India urges Israel, Palestine to re-engage in direct talks to advance goal of two-state solution

India urges Israel, Palestine to re-engage in direct talks to advance goal of two-state solution

United Nations: Welcoming the decision to resume coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, India has urged the leadership of both sides to use the opportunity and re-engage in direct negotiations to advance the goal of a two-state solution.

The two-state solution has for decades been the primary focus of efforts to achieve peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The solution would establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel — two states for two peoples. In theory, this would win Israel security and allow it to retain a Jewish demographic majority (letting the country remain Jewish and democratic), while granting the Palestinians a state.

Most governments and world bodies, including the UN, have set achievement of the two-state solution as official policy. This goal has been the basis of peace talks for decades.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly session on ‘Question of Palestine’ on Wednesday, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said the Israel-Palestine conflict is almost as old as the United Nations itself, but the aspirations of Palestinian people for a State for themselves remain unfulfilled.

“The peace negotiations between the two parties have remained stalled since 2014. Developments on the ground are not creating conditions conducive to the resumption of these negotiations. We call on parties to refrain from steps that hinder resumption of negotiations,” he said.

Tirumurti said India is happy to note the decision to resume coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

We urge the leadership of Israel and Palestine to use this opportunity and re-engage in direct negotiations to advance the goal of a two-State solution. We also call upon the Secretary-General, the members of the Middle East Quartet and the key Arab partners to take immediate steps to facilitate this dialogue, he said.

Last month, the Palestinian Authority had said it was resuming its civil and security cooperation with Israel that had been suspended since May over Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. As per media reports, Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh wrote on Twitter that “the relationship with Israel will return to how it was” after President Mahmoud Abbas received confirmation that Israel remained committed to past agreements with the Palestinians.

Tirumurti reiterated that India remains fully supportive of a peaceful negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict achieved through direct negotiations, resulting in the establishment of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

The Indian envoy underscored that India has been steadfast in its support for the just Palestinian cause and in its solidarity with the Palestinian people, which extends beyond political support.

It is our firm belief that even as peace is being pursued on the political track, the people of Palestine must not be forgotten, he said.

Tirumurti said India’s efforts are also focused on Palestinian nation-building and strengthening institutions through the India-Palestine development partnership covering various sectors of the Palestinian economy. This includes construction of schools, hospitals, technology parks and centres for excellence.

We see it as an essential investment to help establish a viable and sovereign Palestinian State, he said.

Over the years, India has also invested in strengthening human resource capacities of the Palestinian people through scholarships for Palestinian students pursuing higher education and training of Palestinian professionals in prestigious Indian institutes. Around 250 Palestinians benefit every year from such opportunities.

Highlighting another dimension of India’s support to the Palestinian cause, Tirumurti said India quadrupled its support to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in recent years, recognising the acute crisis faced by the UN agency. India has made a multi-year pledge of USD 10 million over the next two years to contribute to a more stable and predictable funding for UNRWA.

“We consider our partnership with UNRWA as an investment in peace and stability in the region,” he said, thanking all member states, who supported India’s membership to the Advisory Commission of UNRWA.

Addressing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People 2020 Virtual Meeting on Tuesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had expressed a “deep sense of worry about the grim realities in the occupied Palestinian Territory and the diminishing prospects of resolving the conflict, which has been with the United Nations since its very creation”.

Guterres expressed hope that recent developments will encourage Palestinian and Israeli leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations, with the support of the international community, towards a two-state solution and will create opportunities for regional cooperation.

Only a two-state solution that realises the legitimate national aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis can lead to sustainable peace, he said, adding that the United Nations remains committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict.

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