Kohana says peace in the Middle East elusive

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN Dr. Palitha Kohona, speaking at the UN as the Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said peace in the Middle East had remained elusive for far too long and it was a sad commentary on humanity that it had failed in that pressing task.

He said that the Special Committee was seriously disturbed by the situation in the Occupied Territory, a UN statement said today.

During his visit to the region in July, he held that the situation on the ground, especially in Gaza, was unsustainable and that renewed violence was likely unless measures were taken immediately to ameliorate the conditions.

He said that recent events supported the Committee’s conclusions.  The continued demolition of homes and the resultant displacement of Palestinians, the blockade of Gaza and the consequent reliance on illegal smuggling simply to survive, led to one deeply troubling conclusion that those practices amounted to “a strategy to either force the Palestinians off their land or to so severely marginalize them as to establish and maintain a system of permanent occupation”.

The Committee called on Israel, consistent with its international law obligations, to adopt its recommendations.  It similarly called on Palestinian armed groups to comply with international humanitarian law and cease indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars into Israel.  While the suspension of hostilities last week was welcome, he was conscious of the continuing tense situation in Gaza.  He urged the international community not to lose sight of the overarching goal of two States living side-by-side in peace and security.

He then read a statement by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which stated that the International Day was a reminder to the international community that Palestinians were still denied their right to self-determination, independence and sovereignty, and dispossessed from much of their land.

The statement called for the peace process to overcome its current impasse.  Sri Lanka supported Palestine’s application for admission as a full member of the United Nations, it said. (Colombo Gazette)