Middle East peace process entering critical period, says UN envoy

Thursday, January 24, 2013
Robert H. Serry (right), UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefs the Security Council. On his right is Riad Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine.
[UN Photo/Evan Schneider] 
New York: Richard Serry, the United Nations (UN) Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East.

He said the budget deficit of the Palestinian Authority exceeded one billion US dollars and that while international contributions amounted to 600 million US dollars, further timely disbursement of aid was essential. Serry said, "We should be under no illusion: the viability of the Palestinian Authority will be increasingly at stake if its standing is based on political 'quick sand'", adding that "ultimately", there was no future for a Palestinian Authority without a two-state solution.

Referring to a  17 January meeting that members of the Fatah and Hamas parties held in Cairo -  the first of a series of regular meetings - Serry said that "reconciliation and negotiations" remained essential for achieving the two-state solution.

He said that the peace process and reconciliation, was not an 'either-or', that for real progress to be made, "the time has come for Hamas to make clear where it stands on the central issues at stake".

Serry stressed that if Israel was serious about the two-state solution, "it must recognize the negative impact of the continued settlement construction" and to the Palestinians he said that their seriousness could be demonstrated by "pausing further action in the international arena" while talks began.

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

Riad Malki Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine said Israel's "illegal settlement campaign" continued to be the main obstacle to the attainment of a peace. He said that "a halt to settlement construction is not a precondition; it is a legal obligation". Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said the Palestinians had "not lifted a finger to restart negotiations". He said "We've not seen single gesture, not a single statement, not a single indication that they want to return to negotiations".

He said that ten days ago the Fatah party had released a new logo "that completely erased the state of Israel from the map".

United States Ambassador Susan Rice said the US remained "fully committed to direct negotiations". She said that the US was consulting with the parties and international partners on the way forward while underscoring that "every step taken must aim to reduce tensions and create a climate for peace".

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said that historically serious and external leadership was required to reinvigorate a return to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and he looked to the United States to show that leadership, "and to drive the peace process forward".

Commenting on the situation in Syria Ambassador Rice said her country was continuing with its efforts to support the Syrian opposition coalition as it worked towards a more unified opposition able to address the needs of its people. Lyall Grant said that no opposition wanting to play a role in Syria's future was going to be prepared to work with President Bashar Assad.

He also stressed on the need for the Security Council to play the role that it was established to fulfil adding that "Its failure to do so far is a stain on its reputation". -UNifeed
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