Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/SG/2733
           30 November 2000
     Secretary-General Reiterates full Commitment of United Nations
    To Supporting Parties through Middle East Peace Process
     

     NEW YORK, 29 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s statement today at Headquarters at a meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People:

     Allow me first to thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for once again inviting me to participate in this annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

     This solemn occasion allows us to renew our commitment to the goal of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine –- the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict –- and express our solidarity with and support for the Palestinian people.  Since November 1947, all my predecessors have been engaged in efforts aimed at finding a fair, equitable and peaceful solution to this complex issue.  I pledge to continue to pursue this objective with all the means and resources at my disposal.

     We are meeting today at a very sensitive and difficult period in the peace process.  In the course of the past year, the parties have continued to make a determined effort to overcome decades of suspicion and animosity in order to build bridges of reconciliation and partnership.  They have succeeded in narrowing gaps on some points and have reached agreements on a number of specific issues.  And, in spite of the difficulties in reaching an agreement at Camp David last July, both sides had demonstrated determination to move forward.  We were reassured by their resolve and hoped the negotiating momentum would not be lost.

     Regrettably, following the September events in East Jerusalem, the situation on the ground began to escalate, rapidly reaching crisis proportions and putting on hold again the prospects for further negotiations.  You may recall that, in the past two months, various parties, including myself, have been working to persuade the two sides to end violence and breathe life into the negotiating process.  Throughout my visit to the region, the situation on the ground in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip remained extremely tense and volatile.  

     The understandings reached at Sharm el-Sheikh were viewed as a critical first step towards restoring the status quo ante, resuming the peace process and setting-up a mechanism to inquire into the causes of violence.  To achieve this, it was absolutely essential for the parties to implement these understandings in full and in good faith.  Earlier this month, I welcomed the appointment by President Clinton of a committee of fact-finding, established in accordance with the understandings reached at Sharm el-Sheikh.  I was also hopeful that the committee would carry out its duties with impartiality and thoroughness, and that it would thereby make an important contribution towards the search for a just and lasting peace.

    As the situation deteriorated, I appealed to the leadership of the two sides to refrain from making emotional public statements and weigh their words with great care.  The same should apply to the wider international community.  We all should do our best to assist the Palestinians and the Israelis in their historic quest for peace.  I would like to seize this opportunity to call upon the parties once again to preserve the achievements of the past nine years of the peace process and steadily move ahead along the path of peace and reconciliation.

     Let me also add that there is one issue that is viewed by Palestinians and many others as a principal cause of the present crisis.  I am referring to the continued confiscation and destruction of Palestinian property and the construction and expansion of settlements and roads in the occupied territories.  These actions seriously complicate the discussions by the parties of the permanent status issues.

     The worsening of the situation on the ground in the past several weeks has had an extremely damaging effect on the Palestinian economy.  Repeated border and internal closures have led to a dramatic deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinians, whose economy is largely dependent on that of Israel.  As a result of the conflict, the unemployment and poverty rates have risen considerably after several years of improvement.  There is a growing sense of despair, frustration and anger among Palestinians.  This is why it is absolutely essential to restore calm as soon as possible, and to revive the peace negotiations, in order also to restart the economy.

     United Nations agencies, such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and many others, continue to support the peace process by helping to lay the economic and social foundations for a sustainable peace.  These efforts have focused on developing Palestinian infrastructure, strengthening institutional capacity and improving the quality of daily life for millions of Palestinians.

     For more than half a century, UNRWA has been providing varied humanitarian assistance and essential basic services to some 3.7 million Palestinians registered with the Agency.  I would like to use this occasion to call again on donors to provide UNRWA with the resources it requires to keep up with the rising needs of the refugee community.  Donor assistance is especially vital now, at a time of crisis and economic hardship.

     The United Nations development system has brought extensive multilateral and bilateral assistance to the Palestinian people.  The UNDP, often in cooperation with other United Nations agencies and individual donor governments, has been involved in a wide range of development and rehabilitation projects and programmes.  

    This work includes, among other things, poverty alleviation, capacity-building, institutional development, healthcare, agriculture and environment, as well as activities in other areas.

     The United Nations is also supporting the peace process through the efforts of Mr. Terje Roed-Larsen – my Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and my  Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority.  During the past year, Mr. Larsen has worked closely with the various parties in the region in order to provide them with political support, and to coordinate United Nations assistance in the areas of development and peace.  I would also like to mention here the important work carried out by the Humanitarian Task Force for Emergency Needs, headed by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO), in coordinating international assistance for urgent humanitarian needs.  To date, the Task Force has coordinated over $9 million in such assistance.

     In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the full commitment of the United Nations to supporting the parties through the peace process.  

    I can also assure you that the United Nations will continue to provide the various forms of assistance to the Palestinian people until a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine is achieved and peace and prosperity prevail in the region of the Middle East.

     Allow me to commend the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for 25 years of untiring and dedicated work.  I extend my heartfelt thanks to the Committee and to you, Mr. Chairman, for organizing this annual observance.  I wish you every success in this important mission.

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