U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report released Friday that Israel is in violation of a General Assembly resolution demanding that it halt construction on and remove a barrier that extends into the West Bank.
In a report to the General Assembly, Mr. Annan says Israel's barrier, part of which goes through Palestinian land, damages future prospects for peace.
In the written report, the secretary-general says he recognizes Israel's right to protect its people from terrorist attacks. But he calls the barrier's construction "a deeply counterproductive act" at a time when each party should be making confidence-building gestures, according to the international road map peace plan.
"He points out that this right should not be carried out in a way that is in contradiction to international law, that can damage the longer-term prospects for peace by making the creation of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state more difficult, or that increases suffering among the Palestinian people," said United Nations spokesman Fred Ekhard.
The General Assembly requested the secretary-general's report when it overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning the barrier last month. Resolutions by the 191-nation body are not legally binding. But the measure does not rule out future United Nations action.
Citing evidence by United Nations staff on the ground, spokesman Ekhard says Mr. Annan discussed the impact of the barrier on the Palestinian people.
"His findings include the following: Approximately 56,000 Palestinians already live in enclaves created by the barrier, most notably the town of Qalqilya, in which access to land, markets, jobs and services is seriously impeded," he said.
The General Assembly is scheduled to discuss the report on Monday.
In addition to releasing his report, Mr. Annan issued a message for International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians, which is observed on Saturday.
Mr. Annan welcomed recent moves by Palestinian and Israeli civil society to promote peace. But he said these efforts cannot replace official action. He called on the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to act to meet their commitments.
In expressing his solidarity with the Palestinian people, the secretary- general also urged the international community to prepare to take bold action to advance the peace process.