The United Nations political chief called today for the urgent resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, stressing the need for leaders on both sides to rise to the challenge of reaching an agreement that is in the interest of their respective peoples.
“As popular protest and political change continue to sweep the region, the Israeli-Palestinian political process remains at a dangerous standstill,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe said in a briefing to the Security Council. “Resumption of meaningful negotiations is urgent.”
Mr. Pascoe informed the 15-member body that Secretary-General Ban is increasingly worried about the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian talks, which 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 Authority 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. Pascoe said that, with both the Palestinians and Israel stressing their desire to negotiate, United States President Barack Obama’s recent speech contained ideas that the international community can rally behind to offer a framework to resume talks and seek an agreement.
He added that the Secretary-General looks forward to the diplomatic Quartet – comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the US – giving impetus to this objective through a principals-level meeting soon.
“But what is most important is that the leaders on the ground rise to the challenge. They face political risks and there are many questions in the minds of their publics. There is also a gulf of confidence between the parties,” said Mr. Pascoe.
“But we appeal to them to return to negotiations in the interests of their respective peoples, without further delay, and to negotiate seriously in order to reach an agreement.”
Turning to Gaza, Mr. Pascoe noted that while an “overall state of calm” between Israel and Gaza has generally prevailed for the past 10 weeks, two rockets and two mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza during the past month, causing no injuries or damage, while Israel conducted six incursions and one air strike.
In addition, one Palestinian civilian was killed by Israeli fire on 21 May while approaching the border fence during the night, and two civilians were injured by Israeli forces on 20 and 29 May, respectively.
“We continue to urge calm and restraint for the sake of civilian populations on both sides,” he stated.
Regarding reports that a new flotilla is planned in the next few days, Mr. Pascoe reiterated the strong view of the UN that assistance for the population of Gaza should be delivered through official crossings.
The Under-Secretary-General also reported on recent developments in the Golan Heights, including the violence that occurred on 5 June, as well as the situation in Lebanon, where the formation of a new Government was announced last week by the Prime Minister.