UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that a Palestinian state was "long overdue," in a statement to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. "The need to resolve this conflict has taken on greater urgency with the historic transformations taking place across the region," Ban said. The UN chief said that a solution to the conflict must end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and establish two states with Jerusalem as a shared capital. A just solution must also be found for the millions of Palestinian refugees in the region, the statement added. Ban praised the accomplishments of the Palestinian Authority, noting that the West Bank government is "institutionally ready to assume the responsibilities of statehood." He called on both sides to return to direct negotiations, while describing Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as a "major obstacle" to peace. Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory Richard Falk condemned the ongoing denial of Palestinian rights as a result of the Israeli occupation. "Every year, on this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we are reminded of Israeli authorities’ invidious schemes to permanently empty Palestine of Palestinians. "This prolonged human catastrophe must be brought to an end once and for all," a statement said. PLO official Hanan Ashrawi stressed the historical significance of the day, noting that UN resolution 181, which called for the division of Palestine, allotted 55 percent of land to a Jewish minority "at the expense" of the Palestinian majority. “For sixty-four years, the Palestinian people have been subjected to an apartheid-like regime and prevented from proclaiming their rights to person and property. "Even in the face of this grave historical injustice, the Palestinians continue to rise up to preserve their identity and presence on Palestinian land," she said. Ashrawi called on all UN member states to acknowledge Israel's systematic violation of human rights and international law and hold the country accountable for its actions. “Today’s occasion exemplifies the vital importance for the Quartet and the international community to act in solidarity with the Palestinians and support our peaceful diplomatic efforts to achieve an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital." The United Nations partition plan for Palestine, or UN resolution 181, was adopted by the General Assembly on Nov. 29 1947. A Jewish state was proposed on 56.47 percent of Palestine with an Arab state on 43.53 percent of the land. The resolution excluded Jerusalem, which was to be controlled under an international trusteeship. At the time of the partition plan, 67 percent of the total population of mandate Palestine was Arab and roughly 33 percent Jewish, according to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine.