Ankara, Turkey

12 May 2014

Secretary-General's message to the International Meeting on the Question of Jerusalem [delivered by Mr. Robert Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process]

I am pleased to send greetings to all participants in the International Meeting on the Question of Jerusalem. I thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, as well as the Government of Turkey and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for organizing this event.

The Meeting takes place two weeks after the target date for US-brokered talks between Israel and Palestine to reach a comprehensive peace agreement.  The current political stalemate poses great risks to the prospects of a two-State solution, and continued inaction could result in further instability.

The parties should realize that not making a choice in favour of peace and co-existence within the two-State framework is the most detrimental choice of all. Failing to continue meaningful negotiations towards the two-State solution will lead further down the path of a one-state reality on the ground.  I have thus called on the parties to refrain from unilateral steps that aggravate the situation and diminish the prospects for a resumption of negotiations.   

Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law and constitute a significant obstacle to achieving peace.  Demolitions of Palestinian households and other property are in contradiction to Israel’s obligation to protect the civilian population under its occupation. 

At the same time, continued violence and attacks against civilians, including rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, are unacceptable.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is of profound concern.  We appreciate the recent pledge made by the Government of Turkey to provide the World Health Organization with $1.5 million to address shortages in key medicines.  I also urge steps to help improve conditions and ensure a complete opening of crossings into Gaza, including Rafah, to allow legitimate trade and movements of people. 

Today’s event examines the Question of Jerusalem, which is perhaps the most divisive of the core issues. I am particularly troubled by recent mounting tensions around the sensitive issue of Jerusalem and access to the holy sites, in the Old City. Jerusalem inspires faith and longing for Muslims, Jews and Christians.  It must be open and accessible to all.  Only through a negotiated solution can Jerusalem emerge as a capital of two States, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all. Meanwhile, all parties should refrain from attempts to establish facts on the ground that alter the character of the Old City, or allow provocations that could trigger further unrest and deepen mistrust.

Now is the time for the parties, supported by the international community, to take action to realize their commitment to the vision of two States for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition of each other’s legitimate rights and those of their respective citizens, with the status of Jerusalem settled as part of that solution.  The United Nations remains committed to helping the parties bring the occupation and this conflict and related claims to an end, in pursuit of lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

In this spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful event.