Annan UN 88 ap.
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Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Tuesday that tensions in the Middle East were "near the breaking point," saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved in order to bring lasting peace to the region.
In his last address to the Security Council as head of the world body, Annan offered tough words for both the Israelis and Palestinians, saying the two sides were equally responsible for bringing an end to violence and making concessions toward reaching a two-state solution.
Annan criticized Israel's recent five-month-long military operation in the Gaza Strip following the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit by Hamas members, in which over 300 Palestinians have been killed, mostly terrorists.
"The use of military force in densely populated civilian areas is a blunt instrument that only produces more death, destruction, recrimination and revenge," he said. "And as we have seen, it does little to achieve the desired goal of stopping terrorist attacks." Annan said, however, the Palestinians would not achieve their goal of a forming a sovereign state without renouncing violent acts. "No resistance to occupation can justify terrorism," he said.
He urged an immediate return to the stalled roadmap peace talks backed by the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers - the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.
"Tensions in the region are near the breaking point," he said. "The opportunity for negotiating a two-state solution will last for only so long. Should we fail to seize it, the people who most directly bear the brunt of this calamity will be consigned to new depths of suffering and grief."
Israel's deputy UN Ambassador Daniel Carmon rejected the assertion the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the "source of all instability in our region," instead placing the blame on extremism and radicalism. As an example, Carmon cited Iran's hosting this week of a conference examining whether the Holocaust actually occurred.
"Iran's denial of the Holocaust, its pursuit of nuclear weaponry and its strategic backing of Hamas and Hizbullah - and who knows what next - threatens peace and security," Carmon said.