Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki -moon's message, as delivered by Oscar Fernandez-Taranco , Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, for the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, in Quito today:
It is my pleasure to send greetings to all those taking part in the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine. I thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for organizing this event, as well as the Government of Ecuador for hosting.
The United Nations General Assembly declared the year 2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
As the conflict in Syria continues and new peace and security emergencies arise around the globe, we must not be diverted from the urgent need to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am hopeful for the success of diplomatic efforts being spearheaded by the United States of America.
The United Nations remains committed to a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine resulting in the two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognized, pre-1967 borders.
The current renewed round of peace negotiations has presented a rare and important opening to advance the two-State solution. I call on both parties to act to reach an agreement, even if it requires painful concessions. In seeking peace, we must focus also on the important efforts towards Palestinian economic revival.
I am encouraged by the commitment of Arab leaders to uphold the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which holds the promise of normalizing relations between the entire Arab region and Israel, in return for a comprehensive and just solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
At the same time, I remain deeply troubled by Israel's rapidly expanding settlement activity in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. International law is clear: settlements are illegal and they also risk rendering a two-State solution impossible.
The situation in East Jerusalem is of particular concern. Increasing incidents at Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, as well as the recent Israeli Knesset debate on a bill to impose "Israeli sovereignty" over Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif are deeply troubling. Such actions with regard to this highly sensitive issue may be perceived as serious acts of incitement in the wider region. Moreover, these actions undermine the current negotiations process, threatening the prospects for peace.
I am deeply concerned by the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel and the unacceptable rocket firing into civilian areas, which seriously risks undermining the fragile ceasefire with Israel. I call for maximum restraint by all sides to allow the implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access and Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).
I am hopeful that the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People will help to create an environment favourable for fulfilling the collective international responsibility towards the Palestinian people and their free and prosperous future.
Please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.
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