Two-State solution the only path to a just, lasting peace, says Antonio Guterres on Israel-Gaza crisis

Israel-Gaza. Secretary-General António Guterres addressing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Photo Courtesy: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

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Secretary-General António Guterres underscored on Wednesday (January 31, 2024) the critical role of the UN committee on the rights of Palestinians in the face of the ongoing and escalating war in Gaza, stressing that only a two-State solution can ensure a just and lasting peace and stability in the Middle East region.

Addressing the annual session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the UN chief voiced deep concern over the violence and suffering that has intensified, particularly since the October 7 attack by Hamas and other militants based in Gaza and the subsequent military offensive by Israel.

“The death, destruction, displacement, hunger, loss, and grief in Gaza over the past 120 days are a scar on our shared humanity and conscience,” he said.

The relentless bombardment by Israeli forces across Gaza resulted in civilian deaths and destruction “at a pace and scale unlike anything we have witnessed in recent years,” he added.

Over 26,750 Palestinians, predominantly women and children, have been reportedly killed in the enclave and over 70 per cent of civilian infrastructure severely damaged or destroyed. Across the Strip, over 1.7 million people have been displaced, not knowing if they will have homes to return to.

UNRWA – ‘backbone’ of aid in Gaza

Expressing alarm over the collapsing humanitarian system in the Gaza Strip, the Secretary-General called for rapid, safe, and sustained humanitarian access, particularly in the north where access has been denied. He appealed for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and cooperation with UN actors on the ground.

He highlighted that the Organization has acted promptly on the very serious allegations that several UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October attacks, with its highest investigative body having started an investigation.

“I was personally horrified by these accusations,” he said, adding that he also met with the agency’s donors on Tuesday, “to listen to their concerns and to outline the steps we are taking to address them.”

He underscored the importance of keeping UNRWA’s vital work going to meet the dire needs of civilians in Gaza, and to ensure its continuity of services to Palestine refugees in the occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

“UNRWA is the backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza,” he said.

Violence in occupied West Bank

Turning attention to the occupied West Bank, Guterres expressed concern over settler violence and Palestinian attacks, as well as hostilities across the Blue Line which separates Israeli and Lebanese armed forces, and attacks in Syria, Iraq and the Red Sea.

“I call for urgent steps to de-escalate the situation and spare the region from more violence before it is too late,” he urged.

In a final plea, the Secretary-General stressed the need for tangible progress towards a two-State solution based on 1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States, in line with UN resolutions and international law.

“The international community must not waver in its commitment. Let us work together to advance a meaningful peace process that will put an end to the tragic cycles of fear, hatred and violence and build a more peaceful and hopeful future for Palestinians and Israelis.”

The Committee

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote the rights of the Palestinian people, raise public awareness and mobilize assistance to the Palestinian people.

It is composed of 25 UN Member States, and has 24 observers, including the State of Palestine.

The current chair of the Committee is Cheikh Niang of Senegal.