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Israelis, Palestinians Undermining Peace Prospects


New York, Aug 11 2004 3:00PM

Both Israelis and Palestinians are undermining prospects for peace, with the former failing to end settlement expansion and carrying out collective punishment, the latter failing to end violence and combat terror, and civilians on both sides suffering, according to the latest United Nations briefing on the Middle East today.

"For each side to cite the actions of the other does not in any way excuse it from fulfilling its own obligations," Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast told the Council in what he called a "depressingly familiar" monthly briefing that reported no tangible progress towards resuming the peace process.

"There can be no preconditions to the observance of humanitarian law and international agreements," he added, calling on Israel to end "illegal" extrajudicial killings and house demolitions and to freeze settlements, and on the Palestinian Authority to end all attacks, including a recent rash of rocket assaults, and reform its security services.

Mr. Prendergast stressed that the Road Map sponsored by the UN, European Union, Russian Federation and United States represented the best way "to move out of the current hopeless situation," but that both sides had failed to meet their minimum obligations under the plan, which calls for a series of parallel and reciprocal steps leading to two states living side-by-side in peace by 2005.

"The Palestinian Authority, despite promises made by its President, has made no progress on its core obligation to take immediate action on the ground to end violence and combat terror," he said. "The Israeli Government, despite its commitment, has made no progress on its core obligation immediately to dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001 and to move towards a complete freeze of settlement activities.

"Until and unless both the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel take the necessary first steps to restore momentum towards peace, the stalemate will continue and there will be no lasting ceasefire," he added. "So far, I'm sorry to say, there is little reason to believe that we are about to witness the taking of such steps by either side, let alone both."

He noted that 54 Palestinians were killed, and 400 Palestinians and 23 Israelis injured over the last month, bringing the total since the outbreak in September 2000 of the most recent violence to 3,553 Palestinians and 949 Israelis killed - and the total casualty toll to 34,770 Palestinians and 6,102 Israelis.

He called the recent increase in the launching by Palestinian militants of rockets into Israel followed by Israeli helicopter missile strikes and ever deeper incursions into Gaza a "new and worrying pattern." He said the scale of destruction by Israel raised concerns about collective punishment and termed its demolitions of houses of people not charged with a crime a form of such punishment.

Mr. Prendergast also noted that there had been several recent incidents where, despite prior coordination, areas where UN staff were present came under Israeli fire. "We are deeply concerned over the unacceptably high number (of incidents)…Israel has an obligation to protect humanitarian workers and facilitate their efforts," he stressed.

On the economic front he cited Israel's closure policies on the West Bank and Gaza as the primary cause of what the World Bank has called "one of the worst recessions in modern history," with an unemployment rate of 34.4 per cent.

"The Palestinian economy is in tatters and stands little chance of recovery unless immediate action is taken," he added.

2004-08-11 00:00:00.000

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