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UN: Israel Palestine must seize chance for peace

Israelis, Palestinians must seize new chance for peace, senior UN official says

  • Click here to view video of this Security Council address.
  • With a new Palestinian Prime Minister in place, all parties involved in peace-building between Israelis and Palestinians should recommit themselves to the process and leave behind the inaction of the past month, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

    In his assessment of developments in the Middle East, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, said new Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei would be expected "to take immediate steps to establish law and order, control violence and start operations to confront those who engage in terror."

    The period since he last updated the Middle East question was a month of relative quiet, but had not engendered positive steps to peace, he said.

    "We hear talk here and there of a possible meeting between the two Prime Ministers and of another ceasefire," he said. "These tender shoots need nourishing. The peace process cannot be allowed to remain stalled."

    Despite the positive actions recommended by the "Road Map" to peace -a process co-sponsored by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the Russian Federation, terrorism threatened each Israeli, Mr. Prendergast said. Israeli military and settlement operations, meanwhile, as well as its construction of a separation barrier, caused Palestinian suffering.

    Both sides had done little to address the situation and both should be judged by their performance, Mr. Prendergast said, urging the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to shoulder their obligations.

    "The period of inertia, excuses and conditionality in Middle East peacemaking must end," he said.

    After his briefing, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the Road Map, which advocates achieving "the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security."

    The resolution - co-sponsored by Bulgaria, Chile, China, France, Germany, Guinea, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom - also called on the parties to fulfil their obligations under the Road Map in cooperation with the Quartet.

    While recognizing Israel's right and duty to defend itself against terrorism, this defence could not be carried out at the expense of the entire Palestinian people, Mr. Prendergast said in his assessment.

    "Movement restrictions on Palestinians continue to hamper everyday life and strangle the Palestinian economy," he said.

    Israeli assurances from the highest levels that donor activity and humanitarian aid would be fully facilitated contrasted starkly "with the facts on the ground," Mr. Prendergast said.

    "We call on the Government of Israel to take immediate and practical steps to live up to its assurance that it will do all it can to facilitate humanitarian and emergency aid efforts," he said.

    In the month that had passed since his last briefing on the Middle East, he said, "everyone has waited for others to act."

    The international community had waited for the parties to make progress on their own, despite compelling evidence, accumulated over years, that they would be incapable of making peace without international intervention, he said.

    "The Government of Israel waited for the Palestinian Authority to form an empowered government and for terrorism to end," Mr. Prendergast said.

    "The Palestinian Authority waited for Israel to halt military operations and take steps to ease the closures that have so deeply damaged Palestinian life, for the international community to lead the parties toward peace and for its own political wrangling to end."

    They could not afford just to keep waiting, he said.

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