New York, 23 January 2009 - Secretary-General's statement to the Extraordinary Meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (as delivered on the Secretary-General's behalf by B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs)Excellencies,
As you know, I returned two days ago from my trip to the Middle East, which I undertook in light of the urgent crisis in Gaza. I am glad to have this opportunity today to speak with you and report to you about my mission.
My trip was intended to send a simple and unmistakable message about the crisis in Gaza and southern Israel: The fighting must stop; resolution 1860 must be fully respected and implemented. I am deeply appreciative of the support from many corners of the world for my mission, also reiterated by the General Assembly in the resolution adopted last Friday at the meeting of the Tenth Emergency Special Session.
During my trip, I visited and met with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria. I took part in a meeting convened by President Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh and the Arab economic summit in Kuwait. I spoke to many leaders on the telephone. And I visited Gaza City and Sderot on Tuesday to show my solidarity with civilians and underscore the urgent and important tasks ahead.
I commend the leadership and initiative taken by Egyptian President Mubarak to help achieve a ceasefire. I also pay tribute to many, many leaders from around the world for their contributions.
I am relieved the fighting has ended, with the declaration of unilateral ceasefires and the withdrawal of Israeli troops. This is an important achievement. But conditions are still fragile, and much more remains to be done on both the humanitarian and diplomatic fronts.
In this regard, I look to Egypt and others to continue vital efforts to seek understandings and mechanisms to ensure that a durable and sustainable ceasefire is quickly put in place. And I look to regional and international leaders to come together to contribute to and help sustain these guarantees and arrangements, as called for by Security Council resolution 1860. The unilateral ceasefires must be translated into a lasting arrangement that prevents illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and ensures the sustained reopening of the Gaza crossings on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This is the framework outlined in Security Council resolution 1860 and will help stabilize the situation on the ground.
Still, this time remains one of difficulty, of despair, grief and desperate need. Civilians in Gaza were caught throughout this crisis between Israel's blockade and use of excessive and disproportionate military force, and Hamas' unacceptable and irresponsible actions.
During my visit to Gaza, I saw part of the destruction and suffering caused to this small and densely populated area by more than three weeks of heavy bombardment, shelling, and street fighting. This followed on top of months and years of occupation, conflict and economic deprivation. I was deeply affected by what I saw.
I went to Gaza to show my respect and concern for the deaths and injuries of so many people, and the thousands of people who lost family and friends. I wanted to send the signal that the United Nations stands with the people who have borne tragedy and disaster, and that we will not abandon them.
And I visited Sderot, to meet with the civilians of southern Israel who were exposed to indiscriminate rocket and mortar fire for too long.
In both places, I underscored the urgent need for international humanitarian law to be fully respected and for civilians to be protected. As I made clear, where civilians have been killed and there are allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, there should be thorough investigations, full explanations, and, where it is required, accountability.
In Gaza, I met with the United Nations staff on the ground who worked bravely, courageously, heroically, during these past weeks. I cannot praise and thank them enough, and I pay tribute to the United Nations staff members and contractors who have been killed or injured.
I also assured the people of Gaza that the United Nations will work urgently and diligently to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and to start a daunting and challenging process of recovery and reconstruction. Yesterday, Special Coordinator Robert Serry and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, visited Gaza to begin an urgent needs assessment focusing on immediate humanitarian priorities.
I look forward to receiving their report. We plan to launch a Humanitarian Flash Appeal within ten days of this mission, and we are already working to support the development of assessments and plans for early recovery and the rehabilitation of critical services.
I anticipate that these issues will be discussed further at a conference in Cairo next month, which will feed into the work of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee. The United Nations is working very closely with the government of Prime Minister Fayyad as well as key partners: Egypt and Arab countries; the European Commission and the World Bank; Norway as the Chair of the AHLC; Turkey; and the members of the Quartet.
You are all aware of the several incidents of outrageous attacks against UN facilities. I saw for myself in Gaza the still-smoldering ruins of UNRWA facilities.
I have protested such attacks in the strongest possible terms, and have demanded a thorough investigation by Israel into every single one of these incidents. I expect to receive a full explanation of each incident and that those responsible will be held accountable for their actions. Prime Minister Olmert promised to provide me the results of their inquiry on an urgent basis. I will then decide on appropriate other action.
An investigation into the damage to UNRWA and UNSCO facilities will be undertaken by the UN Secretariat. The precise format and the identity of the panel or members comprising the inquiry has not been determined as yet but is receiving close consideration. As to an inquiry into the broader questions relating to the conduct of the parties to this conflict before and during hostilities, I have raised the issue with the Security Council and have asked its members to give serious consideration to the question, and to advise me of their views.
Beyond the immediate priority of humanitarian relief and early recovery, I believe it is critical to work to ensure sustainable arrangements underpinning a durable ceasefire and the longer-term effort to achieve peace.
It is clear to me that for any sustainable political progress to occur, and for Gaza to properly recover and rebuild, Palestinians must face the challenge of reconciliation.
I made passionate appeals during my mission for Palestinians to overcome divisions and to work to restore one Palestinian government within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority. The United Nations will work with a united Palestinian government encompassing Gaza and the West Bank. I have appealed to the Arab world to unite in support of this endeavour, and I also look to the international community for its support.
It is also clear to me that for a true end to violence, and lasting security for both Palestinians and Israelis, will only come through a just and comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will continue to uphold the need for an end of the occupation that began in 1967, the creation of a Palestinian state, to co-exist in peace and security alongside Israel, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbours.
I am more determined than ever to see this achieved.
Statements on 23 January 2009
- New York, 23 January 2009 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on United States President Barack Obama's decision regarding Guantanamo Bay
- New York, 23 January 2009 - Secretary-General's remarks to G-77 Chairmanship Handover Ceremony [delivered on his behalf by Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro]