UNITED NATIONS, April 15 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday cautiously welcomed Israeli plans to withdraw from Gaza but said it should be negotiated between all parties.
U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe was asked to clarify Annan's position on U.S. President George W. Bush's endorsement Wednesday at the White House of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's withdrawal plan, which would allow Israeli settlers to remain in the West Bank.
"The secretary-general welcomes the possibility of an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip," she replied. "He continues to believe that such a withdrawal should be complete and represent the end of the Israeli occupation of Gaza. He hopes that such a step would spark the renewal of the diplomatic Quartet's road map to peace."
She added, "The secretary-general reiterates his position that final status issues should be determined in negotiations between the parties based on relevant Security Council resolutions. He strongly believes that they should refrain from taking any steps that would prejudice or pre-empt the outcome of such talks."
The United Nations is a member of the Quartet sponsoring the so-called road map to peace, along with Russia, the European Union and the United States.