|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Middle East Peace Process ‘at a Dangerous Impasse’, Warns Secretary-General
in Message to International Meeting on Question of Palestine
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, delivered by Maxwell Gaylard, Deputy United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine in Geneva on 3 April:
I am pleased to send greetings to all participants at this International Meeting on the Question of Palestine. I thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for organizing this important discussion.
The Middle East peace process is at a dangerous impasse. The year started with an encouraging effort led by the Jordanian Government to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to direct talks, but obstacles have again prevented them from finding sufficient common ground to continue.
The target date set by the Quartet for an agreement by the end of this year remains the objective. The Quartet will continue to work toward this goal. In parallel, we must all do our part to bolster the Palestinian Authority and ensure progress on State-building and addressing the dire financial situation of the Palestinian Authority.
Numerous issues on the ground require urgent attention, including the plight of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention facilities. I have repeatedly expressed concern about this issue, including during my visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory in February. While the total of prisoners has declined, it still numbers approximately 4,400 individuals, including around 200 minors.
More than 300 prisoners are being held under administrative detention. Some have protested their situation through hunger strikes. The application of administrative detention should only occur under clear parameters and in exceptional circumstances, for as short a period as possible and without prejudice to the rights guaranteed to prisoners. Those detained must be allowed to challenge their detention and, in the absence of formal charges, should be released without delay. The United Nations continues to follow closely the well-being of those in detention, and to raise their situation with the Israeli authorities. I call on Israel to respect its obligations under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Arrests of elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the forcible transfer of some from East Jerusalem to Ramallah are also of concern, with broader implications for the human rights of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem. Such deportations deepen the divide between Israeli and Palestinian societies. To build trust, both sides need to take bold steps, including through the release of some Palestinian prisoners to the Palestinian Authority.
A viable Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace with a secure Israel is long overdue. It is crucial that Israeli and Palestinian leaders resume direct talks aimed at reaching an agreement for the two-State solution, as called for by the Quartet. The only way to achieve this fundamental goal is through negotiations that resolve all permanent status issues, including borders, security, water, refugees and Jerusalem.
Political momentum between Israelis and Palestinians in the months ahead is essential. Its absence only makes each day more uncertain. We must make serious and rapid progress towards peace and create positive dynamics in every aspect of Israeli-Palestinian relations, including the important issue of Palestinian prisoners.
I wish you success in your deliberations.
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