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UN Secretary-General: 'There is no plan B to the two-state solution'

Aug. 29, 2017 9:05 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 30, 2017 12:47 P.M.)
Palestinians wave their national flags to celebreate the raising of the Palestinian flag at the UN headquarters in New York, on September 30, 2015 (AFP/Abbas Momani/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that there was “no plan B to the two-state solution” during a conference with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah city in the occupied West Bank, as part of the UN leader's three-day visit to the region.

“A two-state solution that will end the occupation and, with the creation of conditions, also the suffering even to the Palestinian people, is in my opinion the only way to guarantee that peace is established,” Guterres said during the conference.

“I’ve said several times that there is no plan B to the two-state solution,” he added.

Guterres reiterated the UN’s stance that Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law, and they were an “obstacle that needs to be removed in relation to the possibility of two-state solution to be adequately implemented.”

While UN leaders have consistently condemned Israel’s settlement building on Palestinian territory, Israeli officials have taken a very different tone, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stating on Monday that "there will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel (West Bank). It has been proven that it does not help peace."

"We are here to stay, forever," Netanyahu added.

Guterres said that it was his “deep belief” that the peace process between Israel and Palestine should be restarted, and noted that improvements to the economic and social life of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank should not act as a replacement for the two-state solution, presumably referencing US President Donald Trump-led policies that have aimed to slightly ease the restrictions on Palestinian movement and economic development.

Guterres’ visit came as part of a three-day visit -- the first time the UN leader has visited the region since he was appointed secretary-general at the start of the year. Guterres has met with Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and is expected to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Monday, Guterres met with Netanyahu following a visit to Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust museum) and assured Israeli leaders that he was committed to the fight against anti-Semitism. “The right of existence of the State of Israel is clear and the right of existence in security of the State of Israel is clear,” he said.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, reiterated the “discriminatory” treatment that he believes Israel has faced at the UN.

“There is no question that we’ve had a troubled relationship with the UN. I think it has an absurd obsession with Israel, flagrantly discriminatory tactics,” Netanyahu said. “You don’t have to be the Israeli prime minister to understand that, and I think people of good faith and common sense understand that.”

Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe also welcomed Guterres’ visit in a statement, saying that he hoped it would mark a positive step towards “consolidating the principles of a just peace in the region and ending the bloody conflict.”

He added that the release of Palestinians from Israeli prisons was a “key to real peace,” and was required in order to “convince the Palestinian people of the importance of peace and give them hope that the process could work.”

Guterres also met with Israeli families on Monday whose relatives are being held by Hamas, the de facto leaders in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Qaraqe expressed outrage over the meeting, saying that it represented “obvious discrimination,” as the UN leader did not organize meetings with representatives of the 6,128 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, 450 of whom have not been provided a trial or charged with any crime.

Abbas also met with a US delegation last week led by Trump’s son-in-law and chief adviser Jared Kushner. During the meeting, US officials reportedly told the Palestinian leader that they needed several months to prepare a peace plan.

While Trump has maintained on many occasions that, under his auspices, the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be solved, his administration has painted a rather unclear picture regarding Trump’s plans in the region, while a number of high-profile US officials, including Kushner, are known to be staunch supporters of Israel.

Abbas expressed his confusion last week regarding the US stance on Israel and Palestine, reportedly saying he “can’t understand” the Trump administration’s position on the conflict, despite meeting with US officials some 20 times since Trump took office.

In February, Trump said that when it came to a solution for the conflict he could “live with either” a one- or two-state solution, in a significant departure from the US’ publicly held position in favor of a two-state solution.

However, his elusiveness has not belied the fact that Trump and his administration have maintained their pro-Israel stance, despite stated efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which Trump said in the past was "not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”
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