UN marks Palestinian Solidarity Day with calls for peace with Israel
“Let us commit ourselves to breathing new life into the peace process so that the goals of statehood for Palestinians, and security for the State of Israel, can be realized before this tragedy takes too many more lives,” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message for the Day.
“A peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains heart-rendingly elusive. Successive opportunities to move the peace process forward have not borne fruit. And the situation on the ground is deeply troubling,” he added.
He noted that he had urged Israel to exercise maximum restraint in the Gaza Strip, where its military operations have resulted “in a dramatic rise in civilian casualties and in the destruction of property and infrastructure.”
At the same time, Israelis “rightly demand” that the Palestinian Authority take credible action to prevent attacks against them and their territory with constant rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against Israeli civilian targets that “are unacceptable and should be stopped at once,” he said.
He called on international donors to take immediate action to alleviate the acute suffering in the West Bank and Gaza but stressed that the two parties themselves bore “the primary responsibility for finding their way out of their predicament, by engaging in a viable political process that can lead to the peace their peoples both yearn for.”
Later, addressing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Mr. Annan said the announcement of a cease-fire in Gaza gave a glimmer of hope that the latest round of hostilities might give way to a period of calm.
“I call on both sides to adhere to this commitment, and to avoid any actions that could jeopardize further progress. I also encourage them to extend the ceasefire to the West Bank,” he added.
The head of the main UN organization for Palestinian refugees pledged continued support. “Today, the challenges are as great as they have ever been,” UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd said. “All aspects of Palestinian life are affected by uncertainty, economic instability and conflict.”
General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa called for the support of the international community to help both parties reach a solution through dialogue.
“Our moral duty makes it imperative for us to find a comprehensive, just and permanent solution for this conflict that has continued for more than half a century,” she told the Committee.
The Committee, together with the Palestinian Permanent Observer Mission, has also organized the screening of the film “The colour of olives” and the opening of an exhibit entitled “Contextualization: A Palestinian narrative,” both at UN Headquarters in New York.
Also today, the General Assembly began its debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East. President Sheikha Haya underscored the gravity of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Deepening poverty, destruction of infrastructure and shortage of food only aggravated the situation, heightened desperation and encouraged extremism, she said, calling for an end to the killing spree on both sides.
The lives of civilians must be preserved at any price, she stressed, adding that only then could dialogue be resumed and a political solution achieved.
The Chairman of the Committee of the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Paul Badji introduced a number of draft resolutions on the issues now under consideration by the Assembly.