|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6788th Meeting* (AM)
Urgent Need for Palestinians, Israelis to Pursue Resumed Dialogue, Negotiations,
as Events on Ground Challenging Recent Positive Steps, Security Council Told
Assistant Secretary General Describes ‘Intensive Efforts’ to Avoid Deadlock;
On Syria: Achieving Full, Sustained Cessation of Violence at Centre of Efforts
Sporadic clashes, military operations and announcements of settlement construction in the West Bank were challenging the positive environment created by recent fragile forward steps in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, the Security Council was told today, during a briefing on recent developments in the Middle East.
“As we speak there are ongoing intensive efforts to avoid a renewed deadlock,” Oscar Fernández-Taranco, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Council. “It is in this spirit that Quartet envoys met in Brussels on 15 June. The envoys agreed that there was an urgent need for the parties to continue to pursue the present efforts towards resumed dialogue and substantive negotiations and that it was time for them to take the necessary steps towards this goal.”
Given dramatic recent developments in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, he said progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track was of even greater urgency and would have an important positive impact on the region. With that, he reassured the Council that the Secretary-General, together with the Quartet, would stress the need to renew dialogue and make real progress towards the two-State solution, which was “long overdue”.
They also strongly encouraged the sides to consider taking constructive steps to renew meetings between their negotiators and work towards resumed direct negotiations. Goodwill gestures would go a long way towards removing the lack of trust. “Only a direct and meaningful dialogue can help restore belief in a negotiated peace,” he said.
However, he said he was worried that not enough steps had been taken to heed last month’s warning from the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, who highlighted the need for confidence-building measures to overcome an “uncertain and fragile” situation.
Instead, that had not happened, thus far. Mentioning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 6 June announcement of the construction of 850 settlement units, he said all settlement construction on occupied Palestinian territory violated international law and Israel’s “Road Map” commitments. “It makes the two-State solution all the more difficult to achieve,” he said.
Other incidents included clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians. He noted today’s incident near Ramallah, where a mosque was spray-painted and set ablaze, and recognized that the Israeli Government had condemned the attack. He then said the United Nations called upon the Israeli Government to protect Palestinian individuals and property. Further, there had been 189 Israel Defense Forces operations in the occupied West Bank that had injured 114 Palestinians.
Further exacerbating the situation were continued demonstrations against the barrier, which deviated from the Green Line in contravention to the International Court of Justice advisory opinion, he said. In addition, on the subject of the continued hunger strike by two Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, he called for the 14 May agreement to end the strike to be implemented in full by all sides and for the urgent resolution of the ongoing hunger strikes on humanitarian grounds.
For its part, the international community must continue to support to ensure progress for the Palestinian security forces, which needed to be adequately equipped to maintain law and order in the West Bank, he said.
In Gaza, the calm that had prevailed since April was disrupted on 1 June when an Islamic Jihad-affiliated militant breached the southern border and opened fire on a group of Israeli soldiers, killing one before being killed himself. Exchanges of fire continued until 6 June and violence resumed over the last two days, when rockets were fired from Gaza to Israel and Israeli airstrikes killed four Palestinian militants and injured several civilians, he said.
Overall for the period, he reported that 15 rockets and 27 mortar shells were fired from Gaza to Israel, while Israel Defense Forces made seven incursions and 14 airstrikes, resulting in the death of nine Palestinian militants, and injuries sustained by nine others along with 15 civilians.
“We must continue to condemn all indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel, which must stop,” he said. “We also urge Israel to show maximum restraint.”
Also of concern were serious security incidents over the weekend along the Israeli-Egyptian border, where two rockets were shot from Sinai into southern Israel, 16 June. With the closure entering its sixth year, the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) and Gaza’s recovery and long-term economic growth remained fundamental objectives of the United Nations, he said. “More needs to be done”, he said, noting that the United Nations continued to urge Israel to allow the unrestricted import of key construction materials, which continued to be smuggled through tunnels with Egypt, he said. Complicating matters was that Gaza continued to face electricity shortages amid signs indicating a slowing down of the Palestinian economy, he said.
Turning to the situation in Syria, Mr. Fernández-Taranco said achieving a full and sustained cessation of violence and seeking a peaceful resolution of the crisis was at the centre of United Nations efforts. As General Mood would later provide the view from the ground, he would limit himself to emphasizing that the Secretary-General remained gravely concerned about the intensification of violence, human rights abuses and unmet humanitarian needs.
The situation in Homs was particularly alarming, and suffering from the conflict called for urgent efforts to avoid a full-scale civil war. “Time is running out”, he said, noting the Secretary-General’s repeated belief that Syria bore the prime responsibility to change course and fully implement the six-point plan. Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan continued to work with Governments and a “broad spectrum” of the Syrian opposition towards launching a political process allowing for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, already in its sixteenth month.
“We welcome and encourage ongoing efforts to find common purpose in the international community”, he said, adding it was urgent that consultations yield real results soon. A truly joint effort by the Council that delivered sustained pressure to demand full compliance with the six-point plan was urgently needed. “Otherwise, we may be reaching the day when it will be too late to stop the crisis from spiralling out of control,” he said.
On the humanitarian front, organizations were scaling up activities, reaching over 400,000 people in the first 10 days of June. But, access was still very limited. Over 1 million people were in need inside Syria, with the number of assisted refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — now at 86,000 — continuing to rise. The Secretary-General had called for both sides to facilitate access. In that context, regional aspects of the peace process were stalled.
Turning to the situation in Lebanon, he said that the country continued to face challenges to its security and stability, partly due to the crisis in Syria. On 1 June, fighting broke out in Tripoli between predominantly Sunni and Alawite neighbourhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jebel Mohsen. The Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces contained the fighting, but the situation in Tripoli was fragile. There had been additional reports of Syrian Army incursions into the northern area of Akkar and in the Bekaa, leaving two people killed. In other events, Lebanese citizens had been abducted and taken across the border to Syria; most had been released.
Against that backdrop, President Michel Sleiman succeeded in reconvening the National Dialogue on 11 June, after an 18-month gap. The session was attended by the country’s senior leaders from across the political spectrum, representing the March 8 and March 14 movements. A joint declaration committed leaders to the policy of disassociation from regional crisis. The next Dialogue was scheduled for 25 June and to address the sensitive issue of weapons outside State control.
Calm had prevailed in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations, as the mission continued to carry out its activities in close coordination with Lebanese Armed Forces. However, air violations by the Israel Defense Forces continued on an almost daily basis.
On Egypt, he said the Secretary-General looked forward to the early handover of full authority to a civilian Government, underscoring his concern that the country’s transition should meet the legitimate expectations of the Egyptian people — and the international community — for the establishment of strong, representative and democratic institutions, and for popular will to be respected in both elections and the drafting of a new constitution.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.
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* The 6787th Meeting was closed.