Reacting to reports of a unity deal between Hamas and Fatah, the top United Nations envoy for the Middle East today said that reconciliation between the two main Palestinian factions should take place in a manner that promotes the cause of peace.
UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have been urging Palestinian factions for some time to put their differences behind them, put national interest first and find a way forward so they can address the many challenges they face.
Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after ousting the Fatah party of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that controls parts of the West Bank.
On Wednesday, representatives of Hamas and Fatah announced that they struck a deal to form a national unity government and hold elections within a year.
“Reunification is essential for achieving a two-state solution that should be reached through negotiations,” Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement issued in Jerusalem.
Mr. Serry “notes with much interest” the agreement announced in Cairo, the statement added. “He hopes that reconciliation will now take place in a manner that promotes the cause of peace and will continue to follow developments closely.”
In a related development, a two-day UN seminar that opened today in Helsinki, Finland, is focusing on mobilizing international efforts in support of Palestinian State-building activities.
In a message to the meeting, Mr. Ban noted that the Palestinian Authority has accelerated progress in improving its governmental functions in the limited territory under its control and despite constraints on the ground.
“However, the institutional achievements of the Palestinian State-building programme are approaching their limits within the political and physical space currently available. Time is of the essence and serious efforts must now be exerted by all to bring the parties back to the negotiating table as soon as possible,” he added in the message, which was delivered by Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
He said that along with the continued impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, constraints on Palestinian urban development and obstacles to free movement and access in the West Bank remain among the most substantial impediments to Palestinian economic viability.
“While Israel has taken measures to facilitate movement, it must roll back its measures of occupation and facilitate continued economic and institutional progress in order to match the Palestinian State-building achievements,” he stated.
Abdou Salam Diallo, the Chairman of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, also remarked that the Palestinians are reaching the limit of what is realizable unless the measures of occupation are rolled back, noting that the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza, which was imposed after Hamas took over the territory, continues to impede economic development.
Meanwhile, he added, in the West Bank, “onerous and highly unpredictable” movement and access restrictions, settlements, house demolitions and displacement of residents and the separation wall have put a “chokehold” on investment and opportunity.
“The Gaza blockade must be lifted completely, and measures of the occupation in the West Bank must be reversed, including a complete stop to all settlement activity, to allow socio-economic development to take root,” stated Mr. Diallo.