15 July – For the latest Middle East peace plan to succeed, Israel should ease security measures to minimize Palestinian suffering, the Palestinian Authority must act decisively to prevent terrorism and the international community must increase its support to halt the Palestinians' downward spiral of social and economic despair, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.
“The Quartet and the international community must hold the parties to their commitments and help them to implement the Road Map, until they reach its final goal,” Mr. Annan said in a message to a UN Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, convened in Geneva by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The Road Map plan, launched by the diplomatic quartet of the UN, United States, European Union and Russia, seeks to end the conflict by 2005 with a two-state solution - Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders achieved through parallel and reciprocal steps.
"But as the parties and the international community work towards the goal of a permanent settlement, each and every day the Palestinian people suffer," Mr. Annan said in the message, read by Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). "They live in circumstances of social and economic devastation. During the last few years, not only have many thousands been killed or wounded, but the infrastructure and productive sectors of the Palestinian economy have been virtually destroyed.
"Unemployment and poverty rates have reached unprecedented levels. The capacity of the Palestinian Authority to function has been weakened. A total collapse of the Palestinian economy has only been prevented by the infusion of substantial aid and budgetary support.
"The humanitarian emergency in the occupied Palestinian territory has been exacerbated by the tightening of the stifling regime of closures and curfews, as well as by continued settlement activity and the construction of a separation wall," he added.
He stressed that Israel, too, had a right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. "Too many Israelis have been targeted by Palestinian groups," he said. "But Israel's security must be protected using reasonable means within the boundaries of international law."
Noting that UNRWA's "vital assistance to millions of Palestinian refugees is threatened by chronic funding shortages", he appealed to donors to contribute generously.
Although only a permanent political settlement ending the occupation can provide a durable solution to the economic and humanitarian problems of the Palestinians, Mr. Annan said improvement in their daily lives were key building blocks of a sustainable peace process.
"There has never been a more important time for the Palestinian people to see that the international community is supporting their socio-economic recovery and security," he added.