Guterres urges end to Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory

Palestinian rights groups said about 700,000 settlers have been living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967.
File photo [Image for representational purpose only]
File photo [Image for representational purpose only]

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an end to Israel's settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, for the resumption of peace talks.

The UN remains committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve their conflict and bringing an end to the suffering, Xinhua news agency quoted Guterres as saying on Thursday while addressing the opening session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

"I reiterate my call on the government of Israel to immediately halt all settlement activity, which is a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace," he said.

Persistent acts of violence in occupied Palestinian territory as well as Israeli movement and access restrictions and other violations of international humanitarian and human rights law exacerbate mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians and make peace less attainable, according to the UN chief.

The committee plays an important role in mobilizing international opinion and assisting Palestinians and Israelis to re-engage in meaningful negotiations, he said.

The long-agreed goal is clear: to end the occupation and realise a two-state solution on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, in line with international law, relevant UN resolutions, and bilateral agreements, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, Guterres noted.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' call for an international peace conference under the auspices of the UN and an expanded Middle East Quartet provides a positive opportunity to advance peace in the region, he said.

"I call on the parties to refrain from unilateral acts that can jeopardize the possibility of restarting the peace process."

The Secretary-General also welcomed the presidential decree issued by Abbas to hold legislative, presidential and Palestinian National Council elections this year.

The holding of elections in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Gaza will be a crucial step toward Palestinian unity. It will give renewed legitimacy to national institutions, including a democratically elected parliament and government in Palestine, he said.

"Elections are a vital part of building a democratic Palestinian state founded on the rule of law with equal rights for all. The committee's support to these efforts will be crucial."

Guterres also commended the committee's efforts to mobilize support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in a way that is sustainable, predictable, and long-term as Palestinian refugees need and deserve.

"Together, let us strive to uphold the values of the UN Charter as our shared framework of cooperation for the realisation of the rights of Israelis and Palestinians, the Middle East region and beyond."

According to the Palestine Liberation Organization, about 124 Israeli settlement outposts have been built in the West Bank since the 1990s without any official approval.

Palestinian rights groups said about 700,000 settlers have been living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967.

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