Annan Links Arab-Israel to Broad Conflict

The Associated Press
Monday, November 13, 2006; 9:17 AM

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday that any effort to stop growing violence between Islamic and Western societies must include an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Annan spoke after receiving a report from a high-level group of experts on ways to alleviate Muslim-Western clashes and misunderstandings.

"We may wish to think of the Arab-Israeli conflict as just one regional conflict amongst many," said Annan, who leaves his post at the end of the year. "It is not. No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge among people far removed from the battlefield."

Annan said he would work along with his successor, Ban Ki-moon, to help implement the recommendations of the report, which called for renewed efforts toward the goal of establishing "two fully sovereign and independent states coexisting side by side in peace and security."

"As long as the Palestinians live under occupation, exposed to daily frustration and humiliation, and as long as Israelis are blown up in buses and in dance halls, so long will passions everywhere be inflamed," Annan said.

The report, drafted in the past year by a group of 20 prominent men and women, including former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and South African activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called for an urgent international conference "to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process."

It also called for the development of a report "analyzing the Israeli-Palestinian landscape dispassionately and objectively," and "establishing clearly the conditions that must be met to find a way out of this crisis."

The group making the recommendations was formed in 2005 as part of the U.N.-backed "Alliance of Civilizations" initiative, under the sponsorship of the prime ministers of Spain, a predominantly Catholic country, and Turkey, which is 99 percent Muslim.

© 2006 The Associated Press