|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7118th Meeting (AM)
Despite Crises, ‘Fault Lines’, Current Middle East Peace Bid Closer than Other
Recent Efforts to Boosting Region’s Stability, Security Council Told
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Hails
Resolution 2139 (2014) on Syria, ‘Government of National Interest’ in Lebanon
Despite multiple crises and “fault lines” requiring urgent attention, the quest for peace in the Middle East over the last seven months had come closer than other recent efforts to making a real and much-needed contribution to regional stability, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council today.
“It is the United Nations’ sincere desire to see 2014 as the year that bears witness to a comprehensive settlement realizing the vision of two States for two peoples — Israel and Palestine,” he said during a briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The peace process was approaching a “defining moment”, he declared.
The current “credible political horizon” for achieving a two-State solution had seen strong international engagement in the peace process, he said, emphasizing that “ultimately, any genuine intention to pursue peace requires strong leadership”. He went on to declare: “Now is the time for domestic constituencies to put their agendas beyond the peace agenda, and for the leaders to reach out to their respective publics to raise awareness of the benefits of peace.”
However, the fragile situation on the ground had seen hundreds of Palestinians arrested and injured in demonstrations on the West Bank and in clashes in and around Palestinian refugee camps, he said, adding that settlers had also attacked Palestinian property during the reporting period. Continuing illegal settlement activity eroded hope for a two-State solution by undermining the negotiations, he stressed, also expressing concern over the apparent erosion of the November 2012 Gaza ceasefire understanding. He condemned the increase in rocket fire into Israel as well as Israeli incursions and air strikes in the Gaza Strip. “We are deeply concerned about this rise of violence and call on all parties to act in accordance with international law.”
Turning to humanitarian issues, he said the situation in Gaza was deteriorating due to the ongoing closure of the coastal enclave. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) urgently needed an additional $30 million to sustain critical emergency operations. While Israel’s recent decision to permit the entry of 1,000 tons of cement and other construction materials was a positive step, work on United Nations projects was stalled pending Israeli approval, he noted, calling upon Israel to approve all United Nations projects and lift restrictions on exports and the transfer of goods to the West Bank and Israel.
Also vulnerable were Palestinians refugees living in camps within Syria and caught up in the continuing hostilities there, he said, noting that 16,000 remained trapped at Yarmouk, near Damascus. Calling upon all parties to grant UNRWA access to civilian populations, he deplored recent indiscriminate attacks. More broadly, the toll of death and destruction in Syria and the region continued to mount tragically, he said, underlining the urgent need for a political solution.
Yet, the Syrian crisis had seen new and significant developments over the last month, he continued. While progress in the intra-Syrian Geneva talks had been limited, both sides remained committed, he said. Expressing gratitude to the Governments of the Russian Federation, United States and others in the region and around the globe for helping to organize that important process, he expressed hope that the recently adopted Security Council resolution 2139 (2014) would enable humanitarian access to those in need.
Turning to the situation in Lebanon, he said the formation of that country’s “Government of National Interest” was a major positive development against a backdrop of continued tensions stemming from a spate of deadly terrorist attacks and incidents on the border with Syria. The situation in the operational area of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and along the Blue Line remained calm, despite almost daily Israeli air violations of Lebanese airspace, he said.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:25 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record