|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6273rd Meeting (AM)
Under-Secretary-General, Briefing Security Council, Urges Israeli-Palestinian
Embrace of Proposed Negotiations under United States Mediation
Expressing concern over the continuing deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, a senior United Nations political official today urged both sides to embrace a recent proposal to begin indirect talks mediated by the United States.
“We remain deeply concerned at the current stalemate,” said B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in a briefing to the Security Council this morning. “We call for the resumption of talks on final status issues, implementation of Road Map commitments, continued efforts to improve economic and security conditions, and a different and more positive approach to Gaza.”
The Under-Secretary-General said Israel had indicated its readiness to accept indirect talks proposed by George Mitchell, Special Envoy of the United States to the Middle East, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been engaged in intensive consultations and had sought clarifications.
“The Secretary-General hopes that President Abbas will move forward on the basis of that practical proposal so that serious talks can begin,” Mr. Pascoe said, adding: “He notes Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s stated commitment to a two-State solution, although confusion as to the Government’s intentions arises from statements by various Government officials.” Negotiations must lead to a clear time frame for agreement on all final status issues, including Jerusalem, borders, security, settlements and water, he emphasized.
Urging Israel to extend its current 10‑month freeze on the building of settlements in the West Bank to a comprehensive freeze there and in East Jerusalem, Mr. Pascoe noted that, since his last briefing on 27 January, the Israeli authorities had identified violations of restraint orders in at least 29 settlements, while the Defence Ministry had stated that it was issuing demolition and stop-work orders against violators.
The fact that Israel had not evicted Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem or demolished those homes was a “positive development which we hope will continue”, Mr. Pascoe said, calling for the reopening of Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, in accordance with Road Map obligations. “The status of Jerusalem is to be determined through negotiations, and we believe that a way must be found through negotiations for Jerusalem to emerge as the capital of two States,” he added. Regarding Israel’s ongoing closure of crossing points into Gaza, he said: “This counterproductive policy is empowering smugglers and militants, and destroying legitimate commerce, and causing unacceptable hardship for the civilian population, more than half of whom are children.”
During the reporting period, he said, an average of 561 truckloads of mainly food and hygiene products had entered Gaza each week ‑‑ slightly more than during the previous period, but far short of the approximately 2,087 trucks entering the enclave weekly before the takeover by Hamas in June 2007. Only 48 per cent of the required cooking gas supplies were allowed in. While a wider range of supplies was being allowed into Gaza than before ‑‑ including glass, spare parts for electrical devices, and an elevator for a maternity hospital ‑‑ the importation of materials needed for civilian reconstruction remained insufficient.
He said the first phase of the Gaza water-treatment plant project had been completed in late January, but there had been no satisfactory Israeli response to the United Nations proposal to complete stalled projects for housing, schools and health facilities. Also of concern were fuel shortages at the Gaza power plant, due to funding shortfalls and technical failures, which had led to rolling blackouts.
Regarding violence, he hailed the Palestinian Authority’s efforts since 27 January to combat terrorism in the West Bank. “It is important that the Palestinian Authority leadership continues to speak out against violence and incitement,” he stressed, noting that an Israeli soldier had been killed in a knife attack on 10 February. In addition, he expressed concern about eight reported attacks by Israeli settlers, including one on 9 February in which a Palestinian teenager had been shot and injured. It was also regrettable that there had been no breakthrough on securing the release of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, despite intensive efforts in recent months.
Turning to the Palestinian Authority’s financial situation, he said it would need $1.2 billion this year to continue its important work of building a State through institutional reform. Donors were encouraged to “first and foremost” give funds to the Single Treasury Account and support the Authority’s priorities for 2010.
Noting the Palestinian Cabinet’s 8 February calling of local elections for 17 July, he said the Palestinian Central Election Commission planned to begin registering voters on 6 March, and urged Hamas “to respond positively to this important part of the democratic process”.
Concerning the situation in the wider Middle East region as a whole, he deplored the recent heightened and belligerent rhetoric and called for it to end immediately.
He said the United Nations continued to support all efforts to revive the Israeli-Syrian track and a broader resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as envisaged in relevant Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. The situation in the Syrian Golan remained calm despite continued Israeli settlement activity there.
Turning to Lebanon, he said that, during a large rally in Beirut earlier this week to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others, leaders of the 14 March coalition had commemorated the slain leader’s contribution to the country’s development and reaffirmed their determination to establish the truth behind his murder. Prime Minister Saad Hariri had stressed the importance of national unity and of Lebanon’s role in Inter-Arab reconciliation.
Mr. Pascoe also urged the international community to step up financial support for the continued reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
He concluded by stating that the situation in areas where the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was operational remained calm.
The meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and ended at 10:27 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record