December 16, 2017

Statement by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the 4th Committee Dr. George Kasoulides on the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, Mr. Peter Hansen, for his thorough and comprehensive Report on the Agency’s activities during the past year and for his excellent introductory statement.  We realize the very adverse conditions under which he has to perform and his dedication and steadfastness have kept the Agency going during these adverse and tragic conditions.

We would like to express our deepest appreciation to UNRWA, which through its programs of Education, Health and Relief and Social Services to more than four million Palestinian Refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and Gaza struggles to cushion the hardship imposed by fighting, closures, restrictions and strict security measures.

Cyprus, as an EU associate state has aligned itself with the statement made by the Representative of Belgium on behalf of the European Union and I would not repeat the concerns reflected in that statement.

I would be remiss if I do not start my intervention with reference to the latest disturbing developments in the area that have created a very dangerous situation and have deteriorated dramatically the living standards and living conditions especially for the Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank.  Beyond politics, human beings are suffering enormously from this continuing crisis but we cannot but feel pride for the generosity of the international community, the donors and especially the self-sacrifice of the dedicated staff of UNRWA for the relief they brought to the Palestinian refugees, the most disadvantaged members of their own community.  For the refugees themselves, displaced for over fifty years, living in conditions of overcrowding, deprivation and abject poverty, this is the least the international community can offer.

Cyprus, a country that shares close and friendly ties with our Near East neighbors attaches great importance to the enhancement of the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian People and fervently hopes for lasting peace and security in the Middle East.  The closeness in geography is made closer from our own experience of displacement and uprooting, following the Turkish invasion in 1974.  In Cyprus the human suffering has to a great extent abated but we still crave for the return to our homes and properties and we are ever hopeful that these inalienable and fundamental rights as inscribed in UN resolutions and international law should be respected and implemented.

Returning to the activities of UNRWA we would like to share our concern, as reported to us by the Commissioner General, of the serious financial difficulties that the Agency is encountering, multiplied by this years tragic events, in carrying out its programs and providing the refugees with the minimum of necessities.  A careful reading of the report of the Commissioner General illustrates that such negative effect is already very visible.

The peace process, that gave us hope that the implementation of the UN resolutions was near, is in shatters but we remain hopeful.  We firmly believe that the drive towards peace will resume and history will not repeat itself.  The role of UNRWA is even more crucial today.  Its operations must be put on a secure financial footing and we join the appeals for additional and increased contributions with early payments to assist the Agency to alleviate this situation and bring relief to the millions of suffering Palestinians.

Cyprus is assisting in its own way.  We have joined the appeals for additional and increased contributions in the aftermath of the recent crisis and at the same time we have created our own Scheme of Assistance, which includes programs of technical assistance and training of Palestinian officials and civil servants in Cyprus.

Mr. Chairman,

All of us are aware that UNRWA’s work needs to continue until the solution is found to the refugee issue and even for a long period after.  The program assists the Palestinians in preserving their identity and culture and during these testing times is will help to keep the kernel of peace alive and the reassurance to the refugees that they have not been forgotten and provide for their education, health, relief and social services.  The quest for a just and lasting settlement continues but human beings are foremost in our minds.  We hope that the situation will soon return to normalcy and that efforts will be redoubled for the survival and ultimate successful outcome of the peace process.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.