Unresolved Gaza crisis hampering efforts to advance Mid-east peace – UN envoy

23 June 2009

As members of the diplomatic Quartet prepare to meet in Italy on Friday as part of ongoing efforts to promote peace in the Middle East, the top United Nations envoy to the region said today that a commitment by both Israel and the Palestinians to change the dynamics in Gaza is vital.

“The unresolved crisis in Gaza has negative repercussions on all efforts to advance the peace process, and wreaks unacceptable havoc on the fabric of civilian life in Gaza,” Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a briefing to the Security Council.

The situation in Gaza – which recently endured a devastating Israeli offensive with the stated goal of ending rocket fire into its southern territory – will be among the issues discussed at the 26 June meeting in Trieste, Italy, which will be attended by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other members of the Quartet, which comprises the UN, European Union, Russia and United States.

“We need both Israeli and Palestinian Governments clearly committed to a two-State solution achieved peacefully through negotiations on all core issues… and to changing the dynamics in Gaza,” said the Special Coordinator.

Mr. Serry reported a “notable and welcome” drop in violence over the past month, as well as continuing efforts to prevent the re-supply of illicit weapons to militants in Gaza, including Egyptian efforts to close down tunnels and confiscate explosives.

At the same time, conditions for the civilian population remain of grave concern, he said. Food and medicines are entering Gaza, but the overall quantity and range of goods remains “grossly insufficient” to support normal economic and social activity.

He added that it is completely unacceptable that no reconstruction materials are allowed into Gaza, when an entire civilian population was trapped in a war zone and given the scale of damage caused by Israel’s military operation earlier this year.

Last month, Maxwell Gaylard, the top UN humanitarian official in the occupied Palestinian territory, said the fighting from December 2008 to January 2009 had destroyed some 4,000 homes and damaged another 40,000, and although donor countries have pledged billions of dollars for Gaza’s reconstruction, it cannot begin because of the ongoing Israeli blockade.

Mr. Serry today noted that Security Council resolution 1860, which called for an end to the fighting earlier this year, specified the key challenges that must be met if a “different and more positive” strategy on Gaza is to emerge.

“I believe there is now an emerging opportunity to begin shifting the dynamics.”

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