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UN meeting on Israeli-Palestinian peace opens

UN meeting on Israeli-Palestinian peace opens with call for two-State solution

A United Nations-sponsored international meeting aimed at advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace opened in Vienna today with an appeal from Secretary-General Kofi Annan for an “essential” parallel commitment by both parties to a two-State solution.

“Let us remember that clear majorities of Israelis and Palestinians want a negotiated, two-State solution,” Mr. Annan said in a message delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane. “It is the responsibility of all parties to respond to that urgent and deeply-felt need.

“Regional partners have an important facilitating role in this process. Indeed, a two-State solution is crucial not only for the security and prosperity of Israelis and Palestinians, but for the stability of the region as a whole,” he added.

He noted that the two-day meeting, convened by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, was taking place at a time of continuing tension and voiced the hope that the Palestinian Government would move closer towards the principles outlined by the so-called diplomatic Quartet earlier this year.

After the Hamas movement won elections in January, the Quartet – the UN, European Union (EU), Russia and the United States – called on it to commit to non-violence, recognize Israel and accept previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map plan for a two-State solution sponsored by the four partners.

At the same time Mr. Annan noted that Israel was considering a withdrawal from the West Bank, saying that such a step could help achieve the two-state objective if negotiated and coordinated with the Palestinian side. “If not, it may complicate efforts at achieving this goal and prejudice final status issues,” he warned.

Referring to the “deeply troubling” humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory exacerbated by the cut-off of much donor aid to the Government until Hamas accepts the Quartet’s terms, he said work by the four on an EU proposal for a temporary international mechanism to deliver aid to the Palestinian people had been completed and assistance would soon begin reaching those in need.

“In the meantime, Israel should take steps to improve the humanitarian situation, in keeping with its responsibilities in the occupied Palestinian territory and obligations arising from previous agreements,” he added. “I also urge international donors to help avert a humanitarian crisis by responding without delay to the latest consolidated appeal.”

Earlier this year the UN revised the appeal upwards by 80 per cent, from $215 million to $385 million.

The meeting has brought together internationally renowned experts, including Israelis and Palestinians, representatives of UN Members and observers, parliamentarians, representatives of the UN system and other intergovernmental organizations, the academic community, representatives of civil society, and the media.

The three plenary sessions will deal with the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; the peace process and challenges ahead; and international efforts in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In another development, the World Health Organization (WHO) today voiced concern that a significant proportion of children in the Gaza Strip are suffering from rickets, a nutritional disorder caused by vitamin D deficiency.

A recent WHO-supported study found that over 4 per cent of all children aged between 6 and 36 months were suffering from clinical rickets.

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