UN Middle East envoy calls for speeding up RoadMap
In face of new violence, UN Middle East envoy calls for speeding up Road Map
Declaring that the Middle East now stood at the crossroads between recommitment to peace and descent into major bloodshed, the senior United Nations envoy for the region, Terje Roed-Larsen, today called for determined international engagement and a bold acceleration of the Road Map process to jump start efforts to resolve the crisis.
"I wish to note that the Road Map contains provisions for acceleration or slowing down of the process," Mr. Roed-Larsen, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said at the outset of an open meeting of the Security Council, referring to the plan put forward by the UN, European Union, Russian Federation and United States that calls for parallel and reciprocal steps by Israel and the Palestinians leading to two states living side by side in peace by 2005.
“Given the current situation, it might be appropriate to speed up the Road Map,” Mr. Roed-Larsen said, regretting in hindsight that the process had moved too slowly and incrementally when what was needed were bold steps to achieve a true parallelism for ending terrorism against Israelis by Palestinian militants and occupation and settlement of Palestinian territory by Israel.
"Bold steps, related to settlements and security, and involving increased activity from the international community might be necessary in order to improve the environment and assist to jump start a resumption of the process," he said in his briefing.
"We are now crossing dire and stormy straits," he declared of the recent cycle of violence and counter-violence on both sides, which over the past month has killed 38 Israelis and 43 Palestinians. "At this difficult time we have no choice but to increase our efforts to implement the Road Map."
On Israel's decision earlier this month to remove Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, "in a manner and at a time of its choosing," Mr. Roed-Larsen stressed: "Mr. Arafat is democratically elected, and as such, the legitimate leader of the Palestinians. He embodies Palestinian identity and national aspirations. He is now far from irrelevant."
The UN envoy said neither side had "seriously and actively" addressed the core concerns of the other - for Israel security and freedom from terrorist attack, for Palestinians a viable independent state based on pre-1967 war borders.
"The two key issues in the peace process are terrorism and occupation," he said, stressing that progress on the latter issue was essential for a Palestinian Prime Minister to win the necessary popular base to clamp down on terrorism.
"This essential public support could best be achieved, under the current circumstances, through abandonment of settlements. The continued expansion of settlements produces the opposite effect," he added, noting that over the past four months a single but essential issue - security for Israel from terrorism - became the sole focus of Road Map implementation.
"We must reassert the principle of parallelism by beginning to end both terrorism and occupation," he declared.
Invited to address the Council, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said the international community must take decisive and swift action in order to prevent Israel from carrying out the “illegal and insane act” of removing Mr. Arafat. It was necessary to return to the negotiating table and the Road Map must be revived and implemented in a real and honest way, he added. The Council must officially order the two sides to comply with their responsibilities.
For his part, Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said that 10 years ago at the time of the Oslo peace accords, Israel was willing to believe that Mr. Arafat had abandoned the path of terrorism and embarked on the road to true reconciliation and mutual recognition. Unfortunately Mr. Arafat had lied, he added, and it was abundantly clear that the person with the standing to deliver a fair and genuine peace on the Palestinian side had done the most to bury its chances.