Cheering Palestinians gave a hero’s welcome Monday to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, urging the man who resolved the Iraq crisis to break the deadlock in Middle East peace talks.
“I am sure your excellency will push forward the peace process as you succeeded in your mission in Iraq,” Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said at a joint news conference at his headquarters in Gaza City.
“Inshallah!” Annan responded, using the Arabic for “God willing.”
Annan, who recently negotiated an end to the standoff over U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, said he would urge Israel to implement Security Council resolutions and move the peace process forward.
Resolutions 242 and 338 call on Israel to withdraw from land seized in the 1967 Mideast war in exchange for peace. Resolution 425 calls for Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, which Annan also is expected to discuss Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking to a special session of the Palestinian legislative council, Annan said a just and lasting settlement must be based on the principle of exchanging land for peace.
“Though you have come a long way toward realizing your dream, I know it remains a dream deferred,” he said. But Annan urged the Palestinians not to resort to violence or the use of terror.
“Do not accept the claims of hatred or the cries of war,” he said. “They will not prevail. They will only delay the peace that you seek.”
Palestinians waved flags and cheered Annan as he was driven through the Gaza Strip. He was greeted by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Arafat’s wife, Soha.
Arafat, flanked by a uniformed honor guard and military band, met the U.N. leader in front of his headquarters and kissed him on both cheeks.
Arafat said he briefed Annan on the difficulties facing the peace process, and he blamed Israel for failing to implement its agreements.
Relatives of Palestinians held in Israeli jails also met with Annan, giving him a letter requesting he seek an easing of the strict procedures surrounding prison visits.