UN POLITICAL CHIEF URGES EARLY RESUMPTION OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE TALKS
23 November - The United Nations political chief today called for efforts to break the current impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, including a freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, and urged a return to direct negotiations by the parties.
At their meeting in September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority agreed to work towards an historic Israeli-Palestinian agreement on all permanent status issues within a year.
However, the first direct negotiations between the two sides in over 18 months soon stalled after a partial settlement moratorium in the occupied West Bank expired later that month, despite calls on Israel from the diplomatic Quartet – comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and United States – to renew it.
Mr. Abbas has indicated he will not continue with negotiations unless Israel freezes settlement activity.
“We are in the midst of a delicate period which will determine whether a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is possible,” B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council in his latest briefing on the situation in the Middle East.
He said the continued diplomatic impasse since the moratorium ended is “worrying,” and efforts are continuing to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.
“It is essential that the parties engage seriously and make substantive progress quickly once the talks resume, with a view to resolve all permanent status issues,” he stated.
Meanwhile, he reported that there has been “significant” construction in a number of settlements since the expiry of the moratorium and plans announced for more construction in parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“We call Israel to fulfil its Road Map obligations to freeze illegal settlement construction and not to implement plans for additional settlement units,” Mr. Pascoe said, referring to the plan endorsed by the Quartet and which foresees two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace within secure borders.
He stressed the need to work to bring about a return to direct talks between the parties and to support an atmosphere on the ground conducive to quick and concrete progress in those talks, including a freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas must show vision and leadership and rise above their domestic constraints and seize this opportunity to secure a historic and lasting peace,” said Mr. Pascoe.