The Secretary-General of the United Nations has expressed his belief that the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories "cannot continue" from both a political and economic perspective.
In a letter to the UN International Meeting on the issue of Palestine being held in Addis Ababa, Ban Ki-moon said, "There is an urgent need to act together to achieve peace this year between the Palestinians and the Israelis if we want to save the solution based on the existence of two states." Warning that it will not be possible to preserve the achievements resulting from the Palestinian state-building programme and the funds offered by donors unless tangible progress on the political track is made, he called for tensions to be defused on the ground.
Ban expressed concern about the "renewed violence, especially due to the state of Palestinian prisoners and the violations of the cease-fire agreement in Gaza", before adding, "Israel's decision to close key crossings in Gaza has only worsened the already-deteriorated humanitarian situation." The top UN official called on Israel "to respect international humanitarian law" and implement the previous agreements related to the Palestinian prisoners.
"Prisoners' deaths should be investigated by an independent body," said Mr Ban, "and we must find an urgent solution to the long-term hunger strikes." He stressed that Palestinian administrative detainees should either be charged and put on trial by Israel or released without delay.
"Israeli's continuing settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are a cause of great dismay and are illegal under international law," he insisted. "Such actions constitute ever-greater impediments in the path towards peace, and must not be allowed to predetermine the outcome of the final status negotiations." At the same time, he stressed, Israel's legitimate security concerns must be recognised and addressed, particularly with regard to the issue of arms smuggling and rocket fire.
Ban called on Israeli and Palestinian political leaders to demonstrate their willingness to move beyond discussions regarding negotiations, and move on to discuss the final status issues "in a constructive manner".