Palestinians were losing hope after nearly 50 years of occupation by Israel, but despite the challenges, the United Nations remained committed to creating the conditions for the resumption of meaningful negotiations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Palestinian Rights Committee today as it opened its 2016 session.
“The people of Palestine have lived through half a century of occupation, and they have heard a half a century of statements condemning it”, Mr. Ban said, adding, however, that “life hasn’t meaningfully changed” for them.
Returning to peace talks was the one and only path to a just and lasting solution — an end to the occupation that began in 1967, leading to a sovereign and independent State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel, he emphasized.
He said that as crises continued to engulf the Middle East, the Committee, known formally as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, was critical to keeping the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in the international spotlight.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, expressed his appreciation to the United Nations principled position and thanked the Secretary-General for his belief that the status quo was “not acceptable”. Palestinians were determined to remove the obstacles and achieve a meaningful peace process.
“Nobody will benefit from peace more than Palestinians and Israelis”, he said, adding that he would do everything to “open the doors of peace” with their neighbours. Recalling that 2015 had been the fortieth anniversary of the Committee’s formation, he noted that his people would remember every person in the room when Palestine reached its full independence.
At the outset, the Committee unanimously re-elected Fodé Seck (Senegal) as its Chair and, as Vice Chairs, Mahmoud Saikal (Afghanistan), Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez (Cuba), Desra Percaya (Indonesia), Wilfried I. Emvula (Namibia) and María Rubiales de Chamorro (Nicaragua). Christopher Grima (Malta) was elected as Rapporteur.
Mr. Seck stressed the Committee’s important role, urging Governments to not shy away from their commitments to creating a viable State of Palestine. To that end, the Committee would hold international conferences in Jordan, Senegal, Sweden and France in 2016, he added.
Mr. Grima reported to the Committee on the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem, held in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 14 and 15 December 2015 and the United Nations Civil Society Forum held the next day.
Also today, the Committee approved its draft programme of work for 2016 (document A/AC.183/2016/L.2), introduced by the Chair, as well as the provisional programme for the United Nations Roundtable on Legal Aspects of the Question of Palestine, to be held in Amman on 15-17 March.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ecuador and Malaysia.