UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, on Friday told the Security Council that parties concerned should seize the opportunity of the upcoming elections in Palestine to help restore hope for Palestinians and Israelis.
"It is critical to begin the process of restoring hope to Palestinians and Israelis that the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace can be realized," the senior Norwegian diplomat told the Security Council videoconference on the situation in the Middle East.
"Palestinian factions are making progress towards holding legislative, presidential and Palestinian National Council elections," said Wennesland.
He added that earlier this month they met in Cairo, reaching agreement on several outstanding issues and advancing the election process.
The factions also emphasized that elections must be held throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, without exception, said the envoy.
According to Wennesland, the Central Elections Commission on Feb. 17 closed voter registration and announced 421,000 new registrants during the period, raising the total registered voters to over 2.6 million, 93 percent of all eligible voters according to population estimates from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
Roughly 80 percent of the 1.56 million voters who will be voting for the first time are under 30 years old, said Wennesland, noting that "it is encouraging to see such strong public participation in the democratic process."
"We must seize emerging opportunities," said the Middle East peace envoy.
"The upcoming elections in Palestine may be one such opportunity. The extraordinarily high registration rate among the Palestinians is a resoundingly positive response from the people of Palestine in support of President Abbas' call for elections."
"It is a clear indication that they want to be a part of deciding their own political future," he said.
Wennesland noted that the holding of free and fair elections across the Occupied Palestinian Territory is a crucial step towards reestablishing Palestinian national unity, one that can renew the legitimacy of national institutions, including a democratically elected Legislative Council and Government in Palestine.
"Elections will also help to clear the path towards restoring a legitimate political horizon to realize a two-state solution. The United Nations, alongside its partners in the Middle East Quartet, will continue to support Palestinians and Israelis in their efforts to achieve that goal," said Wennesland.
The envoy pledged that the United Nations would continue to work collectively to support the Palestinian people, including through facilitating and supporting preparations towards these important elections. Enditem