Annan urges aid to Palestinians, resumption of political dialogue on Middle East

Annan urges aid to Palestinians, resumption of political dialogue on Middle East

As Palestinians face a deepening economic crisis with growing humanitarian consequences, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for stepped-up aid to stem the crisis as well as a resumption of talks to resolve underlying issues, according to a report released today at UN Headquarters in New York.

"The Palestinian people are facing a threat of economic collapse and social destitution," Mr. Annan warns in his report to both the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. "Continued emergency economic and social assistance is needed, but this cannot be a substitute for a resumption of political dialogue and progress towards an agreed solution."

The Secretary-General says "the tightening closure regime in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, implemented by Israel as its response to terrorist attacks on its citizens, is the immediate and single most important cause of this looming economic and social crisis," which was undermining efforts to pursue a reform process for the Palestinian Authority.

The report also points to the difficulties faced by relief workers aiming to foster long-term progress, support the repair of physical and institutional damage, and respond to the growing emergency humanitarian needs of the population. "The aid community is attempting to do this in a context of violence and violations of the norms established by international humanitarian law pertaining to the protection of civilians," Mr. Annan observes, voicing particular concern about impediments faced by humanitarian personnel in reaching civilian victims of the conflict.

The Secretary-General calls on the parties to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, and to facilitate the work of UN agencies and the donor and aid communities. He also calls on the international community to fund assistance programmes for the Palestinian people, especially those being carried out by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Mr. Annan also pledges that the UN will continue "to advocate an end to violence, including terrorism, and to promote a meaningful resumption of political dialogue between the parties leading to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting political settlement of the conflict based on relevant United Nations resolutions and 'land for peace.'"

In concert with these efforts, the UN will continue to seek "a resumption of progress towards an economically vibrant region where Palestinian living conditions, as well as those of Israel and all others in the region, would provide a strong underpinning to peace and reconciliation between peoples," he writes.