Press Releases

    3 December 2008

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

    "Peace Can and Must be Promoted not Only at the Political Level, But at the Grass Roots"

    Message to Department of Public Information Seminar on Peace in the Middle East in Vienna, 2-3 December 2008

    (delivered by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information,
     in Vienna, 2 December)

    VIENNA, 3 December (UN Information Service) - It is a pleasure to send greetings to all the participants in this important seminar on peace in the Middle East. I thank the Government and people of Austria for hosting this event, and for their enduring commitment to the United Nations.

    We have seen many difficulties in the past year. But, it has been a crucial time in setting the stage for peace.

    I know we all regret that the goal of reaching a peace treaty by the end of this year, as set out last year at Annapolis, appears unlikely to be achieved. However, the parties have engaged in direct, intensive negotiations, and have succeeded in creating trust and a framework where none existed only two years ago. We must not diminish that achievement. Moreover, the parties' own joint assessment that their negotiations have been substantial and promising is noteworthy. I welcome their determination to continue uninterrupted, during the current period of transition, towards a comprehensive peace agreement addressing all issues.

    Recent developments underscore, however, the large gap between the political tracks and the situation on the ground. Settlement activity, rocket fire, a humanitarian emergency in the Gaza Strip and divisions among Palestinian factions pose considerable obstacles. If people are to have faith in the political process, there is a need for tangible improvements in living conditions and security.

    Two years ago, at a previous media seminar in this series held in Moscow, Israelis and Palestinians launched a civil society initiative involving the mayors of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza and Hadera. Today, the initiative is formulating a pilot project for the construction of a waste water treatment plant in Gaza that would yield health and agricultural benefits for both sides.

    This is just one effort, and it may seem somewhat removed from present realities. But it shows that peace can and must be promoted not only at the political level, but at the grass roots. That idea underpins this year's media seminar, which is dedicated to the role of the international community.

    Two thousand nine must be the year that our preparations bear fruit in a peace agreement. Our shared goal remains clear: an end to the occupation that began in 1967, the achievement of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel, in accordance with all relevant Security Council resolutions.

    Thank you for your commitment to this effort. Please accept my best wishes for a successful seminar.

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