Ban Ki-moon's speeches


Remarks at the opening of the 2007 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 27 February 2007

Allow me to congratulate you and your colleagues in the Bureau on your unanimous election to the leadership of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

As we know only too well, the path to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been filled with obstacles, frustration and tragedy.  Over the years, many thousands of innocent lives have been lost or shattered.  Hope has been episodic at best.  Far more often, despair has been the norm.

The Palestinian people still yearn for the freedom and dignity denied them for decades.  The Israeli people yearn for long-term security.  Neither can achieve their legitimate demands without a settlement of the conflict.  Today, we are at a critical juncture in efforts to move beyond crisis management and renew efforts toward genuine conflict resolution.

The challenges to progress are enormous.  Israeli military operations, severe movement restrictions, the withholding of Palestinian revenues and socio-economic decline have precipitated a humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and exacted a heavy price, particularly on the most vulnerable members of society.  Continued settlement activity and construction of the Israeli barrier further erode the quality of Palestinian life and undermine efforts to achieve a viable Palestinian State.

At the same time, continued rocket attacks and another suicide attacks targeting Israeli civilians prolong the feeling of insecurity of Israelis.  This has resulted, in turn, in tighter restrictions for Palestinians.  Moreover, the withdrawal of much direct donor support from the Palestinian Authority Government, in light of its lack of clear commitment to basic principles of the peace process, has debilitated those Palestinian institutions that have been bypassed.

Indeed, nearly all the developments of 2006 took us further from the goal shared by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians: two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.  The goal in 2007 must be to reverse this trend.  As we try to do so, we have some important blocks on which to build.

I am encouraged, for example, by the recent agreement on a Palestinian national unity Government reached in Mecca.  That agreement has helped calm down the internal Palestinian situation.  It also marked an intensification of Arab efforts to promote calm and moderation in the region.  I thank the leaders involved, in particular His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who exerted tremendous energy to achieve this very important step.

Both Palestinians and the wider regional and international community are keen to see this agreement implemented in a positive manner.  I hope that a national unity Government will take positions and actions that help to facilitate renewed international support.

I am also encouraged by the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.  President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert met in December to discuss practical steps to ease tensions.  I strongly urge them to continue to pursue in partnership.

And last week, United States Secretary of State Rice hosted talks with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert , signalling the active engagement of the United States in working with the parties to address the fundamental issues of the conflict.

These steps have been buttressed by the renewed engagement of the Quartet, which has met twice in the last month, and intends to meet again in the region before long.  We are seeking to combine our efforts to clarify the political horizon, and to ensure that a process of dialogue develops that leads to negotiations on how to bring forward a comprehensive settlement.  I would hope to back this up with a strong international assistance effort that focuses on strengthening and preserving the Palestinian institutions that must form the basis of a Palestinian State.

I am grateful to donor countries that have increased aid for the economic, social and humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.

I commend the men and women in United Nations entities, as well as their partners in Government and civil society, who perform their mission on the ground under difficult and, at times, dangerous conditions, particularly in Gaza.

And I urge all of us to take advantage of the political opportunities at hand.  If we do so, with creativity and persistence, and the right mix of firmness and flexibility, we can find the path that has eluded us for so long, and arrive at our commonly hoped for destination of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on an end to the 1967 occupation and the creation of an independent Palestinian State living side by side in peace with Israel.