A narrow window of opportunity has opened to re-start the Middle East peace process, but the situation remains fragile and the only viable solution is to follow the Road Map, the senior United Nations envoy for the Middle East told the Security Council today.
Briefing the Council in New York, Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process, said a step-by-step approach by the Israelis and the Palestinians, combined with confidence-building measures, is essential if the window of opportunity is not to be wasted.
Mr. Roed-Larsen said both sides need the strong support of the international community, led by the diplomatic Quartet of the European Union, the Russian Federation, the UN and the United States.
The Road Map is a Quartet-sponsored peace plan that calls for parallel and reciprocal steps leading to Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security by 2005.
Mr. Roed-Larsen said the opportunity to get the peace process back on track follows the willingness of the leaders - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the recently selected Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei - to resume talks.
He added that, on the ground in the Middle East, the situation was relatively quiet in recent months, with fewer deaths and acts of violence on both sides.
Mr. Roed-Larsen concluded his briefing by saying that if this opportunity is not seized, "the cost could be devastating. The current hopes for peace among the peoples could be replaced by the creeping paralysis of a hopeless outlook by a greater hardening of positions and a deepening of the spiral of violence."
Security Council members then held consultations on the issue after the briefing.