I am pleased to greet participants at this International Seminar on Peace in the Middle East. I thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Sophia University for hosting. I applaud the engagement of Japan in our efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.
Last year, my message to this Seminar referred to renewed hope for the Middle East Peace Process. I reiterated my belief that the resumption of direct talks was a welcome step – and the only path towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
I regret that intense diplomatic efforts since then have not yielded the outcome we had all hoped for. Today, negotiations on the two-State solution have reached another impasse. This does not mean, however, that international efforts have stopped. I have repeatedly appealed to the parties and the international community to work diligently and constructively to find a meaningful path forward.
The parties should use the current pause to consider options for the future without taking unilateral steps that would undermine the prospect for the resumption of direct negotiations.
There is no contradiction between Palestinian reconciliation and peace negotiations. Palestinian unity is essential for the viability of any peace agreement. The United Nations has consistently supported efforts towards Palestinian unity within the framework of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s commitments, which include the recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist and the renunciation of terrorism and violence.
The United Nations continues to play a key role assisting people in need. UNRWA, for example, continues to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees.
As we face a pause in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, another crisis that threatens the stability of the Middle East – the conflict in Syria – shows no signs of abating. Among the many dramatic humanitarian consequences of the conflict, Palestine refugees in Syria are being displaced again. I am deeply concerned about their plight.
I remain committed to working with the parties and international partners for an end of the occupation that began in 1967 and the establishment of a Palestinian State, living side-by-side in peace with Israel within secure and recognized borders, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
I also count on your contributions. As journalists, representatives of civil society, academics and policy-makers, you play a critical role in promoting transparency, accountability and public participation as well as shaping the perception of our most important challenges.
I wish you a successful gathering.