13 February 2006

In Remarks to Palestinian Rights Committee, Secretary-General Says Majority of Palestinians Do Not Want to Pursue Violence, Terrorism

NEW YORK, 10 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the opening of the 2006 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in New York today:

Two weeks ago, the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, participated in free, fair and secure elections.

Palestinians voted in large numbers, underlining their commitment to build their democracy and achieve self-determination.  The Palestinian Authority ensured security on Election Day, showing that the insecurity of the recent past can be overcome.  And the Palestinian Central Election Commission, with the support of the United Nations and the international community, did an excellent job in organizing the voting.

I congratulate President Abbas, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people on this achievement.  I thank the electoral observers from all over the world for their contributions.  And I respect the decision of the Palestinian people.

The election outcome is a watershed in Palestinian political history.  Discussions have begun on forming a Government. This is a sensitive moment indeed.

President Abbas, speaking after the election, underlined the obligations and responsibilities that will fall on any new Government, including, in his words, "Palestinian-Israeli agreements starting with the Oslo Accords and the Arab Summit resolutions, and ending with the resolutions that have been agreed upon by the international community, in particular the Road Map, as the sole framework that is being posed now for implementation".

I believe that the clear majority of the Palestinian people do not want to pursue violence or terrorism against Israeli civilians.  I believe they also understand and accept that Israel, which is a Member State of the United Nations, has a right to exist as a State, alongside the State of Palestine that Palestinians deserve and want to achieve.  I also believe that they want the agreements and obligations that their elected representatives have already entered into, including the Road Map, to be carried forward and implemented, not abandoned.

As the Quartet and the Security Council have recently made clear, the international community will be watching very carefully to see how a new Government rises to these challenges.

The international community is fully aware of the plight of the Palestinian people. Their territory remains under occupation.  Settlement activity continues in certain areas.  Nearly 400 checkpoints restrict movement throughout the West Bank, despite a recent agreement to ease such restrictions.  Fluid communications between Gaza and the West Bank have yet to be established. And a barrier continues to be built on occupied Palestinian territory, despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice. The Quartet is deeply concerned about these matters, and has reminded Israel that it must meet its obligations.

The Palestinian people also face serious humanitarian and development challenges.  Their economy, security services and Government institutions all require continued support, as well as far-reaching reforms.  The most urgent need is to stabilize the Palestinian Authority's finances.  I appeal to donors from the region and the wider international community to provide the support that is required at this critical time.

For my part, I would like to stress my personal commitment to help the Palestinian people achieve, by peaceful means, what is rightfully theirs: a viable, contiguous, independent State of Palestine living at peace with the State of Israel.

Let everyone commit unequivocally to this goal.  And let us then work together to achieve it.  Thank you very much.

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