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Peace Solution Must Include Palestinian Refugees

Middle East peace must include solution for Palestinian refugees, Ban Ki-moon says

29 April 2008 - A sustainable peace in the Middle East will have to factor in a viable and just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a United Nations meeting convened in Paris to assess the condition of the refugees and examine the role of the world body in alleviating their plight.

"The Palestinian people's desire or right to live a normal daily life in their own sovereign land remains undiminished, as do the individual and collective rights of Palestine refugees," Mr. Ban said in a message to the conference, read out by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane.

"This year marks the 60th year of Palestinian dispossession, an anniversary that underlines the importance and urgency of finding a solution to the question of Palestine and of addressing the plight of the Palestine refugees," he noted.

The Secretary-General said that the peace process launched in the United States city of Annapolis and the negotiations under way between the Israelis and Palestinians are the only way to settle the conflict and address all permanent status issues, including that of the refugees.

"Negotiations are the only means of realising the legitimate aspirations of both parties - Palestinian statehood and self-determination, and security for Israel," Mr. Ban stated, as he pledged the UN's continued support to the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as they seek to reach an agreement by the end of this year.

At the same time, he drew attention to the worrying situation on the ground, including the daily violence that besets the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel, as well as the food and fuel shortages that are worsening the already dismal living conditions of those in Gaza.

Noting that the UN now provides assistance to approximately 75 per cent of the population of the Gaza Strip, Mr. Ban welcomed efforts to end violence and re-open the Gaza crossings, which would allow all legitimate and necessary humanitarian and commercial supplies to reach the population.

The Secretary-General also lauded the efforts of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has for the past 60 years been providing education, health care, social services and emergency aid to over 4.5 million refugees living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

ENDS

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