Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, as delivered by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, to the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, in Dakar today:
I am pleased to send greetings to all the participants of the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem. I thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for organizing this event. I thank the Government of Senegal for hosting it.
In recent weeks, we have witnessed continuing clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. I condemn all such violence and attacks on civilians, which undermine prospects for a return to meaningful negotiations to end the nearly half-century occupation. I call on all sides to de-escalate tensions. I further reiterate calls on political, religious and community leaders to respect the sanctity of all holy sites, and remind all parties that the historical role of Jordan as custodian of the holy places should be respected.
The historic and holy city of Jerusalem remains at the heart of a peaceful settlement of the Question of Palestine. Only through a negotiated solution can Jerusalem emerge as a capital of two States, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all.
All parties should refrain from actions and provocations that could trigger further unrest and deepen mistrust. It is important for all to uphold the status quo in word and in practice, in line with the recent understandings between Israel and Jordan.
Israel’s settlement enterprise, illegal under international law, continues in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and constitutes a significant obstacle to achieving peace. I urge Israel to cease and reverse such activities. I am also particularly concerned about the significant spike in demolitions since the start of the year, which contradicts Israel’s obligation to protect the civilian population under its occupation.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains of grave concern. All efforts should concentrate on helping the population in Gaza, still suffering from the consequences of the 2014 conflict: 74 per cent of affected families still await the reconstruction of their homes. Gaza’s chronic energy, water and employment needs also require urgent and sustained attention. Integrating the West Bank and Gaza under a single democratic Palestinian government through genuine Palestinian reconciliation, on the basis of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) principles, remains a key priority.
We must strengthen and reassert collective international efforts aimed at preserving the two-State solution and to shape a political horizon. These include the efforts of the Middle East Quartet as well as the French initiative to build international support towards creating the conditions for the resumption of negotiations. Support by partners such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the League of Arab States and the African Union is a strong asset to ensure the viability and promise of an independent State of Palestine.
The United Nations and I personally remain committed to helping the parties bring the harsh, harmful and unjust occupation and this long-standing conflict to an end, in pursuit of the lasting vision of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.
In this spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful event.