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July 21, 10

NEWS / UN political chief underscores need for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks

21 July 2010 – With efforts to move to serious negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians on achieving a two-State solution having reached a “critical juncture,” the top United Nations political official today underlined the need for direct negotiations between the two sides to begin as soon as possible.

“These talks are essential for ending the 1967 occupation, ending the conflict and resolving all core issues between the parties, including Jerusalem, borders, refugees, security settlements and water,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council today.

Six rounds of proximity talks facilitated by United States Special Envoy George Mitchell have been held since they began in May.

The goal of the diplomatic Quartet – comprising the United Nations, the US, Russia and the European Union – continues to be US-facilitated direct negotiations as soon as possible, Mr. Pascoe said, urging Israel and Palestinians to take advantage of the current opportunity to make progress.

Direct talks, he noted, could boost “confidence in the possibility of genuine progress on the core issues and on the ground, including restraint in Jerusalem, implementation of Roadmap obligations on settlements and further measures to empower the Palestinian Authority.”

Earlier this month, in a move welcomed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other officials, the Israeli Government announced it was increase the scope and quantity of materials allowed into Gaza.

Since then, new food and productive items have entered the Strip and the volume of imports into the area has risen steadily, with a 40 per cent increasing in the number of truckloads entering Gaza every week.

“While these are positive steps forward, we hope they can be enhanced to address the deplorable conditions in the Strip,” Mr. Pascoe said, calling for additional steps to be taken to allow exports and movement of people, as well as to streamline procedures for approval for projects.

He also announced at today’s meeting that agreements agreed by the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) on ensuring the cargo onboard Turkish ships have been implemented.

Those ships were part of an aid flotilla intercepted by the Israeli military on 31 May, resulting in the deaths of nine civilians and the wounding of at least 30 others.

Mr. Pascoe said that arrangements are also being made to transfer material carried by a Libyan-sponsored vessel, which arrived in Egypt last week, to Gaza.

“Such convoys are not helpful to resolving the basic economic problems in Gaza and needlessly carry the potential for escalation,” he told the meeting, which heard from dozens of speakers.

During the reporting period, Palestinian militant groups fired 41 rockets and mortars into southern Israel, causing no injuries, while the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) carried out six air strikes and 21 incursions, killing four Gazans, including one alleged militant, and injuring 23 others, the Under-Secretary-General said.

Turning to Lebanon, he said that the situation in that country remains stable. The Lebanese Parliament has continued talks on draft legislation on the civil rights of Palestinian refugees.

“Consensus appears to be within reach and the United Nations would welcome this as a first step,” Mr. Pascoe said.




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