With the Middle East facing a complicated and vicious tide of terror and extremism, it was even more critical for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a two-State solution and end actions that imperilled it, the incoming Special Coordinator for peace in the region told the Security Council this afternoon.
“It is precisely because of the dangers that lurk in the Middle East today that both sides must show historic leadership and personal commitment to peace and negotiations,” Nickolay Mladenov said in his first regular monthly briefing.
Mr. Mladenov said that the warm welcome he received by both Israeli and Palestinian leaders clearly demonstrated that “despite the prolonged absence of a political horizon, despite the sometimes poisonous rhetoric of incitement and the destructive actions of those seeking to undermine a return to talks, there remains a steadfast desire and determination to achieve an enduring solution”.
Towards that goal, he called on the new Government of Israel to take credible steps, including a freeze of settlement activity, and he reiterated to both sides the necessity of continued security cooperation and efforts to build on existing agreements.
He signalled that he and the Secretary-General would be engaging the new Israeli Government to explore realistic options for a return to meaningful negotiations within a reasonable time frame. He expressed deep concern, in that context, to hear Israeli announcements of the advancement of what he called illegal settlement activities at a sensitive time, which he said could call into question the very viability of the two-State possibility.
In addition, he said, tensions continued on the ground. In the West Bank, Israeli security forces had conducted some 265 search-and-arrest operations during the reporting period, which had resulted in the arrest of 294 Palestinians. Israelis were injured in a series of stabbing and car-crash incidents, while three Palestinians who reportedly stabbed Israeli security officers were also killed.
A total of 15 Palestinian structures had been demolished during the period, leading to the displacement of 25 Palestinians, he said. In addition, an Israeli high court rejected a request from Palestinians from an area C village, Susiya, to freeze demolitions there. Expressing concern as well over relocation of Bedouins in the politically sensitive E1 section of the West Bank, he reiterated the call on Israel to cease such displacements and demolitions.
Turning to Gaza, he said no one was untouched by the devastation, the slow pace of reconstruction and the vast needs to rebuild lives and livelihoods. “Gaza is desperate and angry,” he said, at the blockade, the closure of Rafah, at Hamas for imposing a solidarity tax and at donors for not honouring their financial commitments.
There was a moral and humanitarian imperative, not just for the United Nations, but for Israeli and Palestinian authorities to prevent the area’s implosion, he said, stressing that without Palestinian unity, all efforts to improve the situation would face major difficulties.
In that context, he said reconciliation must include the Government of National Consensus resuming control over crossings to Israel and Egypt. It should also pave the way for overdue Palestinian general elections — responsibilities he emphasized that lay first and foremost with Palestinian authorities, as well as with the international community, which must empower them to take up their leadership role in the area. The United Nations’ ultimate objective in Gaza was to see the lifting of all closures within the framework of resolution 1860 (2009), he reiterated.
Concerning Lebanon, he said that, as of 25 May, the country would have been without a President for one year, which jeopardized the functioning of State institutions. With 1.2 million registered Syrian refugees forming the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world, he urged the international community to fulfil existing pledges, and to both increase and expedite support to Lebanon.
He said the shared border with Syria had been impacted by “infiltration” attempts by armed extremists, particularly as a result of fighting in the Qalamoun region. Against that backdrop, Lebanon had received its first shipment of military equipment from France on 20 April, financed by a $3 million grant from Saudi Arabia, which he called a necessary and welcome contribution.
Finally, in the Golan, he described clashes between the Syrian Armed Forces and armed opposition members, as well as heavy fighting among armed groups in the area of separation, stressing that such developments had the potential to jeopardize the ceasefire between the two countries.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:22 p.m.