|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6824th Meeting* (AM)
Two-State Solution Remains Best Available, Most Realistic Option for Peace
in Middle East, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council
Prospects ‘Seem to Grow Dimmer’ as Anniversary
Of Palestinian Membership Bid Approaches, New Political Affairs Chief Says
Despite the stagnation in the Middle East peace process, the two-State solution remained the “best available and most realistic option” and all Member States had a responsibility to consider their actions and language in light of that goal, Jeffrey Feltman, the new Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council today.
Briefing the 15-member body for the first time in that capacity, he urged Member States to ask themselves whether their actions brought the Israelis and Palestinians closer to a two-State solution or made that goal even harder to achieve. Language calling for the destruction of one of the parties was “unacceptable and undermines the ability of the Palestinians to achieve their stated goal”, he emphasized.
He noted that the Secretary-General had been clear in stating that leaders in the region “should use their voices at this time to lower, rather than escalate, tensions”. Regional developments made the need to overcome the stalemate even more urgent, he said, expressing concern that “prospects for peace seem to grow dimmer” in the lead-up to the one-year anniversary of the Palestinian application for United Nations membership. However, the Organization remained hopeful that leaders on both sides would start working seriously towards a peace accord.
Summing up recent developments, he said Quartet envoys had remained in close contact with the parties, while Israeli and Palestinian Authority representatives had been seeking ways to enhance Authority revenue capture by reducing illegal trade and tax evasions. Pointing out that it was the Palestinian people, first and foremost, who suffered under the financial shortages afflicting the Authority, he said a central aspect of the continuing fiscal crisis was a decrease in foreign aid and the failure of donor countries to fulfil financial pledges in a timely manner, which in turn had led to difficulties in the timely payment of full salaries to the Authority’s employees. The crisis was compounded by a decline in economic activity, he added.
According to the World Bank, he continued, reversing that economic trend required greater efforts to enable economic activity throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Highlighting the centrality of economic growth for Palestinian State-building, the Bank stressed that without it, progress in State-building could be at increased risk, he said, adding that the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee — established to secure and coordinate international donor assistance to Palestinians — would meet in New York on 23 September, ahead of the general debate.
Mr. Feltman said the reporting period had witnessed continuing settlement construction. On 12 August, Israeli authorities had announced the approval of a housing project within the Ma-ale Adumim settlement, east of Jerusalem. That had resulted in the demolition of 150 housing units and the construction of 750 new ones. On 16 August, the authorities had published a tender for 130 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa, he said, underscoring the Quartet’s repeatedly stated view that any Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank “cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community”.
At the same time, he noted, operations by Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank had declined this month, although cases of settler violence had persisted, including an attack in Hebron on 16 August, when a Molotov cocktail had struck a Palestinian taxi, injuring six members of the same family. A Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem had also been seriously injured by Israeli youths on the same day, he said, noting the condemnation of that attack by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials. Such acts of violence were of serious concern, Mr. Feltman said, stressing that the authorities must work to prevent their recurrence.
He went on to state that, while there was no record of Palestinians displaced as a result of demolitions, he said he remained concerned about the ongoing policy of demolitions and forced evictions in Area C and East Jerusalem, and would pursue dialogue in that respect. Other causes of concern included the continuous restrictions imposed on the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians, and detentions that had led to a hunger strike by four Palestinian prisoners. Furthermore, as Muslims celebrated the holy month of Ramadan, access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque had remained restricted, although the authorities had eased access to enable a large number of West Bank Palestinians to visit East Jerusalem and Israel.
Meanwhile, on 5 August, terrorists had attacked an Egyptian security post near Kerem Shalom, on the border with Israel in the Sinai, killing 16 border guards as they broke the Ramadan fast. The attackers had subsequently breached the Israeli border, but Israel’s security forces had intercepted them, and Egypt had stepped up efforts to prevent a recurrence. That assault was a “sobering reminder of the need for all of us to remain focused on maintaining and strengthening regional peace and security”, he said.
Mr. Feltman said the Sinai events and continued rocket fire from Gaza, as well as an Israeli air strike and five incursions underlined the fragility of the situation in the Strip. To revive the local economy, closures must be relaxed to allow trade between Gaza and the West Bank, Israel and other countries, he stressed, adding that he was working with the Government of Israel to approve United Nations projects: $360 million worth had been approved, and projects worth another $85 million were pending. The recent release of 20,000 tons of building materials was a welcome move.
Meanwhile, Palestinian factions remained deadlocked on the way forward, he said, noting that the implementation of previous agreements and the sequence of elections remained central points of division. The lack of unity was also impacting the Palestinian population. For example, between 16 and 27 July, Gazan applications for outside medical treatment were not processed owing to a dispute between the de facto authorities in the Strip and the Palestinian Authority over the composition of the medical referrals committee. The dispute had eventually been resolved on 26 July, thanks to efforts by civil society and health workers.
Turning to Syria, he said both the Government and opposition were focusing on military operations and the use of force, with Government forces deploying heavy weapons against population centres. “The Syrian people are suffering grievously from the appalling further militarization of this conflict,” he noted, emphasizing that the United Nations was increasingly alarmed at the swift deterioration of the humanitarian situation. Among other actions, the Organization called for more donor support for the rapidly increasing numbers of people needing assistance inside Syria and in surrounding countries.
As the Syrian crisis worsened, the situation in Lebanon became more precarious, he continued. While the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) remained “cautiously calm and stable”, the Lebanese Armed Forces were operating at decreased strength due to the temporary redeployment of some units to address security needs elsewhere in the country. Meanwhile, Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace continued almost daily, he noted.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:31 a.m.
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* The 6823rd Meeting was closed.