UN Chief Calls For Palestinian Statehood, De-Escalation In Mideast

(MENAFN- Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) WASHINGTON, April 18 (KUNA) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday reiterated the call for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine and establishing the independent state of Palestine on the basis of the two-state solution.
"The ultimate goal remains a two-state solution - Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, on the basis of UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements," he said.
"This means an end to the occupation and the establishment of a fully independent, democratic, contiguous, viable and sovereign Palestinian State, with Gaza as an integral part.
"The international community has a responsibility and a moral obligation to help make this happen," the Secretary-General stressed in a speech to a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine full membership at the UN.
"Regional de-escalation efforts must also address the extremely fraught situation in Lebanon, particularly along the Blue Line," Guterres urged.
"Exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah are exacting a mounting toll on civilian communities in Israel and Lebanon.
"Dozens of civilians have been killed and tens of thousands displaced on both sides of the Blue Line," he pointed out.
"These exchanges could take on a momentum of their own. Strikes deep into the territories of Lebanon and Israel could ignite an even more serious confrontation - as we have seen in the past.
"I call on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further breaches of the cessation of hostilities under the framework of resolution 1701.
"The United Nations stands ready to support the efforts of several countries to encourage de-escalation and to work towards a diplomatic solution," Guterres went on.
"A comprehensive de-escalation approach must also reverse the explosive situation in the occupied West Bank.
"More than 450 Palestinians, including 112 children, have been killed in the occupied West Bank since 7 October - the majority by Israeli forces in the course of their operations, and in exchanges between Israeli forces and armed Palestinians.
"Others were killed by armed Israeli settlers, sometimes in the presence of Israeli security forces who reportedly stood by and did nothing to prevent these killings," he regretted.
"I call on Israel, as the occupying Power, to protect the Palestinian population of the occupied West Bank against attacks, violence and intimidation.
"The backdrop to this appalling surge in violence is the continued expansion of Israeli settlements - in themselves a violation of international law - and repeated large-scale Israeli operations in Palestinian areas," the Secretary-General added.
On his part, Special Representative of the Palestinian President Ziad Abu-Amr said the plight of the Palestinian people started over a century ago and is still ongoing.
"We are still longing to practice our right to self-determination to live in freedom, security and peace in an independent State, similar to other countries around the world.
"We have made and continue to make great sacrifices to achieve this goal," he told the Council.
Abu-Amr said granting Palestine full membership at the UN will lift some of the historical injustices that succeeding generations of Palestinians have been subjected to.
The decision will also be an important pillar to achieve peace in the region because the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in its different dimensions now extends beyond the borders of Palestine and Israel and impacts other parts of the Middle East and the world.
"Therefore, we believe that it is high time for the Security Council to shoulder its historic responsibility to give justice to the Palestinian people by adopting a resolution to accept Palestine as a full member of the United Nations," he urged.
"Those who are trying to disrupt and hinder the adoption of such a resolution, they are not helping the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis and the prospects for peace in the Middle East in general," Abu-Amr added.
Turning to Gaza, he said the comprehensive war waged by Israel has claimed the lives of over 35,000 Palestinians and wounded 80,000, mostly women, children and the elderly, and the majority of the enclave has been destroyed.
"We call on you today more than ever, to swiftly intervene and take the necessary measures to compel Israel to put an end to its aggression, to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance to a starving people, to immediately withdraw from the Gaza Strip, to comply with international law and the resolutions of international legitimacy," he added.
The Security Council is due to vote in just a few hours' time in New York on whether to recommend Palestine for full membership, which if approved, would then go to the wider General Assembly. (end)


Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)

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