UNPRECEDENTED FINANCIAL CRISIS THREATENS GAINS IN INSTITUTION-BUILDING, WARNS
It is my pleasure to send greetings to the participants in the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People.
This meeting takes place as the Palestinian Government faces an unprecedented financial crisis that puts at risk the significant achievements in institution-building made in recent years under the leadership of President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad. We cannot afford to jeopardize this progress and the considerable investments that have been made by the international community, including the United Nations. I renew my call on all donors, especially Arab countries, to fulfil their pledges and further increase their support.
I also reiterate the importance of the full transfer of Palestinian tax and customs revenues by Israel in a timely and predictable manner, in accordance with the provisions of the 1994 Paris Protocol. The recent announcement by the United States to work towards resuming aid to Palestinians was a highly welcomed move.
The United Nations continues its support to Palestinian institution-building, and provides critical humanitarian assistance in both the West Bank and Gaza. In response to continuing needs, the United Nations and its partners seek $400 million for humanitarian action this year, with a focus on food insecurity and protection.
Since last year, the United Nations has been working with the Palestinian Authority on the elaboration of the first UN Development Assistance Framework for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a strategic planning framework intended to guide United Nations development programming in the period 2014-2016, in alignment with the upcoming Palestinian National Development Plan. This is a sign of the growing confidence in Palestinian governance and institutional readiness.
Currently, however, the viability of Palestinian institutions stands on political quicksand, and their future is closely linked to concrete achievements towards the two-State solution, in which Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition of each other’s legitimate rights, including self-determination. There is no substitute for negotiations towards this end, and the parties should refrain from any action that undermines prospects for their resumption.
In this regard, the United Nations is deeply dismayed by Israel’s continuing settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, all of which is illegal under international law. These actions constitute ever-greater impediments to an eventual peaceful solution and must not be allowed to prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations. Of particular concern are plans for settlement construction in the E1 area, which would render impossible the contiguity of the Palestinian territory. Such plans must be rescinded.
Moreover, settlements and their infrastructure scattered throughout the West Bank, as well as other obstacles to access and movement — including the wall being constructed in contravention of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice — severely restrict Palestinians’ access to land, natural resources, hospitals and schools, and impede their economic activities.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains a priority for the United Nations. The closure of Gaza, which has lasted for almost six years, has had a devastating impact on the lives of Palestinian residents, 80 per cent of whom depend on humanitarian aid. I reiterate my call for immediate steps towards lifting the closure, in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).
United Nations agencies are implementing programmes worth about $1 billion in Gaza. In 2012, this included more than $150 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza, provided by the United Nations and our partners. For 2013, we seek more than $250 million for humanitarian aid in Gaza, but have received only a fraction of that so far.
At the same time, Israel’s legitimate security concerns must be addressed by continuing to thwart militant attacks from Gaza and preventing the smuggling of weapons.
I commend efforts to promote Palestinian reconciliation within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization commitments. This is an essential step for achieving the two-State solution and finding a durable peace, as well as enhancing the Palestinian economy’s viability.
The peace process and reconciliation are not incompatible; parallel efforts must be made on both fronts.
We are deeply concerned about the death of Arafat Jaradat in Israeli detention on 23 February. An independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Jaradat’s death should be conducted urgently, the results of which should be made public as soon as possible. Similarly, a solution must be urgently found for the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody whose health conditions have dramatically deteriorated as a result of their prolonged hunger strike.
International human rights obligations towards all Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli custody must be fully respected, those held in administrative detention without charge should be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards, or promptly released.
Two thousand and thirteen will be a decisive year for the two-State solution. Failure to make tangible progress only means the continuation of suffering, violence and instability in the whole region. The 45-year occupation — as demeaning to the inhabitants as it is destabilizing for the region — must end. Jerusalem must emerge through negotiations as the future capital of two States. As provided in the road map, there should be an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue. Both parties must live up to their commitment to resolving these and all other core issues, namely, territory, security, settlements and water.
The United Nations will remain an integral part of efforts aimed at these goals, including in the context of the Quartet and in full consultation with key regional partners. We look forward to renewed engagement by the United States. Moreover, reinvigorated impetus should be given to the Arab Peace Initiative as a tool to generate regional support.
In this spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful Seminar.