Following are Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the opening of the United Nations Forum on the Question of Palestine, in New York today:
I have the honour to read a statement on behalf of the Secretary General.
My first words are to deplore the tragic loss of lives and suffering in Gaza and to express my deep sadness and condolences to the Palestinian people.
Today is an occasion to reflect on the costs and consequences of the 1948 war, which resulted in the mass displacement and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. It is also an opportunity to look ahead at what must be done to address this situation.
This year we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The principles and standards enshrined in the Universal Declaration should guide the search for a durable solution to the question of Palestine, a solution that must be based on international law, the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis, as well as dialogue for reconciliation and for accountability.
The recent violence in Gaza underscores the need for action. Israeli forces must exercise maximum restraint in the use of force, in particular live fire. Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations have a responsibility to prevent all violent actions. It is imperative that everyone show the utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life, including all civilians – and particularly children – are not in harm’s way. The cycle of violence in Gaza must end, it serves no one. As I have since the start of the violence, I repeat my call for such killings to be investigated thoroughly.
These events remind us that for far too long the international community has failed to find a just and lasting solution to the plight of Palestine refugees — as it has failed to find a just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. To this day, the refugees of 1948 and their descendants — now numbering more than 5.3 million women, men and children — are unable to return to their homes. Instead, the lives of generations of Palestinians and Israelis have been defined and confined by a conflict that has shaped their physical and human landscape under a heavy atmosphere of fear, mutual distrust.
Settlement establishment and expansion, illegal under international law, is further contributing to displacement and is a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. The unacceptable violence and incitement exacerbate mistrust between Palestinians and Israelis. Intra-Palestinian reconciliation remains critical to restore hope for the future and a political horizon.
Peace requires political will and courage from all sides. We, the international community, must work for an outcome where fear is replaced with dignity and denial cedes ground to justice. We must strive for a future where Israel and Palestine thrive as States in which all are equally respected, and where civil society is able to play its constructive role. The United Nations will continue to support Israelis and Palestinians on the road to peace by helping them to take the historic steps to achieve a solution of two States living side by side in peace and within secure and recognized borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both. Over the course of the next two days, I urge you all to reflect on how we can turn this vision into a reality.