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Political Accord Only Way To End M. East Conflict

Permanent political accord only way to end Middle East conflict – Ban Ki-moon

19 February 2008 – Only a permanent political settlement ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory and giving Palestinians their independence “can fundamentally alter the economic and humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people and bring lasting security for Israel,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

In a message delivered on his behalf by Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, to the UN Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, held in Amman, Jordan, Mr. Ban said that international law must serve as the basis for any sustainable solution.

But he noted that “the key ingredients for a breakthrough exist,” citing the launch by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of bilateral negotiations to resolve all core issues, the “impressive reform and development agenda” of the Palestinian Authority, the support of donors and the efforts of a range of international envoys.

“While I am well aware of the challenges, I believe that with the right mixture of wisdom, realism and political courage – including a major intensification of efforts in the months ahead – we can make historic progress towards the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” Mr. Ban stated in his message.

He said the members of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East – the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States – were united in their determination that the “harsh realities on the ground” must improve and progress must also be made in the political negotiations.

“The current situation in Gaza is unsustainable in humanitarian, human rights, security and political terms – for the Palestinians, Egypt, and Israel too. The ongoing crisis in Gaza also undermines the Annapolis process,” the Secretary-General said, referring to the peace process launched in the US city of that name late last year.

Mr. Ban stressed that all the UN humanitarian agencies on the ground would continue with their work to relieve suffering, especially in the Gaza Strip, which has faced tight Israeli restrictions since last month, and to support the Palestinian Authority’s development efforts.

Meanwhile, UNSCO reported that all goods crossings into Gaza were closed today with the exception of Nahal Oz, through which supplies of diesel, cooking gas and industrial gas – but not benzene – were expected to pass. The benzene shortage at the local market is now severely restricting the movement of private vehicles, according to UNSCO.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes yesterday wrapped up his five-day visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel with a series of meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah with officials from both sides.

ENDS

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