United Nations Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Opens in Cyprus with Focus on ‘Parliamentary Diplomacy’ to Boost Dialogue

6 May 2009
GA/PAL/1121

United Nations Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Opens in Cyprus with Focus on ‘Parliamentary Diplomacy’ to Boost Dialogue

6 May 2009
General Assembly
GA/PAL/1121
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

UNITED NATIONS MEETING IN SUPPORT OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE OPENS

IN CYPRUS WITH FOCUS ON ‘PARLIAMENTARY DIPLOMACY’ TO BOOST DIALOGUE

Amid Efforts to Revive Political Process, Secretary-General Urges

Resumed Talks on Core Issues, Saying Parameters for Peace Unchanged

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

NICOSIA, Cyprus, 6 May -- As the United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace got under way in the capital city of Cyprus today, the focus was on “parliamentary diplomacy” as a means to shape public opinion and soften the ground for a resumption of political dialogue, both central to the pursuit of a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Geared exclusively to worldwide parliamentary engagement in arresting the prolonged period of near-constant conflict that imperilled the region and advancing a settlement of its core conflict, the Meeting gathered together on the small Mediterranean nation -- United Nations Member States and Observers and system entities, parliamentarians and inter-parliamentary organizations, Israeli and Palestinian experts, as well as European analysts and specialists on the Middle East situation.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement delivered by Taye-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative of Mr. Ban, noted that the Meeting was taking place as the international community was striving to reinvigorate the political process.  He urged a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on all core issues, without exception, as agreed by the parties and as called for in Security Council resolution 1850 (2008), stressing that the parameters for peace remained unchanged.

Very disturbed by the situation in Gaza, more than three months since the end of hostilities there, the Secretary-General insisted that measures that increased hardship and suffering must stop immediately.  He called on Israel to provide adequate entry of fuel, cash and materials that were urgently needed to repair schools, clinics, sanitation networks and shelters.

He noted his transmittal to the Security Council yesterday of a summary of the Board of Inquiry’s report regarding certain incidents affecting United Nations personnel, premises and operations that had occurred during the hostilities in Gaza.  He was reviewing the Board’s recommendations.  In the West Bank, he warned that persistence of Israeli settlement activities would make it virtually impossible for peace talks to produce tangible results.

Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which organized the Meeting, hoped the event would assess the current situation through the prism of a possible parliamentary engagement, and examine concrete ways in which parliaments and parliamentarians worldwide could be instrumental in advancing a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

It was a pivotal time in the region, coming in the wake of the unprecedented Israeli military onslaught on the Gaza Strip in December and January last and after the formation of a new Government of Israel, Mr. Badji urged the international community to act and advance efforts aimed at achieving a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace.

After more than 40 years, the occupation must come to an end, he said, warning that the alternative was a new war in the region, which might have repercussions even beyond its boundaries.  The political negotiations conducted over the course of the past several months had not yielded tangible results.  International stakeholders must move beyond political rhetoric and help the parties engage in a serious political dialogue towards achieving a comprehensive just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.

Opening Statements

GEORGE IACOVOU, Presidential Commissioner, speaking on behalf of the President of Cyprus, said now was a crucial moment for efforts to achieve the long-awaited peace in the Middle East.  The presence of parliamentarians was indicative of the primary importance which the international community attributed to a just and final settlement of the conflict.  Cyprus’ firm commitment to a peaceful and negotiated settlement of international disputes and, more specifically, the Arab-Israeli conflict, was once again reaffirmed by its readiness to host the present Meeting.  At the centre of the whole effort was the fundamental quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace and the creation of a viable sovereign and territorially contiguous Palestinian State.  Despite certain promising commitments by all sides, opening prospects for mutually acceptable arrangements, recent dramatic events had jeopardized the endeavour, even caused it to regress.

He noted that the Palestinian commitment to peace and statehood was founded on the two-State solution principle and the principle of land for peace.  Those two principles were intertwined; the abandonment of either one would have destabilizing implications for the whole region.  Currently, there were immediate and crucial challenges to the Middle East peace process.  Israel’s reluctance to endorse the two-State solution and the Annapolis peace process were among the difficult challenges, which also included continued expansion of illegal settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem.  Those hindered the vitality of a future Palestinian State.  Indeed, continuation of the settlements altered the situation on the ground and perplexed the political negotiations.  If that policy persisted, he was afraid that, in a few years, the West Bank would become fragmented, with no prospects of economic and social development.

There was an urgent need for inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the formation of a consensus Government which was truly a peace partner, he urged.  Security aspects should be addressed effectively, which included the establishment of a long-term stable ceasefire in Gaza, with guarantees for its implementation.  Those challenges required concerted and coordinated action.  The role of the European Union as a good-faith mediator and directly concerned partner for development in the immediate neighbourhood was of vital importance.  The commitment of the new United States Administration was encouraging, and he looked forward to more substantial coordination between the Quartet and the Arab League.

MARIOS GAROYIAN, President of the House of Representatives of Cyprus, said that action by European, Arab and other parliamentarians and their umbrella organizations for Israeli-Palestinian peace held hopes, challenges and expectations that parliamentary diplomacy -- a relatively novel notion in international relations -- was starting to bear fruit, particularly for more complex situations, such as the one at hand.  Cyprus, and particularly its Parliament, finding itself at the crossroads of a very sensitive area of the world, and having experienced the bitter results of war and the ongoing Turkish occupation, extended its friendship and assistance, and pledged to contribute to bringing and solidifying peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East to the benefit of the peoples in the region.

He said the Cyprus House of Representatives had not remained idle in the face of the area’s vicissitudes, especially during conflict and the consequent humanitarian needs, generated by such disasters, both recently, in the midst and in the aftermath of Israel’s attack on Gaza, and on innumerable other occasions, including repeated crises in Lebanon.  The House had not hesitated to issue a unanimous resolution, on 8 January, condemning the military attack on Gaza, which undermined the perspective of dialogue for peace.  On that occasion, as well as in previous relevant resolutions, the House had reaffirmed its solidarity with and support of the Palestinian people; it had also reaffirmed its adherence to the right of the State of Israel and a Palestinian State to coexist peacefully, in security and within internationally recognized borders.  Indeed, the House of Representatives had joined other national parliaments in their efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace on many occasions.

Cyprus, given its geographical position and its very good relations with all parties in the area, as well as its capacity as both a European Union member and a country rich with Middle Eastern cultural traits, could be the ideal bridge upon which to construct a solid peace dialogue with the parties to the conflict in the Middle East.

TAYE-BROOK ZERIHOUN, delivering a statement on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, noted that the seminar gathered as the international community was striving to reinvigorate the political process towards Israeli-Palestinian peace.  The Quartet remained firmly committed to a two-State solution.  The Secretary-General strongly supported the Quartet’s reinforced role and highly commended United States President Barack Obama’s stated commitment to strengthen and deepen partnerships between the United States, the parties and international partners to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab States.

At the same time, the Secretary-General was very disturbed by the situation in the Gaza Strip, he said.  More than three months since the end of hostilities there, life in Gaza remained extremely difficult.  The near total ban on imports and exports, except for basic needs such as food and blankets, was preventing broader humanitarian assistance, economic recovery and long-term development.  Measures that increased hardship and suffering were unacceptable and must stop immediately.  The Secretary-General called on Israel to provide adequate entry of fuel, cash and materials that were urgently needed to repair schools, clinics, sanitation networks and shelters.

Yesterday, he noted, the Secretary-General had transmitted to the Security Council a summary of the report of the Board of Inquiry regarding certain incidents affecting United Nations personnel, premises and operations that had occurred during the hostilities in Gaza.  He was now carefully reviewing the recommendations contained in the report.  In his letter transmitting the summary, he had highlighted his deep and abiding concern for the civilians of Gaza and Israel, and their right to live in peace and security, free form the threat of violence and terrorism.

Much needed to be done to stabilize Gaza: a durable and fully respected ceasefire, including open crossings; the prevention of illicit supply of weapons; and reunification of Gaza and the West Bank within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority, he said, strongly supporting continued efforts by Egypt to promote Palestinian reconciliation.  He also continued to support efforts to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

In the West Bank, while there was improved security action by the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli Defense Forces had continued to conduct military operations, he said.  Clashes between settlers and Palestinians had intensified, killing and wounding Palestinians.  The Israeli Government continued settlement activities, which contravened its Road Map obligations and the basis for the two-State solution.  Israel was required to freeze settlement activity and must cease unilateral steps altering Jerusalem’s status.  Yet more land was being earmarked for settlement expansions.  And Palestinian towns and villages were separated from their land by the route of the barrier, often deep within the West Bank, contrary to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.  Those activities deepened the impact of occupation.  If they remained in place, it would be virtually impossible for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to produce tangible results.

He said that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must be resumed on all core issues, without exception, as agreed by the parties and as called for in Security Council resolution 1850 (2008).  The parameters for peace remained unchanged: the establishment of two States living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the principle of land for peace and a just and comprehensive regional peace consistent with Security Council resolutions.  The Arab Peace Initiative, to which Arab League member States had recommitted themselves at their recent summit in Doha, was an indispensable part of that process.  The Secretary-General would remain closely engaged the effort to create a viable Palestinian State and comprehensive regional peace.  He was fully committed to working with the parties, regional partners, and all concerned towards achieving a negotiated political settlement.

PAUL BADJI ( Senegal), Chairman, Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the meeting was taking place at a pivotal time in the region, coming in the wake of the unprecedented Israeli military onslaught on the Gaza Strip in December and January last and after the formation of a new Government of Israel.  In this year of the sixtieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, it was more fitting than ever to affirm principles with regard to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- the principles of international humanitarian law encapsulated in the Geneva Convention, the general principles of international law and the principle of land for peace, based on Security Council resolutions.

After more than 40 years, the occupation must come to an end, as its termination was the only way to end the conflict, he said.  The alternative was a new war in the region, which might have repercussions even beyond its boundaries.  The political negotiations conducted over the course of the past several months had not yielded tangible results.  Events unfolding since last December had effectively eliminated the momentum created by the Annapolis meeting.  In the first months of 2009, there had been continued violence, including Israeli raids and arrests, the firing of rockets by Palestinian groups in Gaza, and the lack of an agreed ceasefire regime.  Reconciliation talks among the various Palestinian groups, facilitated by Egypt, were continuing, and the Committee had encouraged Palestinian factions to continue their dialogue, which was important for advancing the political process.

He said that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained of great concern, with continuing settlement activity in the West Bank inimical to the creation of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian State.  He also pointed to the demolition of Palestinian houses, increasing settler violence, continued construction of the separation wall and the more than 600 obstacles to movement.  The already largest settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim was slated to be expanded by some 1,200 hectares towards the controversial El area, which would link it to the nearby Kedar settlement.  That would further isolate the north from the south of the West Bank and would be detrimental to Palestinian territorial contiguity.  There could be no viable peace negotiations amid continued settlement expansion.

The situation in Gaza was extremely disquieting, subjected to the Israeli policy of almost total closure, he said.  Despite the generous pledges of some $4.5 billion made by international donors at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference in March, there had been no progress in recovery, since Israel continued to block the access of humanitarian relief and materials needed for rehabilitation and reconstruction.  The ban of cash and construction materials needed for repairs of schools, clinics, sanitation networks and shelters further aggravated the plight of the population.  According to the World Bank, the average per capita amount of fresh water available to Israelis was four times higher than that available to the Palestinians, while in the agricultural sector, it was five times higher.  Water and sanitation-related infectious diseases were increasingly prevalent.  Israel was obliged under the Fourth Geneva Convention to protect the Palestinian civilian population under its occupation.

Stressing that the international community should not allow any of its members to be above the law, he said that principles of international humanitarian, human rights law and other legal norms should underpin investigations of violations committed during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.  The Committee welcomed the investigative missions mandated by the League of Arab States, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations Board of Inquiry.

Worrying, however, had been talk of a so-called “economic peace”, favoured by the new Israeli leadership, he continued.  Sustainable development of the Palestinian economy would only be possible once the occupation had ended and the Palestinian people had become the master of their own destiny.  The Committee also encouraged the Palestinian factions to continue their dialogue towards internal reconciliation.  Of course, the priority now was to help those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza to bring back a measure of normality to their lives.  However, sight must not be lost of the fact that the conflict required a political solution, first and foremost, an end to the Israeli occupation and the exercise by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights.  Only a comprehensive political solution would bring security, stability and prosperity to all the peoples of the region.

The time was now for the international community to act and advance efforts aimed at achieving a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace, he urged.  In that regard, he welcomed the reinvigorated effort by the United States Obama Administration to step up its involvement in the region.  International stakeholders should now move beyond political rhetoric and help the parties engage in a serious political dialogue towards achieving a comprehensive just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.

For its part, the Committee had a long history of cooperation with parliaments and parliamentarians, and reaffirmed their continuing importance in supporting peace in the region and in resolving the question of Palestine, he said.  Towards that goal, the Committee would continue to involve parliamentarians and representatives of parliaments and inter-parliamentary organizations in international conferences and meetings it organized.  Consultations between the Committee and parliamentary representatives should improve cooperation between the two sides.  The Committee would also continue its effort to involve members of the Israeli Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council in events organized by it.  At the present event, the Committee would assess the current situation and look -- through the prism of a possible parliamentary engagement -- into concrete ways in which parliaments and parliamentarians worldwide could be instrumental in advancing a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

ELISSAVET PAPADIMITRIOU, Vice-President of the Greek Parliament and Vice-President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said the conflict figured prominently in IPU’s political agenda.  Hardly a meeting had gone by in the last 20 years without the question having been debated in one form or another.  Resolutions and declarations, however, provided solid testimony to the fact that many years had elapsed, marked by a shift only from one crisis to another in the region, while peace remained as elusive as ever.

Recalling that IPU had been founded on the basic premise that conflicts must be solved through dialogue, she said that Middle East peace could not be imposed from the outside or bought from arms or ammunition, or won on the battlefield.  It could only be won once the guns were silenced and the parties sat at the negotiating table and hammered out an agreement, which put an end to occupation.  IPU maintained that ordinary men and women could play a powerful role in achieving that peace, and parliaments had a role to represent their people, who, everywhere, wanted to live in safety and dignity, free from fear and hatred.  It was the job of parliamentarians to do everything possible to make that a reality.

In the report of the IPU Assembly a few weeks ago, its President had formulated a series of recommendations for parliamentary action towards Middle East peace, she said.  First among them was the need to cherish diversity and build upon commonalities.  It was precisely in parliaments that a country’s policies were subjected to scrutiny and debate and that the necessary agreements were forged.  Everything possible must be done to forge Palestinian reconciliation and assist the Palestinian parliament, which was unable to function presently.  IPU could provide much needed technical assistance and capacity-building for the day when the Palestinian parliament could resume its work.  Reconciliation implied talking to all Palestinian representatives, including the fairly elected Hamas representatives.

She said it had also been recommended that IPU continue the work carried out by its Committee of Human Rights of Parliamentarians, and efforts should be made to follow up on its recommendations to resolve the many cases of Palestinian parliamentarians imprisoned by Israeli authorities.  Preparations should begin for the day when Palestinians went to the polls to elect a new parliament.  IPU and its Committee of Middle East Questions could do much to facilitate dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian members.  Efforts were also being made at the parliamentary level to reconcile differences among Arab countries, and those should be supported.  There was also a need for greater unity within the international community, and several countries should be included in discussions, including Iran, to build bridges, including parliamentary ones.

Many in the Middle East were tired of war and suffering, they did not need another debate, but they needed results, she stressed.  The plans had been on the table for some time.  The Arab Peace Initiative attempted to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and normalize relations in exchange for the complete withdrawal from the occupied territories and a just settlement of the Palestine refugee crisis.  The Middle East Road Map, launched by the United States in 2003 and later endorsed by the Quartet, contained a performance-driven path to a solution.  “We are not short of plans and everyone knows what the contours of a solution look like.”  What was in desperately short supply was the political will to act.  That was where members of parliament were the only ones who could help their Governments.

She cautioned against reaching a point of exhaustion, as every day the conflict seemed more and more out of each.  Parliamentarians, however, could use their position to counter that kind of fatigue.  The ones who suffered the most, of course, were the Palestinians and Israelis.  They were owed a true start to a solution and a break in the cycle of condemnations, leading to a recognition of their common humanity in conditions in which reason and morality prevailed.  It was all too easy to revert to old habits, to denounce, to accuse and point fingers, but that would not bring peace and prosperity to the peoples of Israel and Palestine.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said the latest Israeli aggression in Gaza had been a real humanitarian catastrophe.  It had lasted 22 days, but had destroyed 15 years of development aimed at alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Indeed, the Israeli aggressive practices against the Palestinian people were difficult impediments to peace, and attempts to isolate Jerusalem from its Palestinian surroundings were making it impossible to have one Palestinian sovereign State.  Along with those policies came a new Israeli Government bringing with it announcements of new political aims renouncing such glimmers of hope as the meeting at Annapolis, and setting new terms and conditions, only laying down new impediments to the realization of peace.

He said the continued attacks against Palestinians made it impossible for Palestinian students to go to school, for farmers to reach their farms, for the sick to reach the hospitals.  Israeli aggression had ruined Palestinian legislative headquarters.  Parliamentarians had an important role in beseeching the international community to shoulder its political, legal and ethical responsibilities and in pressuring Israel to abide by international resolutions.  The international community must compel the Israeli Government to stop all its aggressions against the Palestinian people and its attempts to distract the peace process.  Parliamentary delegations should visit the Occupied Palestinian Territory to know first-hand of the situation on the ground.  And they should exert greater efforts to mitigate and ultimately reverse the situation.  IPU had accepted the Palestinian National Council as a full-fledged member, welcoming its attendance at its meetings, which was a welcome development.

General Statements

Speaking on behalf of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement in the discussion that followed, FIDEL VASCOS GONZALEZ ( Cuba) said the situation resulting from the ongoing military occupation by Israel remained a matter of serious concern, not only for the Movement, but for the entire international community.  The Movement regretted the lack of progress, despite increased international efforts to address the major issues and follow up core positions regarding the question of Palestine.  It was also gravely concerned about the serious deterioration of the situation and the critical political, economic, social, humanitarian and security conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as a result of Israel’s ongoing unlawful policies and practices.

He said the Movement stressed the need for intensified and coordinated efforts by the international community to promote a genuine peace process, as well as to ensure respect for international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, the key to a peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Movement condemned Israel’s continuing military occupation of the Palestinian Territory in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions, he said.  It condemned in the strongest terms the recent Israeli military aggression against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip that had killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and injured more than 5,500.  It had also caused widespread displacement and rendered homeless thousands of Palestinian families, deepening the suffering and fear, overwhelming the population.

He said the Movement also condemned Israel’s wanton destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes, vital civilian infrastructure, including water, sanitation and electricity, hospitals and ambulances; mosques; public institutions, including schools and national ministries; farms; and United Nations facilities, including several schools where frightened Palestinian families had sought safe refuge and yet had still been attacked by the Israeli occupying forces.  The Movement called on Israel to immediately cease all actions against the Palestinian people and stressed the importance of reaching a permanent, durable ceasefire, starting in Gaza and extending to the West Bank.

The Movement reiterated its condemnation of Israel’s inhumane, unlawful closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip.  It was seriously concerned about the grave deterioration of socio-economic conditions and the deepening humanitarian crisis due to the blockade, which had caused widespread deprivation, poverty and hardship.  Israel must cease such illegal practices by allowing for the immediate and sustained opening of all the Gaza Strip’s border crossings, for the movement of persons and goods into and out of the Territory, necessary for alleviating the humanitarian crisis, and for the urgent reconstruction and economic recovery needs of the Palestinian people.

As the Palestinian people and their leadership continued to struggle with the devastation inflicted upon them in Gaza, the Movement reminded the international community, including the Security Council, of the responsibility to ensure that thorough investigations were carried out of all crimes and violations committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip and that serious follow-up efforts were undertaken to hold accountable the perpetrators of such crimes, he said.  Israel’s impunity and its blatant disrespect and defiance of the law must be halted.  In that connection, the Movement awaited the report of the Board of Inquiry dispatched to Gaza by the United Nations Secretary-General and it called for immediate action to follow up the findings of the Board’s investigation, as well as for the immediate dispatch of the fact-finding mission called for by the Human Rights Council.

Further, he continued, the Movement called for intensified efforts by the entire international community, particularly the Security Council and the Quartet, to address the current political and humanitarian crisis, leading to the establishment of a viable State of Palestine within a specified time frame, as well as a just solution to the Palestine refugee problem, based on General Assembly resolution 194 (III).

He said the Movement also strongly condemned Israel’s continuing intensive campaign of settler colonization, including vast land confiscations; the construction and expansion of illegal settlements; settlement outposts and settlement infrastructure; the transfer of more Israeli settlers; the construction of the wall; home demolitions; excavations; and the imposition of arbitrary, racist residency and movement restrictions via a permit regime, as well as hundreds of checkpoints throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in and around occupied East Jerusalem.  Such policies and measures were grave breaches of international law and flagrant defiance of United Nations resolutions and the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

The Movement stressed the incompatibility of peace process negotiations with such illegal colonization activities, which were clearly aimed at the illegal acquisition and de facto annexation of more Palestinian land and forcible imposition of a unilateral solution, he said.  The Movement stressed that the illegal Israeli colonization campaign in its entirety was gravely undermining the contiguity, integrity, viability and unity of the Palestinian Territory and jeopardizing the prospects for physically achieving the two-State solution for peace.

He said the Movement demanded that Israel immediate cease all its colonization activities; those unlawful measures could not be allowed to alter the terms of reference of the peace process nor negate the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

In the face of continued Israeli defiance, the Movement called for urgent action by the international community to compel the occupying Power to abide by all of its obligations under international law, he said, also expressing the Movement’s hope that ongoing efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation and unity would soon succeed.

SUHAIR BSEISO, League of Arab States, looked back four months ago to the Israeli aggression against Gaza, asserting that it had violated all international laws and the Geneva Conventions, including through the use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium.  It had prevented relief workers from reaching the victims.  Those crimes of war had been denounced by various organizations and now by the report circulated to the Security Council.  Those actions had been a flagrant violation of all international laws, requiring prosecution.  The United Nations and its specialized agencies must stop turning a blind eye to the situation and stop dealing with Israel as a country above the law.  There was no doubt about the impact of its recent war.  Next had come the declaration by Israel’s leadership that Israel was not going to abide by its commitments, but would instead reject the Arab Peace Initiative.  All of that had led to very negative repercussions for peace.

Continuing, the speaker said that the unfair occupation and the separation wall carving up the West Bank were making it impossible to establish a contiguous Palestinian State.  The Israeli Government continued in that vein in order to put an end to the peace process and to any serious negotiations.  It must put an end to the settlements.  The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was very serious and posed a real threat to regional peace and security.  Indeed, the situation in the region could not persist, especially in light of the declaration by the Israeli leadership indicating its rejection of the two-State solution and insistence of a so-called “economic peace” for the Palestinians.  Israel must commit to its contractual agreements, put an end to the occupation and open the crossings to allow for Gaza’s reconstruction, or face an even more serious situation in that hotbed of tension.  The Arab League called on the international community to abandon its double standards, and on the parliamentarians of the world to reflect public opinion and those of the political blocs and take the necessary steps to rectify the imbalances and prevent the violations.

GEORGE VELLA, Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), explaining that his organization was involved in achieving an overall peace settlement in the Middle East, detailed the work the Assembly was carrying out in three standing committees.  He also noted that its major challenges were, among others, resurgence of conflict, irregular migration and climate change, all of which required collective effort.  Sharing best practices was a proven approach, and PAM sought to transfer knowledge among Member States.  Indeed, its meetings were becoming opportunities for guest speakers from various bodies to share valuable experiences with PAM members, leading to strengthened governance.

He said the Committee on the Middle East was a highly active working group.  It did not point fingers, but sought to bring together parliamentarians, flowing from the notion that a lack of overall settlement in the Middle East continued to deprive the people of the Mediterranean region of peace and stability.  PAM was seeking to serve as a catalyst for new approaches and to generate new solutions.  In view of PAM’s desire for peace in the region, its bureau would travel to the Middle East on a fact-finding mission at the end of May.  The challenge of the Middle East was delicate and sensitive, but it must be addressed.  Despite the new challenges constantly arising in the Mediterranean, cooperation with all countries, particularly in the Gulf, was essential if those obstacles were to be surmounted.  Fostering that cooperation was a role which PAM hoped to play.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.