The United Nations and its diplomatic partners in the search for peace in the Middle East today called on Israeli and Palestinian authorities to remain engaged in negotiations and refrain from provocative actions.
During informal consultations in New York, the so-called Quartet – the diplomatic grouping bringing together the UN with the European Union, Russia and the United States – along with Quartet Representative Tony Blair, discussed the grave situation in Gaza and southern Israel, expressed its serious concern for the recent escalation and called for calm.
“The situation in Gaza is yet again proving its unsustainability,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council this morning following the meeting with the Quartet.
“I am gravely concerned at the latest escalation between Gaza and Israel, and once again civilians are paying a terrible price. Rocket attacks out of Gaza against Israeli civilian areas are unacceptable and must stop immediately. I reiterate my call on Israel to exercise maximum restraint,” he said.
During its meeting, the Quartet assessed developments since its statement of 23 September, in which it appealed to the Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct bilateral negotiations without delays or preconditions.
In that statement, the Quartet also proposed a series of steps and a timetable with the aim of reaching a lasting Middle East peace agreement by the end of 2012. At today’s meeting, the group reiterated its support for the statement and welcomed efforts in the past two months led by Jordan to this end.
“We must create the conditions for meaningful negotiations that will resolve the core permanent status issues – territory, security, refugees, Jerusalem – and end the occupation that started in 1967,” Mr. Ban said. “This is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace that will realize the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security,” he added.
The Quartet will meet again next month in Washington D.C.
Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today voiced deep concern over the impact on children of the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel.
The agency stated in a news release that on Monday, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was killed and another four children were reported injured in an explosion in Gaza. On Sunday, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was killed in an airstrike on Gaza. So far, 14 Palestinian children have been reported injured in airstrikes. Two schools suffered minor damage in Gaza City.
On Sunday in Israel, a rocket hit a school that was empty at the time. Classes had to be cancelled in the south of the country, affecting over 200,000 Israeli students.
“Everything must be done to protect the safety and the lives of innocent children,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Special Representative to the occupied Palestinian territory. “We call upon all parties to do everything in their power to protect children and to put an end to violence.”