Question of Palestine home
5 May 2008
New York, 5 May 2008 - Secretary-General's press encounter following the ground-breaking ceremony for the Capital Master Plan [renovation of United Nations Headquarters]
SG: On the way home for today's groundbreaking, I stopped in London for the meeting of the Quartet last Friday. In fact, I chaired the Quartet and the “Quartet plus Arab Partners” meetings. We agreed that there must be urgent progress, if there's to be any reasonable prospect of building a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
I repeat today what we set forth in London: Israel must halt settlement building in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority must fulfill its commitment to fight terrorism. The rocket attacks on Israel must stop. The humanitarian suffering in Gaza must end. I am committed to work with the Quartet and with our Arab and Israeli partners toward these goals.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, it is good to see you after such a long time. Mr. Secretary-General, on the last leg of the tour, you were in London on the Quartet meeting, a Quartet meeting which has now become even more important given the situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Can you give us any assessment on any progress that has been made in the Middle East as a consequence of this Quartet meeting, and do you think that Israel and the Palestinians will move forward to any agreement by the end of this year, which is a goalpost being set up by the U.S. Secretary of State?
SG: First of all, it was good that the Quartet principals met in London after four months since we met last December. I know that this Annapolis [meeting] has not been making progress as one might have wished, but at the same time, it is encouraging that the leaders of both, the Prime Minister of Israel and President [Mahmoud] Abbas of the Palestinian Authority have been meeting regularly to address all these issues and to make progress, so that they will be able to make a peace treaty by the end of this year. I had good talks with leaders, Arab partners and also Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice of the United States. It would be necessary at this time first of all to manage the situation on the ground in peace and security, and also we need to focus on how to help the people in Gaza on humanitarian grounds, and help the Palestinian people so that they can work on their own economic activities. For that to be possible, it would be very important for the Israelis to ease access and movement by opening the crossings, the closures. This is very important.
At the same time, Tony Blair, the Quartet representative, has been making very significant progress to facilitate investment and social and economic development. All those are what we are doing in a comprehensive way.
I would like to say that it is not desirable to have an overly skeptical assessment in this situation. One needs to have some firm conviction and needs to encourage this ongoing Annapolis peace process. That requires the efforts and cooperation from all the parties concerned. I have mentioned in my remarks that there should be no rocket firing into Israel, and there should be no terrorist activities there. All this requires comprehensive efforts.
Q: A brief follow-up, sir. What about dialogue with Hamas? You said there should be an opening of the crossing points. How are you going to open without having direct contact with the party that's responsible for Gaza?
SG: The unity of Palestinians is very important. Therefore, we hope that the parties concerned will resolve all the issues through dialogue in a peaceful manner.