Easing Israeli closures and boosting Palestinian security vital – Ban

22 September 2008

An easing of Israel’s closures in the occupied Palestinian territory, a genuine freeze of Israeli settlement activity and continued Palestinian efforts to enhance security are crucial if the Middle East conflict is to be resolved, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Opening a session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mr. Ban said the PA had made major strides in public financial management and security since the last meeting in May, and donors had shown their commitment by contributing over $1.2 billion in budgetary support, while Israel had removed certain obstacles in the West Bank.

“But this is not enough. More needs to happen,” he told the Committee, a Norwegian initiative set up in 1992 to ensure that development assistance is used efficiently in relation to the peace process and to contribute to the development of Palestinian society.

“At a time when the Palestinian Authority’s security performance has significantly improved and is delivering real results, when donors and investors are ready to do more and when the political process is at such a delicate stage, an easing of closure to enable the Palestinian economy to grow is indispensable,” he declared.

“This, combined with a genuine settlement freeze and continued Palestinian efforts in the realm of security, both in accordance with the Road Map, is vital if the weight of the occupation is to begin to be lifted,” he added, referring to the internationally sponsored peace plan which foresees a two-State solution with Israel and the Palestinians living side by side in peace.

Mr. Ban called for more predictable donor support to ensure that Palestinian civil servants can be paid from the end of October and for deeper Palestinian reforms.

He also appealed for the peaceful reunification of Gaza, where Hamas has seized PA institutions, with the West Bank within the framework of the PA.

“Without a significant rise in imports and the revival of the economy through exports, the population of Gaza will continue to endure hardship and become increasingly aid dependent,” he said. Hamas was compounding the hardship afflicting Gazans by increasingly divorcing Palestinian institutions from the PA and interrupting basic service delivery, he added.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Aharon Abramovitch, attended the meeting, as did former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Representative for the Middle East diplomatic Quartet, which comprises the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States and is championing the Road Map peace plan.

Mr. Blair later told a news briefing: “Between the years 2000 and 2007 this whole [peace] process was spiralling downwards. It has stopped spiralling downwards and there is some incremental movement back up. The question is how do we make progress faster and how do we make it systemic.”

He said Mr. Fayyad had made major steps forward in the security sector. Overall, “we have some progress but we need very, very much more,” he added.

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