Ban warns of ‘dangerous standstill’ in Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Palestinian children playing in Khallet Zakariya beside the Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut. IRIN/Erica Silverman
Palestinian children playing in Khallet Zakariya beside the Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut. IRIN/Erica Silverman

Ban warns of ‘dangerous standstill’ in Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today warned of the current “dangerous standstill” in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and called on the international community to help steer the situation towards negotiations and a historic peace process.

“The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been for some time at a dangerous standstill. As we speak, there are ongoing intensive efforts between the parties to avoid renewed deadlock,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered on his behalf to the Asian and Pacific Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, held in Bangkok, Thailand.

“Recent actions on the ground have not contributed to a conducive environment for dialogue. Israel has continued settlement activity, contrary to international law and its commitments under the Road Map, and violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians has escalated,” Mr. Ban said.

He noted that since the beginning of this year, and contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law, more than 370 Palestinians structures have been demolished in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing some 600 people, including women, children and elderly.

In April, members of the so-called Quartet – the diplomatic grouping bringing together the UN with the European Union, Russia and the United States – had urged both Israel and the Palestinians to avoid actions that undermine trust between them and expressed concern about unilateral and provocative actions by either party, including continued settlement activity.

The Quartet had also encouraged the Palestinian Authority (PA) to continue its institution-building efforts and had called on the international community to ensure that the $1.1 billion contribution to meet the PA’s recurrent financing requirements this year is available.

“The Middle East Quartet continues to stress the urgent need for mutual confidence-building measures in support of efforts to resume dialogue and substantive negotiations, as well as to keep the prospects for a two-State solution alive,” Mr. Ban said.

The UN chief also noted that the situation in Gaza remains unsustainable, with more than 80 per cent of families there depending on humanitarian aid while being subject to restrictions on import, exports, and the movement of people by land, air and sea.

“Lifting these restrictions… would help to rebuild self-reliance and sustainability of the Gazan economy, and reduce dependency on donor aid. I continue to call on Israel to take measures to that end,” Mr. Ban said.

“The only way to avoid more suffering and violence is through negotiations aimed at resolving all permanent status issues. All of us in the international community, including the countries of Asia and the Pacific, must act collectively to help steer the situation towards a historic peace agreement,” he added.

The Israelis and the Palestinians have yet to resume direct negotiations since talks stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Negotiators from both sides began preparatory talks at the start of January in Amman, under the facilitation of King Abdullah II of Jordan and that country’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh, with a view to a resumption of direct talks.

Negotiators met again in Amman in early April and agreed to an exchange of letters outlining their positions. Both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have since continued to reiterate their desire to negotiate.