RAMALLAH, West Bank — UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained the only viable option as he made his first visit to the West Bank since taking office.
Guterres spoke after meeting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah following talks with Israeli leaders on Monday.
“I want to express very strongly [not only] the total commitment of the United Nations but my personal total commitment to do everything for a two-state solution to materialize,” he said.
“I have said several times there is no Plan B to a two-state solution.”
A two-state solution to the conflict has been endorsed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders for over a decade, but support for the framework has recently been called into question in Jerusalem and Washington.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads what is seen as one of the most right-wing government’s in Israel’s history, and on Monday said his government would not evacuate Israeli settlements in the West Bank, land which the Palestinians see as the basis of their future state.
Some members of Netanyahu’s coalition advocate annexing large swaths of the West Bank currently under full Israeli civil and military control, which critics say would make an independent Palestinian state unviable.
US President Donald Trump has said he wants to reach the “ultimate deal,” but has not himself spoke out in favor of the two-state solution, saying he could support whatever solution “both parties like,” breaking with decades of US support for Palestinian statehood.
Palestinian leaders have continued to express their support for a two-state solution, but a State Department spokeswoman said last week the US did not want to “bias one side over the other” in peace talks by supporting a two-state solution and no mention of it was made in official statements following a meeting last week between White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Guterres on Tuesday said Israeli settlements are an obstacle to peace, while also noting that they are “illegal under international law.”
After meeting Netanyahu Monday, he criticized settlements but also said Palestinians must condemn terrorism.
He said on Tuesday that “it is important to create conditions for leaders of all sides to appeal for calm, to avoid forms of incitement, for violence to settle down.”
Israeli leaders have said Palestinian incitement against the Jewish state is a key reason why peace efforts have not advanced.
Peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in 2014.
Following the meeting with Guterres, Hamdallah called on the United Nations to compel Israel to abide by the rules of international law and impose what he said was international justice that has been absent for 70 years, the official Wafa news agency reported.
Dov Lieber contributed to this report.