Voicing dismay that the conflict in the Middle East has become "the
epicentre of global instability," French President Jacques Chirac told
world leaders who gathered today for the United Nations (UN) General Assembly that it was
time to "tread off the beaten track of habit" and devise a global
strategy for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

"The status quo has become unbearable. Because the conflict in the Middle East is a threat to global peace and security, the world has no option but to be the guarantor of peace," Mr. Chirac said in a speech to the general debate of the Assembly's 61st session.

He said it was time for leaders to take back the issue from the hands of extremists on both sides and work to restore confidence between Israelis and Palestinians.

"By endlessly deferring its settlement, this confrontation has become the epicentre of global instability, the main source of incomprehension between the different worlds and an easy alibi for all forms of terrorism."

Mr. Chirac called on the Quartet – the diplomatic group comprising the UN, the European Union, the United States and the Russian Federation – to meet soon to prepare an international conference on the issue that will "pave the way for a new future in the Middle East."

The French leader outlined the parameters for any solution: two viable States living side by side in security, safe and recognizable borders, and a fair solution for refugees and for Jerusalem.

Praising the Security Council's resolution 1701, which ended the recent conflict between the Israeli army and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Mr. Chirac said it was vital that all parties fulfil their commitments, especially given that "the fire is still smouldering."

He called on Israel to complete the withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon, the Lebanese Government to assert its sovereignty across its territory, and all countries of the region to cooperate fully to ensure the resolution succeeds.


*this article was reprinted from the United Nations News Agency