I am pleased to send greetings to all the participants in this international media seminar on peace in the Middle East. I thank the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland for their support in hosting this event.
You gather at a pivotal time in the Middle East and North Africa. The world has witnessed profound changes across the region in the past 18 months, driven by brave and committed citizens, with women and youth in the vanguard.
As journalists, activists, policy-makers and representatives of civil society, many of you have played important roles in these historic movements for change. I salute your dedication and courage in promoting transparency, accountability and democracy. I urge you to continue to promote peace and increase mutual understanding between communities, especially Palestinians and Israelis.
While much has been achieved across the region, for too many the suffering continues. The killings in Syria have not stopped, despite repeated pledges by all sides. The dangers of full-scale civil war are imminent and real. All violence must end - by the regime, by the armed opposition. Now is the time for the international community to take bold and concerted action.
The regional awakening based on the ideals of freedom, dignity and non-violence cannot be complete without a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Too many Palestinians and Israelis have suffered for too many years.
Along with the other members of the Quartet, I am concerned at the fragility of the situation on the ground, and I urge the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct, bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions.
I welcome the Palestinian Authority’s achievements in building the necessary institutions of governance, and note in particular the significant progress on security in the West Bank. I reiterate the Quartet’s call on the Palestinian Authority to continue to make every effort to improve law and order, fight violent extremism and end incitement.
At the same time, the parties should avoid unilateral actions that undermine trust. The expansion of settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is contrary to international law and Israel’s Roadmap commitments. I underscore the Quartet’s concern over settler violence and incitement in the West Bank, and repeat its calls on Israel to take effective measures, including bringing the perpetrators of such acts to justice.
The situation in Gaza remains unsustainable. I continue to stress the need for the free and secure movement of people, construction materials and other goods, and for the implementation of all aspects of Security Council resolution 1860. While Israel has made some efforts, more is needed.
The United Nations will remain engaged in helping the parties to forge a way forward.
We must create the conditions for meaningful negotiations that will resolve the core permanent status issues – including Jerusalem, borders, refugees and security, and an end to the occupation that began in 1967. This should lead to the emergence of a sovereign, independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.
Only then will we be able to move towards the broader goal of comprehensive regional peace in the Middle East.
Thank you for coming together in this cause. Please accept my best wishes for a successful gathering.