|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
With Deadlines Looming, Secretary-General Calls on International Community
to Help Resumption of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
European Role in Fostering Middle East Peace
Under Consideration as International Meeting Opens in Brussels
(Received from a UN Information Officer.)
BRUSSELS, 28 June — Given the frozen state of Middle East peace negotiations at the present critical time, the international community must do its part to bring the parties back to the table, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to the United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, which opened this morning in Brussels.
“Time is of the essence,” Mr. Ban said in a statement read out at the meeting by Maxwell Gaylard, United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Less than three months remained until the September target date set for an agreement on permanent status issues and for completing the Palestinian Authority’s State-building programme, which was approaching its limits within the political and physical space available. At the same time, political change was sweeping through the region, he observed.
The two-day meeting, convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, is examining the role of Europe in advancing a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict, taking stock of past efforts and considering current European initiatives as well as the role of parliamentarians and civil society in promoting peace. It will also look at alternatives to the negotiating process, including achieving a two-State solution through multilateral mechanisms.
In addition to Mr. Ban’s statement, this morning’s opening session heard from Michel Goffin, Deputy Director-General for Multilateral Affairs and Globalization in Belgium’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; John Gatt-Rutter, Deputy European Union Representative in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); Abdou Salam Diallo (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; and Leila Shahid, General Delegate of Palestine to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Mr. Ban said the 19 May speech by President Barack Obama of the United States could serve as the basis for a return to good-faith negotiations through the affirmation of key principles relating to borders and security. Appealing to the parties to improve the worrisome situation on the ground and return to negotiations without preconditions or delay, he expressed hope that the diplomatic Quartet (United Nations, United States, Russian Federation, and the European Union) could provide impetus by meeting soon at the principals level.
He also appealed to donors to remain fully engaged so as not to upset the State-building agenda and to encourage moderation, enhance security, restore hope, help begin the reconstruction of Gaza and bolster Palestinian unity. He reiterated his call on Israel to roll back occupation measures, end settlement activity and further liberalize the movement of people and goods into Gaza.
Mr. GOFFIN, welcoming participants to Belgium, said the European Union and its Member States were among the largest donors in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, providing about €1 billion on a yearly basis. The contributions were based on the firm belief that a negotiated solution between Israel and Palestine would contribute decisively to economic growth and social well-being in the region. To overcome the most urgent challenges to that goal, Belgium supported intra-Palestinian reconciliation, to engage all parties in the peace process; the lifting of the Gaza closures and restrictions in the West Bank, to foster sustainable economic growth; and an end to illegal Israeli settlement activity.
Stressing that the status quo was unacceptable and that negotiations could not be open-ended, he nevertheless said in respect of Palestine’s membership in the United Nations, that unilateral measures alone would not bring about a solution. Credible negotiations, led in good faith, remained the best path to a lasting resolution. “The challenge therefore is to foster a peace deal which brings fully recognized and fully operational Palestinian statehood closer as an essential part of the two-State framework, with Israel and Palestine coexisting in peace and security,” he said.
Underlining that he was not speaking for the European Union, but as a representative of a Member State, he said the region had been consistent in staking out a principled position based upon international law, and incorporating the concerns of all parties, which were outlined very clearly in the Council conclusion of 8 December 2009 and seen by many as a necessary component in peace talks. He expressed hope that the Meeting would contribute to overcoming the challenges of Palestinian statehood and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Mr. GATT-RUTTER said there was no more important issue for the European Union than resolving the Middle East conflict as soon as possible. The core of the bloc’s policy was the creation of a Palestinian State and the resolution of the conflict, with justice for the Palestinians and security for Israel. Concerned about the stalemate, Europe was watching the changes in the region carefully, and wished the parties would resume discussions on core issues as soon as possible.
Expressing hope that the principles set out by President Obama could be set out as parameters by the Quartet, in which Europe worked closely with all partners, he said the terms and timelines of Israeli withdrawal must be negotiated because unilateral solutions did not work, as demonstrated by the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. A unified Palestinian Government must develop, State institutions must be built and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must remain in charge for sustainable statehood to be built. On Jerusalem and other matters, he said recent developments were disturbing, and cited “the known European position”, as stated in the Security Council in December 2010.
Chairman DIALLO ( Senegal) emphasized the need for Europe’s voice to be heard more clearly as a key member of the Quartet, and concurred on the urgent need to move the political process forward. In that light, he applauded the initiative by Catherine Ashton, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to have the Quartet Principals meet without further delay and issue comprehensive and clear final-status parameters, so that serious negotiations could resume, leading to a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders.
He paid tribute to Europe for its constant support for the Fayyad Plan for building Palestinian State institutions, anticipating the same degree of support for the Palestinian national development plan for 2011 to 2013, at both the political and financial levels. Stating that political negotiations should remain the prerogative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), under Mr. Abbas, he expressed hope that a Palestinian transitional government would adhere to international electoral principles. He described as “helpful” recent offers by the leaders of France and Italy to host conferences to help advance dialogue towards peace and develop a unified European message, adding that “just one concerted action could defeat Israel’s policy of obstruction”.
The Chairman also encouraged European States that had not yet done so to recognize Palestine within its 1967 borders, saying that such a move would not de-legitimize Israel or deal the peace process a mortal blow as feared, since recognition was already included in the Quartet’s Road Map and had been endorsed by all parties concerned, including Israel. Avowing that the time had come to end the perpetual delay in settling the question of Palestine, he appealed for greater efforts by the European Union to lay the foundations for a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East. “The European Union has the historical legitimacy, the practical ability and the moral resources to succeed in this challenge.”
Ms. SHAHID agreed that 2011 was, indeed, another important opportunity for peace in the Middle East and guaranteed that, whether Israel liked it or not, the United Nations would be consulted on the status of Palestine. The changes sweeping the region made it inevitable, she said, adding: “It is time that there was one yardstick for all.” Palestinians wished to be part of democratic State-building like everyone else in the region. Recalling the past 20 years of negotiations, she said Palestinians had not hesitated to knock at every door to advance the process through both multilateral and bilateral negotiations. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground had become worse, marked by annexations, settlements, demolitions and closures.
It must be acknowledged that one party did not meet its obligations under international law, she continued, emphasizing that open-ended negotiations could not be tolerated any longer. The State-building strategy had been pursued in recent years, winning praise from many international organizations, she said, noting that Palestinians wanted to go to the United Nations for recognition of the 1967 borders, not as a unilateral move but because it was their right. In discussions on the issue, procedural discussions should be avoided and the right to independence prioritized, she said, requesting international support in that effort.
In the ensuing discussion, representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference welcomed European support for Palestinian aspirations, urging an extension of that support to helping end Israeli practices that obstructed political progress and getting behind efforts to gain United Nations membership for a State of Palestine, particularly in light of the acknowledged success of the Palestinian Authority’s State-building programme.
China’s representative, noting that her country had already recognized Palestine, pledged cooperation with Europe and the rest of the international community to help the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian State as part of a just and durable peace.
The International Meeting will continue with its first plenary session when it reconvenes at 3 p.m. today.
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