Late on Tuesday morning, 29 August, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres travelled by car from Jerusalem to Ramallah.
He visited the “One-Stop Center” in Ramallah, a project run by the Palestinian Authority with the support of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The centre helps survivors of violence against women and girls, as well as at-risk youth. The Secretary-General congratulated the Palestinian Civil Police and its United Nations partners for creating an impressive programme that helps to protect women and children by providing them a safe space, as well as critical legal and mediation services. He noted that not many countries have such programmes.
The Secretary-General then visited the Arafat Museum and laid a wreath at the tomb of the former Palestinian leader. Following a tour of the museum, the Secretary-General told journalists that, when “visiting this museum, there are of course many emotions and many feelings, but the most important of them is the feeling of the suffering of the Palestinian people”. He added that he dreamt to see in the Holy Land two States: A Palestinian State and Israeli State, living together in peace and security, in mutual recognition and allowing for this kind of suffering not to be possible anymore.
While in Ramallah, the Secretary-General was hosted for a working lunch by the Prime Minister of the State of Palestine, Rami Hamdallah. At a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office, the Secretary-General reiterated his strong commitment, both personal and on behalf of the United Nations, for a two-State solution. “I’ve said several times that there is no plan B to the two-State solution.”
The Secretary-General expressed his deep belief that it is essential to restart a “serious and credible” political process of negotiation with the aim of achieving a two-State solution. In parallel, he added, it is also important to create conditions on the ground to improve the situation of Palestinian populations.
On Gaza, he said he remained very concerned with the humanitarian situation there. “We are totally committed to support the [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s] (UNRWA) activity, as well as the activities of reconstruction that are taking place in Gaza,” the Secretary-General said.
Following the lunch, the Secretary-General met with representative of various youth organizations. The Secretary-General listened as they explained the challenges they face and their frustration at both the on-going occupation, as well as the current political climate in the West Bank. The Secretary-General commended them for their passion and encouraged them to be involved politically so as to serve the people.
Before returning to Jerusalem, the Secretary-General had an opportunity to discuss the current situation with a group of prominent Palestinian personalities.
On Wednesday morning, following a visit to southern Israel, the Secretary-General crossed into the Gaza Strip at Erez crossing. He and his delegation went to the UNRWA school at Beit Lahiya, Gaza.
In speaking to United Nations staff in Gaza, he thanked them for their tremendous work in the face of so much adversity. He stressed how proud he was to be their colleague.
He then spent some time meeting a group of Gaza families which gave the Secretary-General a first-hand account of the daily challenges they face and the lack of opportunities for their children.
The Secretary-General also had a chance to meet with a group of Gaza student parliament members. The 12 boys and girls took turns in explaining to the Secretary-General their hopes for the future. He expressed how impressed he was with them and pledged that he would do his utmost to protect UNRWA so that it could continue to serve them.
Prior to leaving Gaza, the Secretary-General spoke to the press. He told the journalists he is “deeply impressed by the suffering of the Gaza people”. Mr. Guterres appealed to the international community to continue to support the United Nations’ work in Gaza. To that end, he announced a $4 million grant from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.
He underscored that solutions to Gaza’s problems were, above all, political. The Secretary-General called for a reconciliation between Gaza and the West Bank, under the principles of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He also reiterated his call for the resumption of a credible peace process, with accompanying programme of action to relieve the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people.
He then travelled by road to Tel Aviv.