Dear co-chairs, Ministers Linde and Safadi,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to greet all the participants of this conference in support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
It is clear that during these uneasy times for the Middle East the Agency`s humanitarian activities acquire critical importance for providing support and protecting millions of Palestinian refugees in occupied Palestinian territories (West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip) as well as in neighbouring Arab countries (Jordan, Lebanon and Syria). We have to keep in mind that those countries themselves face significant social and economic challenges and need comprehensive assistance on the part of the international community.
Persistent deadlock in the peace process, stipulated by continuously unsettled Palestinian issue and absence of perspectives for renewal of direct negotiations, together with socio-economic difficulties, aggravated against the background of the COVID pandemic, create a potentially explosive situation in the zone of conflict. This pattern manifested itself during the escalation last May of violence around the Gaza Strip, clashes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as tensions in Israeli regions with predominant Arab population.
This situation is exacerbated by unilateral actions contradicting international humanitarian law and UN General Assembly and Security Council decisions. They include settlement construction, forced eviction of Palestinians, expropriation and destruction of their property, violation of status-quo of the Holy Sites, arbitrary arrests and incitement from both sides.
In this respect we regard as top priorities steadfast stabilisation “on the ground”, cessation of unilateral actions and creation of conditions for renewing negotiations within internationally recognised legal framework including the two-state formula. Of course, the ongoing crisis cannot be overcome without bridging the intra-Palestinian rift and holding elections in Palestine.
I would like to stress that the problem of Palestinian refugees, as is well-known, is part of the final status – together with shaping borders, water supplies and Jerusalem. Thus, it can only be resolved through comprehensive Middle East settlement process on internationally recognised legal basis, including meeting legitimate Palestinian aspirations.
Nevertheless, one has to be realistic and admit that right now there is no chance for swift renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Given this, it is UNRWA that bears the major burden of timely distribution of humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees. The Agency should continue providing its unhindered support to the Palestinians in need of education, health and social services, giving them a chance and hope for a better future.
Russia attaches great importance to humanitarian support of Palestinians in need through UNRWA. We traditionally support the Agency financially and at international venues including the United Nations. We believe it is totally unacceptable for an organisation with a purely humanitarian mandate to be exposed to political pressure. It is crucial to provide UNRWA with sustainable and long-term funding to enable wider horizons of its project planning so it could meet growing humanitarian needs of Palestinians. In this regard, I am glad to announce Russia`s intention to continue regular voluntary contributions to UNRWA budget, donating from 2022 to 2026 2 million USD annually. We call on other donors to also support the dignified work of UNRWA in these difficult times.