United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be a two-state solution, and that the one-state option would “spell doom” for both sides.
Speaking at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York for the final time as UN chief, Ban gave a wide-ranging address focused largely on the Syrian civil war, which has claimed the lives of over 300,000 people since March 2011.
On stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Ban said that prospects for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel “are being lowered by the day.”
“It pains me that this past decade has been lost to peace. Ten years lost to illegal settlement expansion. Ten years lost to intra-Palestinian divide, growing polarization and hopelessness,” he said, adding that West Bank settlements were “obstacles to progress.”
“This is madness. Replacing a two-state solution with a one-state construct would spell doom: denying Palestinians their freedom and rightful future, and pushing Israel further from its vision of a Jewish democracy towards greater global isolation,” said Ban.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon criticized some of Ban’s comments, charging that “the real madness is of the UN’s.”
“Instead of slamming the incitement and the terror [on the part of Palestinians], instead of bringing [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] to the negotiating table, the secretary general has chosen once again to attack Israel,” he said in a statement, adding that this is a “crazy obsession regarding Israel and it must stop.”
“At a time when Palestinian terror has returned to Israeli streets, the secretary-general has chosen to attack Israel and not the terrorism and has ignored the direct responsibility of Abu Mazen [Abbas] and the Palestinian leadership who continue to incite terror,” Danon added.
At least six Israelis were injured in the most recent wave of Palestinian attacks over the past week, one of them seriously.
The UN chief opened his address with a call to end the Syrian civil war. Railing against “powerful patrons that keep feeding the war machine,” Ban said such countries “also have blood on their hands,” urging “all those with influence to end the fighting and get talks started.”
“Present in this hall today are representatives of governments that have ignored, facilitated, funded, participated in or even planned and carried out atrocities inflicted by all sides of the Syria conflict against Syrian civilians,” he said, adding that “many groups have killed innocent civilians — none more so than the government of Syria.”
In his address, Ban denounced the “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack” on an aid convoy in Aleppo province on Monday and confirmed that the United Nations had suspended deliveries of humanitarian assistance.
“Just when you think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower,” he added.
The UN chief hailed the aid workers on the convoy as “heroes” and said “those who bombed them were cowards” before calling for accountability for crimes committed in the war.
Both Syria and Russia denied they were behind the raid on the convoy near the northern city Aleppo, which the Red Cross said killed “around 20 civilians” including an employee of the Syrian Red Crescent. Air raids and shelling meanwhile pounded key battlefronts across the country — dimming hopes that the fraught ceasefire brokered by Moscow and Washington could be revived.
Ban blamed all sides for killing innocent people, but “none more so than the government of Syria, which continues to barrel bomb neighborhoods and systematically torture thousands of detainees.”
The former South Korean foreign minister is stepping down as UN secretary-general on December 31 after 10 years.
AFP contributed to this report