Security Council stresses need to intensify efforts to bring peace to the

The 15-member body issued its remarks in a presidential statement after hearing Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s last briefing to them on the Middle East in which he called for a “new and urgent push for peace” and warned that “tensions in the region are near the breaking point.”“The Security Council expresses its deep concern over the situation in the Middle East, with its serious ramifications for peace and security, and underlines the need to intensify efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region,” said Sheik Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr al-Thani, First Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar, which holds this month’s rotating Council presidency.Expressing “grave concern” over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the occupied Territories, the Council also urged that emergency assistance be channelled through the temporary mechanism devised by the European Union (EU) and the World Bank to provide aid directly to the Palestinian people by bypassing the Hamas-led Government, which is committed to Israel’s destruction.“The Security Council… calls for the provision of emergency assistance to the Palestinian people through the Temporary International Mechanism, international organizations and other official channels…”“… [The Council] reaffirms its profound attachment to the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security, as envisaged in the Road Map… encourages the parties to engage in direct negotiations… [and] reaffirms the vital role of the Quartet and looks forward to its continued active engagement.”The diplomatic Quartet – the UN, the United States, Russian Federation and the EU – sponsored the Road Map plan, which prescribes a two-State solution, and this formula was endorsed by the Council in resolution 1515. In his remarks earlier today, Mr. Annan said the Road Map should still be the “reference point,” although the Quartet should also be “open to new ideas and initiatives.”The Council also stressed that all parties must respect their obligations under previous agreements, “including by putting an end to violence and all aspects of terrorism” and, while encouraging international involvement, it said this “cannot be a substitute for determined measures by the parties themselves.”Along with Mr. Annan and the Council President, representatives from eight countries spoke during the debate.