Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search
Règlement pacifique de la question de Palestine - Rapport du Secrétaire général

English (pdf) ||Arabic||Chinese||Français||Русский||Español||


Please see: A/67/364/Add.1, S/2012/701/Add.1
Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS

UNITED
NATIONS
A S

      General Assembly
      Security Council
Distr.
GENERAL
A/67/364
S/2012/701

12 September 2012

Original: English

General Assembly
Sixty-seventh session
Agenda items 36 and 37
The situation in the Middle East
Question of Palestine
Security Council
Sixty-seventh year



Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine
    Summary

    The present report is submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 66/17. It contains replies received from the parties concerned to the notes verbales sent by the Secretary-General pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 25 of the resolution. The report also contains the observations of the Secretary-General on the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on international efforts to move the peace process forward with a view to achieving a peaceful settlement. The report covers the period from September 2011 to August 2012.



I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 66/17.

2. On 1 July 2012, pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 25 of the above-mentioned resolution, I addressed the following letter to the President of the Security Council:

“I have the honour to refer to resolution 66/17, which the General Assembly adopted on 30 November 2011, at its sixty-sixth session, under the agenda item ‘Question of Palestine’.


3. As at 12 September, no response had been received to that request.

4. In a note verbale dated 17 May 2012 to the parties concerned, I sought the positions of the Governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization, regarding any steps taken by them to implement the relevant provisions of the resolution. As at 31 August, replies had been received from Egypt, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The note verbale dated 26 June 2012 from the Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations reads as follows:


5. The note verbale dated 17 July 2012 from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations reads as follows:
6. The note verbale dated 3 August 2012 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations reads as follows:
II. Observations

7. Efforts to achieve the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine resulted in little progress during the reporting period, and confidence between the parties and in the political process continued to erode. Despite efforts by the United Nations, the Quartet and individual Member States to provide facilitation, negotiations remained at an impasse. At the heart of the unwillingness of the parties to engage in direct talks was a lack of trust and disagreement over the conditions that would allow them to do so. The Palestinians also submitted an application for membership in the United Nations and acquired membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

8. The situation on the ground remained challenging, in particular for the population living under closure in Gaza, while Israel continued to face the threat of rocket fire. In the West Bank, tensions persisted, while settlement activity continued to accelerate. Altogether, the situation on the ground presented a growing cause for concern over the viability of the two-State solution. At the same time, the Palestinians continued to implement an ambitious State-building programme. They also briefly resumed their efforts towards reuniting the West Bank and Gaza, albeit with limited success at reconciliation.

9. On 23 September, the Quartet issued a statement that called for the resumption of direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. To that end, the Quartet outlined steps to help build the trust needed for the parties to return to the negotiating table. Specifically, a preparatory meeting was called within a month for the parties to agree on an agenda and a method of proceeding. The Quartet made clear its expectation that the parties would come forward with comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months of resumed negotiations and that the goal was to make substantial progress within six months and reach an agreement by the end of 2012. The Quartet also stressed the need for the parties to refrain from provocations and reminded them of their obligations under the road map.

10. Within the framework of the Quartet statement of 23 September, Quartet envoys and the Quartet Representative, Tony Blair, met on three occasions in Jerusalem with Israeli and Palestinian representatives, on 26 October, 14 November and 14 December. Quartet envoys stressed the importance of a direct exchange between the parties without delay or preconditions, beginning with a preparatory meeting and leading to the presentation of comprehensive proposals on territory and security. Envoys called upon the parties to create an environment conducive to restarting talks and urged both to refrain from provocative actions.

11. After 15 months of absence of direct talks, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators embarked on a series of meetings on 3 January 2012 in Amman under the auspices of King Abdullah II of Jordan and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nasser Judeh. The parties began discussing important issues related to territory and security, in accordance with the Quartet statement of 23 September. They also discussed ways to build confidence and create a positive environment for the talks to lead to substantive negotiations. Following that first meeting, a series of direct preparatory talks were held under Jordanian auspices until 25 January. During my visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory on 1 and 2 February, I expressed my appreciation to King Abdullah for his initiative and commended the Palestinian and Israeli leaders on these important first steps, urging the parties to build on them to launch meaningful negotiations to reach an agreement by the end of 2012. However, while quiet meetings between the negotiators have continued to date, they have yet to lead to the renewal of direct negotiations.

12. During the meeting of the Arab Peace Initiative follow-up committee on 12 February and of the Palestine Liberation Organization Central Committee on 20 February, the Palestinians reiterated their position that direct talks should not resume unless all settlement activity was halted, Israel committed to a two-State solution based on the 1967 lines and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were released. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu continued to insist that Israel wanted to continue the talks, but without preconditions.

13. The Quartet met in New York on 12 March and again in Washington, D.C., on 11 April to reflect on those developments and forge a way forward that would build on the Quartet statement of 23 September. Quartet principals heard from Mr. Judeh on ongoing Jordanian efforts to promote exploratory talks. After a pause, negotiators met again in Amman in early April and agreed to an exchange of letters outlining their positions. As agreed by the parties, on 17 April a letter from President Abbas was delivered to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who responded on 12 May. The exchange was kept confidential and led to quiet direct engagement. Quartet envoys continued to work with the parties to encourage them to step up direct contacts and refrain from counterproductive actions.

14. A number of high-level visits also took place to encourage the parties to resume talks. King Abdullah visited Ramallah on 21 November 2011. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory from 24 to 26 January. On 25 and 26 June, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, held meetings in Israel and with President Abbas in Bethlehem. In Paris on 6 July, President Abbas met with the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the President of France, François Hollande, Ms. Ashton, and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, William Hague. Ms. Clinton later visited Israel on 16 and 17 July.

15. At the same time, the Arab follow-up committee held consultations in Doha on 22 July, in which it supported a Palestinian approach to the United Nations to seek further recognition without specifying a timeline. Arab League representatives asked the committee to prepare the appeal and report back at the next meeting in Cairo, on 6 September.

16. In parallel to these developments in the peace process, the Palestinians initiated a number of actions in United Nations forums. On 23 September 2011, during the general debate of the General Assembly, President Abbas submitted an application for membership for a State of Palestine in the United Nations. In accordance with the Charter and the rules of procedure of the Assembly, I transmitted the application to the President of the Security Council on the same day and sent a copy to the President of the Assembly. The report of the Committee on the Admission of New Members of 11 November (S/2011/705) stated that the Committee was unable to make a unanimous recommendation to the Security Council. The issue remains before the Council.

17. On 31 October 2011, the UNESCO General Conference voted in favour of Palestinian membership. The decision was the prerogative of member States. I indicated that I wished to work with member States on practical solutions to preserve the financial resources of UNESCO. I also urged all parties to approach this issue wisely in determining a course of action. Following the vote, the Government of Israel temporarily froze the transfer of tax and customs revenues that it was collecting on behalf of the Palestinian National Authority, which represented two thirds of the Authority’s annual revenues. Transfers resumed on 30 November.

18. Against this backdrop, the Palestinians continued to advance their State-building programme, albeit limited to the territory under the control of the Palestinian National Authority, which excluded Area C, East Jerusalem and Gaza. This formed an essential complement to the political process. A strong international consensus emerged that the Authority was capable of running a State. The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the Coordination of the International Assistance to Palestinians, at its meetings on 18 September 2011 in New York and on 21 March 2012 in Brussels, confirmed the assessments contained in reports of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which had concluded that the Government functions of Palestine were now sufficient for the functioning of a State. However, the World Bank report of April 2012 also indicated that, while the Palestinian Authority had had considerable success in building the institutions of a future State, it had made less progress in developing a sustainable economic base, particularly in terms of private sector development. In addition, political and financial pressure on the Authority continued to grow throughout the reporting period, placing its sustainability increasingly at risk.

19. Palestinians also made renewed attempts to advance on the issue of reconciliation. Bearing in mind Security Council resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009), I continued to support efforts to advance Palestinian unity within the framework of the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the positions of the Quartet and the Arab Peace Initiative. Reconciliation on this basis and Israeli-Palestinian peace talks need not be mutually exclusive, and a united Palestinian polity is necessary for the viability of the two-State solution. I have welcomed the efforts made to this effect, notably by Egypt.

20. On 5 February 2012 in Doha, President Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal agreed to form a transitional government of technocrats to be headed by President Abbas as Prime Minister. President Abbas emphasized that that government would adhere to his political programme and to all previous PLO commitments. However, opposition to the agreement within Hamas in Gaza prevented concrete results until 20 May, when a new formula for progress on reconciliation was achieved with the assistance of Egyptian mediation. Under the agreement, Fatah and Hamas delegations met in Cairo on 6, 7 and 15 June to discuss the way forward. As a first step in the organization of general elections, the Palestinian Central Election Commission resumed operations in Gaza on 28 May with full cooperation from the de facto authorities and initiated plans to register voters in Gaza between 3 and 14 July. However, voter registration was suspended by Hamas on 2 July, and on 10 July the Palestinian Authority called for municipal elections to be organized in the West Bank only on 20 October 2012. Palestinian reconciliation has since been stalled.

21. At the same time, significant political changes occurred in Israel. On 8 May 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu formed a new governing coalition with the opposition Kadima party. The new coalition represented one of the largest majorities in the history of the Knesset, holding 94 of its 120 seats. It also generated some hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu would, as was provided for in the new coalition agreement, have greater political space to pursue a “responsible peace process”. The coalition lasted 70 days, until 17 July, when the Deputy Prime Minister and Kadima Chairman, Shaul Mofaz, announced that his party was leaving the governing coalition following disagreements over a draft law seeking to mandate military service for a portion of the ultra-orthodox community.

22. Throughout the reporting period, developments on the ground continued to damage confidence and made the resumption of direct negotiations very difficult. Settlements, including in East Jerusalem, expanded and violence continued, with clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces, between Palestinians and settlers and between settlers and the Israeli forces. A number of other sensitive issues likewise fuelled tensions, such as the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, protests and the closure of Gaza.

23. The situation in occupied East Jerusalem remained tense. The question of Jerusalem is a final status issue that requires a negotiated solution. I have consistently emphasized that a way must be found for the city to emerge, through negotiations, as the capital of two States, Israel and Palestine, with arrangements for holy sites acceptable to all. It is equally important that political and religious authorities on both sides continue to ensure that the cultural and religious rights of all are duly respected.

24. Several times, I expressed my deep concern at continued efforts to advance planning for new Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. For example, on 27 September 2011, the Government of Israel announced the construction of 1,100 housing units in East Jerusalem settlements. In November, Israel publicized its intention to invite tenders for the construction of 1,557 new units in East Jerusalem. I have reiterated that all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, whether on private land or elsewhere, is contrary to international law and to the obligations of Israel under the Quartet road map. It prejudices final status negotiations, makes the two-State solution all the more difficult to achieve and must stop.

25. The expansion of settlements, which undermines the territorial basis for a future Palestinian State and the credibility of Palestinian moderates, is of particular concern. During the reporting period, the Government of Israel approved tenders for the construction of approximately 2,700 residential units in settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and retroactively legalized others. Moreover, the Israeli authorities did not act effectively against the construction of illegal outposts on private Palestinian land. On 12 December, the Government of Israel approved the construction of 40 houses and a farm near the settlement of Efrat, near Bethlehem, and on 17 December the Government of Israel announced its intention to issue construction tenders for 1,028 housing units in the settlements of Har Homa, Beitar Illit and Givat Ze’ev. Construction in such sensitive areas is especially concerning, as it impedes the natural development of Palestinian urban centres.

26. On 22 March, among other decisions, the Human Rights Council decided to dispatch a fact-finding mission to examine the impact of Israeli settlements on Palestinian human rights. Israel is highly critical of the Council’s action and has suspended its cooperation with the Council.

27. Settler violence increased throughout the year. It is deeply troubling that attacks by settlers on Palestinians and their property have become a systematic occurrence — often but not exclusively in the context of anticipated Government action against illegal settlement construction. Settler attacks on Palestinians and their properties resulted in injuries to 167 Palestinians, including 26 children, during the reporting period. Israeli extremists also attacked personnel of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank.

28. Area C remains critical to the viability of a future Palestinian State. We must ensure a broadening of community-driven planning in Area C, as well as the provision of basic services, including in education and health. The United Nations is already engaged on these issues at both the policy and programming levels. Moreover, Israel should give due consideration to the transfer of land in Area C to the Palestinian Authority, particularly in areas surrounding major urban centres, to facilitate more suitable urban development and relieve the acute pressure on the land and housing market.

29. The demolitions and evictions that took place in Area C during the reporting period are of particular concern and were condemned by the international community. Palestinians require access to a fair planning and zoning regime so as not to resort to the building of unauthorized structures that lead to unjustified demolitions, which often affect the most vulnerable people. Demolitions have led to the displacement of some 586 individuals, including 246 children, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the reporting period. Overall, more needs to be done to ease access and movement throughout the West Bank, including Area C, the Jordan Valley and Gaza. In a comprehensive closure survey completed at the end of June, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs documented 542 obstacles blocking Palestinian movement within the West Bank, including 61 permanently staffed checkpoints (excluding checkpoints on the Green Line), 25 partial checkpoints (staffed on an ad hoc basis) and 436 unstaffed physical obstacles, such as roadblocks, earth mounds and trenches.

30. During my visit to Gaza on 2 February 2012, I was struck once again by the fragility and unsustainable nature of the situation. I called upon Israel to implement further measures to lift the closure of Gaza and allow the unrestricted import of key building materials. I also continue to call for the free movement of people into and out of Gaza and the full reopening of all official land crossings, as well as the expansion of their capacity. These changes could be applied with due consideration for the legitimate security concerns of Israel and could make a significant difference in the lives of many Gazans; they would also reduce the illicit tunnel trade. Indiscriminate rocket fire must also stop, and Israel must show maximum restraint.

31. The full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) and the recovery and long-term economic growth of Gaza remain fundamental objectives of the United Nations. Some significant progress was made towards this goal, but much more needs to be done. A total of $350 million worth of United Nations reconstruction work in Gaza was approved by the Government of Israel during the reporting period. This has had a positive effect for those receiving services as well as on short-term employment. However, the economic benefits of increased employment will end with the conclusion of these works. Deeper and more fundamental change is therefore required to enable a functioning Gazan economy, beginning with authorizing exports to Israel and other countries, as well as transfers to and from the West Bank. Without this essential step, the future of Gaza will remain tenuous at best.

32. There are growing funding challenges for United Nations operations. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), for example, requires an additional $50 million to meet the shortfall in its core budget, which, if not bridged, may lead to the suspension of the Agency’s essential services, in particular its ability to operate schools and health clinics and provide poverty relief. In addition to the $50 million required to keep the Agency operational, UNRWA launched an emergency appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory in order to respond to emergency needs in 2012. This appeal currently falls short by $173 million, including $7.5 million urgently needed to meet food procurement distribution in Gaza for the remainder of 2012. This funding shortfall has already resulted in the reduction of key poverty alleviation interventions and the cancellation of the UNRWA “Summer Games” for the children of Gaza and, if not addressed, will result in further cuts to humanitarian services provided by UNRWA under the Emergency Appeal across the occupied Palestinian territory.

33. I urge donors to continue to fund United Nations reconstruction work in Gaza through the Palestinian Authority/United Nations Trust Fund. I also urge the Government of Israel to continue to grant approvals for outstanding United Nations reconstruction work in the Gaza Strip and emphasize once more that there should be a broader opening for the entry of all construction materials into Gaza.

34. Preserving calm in Gaza and southern Israel continues to be crucial for improvements there and for the overall political atmosphere. The fragility of the relative calm was once again demonstrated on a number of occasions throughout the reporting period by dangerous escalations taking place on 29 and 31 October, from 9 to 13 March and on 17 and 18 June. During the reporting period, 751 rockets were fired from Gaza, including 138 Grad rockets, as well as 177 mortar shells. Many rockets directed at populated areas in Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome system. Israel Defense Forces conducted 57 incursions and 174 air strikes into Gaza, resulting in the deaths of dozens of Palestinians, including some 16 civilians. More than 225 Palestinian civilians were injured, including 3 children. A total of 59 militants were killed, and 79 were injured. One Israeli soldier and one Israeli civilian were killed, and 27 Israelis were injured. Again, I unequivocally condemn these indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and call for their complete cessation. I also urge Israel to show maximum restraint. All should fully observe their obligations regarding the protection of civilians.

35. A final area of concern is the Sinai peninsula, where there have been a growing number of incidents. In February, Egyptian security forces seized a number of anti-aircraft missiles and explosives, which were being readied for transfer to the Gaza Strip. Soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces removed explosive devices on the Israeli-Egypt border and intercepted suspected smugglers. I reiterate that weapons transfers into Gaza must stop. In addition, on 16 June two rockets were shot from the Sinai into south Israel, and on 18 June at least three militants attacked Israeli workers constructing the security fence at the border. One Israeli worker was killed and two were injured, prompting the above-mentioned escalation in violence on 17 and 18 June. On 5 August, a militant attack on an Egyptian security post near Kerem Shalom killed 16 Egyptian border guards. The attackers subsequently breached the Israeli border before being intercepted. I strongly condemned this terror attack. On 15 August, one Grad missile fired from the Sinai landed near Eilat in southern Israel.

36. On 18 October, Israel and Hamas implemented the first stage of a prisoner exchange agreement. Israeli Sergeant Gilad Shalit, held in Gaza without international access since 25 June 2006, was released by Hamas. In exchange, 1,028 Palestinian prisoners — many of whom had been imprisoned for involvement in attacks on Israelis — were released, mostly to Gaza, but also to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the occupied Syrian Golan and Israel. Having long called for the end of the unacceptable captivity of Gilad Shalit and for the release of Palestinian prisoners, I welcomed the releases as a significant humanitarian breakthrough.

37. The hunger strike by more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, which started on 17 April to protest prison conditions and the application of administrative detentions, ended on 14 May with an agreement to address prisoners’ concerns. I was pleased that Israel had taken steps to implement this agreement with respect to the use of solitary confinement, family visits and the practice of administrative detention. Israel also delivered the remains of 91 Palestinians buried in Israeli-controlled areas. Despite the agreement that ended the hunger strike, and amid reports that some additional Palestinians have been put in administrative detention, a small number of prisoners are reported not to have ended their hunger strikes. I would like to state my concern for their well-being.

38. There are more than 300 Palestinians being held under administrative detention. Administrative detention should be used only in the most limited number of cases, for as short a period as possible, and in exceptional cases. Those detained must be charged and brought to trial or released without delay.

39. In the West Bank, both the Palestinian application for membership in the United Nations and the prisoner release in October prompted significant public demonstrations but few acts of violence, thanks to the efforts of the Palestinian Authority police. However, it was disappointing that the language used by Hamas regarding the prisoner release lauded violent resistance. Demonstrations against the barrier in the occupied West Bank continued on a regular basis, as the barrier’s route continued to deviate significantly from the 1967 Green Line in contravention of the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. The barrier restricted Palestinian access to East Jerusalem, key social services and agricultural land. Protests against the barrier by Palestinian, Israeli and foreign activists largely remained peaceful. The Board of the United Nations Register of Damage Caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory submitted a progress report on 8 June 2012.

40. Tensions and violent incidents continued throughout the reporting period. Citing security reasons, the Israel Defense Forces conducted 1,092 operations in the West Bank, during which 718 Palestinians were injured, including 88 children, and 2,062 Palestinians were arrested. More than 53 personnel of the Israeli forces were injured by Palestinians. On 10 December, a Palestinian protesting the takeover of privately owned land by Israeli settlers died from wounds sustained in Nabi Saleh when an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister at close range from the armoured vehicle at which the protester had been throwing stones. A total of 61 Palestinians and 3 Israeli soldiers were injured during similar protests, and an investigation was launched by the Israeli authorities. I stress that the right to peaceful protest must be upheld and that protests should be kept strictly non-violent.

41. On 30 March, on the occasion of Land Day, large demonstrations were held in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and, to a smaller extent, in Egypt and the Syrian Arab Republic. Clashes between demonstrators and the Israel Defense Forces resulted in 1 Palestinian killed and some 180 wounded. The Israeli forces used crowd control measures aimed at minimizing the number of casualties. Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza also took critical measures to avoid bloodshed.

42. During the reporting period, a total of 78 Palestinians were killed, including 54 militants, while 2,849 Palestinians, including 247 children, were injured; 2 Israelis were killed, including 1 civilian; and 43 personnel of the Israeli forces and 39 Israeli civilians were injured, illustrating the continuing cost of the ongoing conflict.

43. Despite these challenges, the efforts to build robust state institutions and revive the Palestinian economy have brought real security and economic improvements. The Palestinian Authority also continued to make praiseworthy efforts to maintain law and order in areas under its control and strengthen its security capacity. In November, an eighth battalion of internationally trained Palestinian security forces was deployed, bringing their total number to more than 4,000. In a positive gesture, 51 alleged militants being held in protective custody by the Palestinian police in the West Bank were granted amnesty by Israel on 4 November 2011. On 10 February 2012, for the first time in 15 years, Palestinian National Security Forces, in coordination with Israel, enforced law and order in the H-2 area of Hebron, which is under full Israeli control.

44. I commend President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for this achievement. At the same time, I am concerned by reports of arbitrary detention being carried out by Palestinian security forces and reports of ill treatment in detention centres in Gaza. Moreover, in April and May, the de facto authorities in Gaza carried out five executions without the approval of President Abbas, which is required by Palestinian Basic Law. I would urge the Palestinian Authority to ensure that it fulfils its responsibilities with full respect for international human rights laws.

45. The Palestinian Authority has achieved what it set out to do two years ago, and this must be noted, preserved and built upon. However, I am now concerned about the ability of the Palestinian Authority to maintain these gains in the light of its increasingly dire financial situation.

46. At the start of July, the Palestinian Finance Minister announced that the Palestinian Authority could not pay all June salaries to its 150,000 employees on time. Israeli authorities transferred half of the monthly value added tax collection to the Palestinian Authority two weeks early in order to assist with the payment of salaries ahead of the holy month of Ramadan.

47. I continue to call upon donors to provide timely assistance to sustain this agenda. Donor support for the Palestinian Authority was insufficient during the reporting period, affecting the Authority’s ability to meet its financial obligations, including the payment of salaries. I also strongly encouraged the Government of Israel to take all measures necessary to facilitate growth, including further easing of access and movement within, into and out of the West Bank for both goods and people. On 17 July 2012, Israel approved 5,000 permits for Palestinian construction workers to work in Israel, in addition to the 34,250 permits already issued for Palestinian workers to work there. In a noteworthy achievement, after lengthy discussions between the Palestinian Authority and the Ministry of Finance of Israel, arrangements with respect to the transfer of goods between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and related tax procedures that would take effect on 1 January 2013 were concluded on 31 July. These initiatives are welcome. Yet, more needs to be done to ease access and movement and enable economic growth throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, including Area C and Gaza.

48. I would like to express my deep thanks and appreciation to the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert H. Serry, as well as to the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi. I also pay tribute to all United Nations staff who work under difficult and at times dangerous circumstances in the service of the United Nations.

49. Peace and Palestinian statehood are long overdue. I am acutely conscious of the unsustainable status quo, which is thrown into sharper relief by the profound political changes in the region. More than 45 years since the beginning of the occupation, the keeping of a large population in profound poverty is in nobody’s interest except that of the most extreme radicals in the region. I remain convinced that direct and meaningful negotiations are the main avenue towards a comprehensive, fair and lasting solution that fulfils the aspirations of Israel and the Palestinians, including an end to occupation and conflict and a just and agreed solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees.

50. Given the dramatic developments in the region, progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track is of even greater urgency and would have an important positive impact on the region. It has been a year since the Security Council was presented with the Palestinian application for membership in the United Nations, and we are increasingly moving away from a two-State solution into a one-State reality, which would diminish the prospects of regional peace in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative. The continuing negative trends reported at present are further manifestations that this reality is consistently undermining our common goal of a negotiated two-State solution that will end the conflict and the occupation that started in 1967.

51. I am seriously concerned by the lack of progress during the reporting period in the search for a negotiated solution that would bring Israel and the Palestinians closer towards durable peace and security, including the realization of the legitimate aspiration of Palestinians to a State of their own and of Israel to live within recognized and secure borders. The failure of the parties to follow the steps outlined by the Quartet on 23 September 2011 is of grave concern. The outlines of an agreement have long been clear. What is important now is for the parties to engage seriously on substance. I call upon Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show vision, courage and determination to reach a historical peace agreement that would meet the legitimate aspirations of the people on both sides.

52. To this end, it is my sincere hope that the parties pursue vigorously all efforts to create an environment that is conducive to the resumption of direct and meaningful negotiations. In particular, I urge Israel to cease all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and to take concrete steps to further ease the numerous restrictions in place both in the West Bank and Gaza. I also strongly encourage all Palestinians on the path of non-violence and unity in line with past PLO commitments. I call upon them to pursue their efforts to improve law and order and combat extremism and incitement against Israel, and to continue to build strong and democratic institutions, which are essential to a viable, independent Palestinian State. In a highly volatile environment, it is crucial that any outbreaks of violence that could undermine political efforts be prevented and that the parties refrain from provocative steps on the ground. The international community must also play its role by shaping a legitimate and balanced framework that offers a credible political path forward, combined with far-reaching steps on the ground. The international community should understand that its own efforts in pursuit of this goal will increasingly lack credibility if we continue to fail to take the steps necessary to enable an environment conducive to serious engagement.

53. As Secretary-General, I will continue to ensure that the United Nations works towards the establishment of an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace with a secure Israel in the framework of a comprehensive regional settlement consistent with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1860 (2009), and in accordance with the Quartet road map, the Arab Peace Initiative and the principle of land for peace.


_____________

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter