November 25, 2017

Statement by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Cyprus George Kasoulides on the United Nations 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 introductory statement.  Over the last five decades the Agency has survived very adverse conditions but we realize that the past two years have been extremely cruel and taxing.  Only through personal dedication and sacrifice of its staff the Agency managed to survive, save lives and preserve its human resource development program during these adverse and tragic conditions.  We find very disturbing that, during the crisis, buildings and facilities of UNRWA were either damaged or destroyed and in some cases, taken over by Israeli forces.  

We pay our respects and deepest appreciation to the personnel of UNRWA, which among ruins and death, curfews and reoccupation, continued its programs of Education, Health and Relief and Social Services to more than four million Palestinian Refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, and 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 Denmark 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 continuation of the latest acute crises in the Middle East that have created a very explosive situation and have deteriorated dramatically the living standards and living conditions, especially for the Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank .  Human beings are suffering enormously from this, but we cannot but feel pride for the continuous generosity of the international community, the donors and especially the self-sacrifice of the dedicated staff of UNRWA for the relief they bring to the Palestinian refugees, the most disadvantaged members of their own community.  Living in conditions of overcrowding, deprivation and abject poverty, the refugees depend for their survival on this generosity and it is the least the international community can offer.

Cyprus, a country that shares close and friendly ties with our Near East neighbors, fervently hopes for lasting peace and security in the Middle East and firmly believes that we should preserve the backbone of the economic and social structure for the Palestinian People, in the hope for better days to come.  The closeness in geography is made closer from our own experience of displacement, uprooting and the importation of settlers from mainland Turkey , 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 the removal of settlers, and we are ever hopeful that these inalienable and fundamental rights as repeatedly 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 effects are already very visible.

It is a sad truth that the last two years bring no good news from the region.  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 in alleviating 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 remain ready to implement our own Scheme of Assistance, which includes programs of technical assistance and training of Palestinian officials and civil servants in Cyprus , as soon as the situation returns to normalcy.

Mr. Chairman,

All of us are aware that UNRWA’s work needs to continue until the refugee issue is resolved and even for a long period after.  The program assists the Palestinians in preserving their identity and culture and during these testing times it will help to keep the kernel of peace alive and the reassurance to the refugees that they have not been forgotten, that it provide for their education, health, relief and social services.  The quest for a just and lasting settlement continues but human beings are and should be foremost in our minds.

 

Thank You.