29 April 2008
Secretary-General
SG/SM/11540
GA/PAL/1084

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

SECRETARY-GENERAL, IN MESSAGE TO PARIS CONFERENCE, SAYS 2008 MARKS ‘SIXTIETH YEAR


OF PALESTINIAN DISPOSSESSION’, UNDERLINES URGENCY OF FINDING SOLUTION TO QUESTION


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the United Nations International Conference on Palestine Refugees, delivered by Angela Kane, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in Paris, 29 April:


I send warm greetings to the participants of the United Nations International Conference on Palestine Refugees, held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.


This year marks the sixtieth year of Palestinian dispossession, an anniversary that underlines the importance and urgency of finding a solution to the question of Palestine and of addressing the plight of the Palestine refugees.


The Palestinian people’s desire or right to live a normal daily life in their own sovereign land remains undiminished, as do the individual and collective rights of Palestine refugees.  Each generation is born and grows up with the reality of life under the impact of occupation, with many Palestinians living a lifetime in refugee camps in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in neighbouring Arab countries.


At Annapolis, the international community came together to support efforts that would lead to an end of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians; an end to the occupation that began in 1967; the creation of a viable, independent, sovereign and democratic Palestinian State in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; and the groundwork for a comprehensive regional peace.  We give our full support to this process and to the negotiations under way between the parties.  They are the only way to settle the conflict and address all permanent status issues, including that of the refugees.


I commend President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert for remaining firm in their pledge to reach an agreement in the face of many difficulties on the ground.  They are not allowing violence and other negative developments to upset their talks.  Negotiations are the only means of realizing the legitimate aspirations of both parties -- Palestinian statehood and self-determination, and security for Israel.  Our goal is to achieve an agreement by the end of this year, and we will give the Palestinian and Israeli leaders our utmost support in their endeavour to reach this goal.


In the meantime, the situation on the ground today remains an urgent concern.  In the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and in Israel, violence is still a daily occurrence and civilians are most often the victims.  In the West Bank, hundreds of checkpoints, obstacles to movement and the barrier impose tremendous hardship and suffering on daily life for ordinary Palestinians.  Israeli settlements continue to expand.  Settlement outposts remain; East Jerusalem is cut off from its West Bank hinterland.  I continue to urge both parties to implement their phase I Road Map obligations and build popular confidence in the negotiation process.  I also call on both sides to comply with international humanitarian law.


The situation in the Gaza Strip requires our urgent attention.  Shortages of food supplies, fuel and basic necessities further exacerbate the already dismal living conditions of the Gaza population.  The United Nations now provides assistance to approximately 75 per cent of the population of the Gaza Strip.  I, therefore, welcome efforts to end violence and reopen the Gaza crossings, which would allow all legitimate and necessary humanitarian and commercial supplies to reach the population.  This will require an end to rocket fire and other attacks against Israeli targets and an end to Israeli incursions and military actions in Gaza, so that a reopening of the Gaza crossings can be sustained and allow for genuine economic recovery.


For the past 60 years, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been entrusted with humanitarian and development services for registered Palestine refugees in camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  I express my gratitude to those Governments that have hosted refugees and closely cooperated with UNRWA over the years.


UNRWA’s services are a vital lifeline for the refugees.  Through health care, education and support to the poor, UNRWA addresses the needs of those who are most vulnerable.  I salute the men and women of UNRWA who perform their tasks with true dedication under very difficult conditions.


We have also been heartened by the donors’ tireless generosity over the years.  They recognize the worsening humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people, including refugees, and we thank them for strengthening their contributions this year.  I reiterate my call on all donors to continue to invest generously and to support the Palestinian people and their efforts to build capacity and advance development.


A sustainable peace in the entire region will have to factor in a viable and just solution to the Palestine refugee issue, to be agreed upon in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194.  I shall remain personally engaged and committed to working towards peace within the agreed upon framework -- an end to the occupation that began in 1967, based on the foundations of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace, Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2002), and the Arab Peace Initiative.  This framework should lead to an end of the conflict, the creation of a Palestinian State, living side by side in peace and security with Israel, and a comprehensive peace in the region.


Please accept my best wishes for a successful Conference.


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