Réunion internationale des nations unies à l’appui du processus de paix Iisraélo- Palestinienne (Bruxelles les 28 et 29 juin 20110 - Séance d’ouverture – Communiqué de presse Français
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BRING ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS BACK TO NEGOTIATIONS
European Role in Fostering Middle East Peace Considered,
as International Meeting Opens in Brussels
BRUSSELS, 28 June -- Given the frozen state of Middle East peace negotiations at this critical time, the international community must do its part to bring the parties back to the table, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to the United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, which opened this morning in Brussels.
“Time is of the essence”, Mr. Ban said through a statement read out at the meeting by Maxwell Gaylard, United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, noting that less than three months remained until the September target date that had been set for an agreement on permanent status issues and for completing the Palestinian Authority’s State-building programme, which was approaching its limits within the political and physical space available. At the same time, political change was sweeping through the region, he observed.
The two-day meeting, convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, is looking at the role of Europe in advancing a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict, taking stock of past efforts and considering current European initiatives as well as the role of parliamentarians and civil society in promoting peace. It will also look at alternatives to the negotiating process, including achieving a two-State solution through multilateral mechanisms.
In addition to Mr. Ban’s statement, the opening session this morning heard from Michel Goffin, Deputy Director-General for Multilateral Affairs and Globalization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium; John Gatt-Rutter, Deputy European Union Representative to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); Abdou Salam Diallo of Senegal, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; and Leila Shahid, General Delegate of Palestine to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Mr. Ban said that United States President Barack Obama’s 19 May speech could serve as the basis for a return to good faith negotiations through the affirmation of key principles related to borders and security. Appealing to the parties to improve the worrisome situation on the ground and return to negotiations without preconditions or delay, he expressed hope that the diplomatic Quartet (the European Union, United Nations, United States and Russian Federation) could provide impetus by meeting at the principals-level soon.
He also appealed to donors to remain fully engaged, so as to not upset the State-building agenda and to encourage moderation, enhance security, restore hope, help begin the reconstruction of Gaza and bolster Palestinian unity. He reiterated his call on Israel to roll back measures of occupation, end settlement activity and further liberalize movement of people and goods into Gaza.
Following the reading of that statement, Mr. GOFFIN, welcoming participants to Belgium, noted that the European Union and its Member States were among the largest donors in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with about 1 billion Euros provided on a yearly basis. Such contributions were based on the firm belief that a negotiated solution between Israel and Palestine would contribute decisively to the economic growth and social well-being in the region. To overcome the most urgent challenges to that goal, Belgium supported intra-Palestinian reconciliation to engage all parties in the peace process, the lifting of the Gaza closure and restrictions in the West Bank to foster sustainable economic growth, and an end to illegal Israeli settlement activity.
Stressing that the status quo was unacceptable and negotiations could not become open-ended, he nevertheless said that, in regard to Palestine’s membership in the United Nations, Belgium believed that unilateral measures alone would not bring about a solution. Credible negotiations led in good faith remained the best path to a lasting resolution. “The challenge therefore is to foster a peace deal which brings fully recognized and fully operational Palestinian statehood closer as an essential part of the two-State framework with Israel and Palestine coexisting in peace and security”, he said.
Underlining that he did not speak on behalf of the European Union, but as a representative of a Member State, he said that the Union had been consistent in staking out a principled position based upon international law and incorporating the concerns of all parties, outlined very clearly in the Council conclusion of 8 December 2009 and seen by many as a necessary component in peace talks. He expressed hope that the present Meeting would contribute to overcoming the challenges of Palestinian statehood and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Next, Mr. GATT-RUTTER said that for the Union there was no more important issue than resolving the Middle East conflict as soon as possible. The core of its policy was the creation of a Palestinian state and the resolution of the conflict, with justice for the Palestinians and security for Israelis. Europe was very concerned about the stalemate and was watching the changes in the region very carefully. It wished for the parties to resume discussions on core issues as quickly as possible.
The Union was hoping that the principles set out by President Obama could be set out as parameters by the Quartet, in which Europe worked closely with all partners and he said he hoped that the Quartet could bridge the wide gap between the parties. The terms and timelines of Israeli withdrawal must be negotiated as unilateral solutions did not work, he maintained, citing the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. A unified government must develop among the Palestinians, state institutions must be built and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must remain in charge for sustainable statehood to be built, he said. On Jerusalem and other matters, calling recent developments disturbing, he referred to what he called the known European position as stated in the Security Council in December 2010.
Chairman DIALLO, in his opening statement, emphasized the need for Europe’s voice to be heard more clearly as a key member of the Quartet, concurring with the need to urgently move the political process forward. In that light, he applauded the initiative by Catherine Ashton, the Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to have the Quartet Principals meet without further delay and issue comprehensive and clear final status parameters, so that serious negotiations can resume, leading to the two-State solution based on 1967 borders.
He paid tribute to Europe for the constant support provided to the Fayyad Plan for building Palestinian State institutions, anticipating the same degree of support for the Palestinian national development plan for 2011 to 2013, at both the political and financial levels. Stating that political negotiations should remain the prerogative of the Palestine Liberation Organization under Mr. Abbas, he expressed hope that the Palestinian transitional government would adhere to international electoral principles. He termed “helpful” recent offers by the leaders of France and Italy to host conferences to help advance dialogue toward peace and develop a unified European message, adding that “just one concerted action could defeat Israel’s policy of obstruction”.
He also encouraged European States that had not yet done so to recognize Palestine in its 1967 borders, saying that such a move would not de-legitimize Israel or deal a mortal blow to the peace process as feared, as recognition was already included in the Quartet’s Road Map and had been endorsed by all the parties concerned, including Israel. Avowing that the time had come to end the perpetual delay of the settlement of the question of Palestine, he made a solemn appeal to the European Union to make greater efforts to lay the foundations for a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East. “The European Union has the historical legitimacy, the practical ability and the moral resources to succeed in this challenge”, he said.
Ms. SHAHID agreed that 2011 was indeed another important opportunity for peace in the Middle East and guaranteed that, whether Israel liked it or not, the United Nations would be consulted on the status of Palestine. The changes sweeping the area made it inevitable. “It is time that there was one yardstick for all”, she said. Palestinians wanted to be part of democratic State-building like everyone else in the region. Recalling the past 20 years of negotiations, she said that Palestinians had not hesitated to knock at every door to advance the process through both multilateral and bilateral negotiations. Meanwhile, she said, the situation on the ground had become worse, with annexations, settlements, demolitions and closures.
It must be acknowledged that one party did not meet its obligations under international law, she maintained. Open-ended negotiations could not be tolerated any longer, and in recent years the State-building strategy had been pursued, receiving praise from many international organizations. Palestinians wanted to go to the United Nations for recognition of the 1967 borders not as a unilateral move but because it was their right. In discussions on the issue, she asked that procedural discussions be avoided and that the right to independence be prioritized. She asked for international support in that effort.
In the discussion that followed, representatives from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) welcomed European support for Palestinian aspirations and urged that the Union extend that support to help end Israeli practices that obstructed political progress and get behind efforts to gain membership for a State of Palestine in the United Nations, particularly considering the acknowledged success of the State-building programme.
The representative of China, noting that her country had already recognized Palestine, pledged her country’s cooperation with Europe and the rest of the international community to assist the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian State as part of a just and durable peace.
The International Meeting in Support of the Middle East Peace Process will continue this afternoon at 3 p.m. in Brussels, with the holding of its first plenary session.