The United Nations political chief today called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to get serious about overcoming the current impasse, noting that the talks begun last month have stalled and the situation on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza remains dangerous.
“What is important now is for the parties to engage seriously on substance,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe said as he briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East.
He reported that the talks that began in early January in Amman between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have, unfortunately, stalled. Since the last meeting of the negotiators on 25 January, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been consulting internally and with the Arab League.
“So far, prospects for the resumption of direct bilateral negotiations remain dim,” he noted.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled in September 2010 after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory. That decision prompted Mr. 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 the framework set last September by the so-called Quartet – the diplomatic grouping bringing together the UN with the European Union, Russia and the United States – that aims for a negotiated solution by the end of this year remains relevant.
“We still hope both leaders will realize they must overcome the political impasse and rebuild confidence and momentum,” he said, adding that time is not on the side of either party.
Meanwhile, the situation on the ground in both Gaza and the West Bank remains “dangerous and ultimately unsustainable,” said Mr. Pascoe. Israel continues to authorize settlement expansion in occupied Palestinian territory in violation of its international obligations.
Incidents of settler violence against Palestinians and their property, as well as violence by Palestinians against settlers, continue in the West Bank, as does demolitions of Palestinian property. The past month has also witnessed increasing tensions and violence between Palestinians and Israeli security forces around holy sites, he reported. There was also a significant increase in rockets fired from Gaza into Israel this month, he added.
He also discussed the ongoing crisis in Syria, as well as its impact on neighbouring Lebanon, and the situation in Yemen, where he said the political transition remains “delicate” and requires ongoing facilitation.