UN envoy calls for ‘strategy adjustment’ in Middle East peace efforts

Israeli settlement near Jerusalem. Photo: Xavier Malafosse

8 December 2010 – A senior United Nations official today called for a “strategy adjustment” in the face of continued Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, which he said is causing a crisis of confidence in Middle East peace efforts.

“Settlements are contrary to the Road Map and international law and their continuation is causing a crisis of confidence in the effort to bring about meaningful political negotiations,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said in a statement, referring to the internationally endorsed peace plan calling for two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in security.

“In light of the persistent deadlock on this issue, a strategy adjustment is essential,” he added. He gave no details of such an adjustment other than to call on the international community to act in unison to promote a negotiated end-game for a two-State solution.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also noted “with regret that Israel will not heed the united call of the international community, as reflected by the Quartet, to extend the settlement restraint policy,” a statement issued by his spokesman said, referring to the diplomatic Quartet of the UN, European Union, Russia and United States, which is promoting the Road Map.

He again urged Israel to fulfil its Road Map obligation to freeze all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

“In spite of this setback, the Secretary-General believes it is more important than ever to promote a negotiated end-game for a two-State solution,” the statement added. “He is encouraged that the United States has indicated its determination to continue its efforts in this direction and he urges the full cooperation of the parties towards that end. He is looking forward to these matters being discussed in the days to come among all members of the Quartet.”

On another point, Mr. Serry called Israel’s decision today to allow exports from Gaza a “more positive note,” and said the Government had assured him that exports will be permitted both to foreign destinations and to the West Bank. The UN, which has long called on Israel to lift its years-long blockade, which was eased in June, will closely monitor implementation of the decision.

“I hope that a full range of exports will be permitted and that crossing capacity will continue to be adjusted as necessary to meet demand. The restarting of exports is essential to revive Gaza’s economy and its legitimate business sector,” he added.

He said UN agencies have now received approval to complete construction projects in Gaza totalling $110 million, calling it “a step forward, but approval and implementation procedures still need to move faster.

“Gaza’s needs remain immense and further progress is critical. In accordance with today’s decision, I call on Israel to expedite further approvals of UN projects, including more UNRWA [UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] schools. It is essential for calm to be respected and I call on militants to cease indiscriminate firing of any rockets from the Gaza strip toward Israel,” he added.

Israel has said it launched its devastating three-week offensive two years ago, for which the UN is now seeking materials to rebuild destroyed houses and schools, in order to silence the rocket fire.


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