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Security Council welcomes Rafah Crossing opening

Security Council welcomes opening of Rafah Crossing

The Security Council today welcomed the successful opening of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt last Friday as an important step forward, following the mid-November agreement on movement and access between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In a presidential statement read by the Council President for November, Russian Permanent Representative Andrey Denisov, the Council commended the efforts of the diplomatic Quartet – the United Nations, United States, Russian Federation and European Union (EU) – its Special Envoy, James Wolfensohn, and his team.

It also commended Egypt's contribution to the agreement and expressed its strong appreciation to the EU for assuming the role of third-party monitor at the Crossing.

In that connection, the Council called on the parties to take immediate action to implement the terms of the Agreement on Movement and Access and the Agreed Principles for the Rafah Crossing, according to their timelines.

It also called for renewed parallel action by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority on their obligations under the Quartet's Road Map to ensure continued progress towards the creation of a viable, democratic, sovereign and contiguous Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

Earlier in the day, the Council heard a briefing by UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari who recently returned from a visit, along with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territory.

"I return from the region hopeful about the future, but with a renewed appreciation for the immense challenges it faces," he told the 15-member Council.

Among these challenges, Mr. Gambari listed the extent to which the barrier, checkpoints and Israeli settlements dominated the West Bank landscape; the dire economic and social situation of many people in Gaza and the West Bank; the weakness of the rule of law in the areas under Palestinian control; the genuine insecurity and fear that Israelis faced on a daily basis; and the border between Israel and Lebanon, always tense, recently volatile, where the Lebanese Government had yet to assert its full control.

Laying out the six aspects of this month's Agreement on Movement and Access between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, he said that, for the first time in their history, Palestinians had assumed control of part of their border, at the Rafah crossing.

The Agreement envisaged an unprecedented third-party role for the EU, an enhanced contribution by the U.S. Security Coordinator, support from the Quartet Special Envoy James Wolfensohn and the continued close involvement of the UN and the World Bank.

Its full implementation was a vital first step towards Palestinian economic recovery, which also required strengthened Palestinian institutions and economic management, he said.

He noted the context created by the fragile security situation and the continued violence in the reporting period since the last briefing on 20 October, the combination of Israeli settlement activity and barrier construction creating "new and significant" facts on the ground in the West Bank, the further rounds of Palestinian municipal elections in December, Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for next January and Israeli elections scheduled for the end of March.

Lebanon was also at a critical stage in its history and faced a number of important challenges, which should be met through a process led by the Lebanese and supported by the UN and the international community, as necessary, Mr. Gambari said.

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