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22 July 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged Israel to freeze its settlement activity in the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority to intensify its efforts on the ground as he stressed the need for “an agenda of transformative change” in the Middle East peace process.
“If Israel continues settlement activity, it will not only be acting contrary to international law but also to a strong international consensus,” Mr. Ban said in a message to the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, held in Geneva.
“By contrast, if Israel freezes settlement activity, it would facilitate a new environment of cooperation and common purpose from countries in the region, building on the framework for the Arab Peace Initiative,” he added.
In his message to the opening of the two-day gathering, delivered by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, Mr. Ban said that intensive diplomatic efforts were under way to create the conditions for the prompt resumption and early conclusion of negotiations to secure a two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace.
“All of us want to see both parties committed to the two-State solution and to their Roadmap obligations, and an agenda of transformative change on the ground.”
While welcoming recent Israeli measures to ease closures on important West Bank routes, Mr. Ban said that authorities should also “cease unilateral actions in Jerusalem such as house demolitions.”
He also voiced deep concern over living conditions for civilians in Gaza, the unstable political situation in the Strip and the potential for renewed conflict and instability.
“While there has been a decrease in violence and an attempt to halt rocket fire, all sides should commit to a complete cessation of violence. More must also be done to ensure that illicit weapons do not enter Gaza and to implement the other key elements of the Security Council resolution 1860.”
Highlighting a UN proposal to begin recovery and reconstruction work in Gaza in the wake of Israel’s military offensive against Hamas earlier this year, the Secretary-General called on Israel to open border crossings to allow basic supplies, goods and reconstruction material to enter the area.
“Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority must also intensify its efforts on the ground,” said Mr. Ban, expressing regret that Hamas had not renounced violence and committed clearly to existing agreements and a two-state solution with Israel.
This week’s meeting in Geneva is being held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.