Elections this year in the Occupied Palestinian Territories will be “a crucial step” towards Palestinian unity, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday.
Addressing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the UN chief said the vote will give renewed legitimacy to national institutions in Palestine, including a democratically elected Parliament and Government.
.@antonioguterres this morning said the pandemic has had a severe impact on the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza. He reiterated the @UN's commitment to support the Palestinian Government to control the spread of the pandemic: https://t.co/WVXmVB6tOy— UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) February 4, 2021
“Elections are a vital part of building a democratic Palestinian State founded on the rule of law with equal rights for all. The Committee’s support to these efforts will be crucial”, he added.
Tests and opportunities
The UN Committee was meeting for the first time this year, and just weeks after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced plans for the first parliamentary and presidential elections in 15 years across the West Bank, Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem.
As the Secretary-General remarked, 2021 will be a year of tremendous tests and opportunities.
“It challenges us to reinvent how we make and sustain peace, while confronting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic”, he said.
The UN and partners are supporting the Palestinian Government’s efforts to control coronavirus spread and preparation for the rollout and delivery of vaccines.
The pandemic has had a severe impact on Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, which has been under blockade for more than a decade.
Mr. Guterres said the UN envoy who supports peace negotiations in the Middle East continues to encourage Israel to address the priority needs of the Palestinians, and to support COVID-19 vaccine availability, in line with its international obligations.
Commitment to two-State solution
The Secretary-General underscored the UN’s ongoing commitment in helping the sides to resolve their long-standing conflict and achieve a two-State solution.
Mr. Guterres highlighted the important role the UN Committee has in assisting the parties to return to the negotiations.
President Abbas’s call for an international peace conference, held under the auspices of the UN, also provides an opportunity to advance peace in the region, he added.
“I call on the parties to refrain from unilateral acts that can jeopardize the possibility of restarting the peace process,” the UN chief said.