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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 01:33 GMT 02:33 UK
Analysis: Annan's Middle East progress
Kofi Annan with Shimon Peres
Israel is reluctant to talk to the Palestinians immediately
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has ended his six-day tour of the Middle East in what has been described as an upbeat mood.
Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner looks at what was achieved during the visit.

Kofi Annan ended his trip with a call for Israel and the Palestinians to build quickly on their ceasefire. He warned that without a return to political negotiations, the ceasefire will not last.

A ceasefire will not last unless it is seen by both sides as being part of a broader political process

Kofi Annan
The Palestinian leadership turned out in force to greet Mr Annan. For them he represents a distant dream of a Palestinian nation based on UN resolutions that call for Israel to withdraw from Arab land.

But for now, the UN chief is talking only about the immediate future, the step-by-step road back to peace talks, laid out in the Mitchell Report.

"I am glad that a ceasefire is now in place between Israelis and Palestinians," Mr Annan said, "but a ceasefire will not last unless it is seen by both sides as being part of a broader political process.

"I believe the Mitchell Report's recommendations offer a possible route back to such negotiations."


But they are not about to start soon. Right now, Israel and the Palestinians are busy accusing each other of violating the terms of the ceasefire.

Israel, backed by the United States, says acts of Palestinian violence must be reduced further. The Palestinians say Israel is still imposing an economic blockade on their people.

Yasser Arafat with Kofi Annan
Palestinians believe the UN is the best hope for resolving the stalemate
The Palestinians took Mr Annan for a tour of a refugee camp in the heavy heat of a summer afternoon on the West Bank. He stopped at a rehabilitation centre for those wounded in eight months of violence and visited a local girls school.

A man famous for his human touch, Mr Annan won friends as he sat down in a classroom and pretended to be a teacher. But beyond these gestures of support, there are questions over whether the UN really can help bring peace any closer?

Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi thinks it can.

This is what the UN is for: Peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding

Hanan Ashrawi
"Of course we do want UN direct involvement," she said, "after all, this is what the UN is for: Peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding.

"And they've been excluded deliberately, and the UN should exhibit the will to play its role. We also feel that there should be a reconvening of some international forum, and we think the UN should send protection, international troops."

However, Hanan Ashrawi is likely to be disappointed on both counts.

Israeli reaction

After his tour of the West Bank, Mr Annan went on to meet Israel's hard-line Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. Over dinner at his residence, their differences became clear.

We had the UN force in Lebanon... for years. It never stopped any attacks on Israel

Dan Meridor
The UN chief wants an early resumption of peace talks, to give the Palestinian leadership some kind of incentive to stick to the ceasefire. The Israeli leader says no, first there must be six weeks of no violence.

But Foreign Minister Shimon Peres sounded an optimistic note based on both parties' acceptance of the Mitchell Report.

He said: "The Mitchell report is in my judgement, the only valuable and important document that could lead the parties from an air of desperation to a new beginning of negotiations."

Israeli solider arguing with a Palestinian woman near Dahaniya
Despite the new ceasefire tensions are still high
Those negotiations, if they ever take place at all, will always be hostage to the risk of an outbreak of violence.

Mr Annan is sympathetic to the Palestinians' demand for an international protection force, but Israel has always opposed this.

Dan Meridor, chairman of Israel's parliamentary foreign affairs and defence committee, said Israel has difficulty trusting the UN.

He said: "We had the UN monitoring force - even more than a monitoring force - before 1967 in the Gaza area.

"And one day the Egyptians said get out and they all got out and we had a war that almost killed all Israel.

"We had the UN force in Lebanon, Unifil, for years. It never stopped any attacks on Israel."

The implication is clear. Security is paramount for Israel and it does not trust anyone else to provide it.

Israel only wants to talk long-term peace with the Palestinians when the violence has stopped. Mr Annan's visit has not changed that position.

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See also:

13 Jun 01 | Middle East
Kofi Annan pushes for Mid-East peace
17 Jun 01 | Middle East
UN chief upbeat over Mid-East peace
12 Jun 01 | Middle East
Hardliners disapprove of ceasefire plan
06 Jun 01 | Middle East
CIA back centre stage in Mid-East
06 Jun 01 | Middle East
Viewpoint: Gazans fear for the future
13 Jun 01 | Middle East
Israeli press sceptical on truce
13 Jun 01 | Middle East
Tenet plan open to interpretation
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