26 May 2017
7953rd Meeting (AM)

Special Coordinator Warns Security Council of ‘Explosive’ Environment Developing in Middle East While Welcoming United States President’s Personal Engagement

Both Parties Must Take Painful Steps Leading to Ultimate Peace, Mladenov Stresses

While welcoming the United States President’s personal engagement in Israel-Palestine issues today, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process warned of an “explosive environment” developing on the ground, as the Security Council considered the situation in the region, including the Palestinian question.

The parties could not afford to miss further opportunities to resolve their differences, Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov emphasized while delivering the Council’s regular monthly briefing via teleconference from Jerusalem.  “If Israelis and Palestinians hope to extract themselves from the immeasurable burden this conflict has wrought, they must be willing to take the painful steps that ultimately lead to peace.”

The key messages to both sides from the United Nations remained consistent, he said, reiterating that continuing Israel’s occupation and settlement activities was untenable.  The situation must end through negotiations addressing all final-status issues, and immediate steps must be taken to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, he said, adding that, for their own part, Palestinians must combat violence and incitement while forging genuine internal reconciliation.

After expressing condolences to the families of the victims in the terror attacks in Sinai, Egypt, and Manchester, United Kingdom, he reported on the situation in the Gaza Strip, declaring:  “We are walking into another crisis with our eyes open.”  Relations between Fatah and Hamas continued to deteriorate, deepening the humanitarian crisis gripping the enclave and risking further conflict, he warned, highlight, in particular, the negative repercussions of the Palestinian Government’s decision to reduce salary allowances for nearly 600,000 public employees in Gaza, upheld this month, and an energy crisis resulting from a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over tax on fuel.

Most Gaza residents received only four hours of electricity per day, he continued, noting that hospitals had been forced to curtail services drastically and the operations of desalinization plants reduced to 15 per cent of capacity, severely limiting water for drinking and irrigation.  Raw sewage was flooding into the Mediterranean Sea, he added.  Meanwhile, with manufacturing grinding to a halt, more than half the number of workers in private industry had been suspended.

The United Nations was working in determined fashion to mitigate the energy crisis, but resources would run out in the coming weeks, he said.  Compromise was needed on all sides, including on tax concessions and on changing the way in which power was supplied to Gaza.  All relevant authorities must fulfil their respective responsibilities, he said, calling for the return of Gaza to the control of legitimate Palestinian authorities.  He joined the High Commissioner for Human Rights in condemning the executions of three men in Gaza, which had brought to 28 the number of death sentences carried out under Hamas.

In the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he reported that six Palestinians had been killed due to violence in recent weeks.  He also called for the earliest resolution of the hunger strike by Palestinians protesting conditions in Israeli jails, which had entered its fortieth day.  Reporting that the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee had met on 4 May in Brussels to discuss the socioeconomic challenges faced by the Palestinian Authority, he said many technical issues between the parties remained unresolved, and called for the political will required to resolve them.

He went on to welcome the consultations between the Israeli and Palestinian Finance Ministers aimed at moving such issues forward.  He also welcomed Israel’s recent announcement of measures to improve the Palestinian economy in the West Bank, including the proposed rezoning of land in Area C, and expanding the hours on the Allenby Bridge crossing.

Briefly turning to the situation in Lebanon, he expressed regret that the national Parliament had not yet reconvened following its one-month adjournment starting on 12 April.  He voiced hope that the lagging agreement on the electoral law could be reached in time to avoid institutional instability and allow the timely holding of constitutionally mandated votes.

In the Golan, he said, the ceasefire between Israel and Syria had been maintained, albeit in an environment rendered volatile by the Syrian conflict and continuing military activity across the ceasefire line.  They included spill-over and retaliatory fire, as well as Israeli air strikes in Syria targeting Hizbullah, he noted.  However, Israel and Syria had affirmed their commitment to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and the full return of United Nations peacekeepers supporting it, he said.

Following the briefing, Luis Bermúdez (Uruguay) expressed concern over the lack of progress in the peace process.  Speaking in his national capacity, the Council President for May called for intensified efforts to realize a two-State solution and implement the relevant Security Council resolutions.  Calling on both sides to return to meaningful negotiations as quickly as possible and without preconditions, he emphasized that they must both create conducive conditions on the ground to facilitate a fair and lasting agreement.

Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) joined in offering condolences to recent victims of terror around the world.  He also expressed frustration that Israel’s occupation and the tragic situation of the Palestinian people had still not been alleviated.

The meeting began at 10:13 a.m. and ended at 10:41 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.