The conference, organized jointly by the OIC-UN and League of Arab States, aims to discuss Israeli settlements, the role of the international community and regional organizations, and EU guidelines on the import and labeling of settlement goods.
Speaking at the opening, OIC Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Samir Bakr, said Israel was doing everything to bring Palestine down despite the international community’s efforts to find peace. Israeli settlers number 600,000, and settlements fragment Palestinian land and communities thus “Judaizing” Jerusalem.
He added that these activities, including measures transforming the demographics and the exploitation of natural resources in the Occupied Territories, are in violation of international law. He also said that settlers go on undeterred to destroy Palestinian homes and attack churches and mosques.
He further called for an international framework to set a deadline to end the occupation, and said that the Security Council should take measures and that the Palestinian Rights Committee had also a role to play in establishing the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as capital. He said there is no peace without this.
A statement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was delivered on his behalf by Rima Khalaf, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
Ban said that Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories run counter to its stated objective to realize a Two-State solution. He also voiced concern at new levels of settler violence against Palestinians. “The continuing policy of settlement expansion and the climate of impunity relating to settler activity are a root cause of the escalating violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” he said.
Riad Malki, Palestine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the settlement issue is not about real estate or construction of housing units; for each settlement constructed and expanded, Israel destroys Palestinian property and livelihood, something that disrupts Palestinian social fabric and erodes Palestinian hope.
He also said that the EU’s labeling of Israeli settler products was positive, yet overdue. It was a step in the right direction, but nowhere near enough.
Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League, also called for an end to the Israeli occupation, that the Security Council must adopt binding resolutions and that the international community and the Quartet should move from mere condemnation of Israeli acts to concrete pressures to end Israeli occupation.