Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Palestine: Israel must open Gaza, freeze settlements

Palestinian women walk near Israel's barrier near Ramallah in the West Bank

Underscoring the need for a two-State solution and a
durable peace in the region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Israel to allow fuel and building materials into Gaza, freeze settlements in the West Bank and make fundamental changes in its security practices and policies.

In a message to the two-day meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Mr. Ban expressed his serious concern over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

“Nearly five months after the end of the hostilities, nothing beyond basic needs such as food and medicine is allowed in,” he said, noting that current conditions preclude the success of recovery efforts and long-term development initiatives.

“I call on Israel to allow in the fuel, funds and materials that are urgently required to repair destroyed and damaged schools, clinics, sanitation networks and shelters and to restore a functioning market,” the Secretary-General said in the message to the gathering in Jakarta delivered by Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

In the West Bank, he said, progress is blocked by the Israel Defence Forces’ routine incursions.

“Palestinians continue to endure unacceptable unilateral actions, such as house demolitions, intensified settlement activity, settler violence, and ever increasing movement restrictions due to permits, checkpoints and the wall and fence barrier,” Mr. Ban stressed. “The time has come for Israel to fundamentally change its policies in this regard, as it has repeatedly promised to do.”

A “full settlement freeze” in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem is necessary, he added.

The Secretary-General said that there had been almost no progress on the Security Council resolutions calling for a durable and fully respected ceasefire, prevention of the illicit supply of weapons to Gaza, the reopening of the crossings and Palestinian reconciliation under the legitimate Palestinian Authority.

“We have a clear objective,” he said, which is “an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region.”

He said he is encouraged by United States President Barack Obama’s commitment to the objectives and said he is looking forward to a meeting, in the near future, of the Middle East Quartet – made up of the UN, European Union, Russia and US – to discuss peace in the region.

Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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