UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on regional and international players to help restore a political track to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Our ultimate goals remain unchanged: end the occupation, realize a two-state solution. But we must face today’s reality. The truth is that … time is working against us,” Guterres told the 2023 opening session of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
“The longer we go without meaningful political negotiations, the further these goals slip from reach. Regional and international partners must collectively work — with greater urgency and determination — to help Palestinians and Israelis restore a credible political horizon,” he said.
The outlines of the solution are clear, and are laid out in UN resolutions, international law, and bilateral agreements, said Guterres, adding that what is needed is the political will and courage to make the difficult choices for peace.
The current situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is at its most combustible in years. Deadly cycles of violence keep accelerating. Tensions are sky-high. And the peace process remains stalled. The situation in Jerusalem is becoming more fragile amid provocations and acts of violence in and around the holy sites. It radiates instability across the region and beyond, he warned.
The position of the United Nations is clear: The status of Jerusalem cannot be altered by unilateral actions. Jerusalem’s demographic and historical character must be preserved — and the status quo at the holy sites must be upheld, in line with the special role of Jordan, he said.
2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians since the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs began systematically tracking fatalities in 2005. Two months into the new year, violence rages on without reprieve. Across the occupied West Bank and Gaza, hopelessness is spreading, feeding anger and despair, he said.
Each new settlement is another roadblock on the path to peace. All settlement activity is illegal under international law and must stop. At the same time, incitement to violence is a dead end. Nothing justifies terrorism. It must be rejected by all, said Guterres.
“Our immediate priority must be to prevent further escalation, reduce tensions and restore calm,” he said. ■