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Return to ‘path of meaningful negotiations’, UN envoy urges Israelis, Palestinians

“The Middle East Quartet – alongside Arab partners – and Israeli and Palestinian leaders, must work together to return to the path of meaningful negotiations”, Nickolay Mladenov told the ambassadors in his final briefing as Special Coordinator.  

A historic struggle 

“Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs have lived with conflict for too long”, said the UN envoy. “Loss and displacement are part of the personal history of every single household” for generations. 

He painted a picture of Palestinians being “upended from their homes” and forced to seek refuge across the region while “Jews have been upended from across the region” and forced to seek refuge in Israel. 

Mr. Mladenov reminded that the conflict is not only over land or history, “it is a conflict over the very right of two nations to co-exist”. 

Financial shortfall 

A disruption of vital services in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) is hanging in the balance as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) faces a funding gap of $88 million, which includes some $22 million to pay salaries of nearly 30,000 frontline education, health, social and other workers directly assisting Palestine refugees.  

“The Agency is not only a lifeline for millions of Palestine refugees, and fully engaged in the fight against COVID-19, but is also critical for regional stability”, said Mr. Mladenov. “Sufficient funding is essential for the Agency’s continuity, and I renew my appeal for support”. 

Meanwhile, last week the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Acting OPT Humanitarian Coordinator launched a 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan, which includes a $417 million appeal to help 1.8 million vulnerable people over the coming year.  

“The latest humanitarian needs assessment found that 2.45 million Palestinians — some 47 per cent of the population currently need aid”, he said.  

Settlements must cease 

Israeli settlement-related developments continue, with expansions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Mr. Mladenov added, saying they entrench Israel’s occupation and undermine the prospect of a two-State solution.  

“The advancement of all settlement activity must cease immediately”, he spelled out, underscoring that they constitute “a flagrant violation” of UN resolutions and international law. 

The Special Coordinator also called “deeply concerning”, the continued demolition and seizure of Palestinian humanitarian projects and schools. 

“I call on Israeli authorities to end the demolition of Palestinian property and the displacement and eviction of Palestinians”, he said.  

Peace achievable  

In closing, he recounted that every Palestinian he met believed that negotiations were “only a façade” for more land grabs while every Israeli believed they would lead to more “violence and terror”.  

The goal of a just and lasting peace…remains achievable — UN envoy

 “The world cannot leave the situation unattended”, said the Special Coordinator, pointing to UN resolutions, bilateral agreements and the Middle East Quartet’s efforts, all aimed at resolving the conflict. 

“No one in the international community questions the foundation that any resolution…must be based on two States” and that requires “engagement between the parties and not through violence”, he stressed. 

Both sides must “look inward” both in coordination and independently “to protect the goal of sustainable peace”.  

“I firmly believe that the goal of a just and lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people remains achievable through negotiations and can be mediated between the Middle East Quartet and the Arab partners”, the Special Coordinator said. 

Mr. Mladenov informed that in January, Tor Wennesland would take over the mission and called his successor “one of the most capable diplomats I have ever worked with”.  

“I wish him every success in the years ahead and hope that you will extend to him your full support, as you have done to me”, concluded the outgoing UN envoy. 

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