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#Gaza faces dire power crisis, health services deteriorate, untreated sewage pouring into the sea

27/05/2017 Leave a comment

On May 26th I briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. This is a regular monthly briefing, which updates the Security Council on what has been happening on the ground in the past month. Last month it was focused on a broader overview of developments in the region. This month most of it was focused on the situation in Gaza, where we are walking into another crisis with our eyes wide open. I warned the Security Council that unless urgent measures are taken to de-escalate, the crisis risks spiraling out of control with devastating consequences for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Since Hamas established an Administrative Committee in March, a parallel institution to run governmental affairs in Gaza,

the intra-Palestinian political tug-of-war has led to a significant deterioration in relations between Fatah and Hamas.

The result is a significant worsening of the humanitarian crisis which risks exploding into another conflict that can only begin to be resolved by compromise, by the implementation of intra-Palestinian agreements and an ending of the closures.

In April, the Palestinian Government upheld its decision to reduce salary allowances to nearly 60,000 public sector employees in Gaza. While the Government needs to ensure its fiscal sustainability under increasingly difficult economic conditions, it is important that reforms or decisions to reduce expenditures are fairly distributed and made with consideration to the harsh conditions in Gaza.

Gaza is also in the midst of an unprecedented energy crisis. The power plant, that supplies 30 per cent of Gaza’s electricity, stopped functioning on 16 April, due to a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over taxation on fuel.

The lines supplying power from Egypt into Gaza are often down for technical reasons. This leaves Israeli power lines, which provide some 60 per cent of Gaza’s electricity, as the only reliable energy source. Meanwhile the Palestinian Government has decided to cap its purchase of electricity from Israel for Gaza. If implemented, this decision will further reduce electricity supply to Gaza by some 30per cent, plunging its population into a spiral of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Since April, the majority of Palestinians in Gaza are receiving about four hours of electricity per day. How long do you think they can survive if this is further reduced to two hours of electricity per day? Who will pay the price of the ensuing violence and escalation? It will certainly not be those who live a life of exemptions and privilege.

The price will be paid by poor Palestinians, by women and children, by people already traumatized by conflict, who have been held hostage for a decade now. They are the ones who will not have access to electricity, to water, to health services and sanitation.

No one has interest in another conflict in Gaza.

And everyone has a responsibility to avoid it. For months, the UN has warned that without addressing the structural problems of Gaza’s electricity supply we would face a humanitarian crisis. Those warnings are now a reality. I illustrated what that reality looks like.

Hospitals are now forced to postpone elective surgeries and have already reduced 80 per cent of cleaning, catering and sterilization services. Had it not been for the timely UN humanitarian intervention on April 27 to provide emergency fuel for generators some 51 surgical and obstetric operation theaters, five hemodialysis centers and a number of emergency departments would have had to close.

Since mid-April desalination plants are functioning at 15% of their capacity and drinking water is supplied for a few hours every 2-4 days.

100,000 cubic meters of raw sewage are discharged into the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis. This is the equivalent of 40 Olympic-size swimming pools of sewage. Untreated. Daily. An environmental disaster for Israel, for Egypt and Gaza is in the making.

Food prices are soaring as the price of water for irrigation has gone up by 65per cent. The manufacturing sector is grinding to a halt and over half of private industry workers have been suspended.

The UN is working determinedly to mitigate the humanitarian impact of this crisis.

A UN-managed emergency fuel operation is delivering fuel to essential services for water, health and sanitation – but our reserves will run-out in the coming weeks. It can only temporarily alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable, but is no substitute for a sustainable solution. Defusing the current energy crisis will require compromise on all sides, including tax concessions on fuel for the power plant and a profound reform of how energy is supplied in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority, Hamas – which has controlled Gaza for a decade – and Israel, all have obligations for the welfare of Gaza’s residents and must live up to their responsibilities to address the crisis and overcome political impasse.

Over the past weeks, I have engaged with the parties and our international partners to find both a solution to the immediate electricity challenges, but also to address the broader political challenge of returning Gaza to the control of the legitimate Palestinian authorities.

In another troubling development, allow me to join the High Commissioner for Human Rights in condemning yesterday’s executions of three men in Gaza in contravention of international law. These executions bring to 28 the number of death sentences carried out since the Hamas takeover in 2007, with nine just in the last year.

Turning to the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I noted that in recent weeks we have seen more tragic examples of the human toll that this conflict inflicting, with 6 Palestinians killed in various acts of violence.

I expressed my concern at the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian detainees protesting against their conditions in Israeli jails, which, on the eve of the Ramadan, has now entered its 40th day. According to reports, the Israel Prison Service has evacuated at least 60 hunger-striking prisoners to hospitals because their medical condition had worsened, while another close to 600 prisoners have been moved to infirmaries set up in the prisons.

Reports of punitive measures against the hunger strikers, including restricted access to lawyers and the denial of family visits, are alarming. The right of detainees to access a lawyer is a right that should never be curtailed.

I am glad that a day after my briefing to the Security Council,

it was confirmed by the ICRC that the hunger strike has ended.

On 4 May the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee met in Brussels to discuss the key socio-economic challenges faced by the Palestinian Authority. Regrettably, a number of key issues remained unresolved between the parties on access and movement, energy, water and fiscal sustainability. While many of the solutions are technical, ultimately, the decisions to implement them are political.

I encouraged that in recent weeks the Israeli and Palestinian Ministers of Finance have come together in an effort to move these issues forward. Their fruitful consultations, the first meeting of the Joint Water Committee in seven years and the progress in the implementation of last year’s landmark Electricity Agreement are positive steps that need to be encouraged and supported.

I also took note of recently announced Israeli measures designed to help the Palestinian economy in the West Bank. These steps reportedly include the proposed zoning of land in Area C adjacent to several Palestinian cities, for their residential, industrial and agricultural use; development of industrial zones in Tarkumiya and Hebron; as well as expanding the hours of operation of the Allenby Bridge Crossing. These are positive steps that also need to be substantially expanded if they are to achieve the desired effect.

Before closing, I turned very briefly to Lebanon and the Golan. Regrettably,

the Lebanese Parliament has not yet reconvened

following its one-month adjournment of 12 April. Agreement on an electoral law remains elusive, less than a month before Parliament’s tenure ends on 20 June. Hopefully negotiations can be finalized in time to avoid institutional instability and to allow for the holding of elections in accordance with the Constitution.

In the Golan, the ceasefire between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic has been maintained, albeit in a volatile environment attributable to the ongoing conflict in Syria and against the backdrop of continued military activity across the ceasefire line. This has included incidents of spillover and retaliatory fire as well as Israeli air strikes in Syria targeting Hizbullah.

Both Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic have stated their continued commitment to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and support for the full return of UNDOF to the area of separation, conditions permitting.

In closing, I said a few words on efforts to advance the prospects for peace. As the conflict has ebbed and flowed, the key messages to both sides from the United Nations, including through its role in the Quartet, and the broader international community, have remained clear, consistent and firm.

Above all, Israel’s almost 50-year occupation and settlement enterprise are untenable and must end through meaningful negotiations that address all final status issues. Their perpetuation is sending an unmistakable message to another generation of Palestinians that their dream of statehood is destined to remain just that, a dream, and to Israelis that their desire for peace, security and regional recognition also remains unattainable.

Still, much can and must be done. Israel can undertake transformative steps to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, to empower the Palestinian leadership, and to move meaningfully towards a negotiated resolution of the conflict, in accordance with international law and Security Council resolutions.

Palestinians, too, should heed the repeated calls to combat violence and incitement. Internally, they must also rise to the challenge of forging a genuine reconciliation – critical to advancing peace and fulfilling their national aspirations.

This summer will mark ten years since the 2007 Hamas violent take-over of the Gaza Strip. The past decade has seenGaza’s infrastructure, its basic services and private sector gradually debilitated, its economy weakened with real GDP per capita and employment decreasing, and the gender gap continuing to grow. Gaza faces a downward spiral of de-development. The widening socio-economic gap between Gaza and the West Bank further highlights the need to end the drivers of this inhumane and volatile situation. Deteriorating conditions only fuel anger and instability, strengthen extremists and undermine chances for a serious political process.

If Israelis and Palestinians hope to extract themselves from the immeasurable burden this conflict has wrought, they must be willing to take the painful steps that will ultimately lead to peace. Neither side can afford another missed opportunity.

You can read the remarks as delivered here

UN News Centre summary here

Fiscal Sustainability, #Palestinian Development and #Gaza Energy Crisis at Centre of AHLC Discussions in Brussels

04/05/2017 2 comments

On 4 May Norway and the EU hosted a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liason Committee (AHLC) in Brussels. The Committee meets twice a year to coordinate international efforts in support of Palestnian development. In a day of bilater meetings, including with Israel and the Palestnian Authority, participants review what has been achieved and what is pending. It was also an opportunity to welcome newly appointed US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt. 

In my remarks I started by looking at the context in which our discussions took place. The impasse of the Middle East Peace Process has pushed both Israelis and Palestinians to take unilateral steps that drive them further away from each other and reduce the prospects for peace. Settlement expansion, violence, and the absence of visionary leadership continue to define the conflict on a daily basis. 
I noted that In this context political initiatives are important. In a Middle East that is the midst of a perfect storm of sectarian violence, terror and failing states developments in the Arab-Israeli conflict continue to resonate across the region. The question of Palestine remains a potent symbol and rallying cry that is easily misappropriated and exploited by extremist groups. 

The first step in restoring hope is to recognize that both Palestinians and Israelis have legitimate national and historic aspirations that can only be met if they separate in two states that live in peace, security and mutual recognition. That is why now is not the time to give up on the two-state solution. 

The second step is to work on the ground to build trust. Steps that reverse the negative trends, including settlement expansion, violence and incitement and address the illicit arms buildup and militant activity in Gaza. But also steps that are in line with existing agreements. Progress in the areas of housing, water, energy, and other sectors, along with significantly easing Palestinian movement restrictions, can be made while respecting Israel’s legitimate security needs. There has been much discussion of these steps in the AHLC format.  

It is worth highlighting today the significant efforts of the Palestinian leadership to reduce its budget deficit as the PA faces an 800 million dollar financing gap in the coming year. We in the international community must support the Palestinian Authority’s state-building efforts, or risk losing the very foundations of the future Palestinian state. So must Israel, as it is in her security and national interest to see stability and prosperity in the neighbourhood. 

In our discussions in the last two days we agreed on the need for increased Palestinian and Israeli economic cooperation and an easing of restrictions on access and movement. While the goodwill and understanding is there — and important water and electricity agreements have been reached, their implementation is still severely lacking. The questions of fiscal leakages, energy, water and access have to be urgently addressed. We must support the parties in reviving their efforts to find solutions to these key economic challenges, as we work to restore a political perspective. 

The third step is a return to negotiations. Today it is not just the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships that recognize the risks posed by the Middle East’s turmoil. The region — Egypt, Jordan and beyond agree that cooperation — rather than confrontation, is now needed more than ever. This creates a unique opportunity that must be used. The Arab Peace Initiative is still on the table, the Middle East Quartet is engaging on the issues at hand and the new US administration has quickly taken these challenges to task. It is important that we do not miss the opportunity to help the parties find their way back to negotiations. 

I also focused on the situation in Gaza as I believe that we are walking into another crisis with our eyes wide open. For the last ten years two million people have been held hostage by disagreements, divisions and closures. It is time for this situation to end. That is why in its report to the AHLC this year UNSCO focused on the effects of the ten years of Hamas control of the Gaza strip, the ensuing military confrontations and closures. 

The current electricity crisis is a manifestation of the broader political crisis. Since the shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant, hospitals are operating on minimum capacity putting patient lives at risk. The population is supplied portable water only once every four to five days. More than 100,000 cubic meters of raw sewage is being discharged daily into the Mediterranean Sea. These developments increase health risks for both Palestinians and Israelis along the coast.

I urged all parties to refrain from taking actions that would further exacerbate the situation and to seek a political solution to the standoff. This situation can only be resolved through a compromise, based on the implementation of intra-Palestinian agreements that would end the division and return Gaza to the control of the legitimate Palestinian authorities. 

Until then and under the current circumstances the United Nations can only work to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable. The Palestinian Authority, Israel and indeed Hamas — who have controlled Gaza for a decade now – have obligations as duty-bearers for the welfare of Gaza’s residents and must live up to their responsibilities.

In closing I stated that we cannot continue business as usual. We do not have the luxury to manage the conflict, we must resolve it. We must work in parallel on all tracks — on the political track, to restore hope; on the trust building track, to encourage the parties to refrain from unilateral steps and improve the lives of people; on the negotiations track, to help both sides find their way back to the negotiating table to address the final status issues; on the international track, to support through the Middle East Quartet framework and the region a just and lasting two-state solution; on the security front, to prevent terror and fight incitement; and last but not least on addressing the grave situation and the risks emanating from Gaza. 

Knesset should reconsider bill that protects settlements on #WestBank private Palestinian land

06/02/2017 Leave a comment

knessetToday, the Knesset is scheduled to vote on the so called “Regularisation” or “Legaliasation” Bill.

It would enable the continued use of privately-owned Palestinian land for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and protect  outposts built on private land. Some have pronounced it to be a step towards the annexation of the West Bank. The Attorney General of Israel has declared it to be anti-constitutional and it is in contravention of international law.

 I am concerned that if adopted into law, this bill will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace. That is why I reiterate my call to legislators to reconsider this move.

Settlement activities are illegal under international law and run counter to the Middle East Quartet position that settlements are one of the main obstacles to peace. All core issues should be resolved between the parties through direct negotiations on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and mutual agreements.

#Democracy & the um al jamaheer for all #Palestinians

29/11/2016 Leave a comment
On November 29th Fatah — the main Palestinian political party, opened its 7th Congress in Ramallah. It comes against a background of political divisions and turmoil across the West Bank and Gaza. Having been delayed for quite a few years, with local elections having been recently postponed and with presidential and parliamentary elections not having taken place in about a decade, the Fatah Congress was the first opportunity to renew the democratic legitimacy of Palestinian institutions.
The Congress contended with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. I was asked to address the gathering. My main message was focused on the need to preserve unity, on the need to strengthen democracy and never give up on peace and negotiations.
Here is what I said:
“Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here with you today on behalf of the Secretary-General on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
It is an honour to address the 7th Congress of Fatah – which is the soul of the Palestinian people, just as the Palestinian people are the soul of the Arab nation.
Dear delegates, today you make history.
A strong, democratic and inclusive Fatah is the best guarantee for the realization of the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, for the fulfilment of their inalienable rights of self-determination, statehood, dignity and freedom.
Your movement has turned a people of refugees into a nation seeking freedom and statehood.
I am confident that all in Fatah understand the historic responsibility that your movement has for the Palestinian national cause.
For generations of Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank, from East Jerusalem to the refugee camps in the region your movement has stood for freedom. We, your friends, all confident that all of you here today and those beyond the confines of this great hall will seize the opportunity to promote unity, to strengthen the mainstream centre of Palestinian politics and to stand against the rising tide of extremism and radicalism across the region.
Fatah is the um al jamaheer for all Palestinians.
Fatah is Palestine’s democracy.
Preserve this democracy. Protect the dream of Palestinian statehood. Stand against violence. Work for peace.
And never give up! Never give up!
Never give up until the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. A state that lives in peace, in security and mutual recognition with Israel.
In the last 30 years, Abu Ammar and the Palestinian leadership have accepted key UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Your leadership has renounced terror, it has supported the principle of two states and has declared the state of Palestine.
Since then, under the leadership of President Abbas, we have witnessed the building of national institutions, we have seen the upgrading of the status of Palestine in the United Nations, and last year we saw the Palestinian flag raised at the United Nations.
Your Excellency President Abbas,
Thank you for your leadership, for your unfailing commitment to the statehood of Palestine, for your belief in peace and non-violence.
Today, sadly, the Israeli occupation continues. Illegal settlement expansion, violence, terror and divisions are threatening the bold vision of a just peace. Today, the prospect of two-states is slipping through our fingers to be replaced by a one-state reality.
Let me speak to those who think that today’s status quo is acceptable. To those who criticise the two-state solution or call for annexation.
Let me make it very clear — they are wrong.
They advocate for an open-ended occupation. An endless conflict that breeds anger among the people of Palestine just as it breeds anger among the people of Israel. It feeds radicalism across the region.
These people offer no alternative. They give no hope, and we need to stand up to them.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fatah has a role in advancing the vision of Palestine through bold leadership, through negotiations and through non-violent resistance.
I wish you success. Success in electing a leadership that will wisely guide you through the challenging environment. A leadership that will work to end the occupation. That will bring about national unity. That will have the strength and the honour and the dignity to negotiate with Israel on an equal footing and that will, inshallah, deliver a peace treaty that brings about freedom and independence to Palestine.
The United Nations will continue to stand side-by-side with the Palestinian people and all those who work for peace and a just and fair resolution to this conflict.
I wish you success. I wish Palestine success.”

I condemn today’s #terror attack in #Jerusalem. Deplorable that #Hamas glorify such acts

09/10/2016 Leave a comment

jerusalem-shootingI condemn this morning’s terror attack by a Palestinian perpetrator in occupied East Jerusalem which killed two Israelis and injured six others. Nothing can justify such attacks.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of all victims and I hope for a full and speedy recovery of the wounded.

It is deplorable and unacceptable that Hamas and others choose to glorify such acts which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis

Патриарх на мира и прогреса

28/09/2016 Leave a comment

Днес на 93 годишна възраст ни напусна патриархът на мира и прогреса Шимон Перес. За нас българите, президентът Перес ще остане сред най-големите приятели на България. Той винаги е вярвал, че един народ не е велик, защото е многоброен или контролира голяма територия, а защото е способен на големи дела, на голрми открития и на прогрес. Той виждаше в България вдъхновяващ пример за толерантност и морална сила и винаги я даваше за пример. Баща на съвременен Израел, Перес отдаде живота си, за да изгради модерна държава за своя народ. Бори се за мир до последния си дъх.

За първи път се запознахме през 1996 малко след трагичното убийството на премиера Рабин. Посрещал съм го в София, в Брюксел, множество пъти сме били заедно в Израел. Последната ни среща беше през ноември 2015 в Тел Авив.

Почивай в мир, Шимон!

Три причини, поради които газовият хъб “Балкан” си заслужава

07/09/2016 1 comment

Публикувано във в. 24 часа

https://www.24chasa.bg/mnenia/article/5747501

Това е първият изцяло български проект, отговарящ на националния ни интерес в областта на енергийната диверсификация Проектът за газов хъб “Балкан” е български проект. Това е първият изцяло български проект, отговарящ на националния ни интерес в областта на енергийната диверсификация и разработен в България с оглед на стратегическото ни положение. Това е дългосрочен проект, по който ще се работи години, може би десетилетия напред.

Дали ще се случи, зависи както от нас, така и от партньорите ни, защото за неговата реализация се изисква сътрудничество с Европейския съюз, с региона и с Русия, която ще продължи да бъде фактор в областта на енергетиката и газовите доставки. Как ще се случи, зависи от способността ни да работим по реализацията на дългосрочен национален приоритет чрез премерени дипломатически и икономически ходове. Неизбежно в този разговор ще се намеси и геополитиката. Затова внимателно трябва да се анализират и използват външнополитическите инструменти, които ситуацията ще предлага.

Първият успех за проекта е мощната подкрепа на ЕС. Вторият — дипломатически успех, дойде във Варна преди дни – инициативата на министър-председателя Борисов за тристранна среща между България, ЕС и Русия по въпросите на хъба. Въпреки обтегнатите отношения между Европа и Русия.

Има поне три причини, поради които проектът си заслужава и може да бъде успешен. Първо, регионът не разполага със собствен регионален газов хъб.

Защо само Западна Европа трябва да печели от свободния пазар на газ?

Второ, Югоизточна Европа очаква много по-голям ръст на потреблението на газ от останалата част на Европа. Защо да не се възползваме от това като държава? И третата причина – силната покрепа, която България получава от Европейския съюз. В крайна сметка България е пресечна точка на важни европейски транспортни коридори и е естествен маршрут на енергийните потоци от юг, изток и югоизток. Страната ни обаче не може да бъде третирана само като територия, през която се реализират проектите на други държави.

На базата на собствена стратегия България може да се превърне във важен газов разпределителен център на Балканите. България разполага и с добре развита национална газопреносна мрежа, изгражда междусистемните връзки със съседите ни, започнаха и проучвания за добив на газ в Черно море.

Докато Европейският съюз е изправен пред историческо предизвикателство – как да удържи мощната миграционна вълна по границите си, никога не трябва да забравяме, че сигурността на енергийните доставки и диверсификацията остават от ключово значение за всички. Както по темата за енергетиката, така и по темата за миграцията, България има исторически шанс, че не сме сами, а получаваме подкрепа от цяла Европа. И по двете теми

имаме нужда от солидарността на ЕС и партньорства отвъд Европа.

И по двете теми ролята на българската дипломация ще бъде от ключово значение. И по двете теми е важно всички да се обединят около националния приоритет за газовия хъб, за да може да започне неговата реализация.