A United Nations regional meeting to support Israeli-Palestinian peace opened in Uruguay today, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling for a halt to Israel’s settlement building in occupied territory, an end to all expressions of violence and the punishment of those perpetrating it.
“You gather at a crucial time,” he told the UN Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in a message delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco in Montevideo, the capital.
“The target dates for reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on permanent status issues and completing the Palestinian Authority’s two-year State-building programme are fast-approaching. Yet, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations remain at a worrying standstill. We must intensify efforts to break the deadlock,” he said of talks that set a September target goal for achieving the internationally endorsed Road Map plan for a two-State solution to the decades-old conflict.
The talks have been suspended since Israel ended a settlement moratorium last September. Under the Road Map, promoted by the diplomatic Quartet comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States, Israel and an independent State of Palestine established on territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War would live side by side in peace and security within recognized borders.
“Actions that prejudge the outcome of the process must stop,” Mr. Ban said, citing Israel’s continued settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and the forced transfer of its Palestinian residents, all expressions of violence and the incitement or glorification of violent acts.
He hailed Palestinian Authority (PA) efforts to establish viable State institutions, urging donors to continue to support its reform agenda, commended efforts by Palestinian security forces to maintain security in areas under their control in the West Bank, and called on Israel to take further steps to improve economic and security conditions by reducing obstacles to movement, halting military operations, and enabling PA to more West Bank areas.
The Secretary-General called on Israel to further ease its blockade of Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction. He also condemned escalating rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel, noting that it indiscriminately targets civilians, as well as the killing and wounding of Gaza civilians – including children – by Israeli fire. He reiterated his “strong condemnation” of the recent deadly bomb attack in West Jerusalem.
“Both sides must protect civilians and act in conformity with international law to prevent further escalation and loss of life,” he said. “Time is of the essence in realizing the two-State solution. The occupation that started in 1967 is morally and politically unsustainable, and must end. The Palestinians have a legitimate right to the establishment of an independent and viable State of their own.
“Israel has the right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized and secure borders. A way must be found for Jerusalem to emerge as a capital of two States, Israel and Palestine, with arrangements for holy sites acceptable for all. And there must be a just and agreed solution to the prolonged plight of the Palestinian refugees,” he added, touching on two of the thorniest issues at the talks.
The two-day meeting will focus on issues linked to encouraging support from Latin American and Caribbean States for restarting the Israeli-Palestinian political process, including the impact of settlement expansion, the question of Jerusalem, building trust, and diplomatic recognition of Palestinian statehood by governments of the region, including Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
“The Committee welcomes such timely gestures and hopes that other regions will follow soon, thereby helping the Palestinian people carry through with their independence and sovereignty,” Committee Chairman Abdou Salam Diallo told the meeting.
The Committee was set up in 1975 by the General Assembly to enable the Palestinians to exercise their rights to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty and to return to their homes and property from which they were displaced.