Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked today’s 40th anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War with a reminder to all sides that Palestinian statehood, security for Israelis and peace in the region cannot be achieved by force.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said “an end to the occupation and a political solution to the conflict is the only way forward – for Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and the wider region.
“This will only be achieved through negotiations to bring about an end to the occupation, on the basis of the principle of land for peace, as envisaged in Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).”
The statement stressed that the UN remains committed to working tirelessly “for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region” in line with those Council resolutions and international law.
“The Secretary-General remembers the men, women and children who have been killed or had their lives shattered by the tragedies of conflict in the Middle East, particularly the Palestinians who continue to live under an occupation that has lasted 40 years.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour also issued a statement to mark the anniversary, calling for human rights to be given a more prominent role in the search for a solution to the Middle East conflict.
Ms. Arbour said the Israeli occupation since 1967 was “a regime which has led to wide-ranging and serious violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, first and foremost among them the right to self-determination.”
She said “the occupation must give way to a lasting political solution allowing both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders.”
Saying “human rights have for too long taken a back seat” in the search for a solution, Ms. Arbour said both crises that flare up and the longer-term resolution of the conflict should be dealt with according to international human rights and humanitarian law.
“This includes the relevant obligations as reaffirmed in July 2004 in the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The High Commissioner observed that the right to life “continues to be violated within a general climate of impunity in the region,” whether through the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) extrajudicial executions or artillery attacks, internal Palestinian violence or Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
Greater efforts should be made to counter the growing sense of disempowerment that so many Palestinians feel in the occupied territory, she said, calling for immediate steps towards removing settlements and lifting obstacles to Palestinians’ freedom of movement.
The right of Palestinians to travel, particularly between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, “is seriously compromised and has severely curtailed Palestinians’ exercise of a wide range of other human rights, including health, education, work and family life.”