The United Nations remains deeply concerned at the current stalemate in the Middle East peace process, the world body`s political chief said today, voicing the hope that both the Israelis and the Palestinians will accept a proposal put forward to restart talks.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe said a proposal from United States envoy George Mitchell to the parties to begin indirect talks with US mediation is currently under serious consideration. Israel has indicated its readiness to work on this basis, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is still seeking clarifications.
The Secretary-General hopes that President Abbas will move forward on the basis of this practical proposal so that serious talks can begin, " Mr. Pascoe said in his briefing to the Security Council.
We continue to stress the importance of doing everything possible to ensure that negotiations lead in a clear time frame to an agreement resolving all final status issues, including Jerusalem, borders, refugees, security, settlements and water, " he stated.
He added that the international consensus on what it takes to reach a sustainable agreement is strong, and that an active Quartet will be vital to support the process, referring to the diplomatic grouping comprising the UN, the European Union, Russia and the US that backs the Roadmap " the plan for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In addition to a resumption of talks, Mr. Pascoe called for the implementation of Roadmap commitments, continued efforts to improve economic and security conditions, and a different and more positive " approach to Gaza, where closures imposed by Israel remain in place.
This counter-productive policy is empowering smugglers and militants, destroying legitimate commerce, and causing unacceptable hardship for the civilian population, more than half of whom are children, " he said.
While an average of some 560 trucks enter Gaza on a weekly basis, the scale and quantity of goods coming in through the Israeli crossings, as well as the level of exports, remains far short of requirements. "
The UN political chief did note that the Israeli Government`s partial restraint on settlement construction in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, remains in effect, and has led to a slowdown of construction activity.
Nevertheless, he said, settlements are illegal, and continued settlement activity violates Israel`s Roadmap obligations.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority`s efforts to meet its Roadmap obligations to combat terrorism have continued in the West Bank, with some impressive achievements, Mr. Pascoe stated, adding that it is important that the Palestinian Authority leadership continues to speak out against violence and incitement.
Continued settler violence remains a concern, he said, noting that there have been eight reported attacks by settlers on Palestinians, including on 9 February when settlers shot and injured a Palestinian teenager.
While noting what he said were legitimate Israeli and Palestinian security concerns, Mr. Pascoe stressed that sustainable security will best be achieved by intensified cooperation, the continued empowerment of Palestinian Authority security efforts and performance, and the curtailment of incursions by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) into Palestinian areas.
It will also be aided, he added, by full respect for legitimate non-violent protest, Israeli action to curb settler violence, Palestinian action against incitement, and progress in both political negotiations and economic development.