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‘Decisive’ Push For Israeli-Palestinian Peace

UN Envoy Urges ‘Decisive’ Push For Israeli-Palestinian Peace In 2009

New York, Dec 18 2008 5:10PM

With the goal of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of this year out of reach, a top United Nations envoy today stressed the need to step up efforts by both sides to attain a comprehensive settlement to their decades-old conflict during the coming year.

“We must set the stage for a decisive push for peace in 2009,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry told an open debate of the Security Council, in which some 35 speakers participated.

“We must protect, preserve, and where possible advance, the three tracks of the Annapolis process,” he stated, referring to negotiations, institution-building and implementation of the commitments of the parties under the so-called Road Map peace plan.

At their meeting in November 2007 in the United States city of Annapolis, leaders of the two sides agreed to immediately launch good-faith negotiations to try to conclude a peace treaty by the end of 2008 that resolves all outstanding issues.

While UN officials have conceded that this target will not be reached, they have called on the parties to intensify their negotiations based on the principle of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security

At its meeting on Monday in New York, the diplomatic grouping known as the Quartet – comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the US – affirmed the need to bolster the political process and address the challenges on the ground.

This was followed by the Council’s adoption on Tuesday of a resolution calling on both parties to fulfil their Road Map obligations, and to refrain from any steps that could undermine confidence or prejudice the outcome of negotiations.

“An important platform for peace has been established in 2008, due to the efforts of the parties and the support of the international community,” noted Mr. Serry. “The challenge now is to build on this platform and turn the promise of peace into a reality… The diplomatic process and improvements on the ground must reinforce each other and move swiftly forward.”

Regarding the situation on the ground, he reported that there were 30 rocket attacks in the past two days on Israeli towns and at the crossings through which civilians, UN workers and all goods entering the Gaza Strip must pass. He condemned those attacks and called for their immediate cessation.

Israel has cited rocket and other attacks by militants in Gaza against Israeli civilians as the reason for closing border crossings into Gaza for almost two months now. The closures have worsened the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which is home to an estimated 1.5 million Palestinians.

Mr. Serry noted that, because of the closures, half of Gaza City’s population receives water only once a week for a few hours. In addition, UN projects in Gaza, worth over $150 million, remain suspended due to a lack of materials.

“A priority must be to ensure calm in and around Gaza and urgently improve humanitarian conditions,” he stressed.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported today that, due to irregular border access and a lack of wheat flour, it has been forced to suspend its food distribution activities as of today until further notice.

“All crossings for goods into the Strip are closed and no humanitarian supplies, fuel and other needed commodities are being allowed to enter,” the Agency said in a news release.

A total of 750,000 refugees in Gaza depend on food aid from UNRWA, which, on average, distributes food to about 20,000 refugees per day.

ENDS

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