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Israel And Palestinians Must Do More

21 April 2005

Israel And Palestinians Must Do More To Sustain Peace Hopes, Security Council Told

The Palestinians must do more to reorganize their security forces to prevent violence and Israel must halt all settlement activity if recent hopes for resolving the Middle East conflict are to be sustained, the top United Nations political officer told the Security Council today.

"Recent events in the Middle East continue to confirm the potential for peace, but warn us as well that this new process is still fragile," Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast said in his latest monthly <"">briefing, citing "a degree of edginess and renewed suspicion" about Israeli intentions and Palestinian resolve and capabilities.

He welcomed the public reiteration by both sides of their willingness to coordinate Israel's planned withdrawal of its settlements in the Gaza Strip this summer, but voiced concern "at reports that this announced readiness to coordinate has not yet been sufficiently translated into practice.

"Direct dialogue and communication are essential first steps towards ensuring that the disengagement is as smooth and non-violent as possible," he added.

"The pressing challenge for the parties and the international community is to take all possible actions to ensure that disengagement happens, that it happens in a coordinated way, and that it does not become a dead end, but contributes to the momentum for peace," he said, referring to the Road Map peace plan sponsored by the <"">Middle East diplomatic Quartet - the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States.

The plan calls for parallel and reciprocal steps by both sides leading to two States living in peace and security, originally by the end of this year.

"There is no 'quick fix' to this conflict. We can and should however reiterate the need for the parties to implement their commitments under the <"">Road Map, and more recently at Sharm el-Sheikh," Mr. Prendergast said, referring to an accord reached in February at the Egyptian resort for the Palestinians to stop acts of violence and Israel to cease military activities.

He noted moves by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to reorganize the security forces, but added: "These actions and announcements are positive and welcome, but they are clearly not enough. Security reform and a visible and sustained effort to stop all violent activity is a basic requirement of the Road Map. As such, they cannot be a matter for compromise. The will to act must come from the Palestinian Authority."

On the other hand Israel could do much to support rather than hinder Mr. Abbas' ability to take difficult steps, he said, noting that one of its primary obligations under the Road Map is a halt to all settlement activity, including natural growth.

"We have therefore noted with great concern that, despite strong international objections, (Israeli) Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon has publicly reiterated his commitment to the eventual implementation of the E1 plan aiming at connecting Jerusalem with the largest West Bank settlement, Maale Adumim," he declared.

"In addition, the Israeli Lands Authority announced on 18 April that it was inviting bids for the construction of 50 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Elkana."

Recalling US President George W. Bush's statement that Israel should not undertake any activity contravening the Road Map or prejudicing final status negotiations and should meet its obligations regarding settlements, he said: "I believe that this very much represents the position of all four members of the Quartet."


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