It is my pleasure to send greetings to this Asian and Pacific Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace. I commend the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for organizing this forum.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been for some time at a dangerous standstill. As we speak, there are ongoing intensive efforts between the parties to avoid renewed deadlock. The Middle East Quartet continues to stress the urgent need for mutual confidence-building measures in support of efforts to resume dialogue and substantive negotiations, as well as to keep the prospects for a two-State solution alive.
However, recent actions on the ground have not contributed to a conducive environment for dialogue. Israel has continued settlement activity, contrary to international law and its commitments under the Road Map. And violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians has escalated.
Moreover, settlements and their infrastructure, as well as the barrier, which deviates from the green line in contravention to the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, severely restrict movement and access for Palestinians and hamper the development of their economy.
Since the beginning of this year, and contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law, more than 370 Palestinians structures have been demolished in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing some 600 people, including women, children and elderly.
The situation in Gaza also remains unsustainable. Gaza’s recovery and long-term economic growth remain a priority for the United Nations. The closure, now entering its sixth year, has had a devastating impact. More than 80 per cent of families depend on humanitarian aid, yet Gaza remains subject to severe restrictions on imports, exports and the movement of people, by land, air and sea. Lifting these restrictions, within the framework of Security Council resolution 1860, would help to rebuild self-reliance and sustainability of the Gazan economy, and reduce dependency on donor aid. I continue to call on Israel to take measures to that end.
Meanwhile, I reiterate my condemnation of the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Militants must stop their indiscriminate attacks against Israeli civilians. I also call on Israel to show maximum restraint.
I was disappointed to learn that voter registration in Gaza was suspended. I hope that the authorities responsible will reverse this suspension. I am convinced that progress on reconciliation remains a fundamental aspect of peace, as a unified Palestinian polity is central to realizing a two-State solution based on principles of peaceful co-existence and mutual recognition. I continue to believe that negotiations with Israel and Palestinian reconciliation, within the framework of the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization and under the leadership of President Abbas, are not mutually exclusive.
The establishment of a Palestinian State living side by side with a secure state of Israel is long overdue. Palestinians have lived under occupation for too long, enduring its restrictions, limitations and indignities. The Israeli population must also be able to live without fear of indiscriminate rocket fire or other threats. Yet today the long-hoped-for two-State solution is increasingly at risk, moving us further away from our shared objective of a comprehensive peace in the region.
The only way to avoid more suffering and violence is through negotiations aimed at resolving all permanent status issues. All of us in the international community, including the countries of Asia and the Pacific, must act collectively to help steer the situation towards a historic peace agreement. I look forward to your contributions and wish you a successful meeting.