ASG for Political Affairs: “Urgent action needed to break impasse in Israeli-Palestinian talks” – SecCo briefing – UN news item

Impasse in Israeli-Palestinian Talks Must be Overcome, UN Official Stresses

With Israeli-Palestinian negotiations remaining at a standstill and violence increasing on the ground, a senior United Nations official today called for urgent action to break the current impasse in the search for Middle East peace.

“We urge the parties to demonstrate leadership and rise to the challenge of making a historic peace,” Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco told a meeting of the Security Council.

The past month has been marked by an increase in violence and tensions on the ground, while efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations “have not produced visible results,” he said.

“A decisive effort must now be made by the international community and the Quartet to bring the parties back to negotiating the final status issues towards implementing the two-State solution,” he added, referring to the diplomatic grouping consisting of the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States which seeks to have two States — Israel and Palestine — living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders.

Talks between the two sides have been stalled since late September following Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory. That decision prompted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which had only resumed a few weeks earlier after a two-year hiatus.

Mr. Fernandez-Taranco said that the recent surge in violence, including the 11 March murder of five members of an Israeli family living in a West Bank settlement as well as the increased violence and tensions in and around Gaza, must not be allowed to further undermine the possibility of finding a way towards an agreement on final status issues, or undermine the state-building achievements thus far.

“The wider region has continued to witness dramatic developments, which add to the importance of redoubling efforts to break the deadlock as progress towards peace and meeting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to statehood could be an important stabilizing force in the Middle East,” he stated.

Turning to the situation in Gaza, Mr. Fernandez-Taranco said all parties must exercise restraint, as he condemned last weekend’s firing of missiles and mortars towards Israeli civilian areas, and noted the air strikes and incursions carried out by Israel that killed three Palestinian civilians and two militants.

The situation of the 1.5 million Palestinian residents of Gaza also remained a concern, he added, noting that current imports into the territory represent only about one third of the weekly average prior to the imposition of the Israeli blockade in June 2007.

The latest UN assessment of the humanitarian impact of the blockade says that the measures announced by Israel last June to ease the blockade has not resulted in a significant improvement in people’s livelihoods.

Because of the ongoing restrictions on the import of building materials, only a small minority of the needed housing units could be constructed, it adds. High unemployment levels and strong demand for construction materials have left thousands of people with no alternative but to risk their lives working in tunnels or in access-restricted areas near the perimeter fence surrounding Gaza.


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