Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged Israel and the Palestinians to continue their negotiations, as well as to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, despite the goal of reaching a peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians by the end of this year now seeming unlikely.
“My biggest concern in the immediate period ahead is the situation on the ground,” Mr. Ban said today at a commemorative meeting for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, observed annually on 29 November.
In this regard, he particularly highlighted the situation in the Gaza Strip, where continued border closures in recent weeks have prevented the delivery of vital food, medicine and fuel supplies.
“I call for immediate measures to ease the near-blanket closure of Gaza, which leads to worrying deprivations of basic supplies and human dignity,” Mr. Ban stated, adding that he “unreservedly” condemned rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.
“The way forward is for all parties to respect the calm brokered by Egypt, and to reach out to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip instead of wrongly punishing them.
“I call on Israel to allow sufficient and predictable supplies to reach the population, to ensure access for humanitarian workers, and to facilitate stalled UN projects,” said Mr. Ban.
The Secretary-General added that Israel must refrain from unilateral actions in Jerusalem, such as demolitions and evictions, which undermine trust or alter the status quo. At the same time, he said, he recognized Israel’s security concerns.
While the Israeli and Palestinian leaders re-launched bilateral negotiations a year ago at the United States city of Annapolis, and agreed to try to reach a peace treaty by the end of 2008, Mr. Ban noted that this goal is “unlikely to be achieved.”
In his address to the meeting, General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto voiced his disappointment that a Palestinian State has yet to be established.
“I believe that the failure to create a Palestinian State as promised is the single greatest failure in the history of the United Nations,” he stated. “It has been 60 years since some 800,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes and property, becoming refugees and an uprooted and marginalized people.”
He noted that next month marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the right to self-determination. “We are witness to decades of the terrible conditions endured throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, yet the promise – the right – of the Palestinian people to a homeland remains as elusive as ever.”
Also pointing to the dire situation in Gaza, Mr. D’Escoto urged the international community to “raise its voice against this collective punishment of the people of Gaza.”
The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reported that some supplies were permitted to cross from Israel into Gaza today.
The supplies included nine truckloads of goods for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and eight trucks, containing powdered milk and rice, for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Also, 440,000 litres of industrial gas were pumped through to Gaza’s power plant, which should reduce the number of power cuts experienced by the population there.
According to UNRWA, the eight trucks it got into Gaza today is not enough. The agency needs to bring in 15 trucks a day for its operations to continue running at acceptable levels. It has requested that 12 trucks of food and three trucks of medicines be allowed to enter Gaza tomorrow.