Continued inaction in the Middle East peace process could lead to further instability in the region, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today at an international meeting in Turkey, reiterating his calls on Israelis and Palestinians to avoid unilateral steps that would aggravate the situation and diminish prospects for negotiations to resume.
In a message delivered by Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Ban told the parties that “not making a choice in favour of peace and co-existence within the two-State framework is the most detrimental choice of all.”
Mr. Ban’s message was presented in Ankara, Turkey, at an international meeting on the Question of Jerusalem, a topic which “is perhaps the most divisive of the core issues,” he said.
The two-day meeting was convened jointly by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Government of Turkey. It is being held in the context of the 2014 International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
The Secretary-General noted in his message to the meeting that he was “particularly troubled” by recent mounting tensions around the sensitive issue of Jerusalem and access to its holy sites, including in and around the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount.
“Jerusalem inspires faith and longing for Muslims, Jews and Christians,” he said, adding that the city “must be open and accessible to all.”
He urged all sides to negotiate a solution where Jerusalem is the capital of the two States, and warned against “attempts to establish facts on the ground that alter the character of the Old City, or allow provocations that could trigger further unrest and deepen mistrust.”
Today’s meeting comes two weeks after the target date for the latest United States-brokered talks between Israel and Palestine to reach a comprehensive peace agreement.
The talks had been ongoing since last August, resumed after the previous series of talks ended in September 2010 when Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Mr. Ban today reiterated that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem “are illegal under international law” and “constitute a significant obstacle to achieving peace.”
He also warned that violence and attacks against civilians, including rocket fire from Gaza into Israel are “unacceptable.”
In today’s message, Mr. Ban underscored that the UN, with international support, remains committed to helping the parties bring “the occupation and this conflict and related claims to an end.”
Mr. Ban also expressed “profound concern” about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and lauded a $1.5 million pledge by the host Government of Turkey to address a shortage gap in medicines provided to people in the area by the UN World Health Organization (WHO).