A senior United Nations official today called for ‘credible and effective international intervention’ to break the impasse in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, noting that a negotiated solution would help stabilize a Middle East currently in ferment.
“I must in all frankness report low confidence and trust of the parties in each other and in international efforts to help them overcome their differences,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry told the Security Council in a regular monthly briefing.
“Since our last meeting, the Middle East has been witnessing dramatic political transformations – but stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” he said in a reference to the popular uprisings that have already ousted Presidents Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, and have roiled a host of other countries from Algeria and Libya in the west to Yemen and Bahrain in the east.
“The parties are unlikely to overcome the deficit of trust without a credible and effective international intervention in the peace process.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas broke off direct talks at the end of September after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a moratorium on settlement building in occupied Palestinian territory, activity which the world community deems a violation of international law.
Mr. Serry noted that the diplomatic Quartet of the UN, European Union, Russia and United States, which seeks to establish a two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, has set this September as a goal for achieving this so-called Road Map, and he warned that its credibility is on the line.
“It is now all the more urgent and crucial that it respond to this test,” he said, adding that the Quartet intends to engage the parties in serious talks on substance and help them back to the negotiating table. “I also believe that there should be a readiness to offer more concrete suggestions for those negotiations if that is what it takes to enable decisive progress towards peace,” he stressed.
He told reporters after the meeting that plans were underway for Quartet envoys to meet as a group separately with representatives of both sides in Brussels next week. “Maybe also we should be giving a signal to the parties that the two-State solution is not a solution which is going to be there forever,” he said. “I see developments on the ground which can complicate the very perspective of a two-State solution. So I think the sense of urgency also must be brought across” to them.
“The longer the impasse in talks persists, the greater our concern that tensions on the ground will unravel modest achievements and stand in the way of a negotiated solution,” he said in his report to the Council, repeating past criticism of Israel’s settlement activity and calling for a complete freeze, including in East Jerusalem. “Actions that risk prejudging the outcome of negotiations are particularly unhelpful.”
Mr. Serry also commended the Palestinian Authority’s progress with its state-building agenda in building security forces to maintain law and order and in economic activity. “With significant achievements realized over the past years and further reforms underway, it is my clear view that the strong institutions now established represent the basis of a state-in-waiting,” he said.
Calling for full implementation of steps that Israel has already agreed on with the Quartet to help improve Palestinian livelihoods and economic growth both in the West bank and in Gaza, he said more and speedier Israeli measures were urgently needed to shore up the state-building effort.
He also called on the international donor community to continue to provide “critical” support to the Palestinian Authority and buttress the reform agenda.
He urged unity among the Palestinians, who have been split between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which accepts the two-State solution, and the Hamas movement in Gaza.
“I feel that also as a consequence of the events in the region that the calls from Palestinians to their leaderships for reconciliation are growing and I very much hope that the different factions will respond to these calls because unity of the Palestinians is very important… and I will help to bring reconciliation forward,” he told reporters.
On Gaza, he noted an increase in violence, with an escalation of rocket attacks against Israel and Israeli air attacks against Gaza, and voiced concern over the continued depressed economic situation in the strip, which is still subject to an Israeli blockade, albeit eased but far from meeting the pre-2007 levels of import needs.
On the Syrian front, Mr. Serry voiced concern at a new Israeli campaign encouraging additional settlements in the occupied Golan Heights. “We regret the lack of progress towards peace between Israel and Syria,” he said, stressing that the conflict between the two countries should be resolved on the basis of UN resolutions calling for withdrawal from occupied land in exchange for peace.