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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
28 April 2011


Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

    Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, as delivered by Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, in Helsinki, Finland, 28 April:

    It is my pleasure to send greetings to the participants in this United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People.  I thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for focusing on mobilizing international efforts in support of the Palestinian Authority’s State-building programme.

    This meeting takes place against the backdrop of significant progress by the Palestinian Authority in completing its two-year State-building programme by August.  Indeed, the Palestinian Authority has accelerated progress in improving its governmental functions in the limited territory under its control and despite constraints on the ground.  As the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee recognized in Brussels earlier this month, the governmental capacity of the Palestinian Authority is sufficient for a functioning State in a number of key sectors.  I commend President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad for this remarkable achievement, in which donor support played an important role.

    However, the institutional achievements of the Palestinian State-building programme are approaching their limits within the political and physical space currently available.  Time is of the essence and serious efforts must now be exerted by all to bring the parties back to the negotiating table as soon as possible, based on existing agreements between the parties, the relevant Security Council resolutions, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.  The goal remains clear — an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and to the conflict, with the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian State, living side by side with Israel in peace and security.  The two-State solution is in the best interest of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. 

    It is imperative to stop actions that prejudge the outcome and undermine the climate of trust needed for progress in negotiations.  In this regard, Israel’s continued settlement activity in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem is unacceptable.  I reiterate that settlements are illegal under international law, contradict the obligations made by Israel under the Road Map and represent an obstacle to peace. 

    Along with the continued impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, constraints on Palestinian urban development and obstacles to free movement and access in the West Bank remain among the most substantial impediments to Palestinian economic viability.  While Israel has taken measures to facilitate movement, it must roll back its measures of occupation and facilitate continued economic and institutional progress in order to match the Palestinian State-building achievements. 

    Going forward, our task now is to support the Palestinian National Plan for 2011 to 2013, which will lay the basis for additional improvements in the Palestinian Authority institutions.  The United Nations looks forward to aligning its future programming accordingly.  I welcome the organization of a donors’ conference at an appropriate time this year, which will provide an opportunity to reinforce support for this Plan. 

    Another major limit to progress is the inability of the Palestinian Authority to extend its State-building work in Gaza due to ongoing Palestinian divisions.  Real progress towards Palestinian unity is necessary within the framework of the Palestinian Authority and the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which are the prerequisites for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State. 

    The latest escalation of violence which led to civilian casualties in Israel and Gaza has clearly demonstrated the urgent need to fully implement Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).  I reiterate my condemnation of continued indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel.  I am also deeply worried by Palestinian civilian casualties and I repeat my call on Israel to exercise maximum restraint and act in accordance with international humanitarian law.  All parties must do their utmost to protect civilians.

    I am concerned at the situation in the Gaza Strip, which remains unsustainable.  The Government of Israel must make sustained and far-reaching progress towards ending the closure of Gaza, within the framework of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).  Legitimate crossings must be able to operate in such a way that the needs of Gaza’s civilian population and Israel’s security needs can both be met.  United Nations agencies, including UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), continue their efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, improve living conditions and promote economic recovery and reconstruction. 

    Serious and effective international assistance to the Palestinian people, continued performance of the Palestinian institutions and progress towards a viable and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians will all be vital in the coming months.  The parties must persist in their goal of resolving all final status issues, and I count on their representatives to exercise responsible leadership to this end.  Together with my partners in the Quartet, I will continue to do everything in my power to help them in this effort.  

    In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.

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    For information media • not an official record

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