First of all, let me say how pleased I am to participate for the first time in this annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, organized by the Committee in accordance with the mandate given by the General Assembly.
On this day 51 years ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution which, if implemented, would have created an Arab and a Jewish state in Palestine, living side by side in peaceful co-existence. Year after year, this anniversary provides the international community with an opportunity -- and an obligation -- to refocus its attention on the distressing fact that, after more than half a century, the issue of Palestine remains unresolved. It is an occasion for us to recommit ourselves to the objective of achieving a just and lasting settlement in the Middle East, in the interest of Israelis and Palestinians, but also as part of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East -- so essential to peace and security in general.
Since taking office, the Secretary-General has made every effort to support the peace process in the Middle East -- and to mobilize the resources of the United Nations family to help create an economic and social environment favourable to peace. In the course of his visit to the region earlier this year, the Secretary-General witnessed the hardship and deprivation caused by decades of conflict, as well as of the yearning on all sides for a peaceful future. He took that opportunity to appeal to the leaders of all parties to continue building on the achievements of the peace process, to make every effort to resume the negotiations in earnest, and to take the difficult decisions needed to move towards reconciliation and cooperation.
The recent signing of the Wye River Memorandum by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization is an encouraging development. It came after many months of uncertainty and concern over the future of the peace process, fuelled by growing mistrust between the parties and rising tensions in the region. The implementation of the agreement has started. The United Nations earnestly hopes that it will be carried out in all its aspects and will pave the way for the resumption of negotiations on all tracks.
Regrettably, incidents of violence by elements opposed to the peace process have continued to cost lives and mar progress. The United Nations has repeatedly condemned such acts. At the same time, we have appealed to the parties not to be swayed by such incidents, but instead, to redouble their efforts in pursuit of a lasting solution to the conflict. It is necessary for the parties to address not only the manifestations, but also the causes of violence, to restore hope, mutual confidence and a spirit of partnership, and to work together for a future of peace, cooperation and good neighbourliness.
More than 50 years after the resolution whose adoption we mark today, and as we near the end of the process originally envisaged under the 1993 Declaration of Principles, positive advances along this road are needed urgently. It is also essential to create the political and economic conditions that will enable this hope to be realized in practice. A rapid improvement in living conditions in the Palestinian territories is an essential accompaniment to the peace negotiations. In that regard, there has been serious concern at the steady decline of the Palestinian economy in recent years, largely due to the impact of security measures, the lack of free movement of persons and goods between the West Bank and Gaza, and the Palestinians' lack of control over their natural resources.
Real progress in the fields of employment, health, education, human rights and industrial and commercial development is urgently needed to strengthen support for the peace process. Despite the ongoing efforts of the United Nations, in particular those of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other programmes and agencies present on the ground, much still needs to be done to alleviate existing conditions and to lay a solid foundation for future development.
We firmly believe that the international community can and should go further. In particular, the serious financial situation faced by UNRWA requires intensified efforts by all concerned to ensure that the quality and level of services for Palestine refugees can be maintained as an essential contribution to stability in the area.
In conclusion, I should like to extend my thanks to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for its efforts in support of the Palestinian people and for a future of peace in the Middle East. And I should like to renew the pledge that the United Nations family will continue to provide all possible expertise and assistance in humanitarian relief and in the fields of economic and social development in order to contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for peace.