Senior UN official laments lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace process
“As the year draws to a close, the situation on the ground is deteriorating and the path towards peace remains dangerously uncertain,” Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council during a monthly briefing on the situation in the Middle East.
“We must not allow these negative dynamics to prevail – too much is at stake. Our challenge remains to assist the parties to overcome them,” he said, citing the need to de-escalate the situation, return to direct talks with serious proposals on borders and security, and to stop provocations.
Direct talks stalled in late September last year after Israel refused to extend its 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.
“The realization of the two-State solution has not advanced, eroding hopes and underscoring the urgent need for both sides to engage without further delay into serious substantive negotiations to resolve all permanent status issues,” said Mr. Fernandez-Taranco.
The past month witnessed a series of developments that are cause for “continued serious concern,” he said, noting the announcement of several new settlement constructions, the demolition of 57 Palestinian structures in the West Bank, an increase in settler violence, and over 300 Israeli military operations in the West Bank.
Gaza and southern Israel again witnessed “a dangerous deterioration” in the security situation, he added. During the reporting period, 45 projectiles were fired from Gaza into Israel, while the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) conducted nine incursions and 13 air strikes.
“We condemn in the strongest terms any indiscriminate firing of projectiles towards civilian areas and call on Israel to show maximum restraint,” Mr. Fernandez-Taranco stated.
He added that efforts to help the parties resume direct talks continue, including recent meetings by the envoys of the diplomatic Quartet – comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States – and Tony Blair with the parties.
The envoys called on the parties to create a conducive environment for restarting talks, and urged both to refrain from provocative actions. “We continue to believe that de-escalation is necessary to facilitate the resumption of direct meaningful engagement between both sides,” said Mr. Fernandez-Taranco.
He added that it is encouraging that, at their last meetings with the envoys, both the Israelis and the Palestinians, showed willingness to consider reciprocal actions that may help to reduce tensions.