Marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, United Nations officials today called for steps to translate the promises of the peace process – most recently expressed at a major meeting in the United States city of Annapolis – into action to achieve a two-State solution to the conflict in the Middle East.
Addressing a commemorative meeting in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that Palestinians “continue to suffer the indignities and violence of occupation and conflict” but called the recent talks in Annapolis “a new beginning in efforts to achieve a two-State solution.”
The talks on 27 November, which brought together Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, meeting under the auspices of US President George Bush and before a wide cross-section of the international community, agreed to launch negotiations on all core issues without exception, to try to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues in 2008.
“Implementation is now paramount,” said Mr. Ban. “What we do tomorrow is more important than what we say today.”
The Secretary-General said the process launched at Annapolis “must change the lives of Palestinians, and secure their independence and freedom,” ending the occupation and creating an independent and viable State of Palestine, at peace with itself and its neighbours.
“It also must deliver on the vital interests of Israelis: a Palestinian State that is a true partner and not a source of terrorism, secure and recognized borders, and a permanent end to the conflict,” he added.
The Secretary-General acknowledged the difficulties ahead. “We cannot close our eyes to the profound doubt and mistrust on either side about the will and capacity of the other to achieve these goals,” he said. “The indignities, injustices, and fear on both sides make it difficult to build faith in the political process. But that is exactly what we have to do. We must abandon piecemeal approaches, and address all aspects of the conflict.”
He also urged help for the Palestinian Authority to rebuild, reform and perform. “I hope a wide range of donors will step forward with political and financial support at the upcoming Paris conference and beyond,” he said.
In addition, Mr. Ban urged humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, while cautioning that this would not substitute for a functioning economy. “The time has come for concrete initiatives to ease their suffering.”
Also addressing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim hailed the outcome of the Annapolis conference as a “great opportunity for a permanent two-State solution” but echoed Mr. Ban by saying “the prerequisite for success requires a resolute commitment to boldly follow words with deeds.”
The President cautioned that achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace requires continuous dialogue and compromise backed by a resolute commitment to achieve a permanent solution.
“Both Israelis and Palestinians are going to have to be honest with their own people about the price of peace. This will require difficult choices and sacrifice from both sides, as part of a shared vision for a better future,” he said.
“The stakes are high, but the alternatives are worse,” he declared, calling on all Member States to make every effort to support the peace process.
Looking ahead, Mr. Kerim said the Paris donors’ conference to be held in December offers an important opportunity to fund key proposals and lay the foundation for a viable Palestinian State.
Speaking to reporters today, Mr. Ban said that “we are going to have an important donor conference in Paris on December 17th, and the Russian Government offered their willingness to host a follow-up conference sometime early next year.”
Mr. Kerim also spoke today at the General Assembly, which opened its debate on the Question of Palestine. “If we really want to succeed – to achieve lasting peace – I encourage all parties to learn from the mistakes of the past and confront the causes of failure,” he said.
“True reconciliation requires not only an end to hostilities but also a change of attitude.”
A commemorative meeting on the issue was also held today in Geneva, with speakers underscoring the international community’s obligation to assist the Palestinians and voicing support for a two-State solution.