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Peace Talks Intensify

Intensify Peace Talks, UN And Top Diplomatic Partners Tell Israel, Palestinians

New York, Dec 15 2008 7:10PM

The United Nations and its diplomatic partners in the search for Middle East peace – the European Union (EU), Russia and the United States – called today for an intensification of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, urging both sides to take the necessary steps to reach this goal.

The so-called Quartet, in a top-level meeting hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN Headquarters in New York, called on the Palestinians to continue their efforts to reform the security services and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism.

At the same time, the group called on Israel to freeze all settlement activities, which have a negative impact on the negotiating environment and on Palestinian economic recovery, and to address the growing threat of settler extremism.

“The Quartet expressed its considered view that the bilateral negotiations process launched at Annapolis (last year) is irreversible and that these negotiations should be intensified in order to put an end to the conflict and to establish as soon as possible the state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” said a statement issued at the end of the meeting.

“The Quartet affirmed that a final treaty and a lasting peace will be reached through simultaneous and mutually re-enforcing efforts on three tracks: negotiations; building the institutions of a Palestinian state, including facilitating economic development through an improvement of conditions on the ground; and implementation of the parties’ obligations under the Roadmap, as stated in the Annapolis Joint Understanding.”

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The partners have long championed the Roadmap, which embodies the two-State solution, first set for achievement by the end of 2005. At the Annapolis meeting in the United States last year, participants set the hoped-for target for the end of this year, and UN officials have voiced regret that this, too, has proved impractical, while welcoming the intensified talks that have ensued.

Turning to the Gaza Strip where Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, seized control from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2006, the Quartet called for a continuation of the calm between Gaza and southern Israel, due to expire at the end of the week, that has reduced violence between Israel and Palestinians there.

It reiterated that a lasting solution to the situation in Gaza can only be achieved through peaceful means and that all Palestinians must commit themselves to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, adding that restoring Palestinian unity based on “the legitimate and internationally recognized” authority of the PA – would be an important factor in this process.

The Quartet condemned “indiscriminate attacks” on Israel from Gaza and called for an immediate cessation of violence, but it also stated its “acute concern” at the recent increase in Israeli closures of crossing points in response to violence, noting they had cut basic commodities and humanitarian supplies, worsening the economic and humanitarian situation there.

The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reported today that the Gaza power plant, which supplies a portion of the territory’s needs, has been turned off by the company in charge there. The decision was taken following the closure of all goods crossings yesterday.

A series of rolling blackouts has been occurring throughout the Gaza Strip since yesterday evening – ranging from 12 hours a day in some areas to 4 hours a day in others.

UNSCO also reports that 81 truckloads of materials did pass from Israel into Gaza today, including 20 truckloads for humanitarian aid agencies that included flour, milk and medicine.

“The Quartet emphasized that the provision of humanitarian supplies, including food, fuel, pharmaceuticals, water and sewage maintenance items, and to the people in Gaza must be assured continuously,” the statement said. “The Quartet also reiterated its previous call for Israel to allow into Gaza sufficient materials to facilitate the resumption of stalled UN and other donor projects.”

It also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit, whose seizure in Israel by Palestinian militants from Gaza over two years ago unleashed a new wave of violence.

The Quartet commended the PA for its progress in security performance and welcomed the robust Israeli-Palestinian cooperation for the expansion of security and law and order in the West Bank, most notably in Jenin and Hebron.

“The Quartet viewed the successful deployment of the Palestinian security services to Hebron as the most recent demonstration of the substantial progress that has been made since Annapolis,” it added.

Attending the meeting with Mr. Ban were EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Ban thanked the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush for its efforts to advance the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. “These efforts have been tireless and are continuing. Very important progress is underway,” he said.

“In this respect we look forward to working closely from the outset with the administration of President-elect (Barack) Obama to achieve the goal of the two-State solution and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.”


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