24 November 2014 – United Nations officials today voiced their solidarity with the people of Palestine, while calling on both sides involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to cease acts of violence, overcome their differences, and resume peace talks with a clear framework towards resolving the decades-long dispute.
“Regrettably, as we meet here today, the path towards a durable peace remains uncertain,”said Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly, during a special meeting of theCommittee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held this morning at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
“The peace process now hangs from a thread and the process of rapprochement seems to be slipping away. The lack of progress and the renewed tension require sustained attention,” he added.
The special meeting comes ahead of the International Day, observed annually on 29 November. The Day marks the date in 1947 when the General Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning then-mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr. Kutesa noted with sadness that this year did not bring hoped-for progress in ending the conflict, as the direct peace talks were suspended.
Recounting the failure of the latest round of negotiations and the intensification of violence in the region, Mr. Kutesa underscored that conditions on the ground remain “volatile” and the situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank is “still a source of serious concern.”
“In light of the recent violent incidents that led to civilian deaths and injuries, I strongly condemn all acts of violence against civilians and attacks against religious sites,” Mr. Kutesa declared.
“I call on all parties to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions and incitement. All acts of violence must cease,” he added.
Mr. Kutesa also highlighted that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains critical, with high rates of poverty and unemployment. The long-standing restrictions on the movement of people and goods continue to undermine the living conditions of the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza and, therefore, the blockade should be lifted, he stressed.
In this context, he stressed that the time is “particularly opportune for the UN to play a more decisive role in supporting the parties in their efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive negotiated settlement in the Middle East. Such negotiations should be based on a two-State solution, with the State of Israel and the State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, he emphasized.
Equally important is the support of the international community to the Palestinian refugee population, the General Assembly President said.
Indeed, more than 5 million Palestinian refugees continue to experience exceptionally difficult circumstances, he noted. While the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has played a “vital role in providing basic services to alleviate the suffering of the growing Palestinian refugee population,” the recurring cycle of violence and the scarcity of funds hamper the agency’s ability to provide basic humanitarian services, Mr. Kutesa said.
Concluding his remarks he highlighted that the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA is scheduled to meet on 3 December.
Taking into account that 97 per cent of UNRWA’s funding comes from voluntary contributions, he also reiterated an appeal to Member States and other international partners to make additional efforts to fully fund the agency’s core budget, in addition to urging new donors to make financial commitments to the agency’s work.
“As we commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I invite Member States, the United Nations system and all relevant stakeholders to strengthen their valuable support and assistance to the Palestinian people to ensure the full realization of their inalienable rights and the establishment of a durable peace in the region,” Mr. Kutesa said.
Also speaking at the special meeting was Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, who noted that the Day was also an important date for UNRWA, as it marked 65 years since the agency had been created.
“Our ongoing existence is a reminder both of what has been achieved for the refugee communities over these years, and what happens when no political solution is found to address the underlying causes of the conflict and the occupation,” Mr. Krähenbühl said.
Noting the “immense” pressures that Palestinians and Palestine refugees are living under, the Commissioner-General also said that the Palestinian people are continuously suffering from threats to their lives, livelihood and future.
“Hope is desperately needed somewhere on the horizon,” he said. “We all know, of course, that hope in this most unstable region can only be brought about by resolute political action,” he added.
While he welcomed the efforts being made to facilitate the entry of building materials into Gaza, Mr. Krähenbühl stressed that the reconstruction process needs to be speeded up. If not, with winter approaching, little progress would be made in repairing and rebuilding the homes of those people who are still displaced. “This is not a time for wait-and-see attitudes. Time is actually running out. Tempers are rising, and people are very desperate,” he emphasized.
Also attending the special meeting were Fodé Seck, Chairman of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Gary Francis Quinlan, President of the Security Council; and Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN.