UN chief: Israeli occupation imposed heavy humanitarian burden on Palestinians
Calling on Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct talks on a two-state solution, Guterres laments 'generation after generation of Palestinians who have been compelled to grow up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children.'
In a statement on the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, Guterres said Israel still occupies the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Syria's Golan Heights and the "occupation has imposed a heavy humanitarian and development burden" on Palestinians.
"Among them are generation after generation of Palestinians who have been compelled to grow up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children," Guterres said.
He reminded that "In 1947, on the basis of United Nations General Assembly resolution 181, the world recognized the two-state solution and called for the emergence of 'independent Arab and Jewish states.' On 14 May 1948, the State of Israel was born. Almost seven decades later, the world still awaits the birth of an independent Palestinian state."
Guterres lamented that "The occupation is fueling recurring cycles of violence and retribution," claiming that "Its perpetuation is sending an unmistakable message to generations of Palestinians that their dream of statehood is destined to remain just that, a dream; and to Israelis that their desire for peace, security and regional recognition remains unattainable."
He also condemned "Continued settlement construction and expansion; violence and incitement; and the illicit arms build-up and militant activity in Gaza," which he said "risk creating a one-state reality that is incompatible with realizing the legitimate national and historic aspirations of both peoples."
The UN chief asserted that "Ending the occupation that began in 1967 and achieving a negotiated two-state outcome is the only way to lay the foundations for enduring peace that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty. It is the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people."
Guterres went on to say that ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would open doors to cooperation, security, prosperity and human rights for all.
"Now is not the time to give up on this goal," he urged. "Now is the time to return to direct negotiations to resolve all final-status issues on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, agreements and international law."
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon slammed Guterres's statement, saying, "Instead of spreading lies, the UN best stick to facts. Israel's neighbors didn't start attacking it in 1967. The UN, meanwhile, is trying to compare terrorism and murder of innocents to the construction of houses.
He went on to say that it was "delusion to blame the only democracy in the region for the violence and terrorism in the Middle East. When the Palestinian leadership abandons incitement and terrorism, only then would we be able to make progress towards peace."
Meanwhile, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the head of the UN Human Rights Council, said Tuesday the Palestinian people were marking "a half-century of deep suffering under an occupation imposed by military force."
Speaking at the start of a three-week session of the Human Rights Council, al-Hussein called for "an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory," saying it would benefit both sides after 50 years of enmity.
Israelis also deserve freedom from violence, he said, adding, "Maintain the occupation and for both peoples there will only be a prolongation of immense pain."
Reuters contributed to this report.