Statement by Mr. Can Dizdar, Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the UN, Before the Special Political Decolonization Committee on Agenda Item 29: "United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East"

Can Dizdar 29.10.2008
Mr. Chairman,

We are heartened by the recent positive developments in the Middle East. The continuation of the bilateral contacts between Israel and the Palestinians, the relative calm on the borders of Israel, the movements on the Syrian - Israeli track and the agreement reached among the parties in Lebanon, give us a certain amount of optimism since the atmosphere in the region, during our meeting last year, was less favorable.

Of course, there is still a lot to be done. The Israeli - Palestinian negotiations need to intensify, conditions on the ground in the West Bank must significantly improve and Road map commitments, particularly on settlements, must be honored.

Mr. Chairman,

As long as just and lasting peace in the Middle East remains elusive, it will not be possible to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian refugees which constitutes one of the most difficult aspects of the Middle East question.

For 60 years, the world has been witnessing the drama of the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, Gaza Strip and elsewhere; as well as witnessing their ever deteriorating living conditions and declining means of livelihood. We heard a highly informative and articulate presentation from the Commissioner - General of UNRWA, Mrs. Karen Koning AbuZayd which portrayed how tragic the conditions on the ground for the Palestinian refugees are.

We commend UNRWA and its staff for their untiring efforts under difficult and often dangerous circumstances. We acknowledge and salute the commitment UNRWA has shown throughout the years.

Turkey welcomes and supports the steps taken in the context of the ongoing reform process within UNRWA, particularly in the fields of institutional strengthening and organizational development.

Turkey also feels privileged to chair the Working Group on the financing of UNRWA.

In this context, I wish to underline the persisting funding gap and its effects on the services of UNRWA. It is beyond doubt that the financing of UNRWA is a crucial subject in terms of the Agency's capability and means of delivery. UNRWA is light, hope and lifeline for thousands of Palestinian refugees. The better UNRWA is equipped, the better prospects Palestinian refugees will have.

At this point, we call on the international community to increase their efforts and contributions to provide better means for Palestinian refugees. We believe it is very important not only in terms of humanity, but also in terms of regional security and stability.

In this vein, Turkey remains fully committed to the goals and mandate of UNRWA. We have not only increased our annual voluntary contribution to the Agency, but also responded to the emergency appeals necessitated by sudden developments.

In addition to the regular flow of assistance from Turkey to Palestine and our contributions to the Nahr El Bared camp, the Turkish Government has pledged 150 million Dollars for the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan at the Paris International Conference. We are already working with the authorities in Palestine on this basis.

We also continue working on the "Industry for Peace" projects in the context of tripartite Ankara Forum which brings together private sector representatives from Turkey, Palestine and Israel. Once completed, the projects in Tarqumiah and Erez would create important employment opportunities for the Palestinians and serve both Israel and Palestine as a confidence - building factor.

Turkey will continue to support firmly every effort to ease the plight of Palestinian refugees and to bring permanent peace to the Middle East.

Thank you.