Carter, Annan to Lead Peace Delegation to Middle East Next Month

Two statesmen to be joined by former Irish president Mary Robinson on visit to Mideast in mid-April.

A council of world leaders launched by former President Nelson Mandela is sending a three-person team to try to help ease tensions in the Middle East, the organization known as The Elders said Friday.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Irish President Mary Robinson will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia April 13-21.

"I have just completed an intense and grueling negotiation in Kenya and learned that conflict is easier than peace, but persistence makes peace possible," said Annan, who added that in his former position he was acutely sensitive to the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in the mind of many in the Middle East.

Launched last year to celebrate Mandela's 89th birthday, the group of 12 world leaders is dedicated to fostering peace and resolving global crises. They will meet with figures inside and outside government and prepare a report to help people understand the urgency of peace and what is needed to secure it.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who chairs the group, appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to stop the cycle of violence. Tutu said in a separate statement issued by his office that he condemned unequivocally the "dastardly attack on eight Israeli students at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem."

He also equally vehemently condemned the deaths of civilians in the recent surge in fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza.

"Peace will not come from the barrel of a gun, as we learned in South Africa," he said. "Peace will only come when the inexorable cycle of reprisal provoking counter reprisal, ad nauseam ends. When the inalienable rights of all, Israeli and Palestinian, are recognized and respected."