Middle East: UN envoy urges closing gap between peace vision and reality
Amid a growing consensus on the need for a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict, bloodshed and economic collapse are intensifying in the region, Terje Roed-Larsen, the senior United Nations envoy in the region, told the Security Council today, urging international efforts to reconcile plans with reality.
"This paradox - the steadily growing gap between the deteriorating situation on the ground and the growing consensus about where to go - has to be resolved," said Mr. Roed-Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process. He noted that the roadmap for peace outlined by the diplomatic Quartet - the UN, United States, Russian Federation and European Union - provides the best tool to achieve this goal.
"It is, therefore, imperative that the upcoming Quartet meeting in Washington, D.C., this week finalizes a plan for moving forward, and sets out - in parallel and with reciprocity - political, security and economic steps monitored under the auspices of the Quartet," Mr. Roed-Larsen said. "Only this can restart a process that stops the meaningless and unfathomable fear and suffering of both parties."
The envoy said that humanitarian aid alone could not stem the dismal conditions now prevailing in the West Bank and Gaza, where Israeli defence measures "are creating a humanitarian catastrophe." He stressed that "lasting security for Israel will only be found through a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement in the Middle East; meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis cannot and should not be solved by donor support alone." While welcoming Israel's decision to transfer $28 million in withheld tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, he urged a system of regular transfers, as well as the back payment of some $580 million owed in arrears.
Reviewing the most recent wave of violence, he cited Israel's killing of three UN workers, including British national Iain Hook, who was slain in an area where Israeli forces faced no threat. Mr. Roed-Larsen called for a full investigation of the incident.
Citing Israel's "troubling indifference to the sanctity of UN facilities," he said the country must to ensure that its soldiers do not place civilians in harm's way, behave with greater restraint and discipline, and act in conformity with international humanitarian law.
Mr. Roed-Larsen also decried terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. "We have repeatedly demanded - in the strongest of terms - that the Palestinian Authority take all measures within its power to apprehend and prosecute those who carry out terrorist attacks, and those who order such attacks," he said. All Palestinian groups had been asked to halt "these wicked acts."
Calling on the parties to work with the international community towards a two-State solution, he said "only this can provide harmony, justice and prosperity for both peoples."