By Safvan Allahverdi
WASHINGTON (AA) - A two-state solution to the Palestine-Israeli conflict is the only way to peace in the region, the head of the UN said.
It is “the only way to achieve stability, peace, prosperity and development in the region," Antonio Guterres said at a meeting at UN headquarters in New York with a committee on the rights of Palestinians.
Guterres praised the group for working "tirelessly" to help realize the inalienable rights of Palestinians and for being a leading voice in support of the achievement of a two-state solution able to end Israeli occupation.
"I have always said that I would like to see a Palestinian state and an Israeli state, both with capital in Jerusalem," he said, noting negative trends on the ground have the potential to create an irreversible one-state reality that is incompatible with realizing the legitimate national, historic and democratic aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping East Jerusalem that has been occupied by Israel since 1967, might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.
U.S. President Donald Trump last month recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and by doing so triggered protests across Palestinian territories. At least 19 Palestinians have since been martyred in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.
Israel's ongoing settlement and expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is "illegal under UN resolutions and international law", according to Guterres, who said the move is a major obstacle to peace and must be reversed.
"Violence and incitement continue to fuel a climate of fear and mistrust," he said. "The humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza remains dire."
In addition, Guterres said Gaza will become unlivable by 2020 unless concrete action is taken to improve basic services and infrastructure, citing a prediction of a UN team in Palestine.
"Yet, Gaza remains squeezed by crippling closures and a state of constant humanitarian emergency," he said, pointing to 2 million Palestinians who are struggling with crumbling infrastructure, lack of adequate electricity and basic services, chronic unemployment and a paralyzed economy.
"All of this is taking place amid an unfolding environmental disaster,” he added.
"I am extremely concerned that the latest shortfall in UNRWA’s [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine in the Near East] funding will gravely impair the agency’s ability to deliver on its mandate and preserve critical services such as education and health care for Palestine Refugees."
Washington announced last month, plans to withhold $65 million of aid to the UNRWA that provides services about 6 million Palestinian refugees in the territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, “until further consideration.”
Home to nearly 2 million people, the Gaza Strip boasts a total of 13 Ministry-run hospitals and 54 primary health care centers that account for roughly 95 percent of all health services in the coastal enclave.
Gaza, which continues to groan under a decade-long Israeli siege, has struggled with severe electricity shortages since 2006.