Statement by Ambassador Baki İlkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, at the special Meeting to Mark Sixty Years of Dispossession of Palestine Refugees

Baki İlkin 20.06.2008
Mr. Chairman,

The plight of the Palestinian refugees is not only a central component of a possible peace plan, but also an issue with a serious humanitarian dimension.

For 60 years, the world has been witnessing the drama of the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syrian Arab Republic, West Bank, Gaza Strip and elsewhere; as well as witnessing their ever deteriorating living conditions and declining means of livelihood.

Today, in Gaza, over two-thirds of the population of 1.5 million are refugees and approximately 80 per cent of the population is dependent on food rations provided by UNRWA and the World Food Programme. In the West Bank, Palestinians are enduring a great deal of suffering in the areas affected by the construction of the separation wall and the expanding settlements. Almost 30 per cent of the population living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are registered refugees. This suffering has to come to an end.

This grim picture presents a test for our time. It reminds us of our responsibility to provide even more to the refugees and to put an end to their plight once and for all by bringing a lasting settlement to one of the most longstanding issues of our times. A comprehensive settlement, responding to the needs and aspirations of all.

There is no doubt that as long as the Israeli - Palestinian conflict remains unsettled, its political, socio-economic and psychological toll on the innocent will keep growing.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the parties to focus on the political process and carry it forward with determination.

It is also of paramount importance that both Palestinians and Israelis should be able to feel secure and immune from attacks and counter attacks. Peace process can only succeed if talks are held in a peaceful, tranquil and secure environment.

In this vein, we welcome the recently announced ceasefire concerning Gaza and Israel and we ardently hope that it holds.

Turkey will continue strongly supporting, as before, the efforts towards reaching a just and durable peace based on a two state settlement.

In the meantime, we will continue addressing the needs of the Palestinian people and refugees.

In addition to the regular flow of assistance from Turkey to Palestine and our contributions to the Nahr El Bared camp, my Government has pledged 150 million Dollars for the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan at the Paris International Conference. We are already receiving projects from the Palestinian Authorities within this scheme and soon we will start delivering on this basis.

We are also 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.

Before concluding, I wish to express our sincere appreciation for the efforts of UNRWA which has been entrusted to deal with one of the most difficult aspects of the Middle East question. For years, UNRWA has fed, housed, educated and given health care to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge and salute the commitment UNRWA have shown throughout the years.

Thank you.