UN Mideast envoy calls for collective efforts toward political horizon

(Xinhua) 08:44, February 23, 2024

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland (on screens) speaks via a video link at a Security Council meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York, on Feb. 22, 2024. Wennesland on Thursday called for collective efforts to restore a political horizon for Palestinians and Israelis. (Loey Felipe/UN Photo/Handout via Xinhua)

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland on Thursday called for collective efforts to restore a political horizon for Palestinians and Israelis.

"The scale of the emergency we are facing is staggering and could quickly spiral out of control in the region. I appeal for a collective, coordinated and comprehensive response to not only address the immediate crisis before us in Gaza, but to help restore a political horizon for Palestinians and Israelis alike, while promoting greater stability and peace in the region," he told the Security Council in a briefing.

"To do this, we urgently need a deal to achieve a humanitarian cease-fire and the release of hostages. We need to create the space for moving forward through dialogue rather than violence," he said.

Ultimately, the long-term solution for Gaza is political. While taking into account Israel's legitimate security concerns, there must be a clear path toward restoring single, effective Palestinian governance across the occupied Palestinian territory, including in Gaza. International support for strengthening and reforming the Palestinian Authority to improve domestic and international legitimacy will be crucial, said Wennesland via a video link from Jerusalem.

To create the conditions for this to work, there must also be a time-bound political framework to end the Israeli occupation and establish a two-state solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements, he said. "These efforts must coalesce and accelerate if we are to emerge from this nightmare into a trajectory that can provide Palestinians and Israelis with the chance of lasting peace."

Wennesland said that, almost 140 days into the war in Gaza, there is no end in sight.

He expressed deep concern about a possible full-scale Israeli military offensive in the densely populated Rafah area, where some 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering and where the only points of entry for humanitarian goods exist.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains desperate. Internally displaced persons face acute shortages of food, water, shelter and medicine. Communicable diseases are rising amid unsanitary conditions. Over 2 million people face extreme food insecurity, with women and children at greatest risk. This desperation and scarcity have led to a near total breakdown in law and order, said Wennesland.

Essential services have been heavily impacted by the fighting. Eighty-four percent of health and education facilities are damaged or destroyed. Over 62 percent of all roads and electricity feeder lines are unusable, he noted.

Wennesland reiterated his appeal to open additional access points to northern Gaza to increase the flow of aid, reduce congestion in the south and relieve some of the pressure on the population and the staff seeking to deliver aid.

He also expressed concern over the precarious situation in the West Bank.

"I am concerned that if the violence in Gaza does not end, and tensions and restrictions remain high in the West Bank, including at the Holy Sites in East Jerusalem, the holy month of Ramadan risks becoming another volatile marker rather than a time of contemplation and healing," he warned.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Zhong Wenxing)


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