A senior United Nations official today urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take advantage of the opportunity presented by next week’s high-level gatherings in New York to renew the political process towards a two-State solution and a lasting peace in the region.
Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told a meeting of the Security Council that there is an important opportunity to lay the basis for progress as world leaders gather for the opening of the General Assembly.
He also noted that the principal members of the diplomatic Quartet – comprising the European Union, UN, Russia and the United States – will meet on 24 September.
“It is above all for the parties to take responsibility and seize this opportunity,” he stated. “Now is the time to make the commitments necessary to re-launch negotiations, and to see them through to a two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region.”
Mr. Serry said there is today a Palestinian Authority that is more than a partner for peace. “We have a player, ready to meet its responsibilities, determined to insist on its rights, and desperately in need of support and enablement – from Israel, from the region, from the world.”
Also, the Palestinian government, as announced last month, is resolved to complete preparation for statehood in less than two years.
“This agenda of self-empowerment, reflected in concrete security and economic improvements on the ground and more ambitious plans for the period ahead, will be a powerful complement to a renewed political process, and must be enabled and supported,” Mr. Serry said.
Stressing that the current moment is so important, he urged all parties to cease finding excuses and rise to their responsibilities, including committing to and implement their obligations under the Roadmap for Middle East peace.
Mr. Serry added that the situation in Gaza remains “unsustainable,” with key elements of the Security Council 1860 – which called for an end to the fighting earlier this year – remaining unfulfilled.
“There is an uneasy informal calm, but it is inherently fragile and violent incidents continue,” he stated. “As efforts are made to re-launch a meaningful political process, the situation in Gaza cannot be left to further deteriorate and unravel.”
He noted with grave concern that, according to a statement by Hamas leader Khaled Mashal last week, Hamas continues to buy, manufacture and smuggle weapons to Gaza.
In addition, due to Israel’s blockade, no Palestinian exports were permitted in the past couple of months, and there has been no significant improvement in the inadequate levels of access.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in early June, presented Israel with a proposal for UN-led civilian reconstruction activities in Gaza, beginning with suspended projects comprising housing, medical clinics and schools.
It is “deeply regrettable” that a positive response has not yet been received from Israel, Mr. Serry said, adding that the Government cites the continued detention of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit as the key obstacle to allowing even limited civilian reconstruction.
“I reiterate our call on the Government of Israel to allow without delay the entry of material into Gaza to make a meaningful start in addressing the massive civilian recovery needs.”
More positively, he said, Israel had announced approval of three UN water and sanitation projects, a significant step since underground water supplies in Gaza, upon which 1.5 million Palestinians depend for agriculture and drinking water, are in danger of collapse.