for Chairman Arafat to act because "the Palestinian people are in a desperate situation, and very frustrated." He said that he had taken note that Israel had repeatedly said that their policies were not aimed at collective punishment, but he said "there can be no doubt that the effect on the ground is collective pain." He said Palestinian anger was at a boiling point as a result of the Israeli incursions into West Bank cities where many people are now living under military siege as well as economic siege. But he said that Prime Minister Sharon was also facing serious pressures from the Israeli population which, he said, is genuinely fearful for its present and future security. He said that the entire international community supported security for Israel. But he said, ending the occupation, and a negotiated solution based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338, was a necessary condition for the: achievement of true security for Israel and the Palestinian people.

Mr. Larsen said that despite the current deep crisis and impasse, it was still possible to envisage a road forward. He said "a majority of Israelis support the creation of a Palestinian state; a majority of Israelis support the evacuation of the settlements; a majority of Palestinians still support a peace deal with Israel; and a majority of Palestinians still support reconciliation with Israeli in the context of a peace deal." He said "we need courage and creativity to move forward."

Mr. Larsen said that it was "vitally necessary" to address the underlying political issues, despite the unstable security context. He said "we keep on trying to build a bridge supported only by security measures. It keeps on collapsing, and we keep on trying to rebuild it. But only a bridge supported by security, economic and political measures can possibly bear the weight of bringing two angry sides back to peaceful dialogue." He said that he could not foresee substantial progress without the sustained engagement of third-parties.

For more information, please contact:
Mr. Marwan Ali, Media Officer
07-2825017 or 059-403307

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