Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres Reuters

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday blamed “Israeli occupation” for imposing a “heavy humanitarian and development burden” on Palestinian Arabs, calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In a statement released on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the start of the Six Day War, Guterres said, “Today marks 50 years since the start of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Syrians.”

“This occupation has imposed a heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people. Among them are generation after generation of Palestinians who have been compelled to grow-up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children,” he charged.

The “occupation”, claimed Guterres, “has fuelled recurring cycles of violence and retribution. Its perpetuation is sending an unmistakable message to generations of Palestinians that their dream of statehood is destined to remain just that, a dream; and to Israelis that their desire for peace, security and regional recognition remains unattainable.”

“Ending the occupation that began in 1967 and achieving a negotiated two-state outcome is the only way to lay the foundations for enduring peace that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty. It is the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people,” he insisted.

He called for a return to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority “to resolve all final status issues on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, agreements and international law.”

“On 14 May 1948, the State of Israel was born. Almost seven decades later, the world still awaits the birth of an independent Palestinian state. The Secretary-General reiterates his offer to work with all relevant stakeholders to support a genuine peace process,” the statement concluded.

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, denounced Guterres’s statement.

“The attacks on Israel by our neighbors did not begin in 1967 and any attempt at a moral equivalency between killing innocent people and the building of homes is absurd. Instead of spreading Palestinian misinformation, it would be best if the UN stuck with the facts,” he said.

“It is preposterous to blame terror and violence in the Middle East on the one true democracy in the region. The moment the Palestinian leadership abandons terror, ceases to incite against our people and finally returns to direct negotiations, then real progress can be made towards peace,” added Danon.

Guterres, who took over as UN Secretary General from Ban Ki-moon in January, has been facing calls to end the global body’s anti-Israel bias.

Guterres recently denounced an Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report which accused Israel of imposing “apartheid” on Palestinian Arabs, demanding it be withdrawn.

In response to the UN chief's criticism, Jordanian diplomat Rima Khalaf, who headed ESCWA, resigned from her post.

In April, he spoke at the World Jewish Congress gathering in New York, where he reassured international Jewish community leaders that he would stand up against any perceptions of anti-Israel bias at the world organization.

Ban publicly admitted that there is an anti-Israel bias at the international body, though his admission came near the end of his term in office.