UN meeting in Asia examines situation in occupied Palestinian territories

“It is critical for both sides at this stage to take good-faith, confidence-building steps so as not to impair future negotiations,” Mr. Annan said in a message to the UN Asian Meeting on the Questions of Palestine.He added that Israel’s construction of a barrier in the West Bank “is seen as counterproductive” in this regard. “It deepens economic and humanitarian problems facing the Palestinians, runs contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Road Map, and sows the seeds of mistrust and suspicion among Palestinians.”While underscoring Israel’s right to protect its people against terrorist attacks, he pointed out that this duty should not be carried out in a way that violates international law, damages prospects for the creation of a Palestinian State, or increases suffering among the Palestinian people. “The practice of collective punishment and extrajudicial killings further diminishes trust and further raises levels of frustration and anger,” he added.At the same time, he urged the Palestinian Cabinet to “decisively put an end to terrorist attacks.” He voiced his repugnance at “morally reprehensible” suicide bombings against innocent Israelis and stressed that terrorism harms the Palestinian cause. “The Palestinian side should live up to its Road Map obligations as regards security and take immediate and practical steps to rein in extremists committing terrorist acts,” he said.Recalling that the Palestinian Cabinet had declared its intention to establish law and order and to curb violence, the Secretary-General also noted that there were prospects of another ceasefire, and that moves were underway for a meeting between the two Prime Ministers.In the message, delivered by Kim Hak-Su, chief of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Mr. Annan also pledged his continued efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement and said the UN and its agencies would remain engaged in development and humanitarian work on the ground. read more

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