|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6388th Meeting (AM)
Briefing Security Council, Special Coordinator for Middle East Stresses Magnitude
of Opportunity for Talks, Risks of Failure, Urges Collective Support
The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process this morning called on the Security Council and the international community to maintain strong support for the recently revived direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“Our collective task is to support these negotiations and maximize prospects for success,” said Robert Serry, who is also the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative, at the Council’s regular monthly briefing on the situation. He also encouraged concrete steps of support from countries in the region, cautioned Hamas that non-violence and unity was the only route to the attainment of Palestinian aspirations, and reiterated the call for an extension of Israel’s restraint on settlement construction.
“The international consensus is and must remain strong behind this process, to ensure it is seen through to the end,” he added, stressing both the magnitude of the opportunity and the risks of failure, which, he said, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, realized.
He recalled that, after months of proximity talks, the two leaders had come together on 1 and 2 September in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to launch direct negotiations.
They had conducted a second round of talks on 14 September in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and on 15 September in Jerusalem. He described the Secretary-General’s appreciation for all facilitators and the diplomatic Quartet’s full support for the talks and its call for a resolution of final-status issues, leading to the end of the 1967 occupation and the creation of a Palestinian State.
At the opening of the talks, he said, the leaders had agreed to seek a solution based on two States for two peoples and that negotiations could be completed within one year, with the aim of resolving all core issues, including borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem. They had also decided to meet every fortnight and to work on a framework agreement on permanent status.
“This is not an interim agreement, but one that embodies the fundamental compromises necessary to achieve a comprehensive peace,” he explained, noting that in the second round of talks, the leaders had begun a serious discussion of the core issues.
He also noted that the opening of the negotiations had been threatened by two attacks that killed four Israelis and injured two others in the West Bank, for which Hamas had taken responsibility, but he commended the action of the two leaders in moving ahead with the talks while cooperating on security.
He stressed the importance of the parties’ reigning in extremists, and he strongly reminded Hamas that the path of non-violence, Palestinian unity and acceptance of basic principles of the peace process was the only way through which the legitimate Palestinian aspirations could be attained.
He also reaffirmed the United Nations position that settlements were illegal under international law and the Quartet’s call on Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, in addition to extending the partial moratorium. In that context, he said he counted on the leadership of both parties to refrain from all provocative actions.
To review progress in the peace process, the Secretary-General would host the Quartet principals on 21 September, followed by a meeting with members of the League of Arab States Follow-Up Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative, he announced.
Noting that the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee would also meet in New York on 21 September, he strongly shared the World Bank’s assessment that the Palestinian Authority’s recent performance in the areas of the economy and institution-building boded well for the establishment of a State in the near future.
Particularly promising were the Authority’s plans for completion by August 2011 of a two-year agenda to ensure institutional readiness for statehood, presented on 29 August 2010. To sustain that agenda, he welcomed pledges of additional funding and encouraged further commitments. He also reported economic confidence in the West Bank, bolstered by the Authority’s management, donor support, security improvements and a decrease on internal movement.
Noting the World Bank’s calls to address the remaining obstacles to economic growth, including “measures of occupation”, he urged a reduction in incursions and the further easing of obstacles to movement, which remained at around 500, 70 less than the beginning of the year. He reported that scores of Palestinians continued to be arrested and injured in the West Bank during incursions, with a Hamas militant killed today. He urged Israeli authorities not to implement existing orders for housing demolitions and evictions, and not to issue new ones.
He said that the situation in East Jerusalem had been largely quiet during the reporting period, including Ramadan, with “deplorable exceptions” which had included an attempt by settlers to enter a mosque. He urged a sensible resolution of the matter of the status of Hamas-affiliated legislators.
Turning to Gaza, Mr. Serry said the recent upsurge in violence was alarming. Palestinian militant groups had fired 10 rockets and 22 mortars from Gaza into Israel, injuring two Israelis, while Israeli forces had conducted 10 air strikes and 18 incursions into Gaza, killing seven Palestinians and injuring four. On 12 September, Israeli tank fire had killed three Palestinian civilians. Mr. Serry also expressed serious concern at the continued denial for the basic human rights of Israeli Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit, to whom no international access had been granted despite more than four years in solitary detention.
He said that although truckloads entering Gaza was per week were about half the weekly levels before June 2007, the partial easing of the Israeli blockade had helped generate 16 per cent growth in Gaza in the first half of the year. The United Nations had presented to the Government of Israel a 12-month programme of construction and reconstruction work worth $250 million. It was expected that that programme of work would receive timely approval.
Regarding the cargo from three vessels of the 31 May flotilla, he said arrangements had now been finalized for the use of the construction materials in United Nations projects in Gaza. Stressing the exceptional nature of that arrangement, he said the appropriate way to meet needs in Gaza was through legitimate crossings. The Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident had convened for the second time and had submitted an initial progress report to the Secretary-General on 15 September. The Panel had indicated that it had received an interim report from Turkey on the progress of its national investigation and would discuss interim reports once it had also received a report from Israel.
Mr. Serry said the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan remained stable, although settlement activity continued. During the reporting period, a delegation of 220 women and 480 men had received permits from Israel to visit families in Syria.
Turning to the situation in Lebanon, he said that Prime Minister Saad Hariri had travelled to Damascus, Syria, to meet with President Bashar al-Assad. Over the past month, there had been increased political tension in Lebanon, linked to speculation concerning potential indictments that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon might issue. Amendments to employment legislation, adopted by Parliament on 18 August, represented a step in the right direction in terms of providing Palestinians in Lebanon with greater rights. Funding shortfalls for the reconstruction of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp remained an issue of serious concern, with 64 per cent of total funds needed for complete reconstruction of the camp still outstanding.
On 3 September, an explosion had occurred in a house in the village of Shehabiyeh within the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operation, he said. UNIFIL had immediately launched an investigation into the incident. Also during the month, air violations had taken place on an almost daily basis.
The meeting began at 10:22 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m., at which time the Council immediately went into consultations on the Middle East, as previously agreed.
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