|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6725th Meeting (AM)
Top UN Political Official Tells Security Council Talks Started between Israelis,
Palestinians in Amman Have “Stalled”, Time Not on Side of Either Party
In Briefing, B. Lynn Pascoe Also Updates on ‘Rapidly Deteriorating’
Syria Situation, Transfer of Power in Yemen, Impact of Syria Crisis on Lebanon
The United Nations top political official told the Security Council this morning that the talks that had started between Israelis and Palestinians in Amman, Jordan, on 3 January had, unfortunately, “stalled”.
“So far, prospects for the resumption of direct bilateral negotiations remain dim,” B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said in his monthly briefing on the Middle East that also covered what he called the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in Syria, the implementation of power-transfer agreements in Yemen and issues of concern in Lebanon, where the Syrian crisis, he said, had increased tensions.
“Time is not on the side of either party,” he said of the Israeli-Palestinian situation, noting that since the last meeting of the negotiators on 25 January, Palestinians reiterated their position that direct talks should not resume unless all settlement activity was halted, Israel committed to a two-State solution based on 1967 lines and Palestinian prisoners were released. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to insist that Israel wanted to continue the talks, but without preconditions.
The United Nations hoped that Palestinian and Israeli leaders could overcome the renewed impasse in the Middle East political process using the framework suggested by international partners that aimed for a negotiated solution by the end of the year. In order to restart the process, he said, the parties should use the coming period to refocus on the need to exchange proposals on territory and security, noting that the Secretary-General fully supported the efforts initiated by King Abdullah of Jordan. “There must be improvements on the ground to complement these efforts,” he stressed.
In regard to Palestinian reconciliation, he said that opposition within Hamas had so far prevented concrete results from the 5 February agreement to form a transitional Government of technocrats, with Mahmoud Abbas as Prime Minister and previous political agreements intact. A date for elections had not been set and voter registration in Gaza had yet to be allowed.
He stressed that the situation on the ground in both Gaza and the West Bank remained dangerous and “ultimately unsustainable”. Further settlement expansion had been authorized as well as an archaeological visitor’s centre in East Jerusalem, and demolition of Palestinian property continued, as did settler violence. Israeli forces had conducted 463 operations into the West Bank, resulting in hundreds of Palestinian injuries and 12 injuries of soldiers, while for the first time in 15 years, Palestinian security forces enforced law and order in an area of Hebron under full Israeli control.
The reporting period also witnessed clashes around holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and over a funeral of a Palestinian who had been shot at a protest at a check point, he said, calling on all parties to safeguard the peace and sanctity of religious sites and reminding all that hate speech was unacceptable.
He expressed concern over the holding of some 300 Palestinians under administrative detention, which he said must be only used in exceptional situations and result in timely trials or release. He noted that detainee Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad affiliate, had ended his hunger strike of 66 days following a release arrangement with Israeli authorities.
Turning to Gaza, he said 62 projectiles had been fired from the Strip into Israel. Though there had been no injuries, they represented a significant escalation. Israeli forces had conducted one incursion and 28 airstrikes into Gaza, killing one civilian and injuring 20 others. Egyptian security forces had announced the seizure of explosives and anti-aircraft missiles being transferred into Gaza, and Israeli soldiers had removed explosive devices on the Israeli-Egypt border and returned fire in another incident from suspected smugglers attempting to infiltrate Israel from Egypt.
He called on all parties to fully observe obligations to protect civilians and to stop the illicit trafficking of arms, while reiterating calls for lifting the closure regime in Gaza. Meanwhile, discussions continued on liberalization of entry of construction materials and on three housing projects of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which he called urgently needed.
On Syria, he said that the total death toll from the crisis was certainly well over 7,500 and continued to mount daily, including many women and children, with the use of military force against the civilian population, which he said had driven the largely peaceful opposition to resort to armed resistance. Approximately 25,000 refugees from Syria were now registered by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in neighbouring countries, and between 100,000 and 200,000 were internally displaced, while access to water, electricity, medical care and basic food had been limited in many areas.
The bombardment of residential areas in Homs was into its fourth week, he said, with human rights organizations reporting that some 5,000 civilians had been prevented from fleeing by Government forces. Noting several successful humanitarian actions in the city, he fully supported the calls of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for a daily humanitarian pause to allow the delivery of emergency aid and treatment of the injured. United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos stood ready to negotiate such matters, at the request of the Secretary-General, as soon as she was allowed entry into the Syria.
Recalling the initiatives of the League of Arab States, the report of the International Commission of Inquiry for Syria, the actions of the Human Rights Council and the meeting of the “Friends of the Syrian People” in Tunisia, he also recalled that the Secretary-General called on the Government of Syria to “stop the wanton killing of its own people” and said that its failure to protect them “left the international community no option but to act”.
He added that the situation along Lebanon’s borders with Syria was also of concern, with the United Nations monitoring the influx of refugees and coordinating with the Lebanese Government on protection and provision of assistance to some 6,900 registered. Against the backdrop of demonstrations related to the Syrian crisis, fighting had broken out on 10 February between Alawite and Sunni communities in Tripoli.
On 23 February, he said, the Secretary-General had renewed the mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon for three years from 1 March. Earlier in the month, the Trial Chamber had ruled that the four people accused in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri would be tried in absentia, he added. He reported calm overall in the area of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), with continued air violations by Israel, at somewhat reduced levels.
On the transition of power in Yemen, he said that implementation of the agreement signed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in November, which provided a detailed roadmap on power-sharing arrangements, was on track. Presidential elections with a consensus candidate had been held on 21 February, and on 25 February, former Vice-President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had been sworn in as the new President.
The next step in Yemen, he said, was the holding of a national dialogue conference, followed by a constitution-making process, which would lead to general elections after two years. Stressing that Yemen’s transition remained delicate and required “ongoing facilitation”, he said that Special Adviser Jamal Benomar would remain closely engaged and would brief the Council in detail upon his return.
The meeting began at 10:23 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m., at which time Council members were invited into consultations on the Middle East, as previously agreed.
* *** *For information media • not an official record