UN Middle East Envoy Urges Mutual Trust to End ‘Paralysis’ in Peace Process

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–19 May 2011.  The widespread calls for political change across North Africa and the Middle East will have an impact on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a senior United Nations official said today, voicing concern that no credible initiative exists to end the impasse in talks aimed at resolving the conflict.

“The Arab-Israeli conflict will not be immune to these dramatic developments. One way or another, change will come to it too. This change must be shaped to positive ends,” said Robert Serry, the UN Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, in a briefing to the Security Council.

He said there is “a genuine lack of trust” between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, which has prevented the resumption of the peace talks that would lead to the two-State solution to the long-standing conflict.  

“In the absence of negotiations, and amidst continued Israeli settlement expansion, the Palestinians are preparing to approach the United Nations in September to seek recognition of a Palestinian State,” he said.

Mr. Serry stressed that the Israelis and Palestinians themselves, as well as the international community, “must show purpose, rather than paralysis, as we approach a critical period in the search for peace in the Middle East.”

“In the absence of an initiative, it is too early to assess whether September will bring a new and more effective paradigm for resolving the conflict through negotiations, or renewed confrontation between the parties in the diplomatic arena or on the ground,” he said.

Mr. Serry also briefed the Council on the recent Palestinian reconciliation accord, stressing the Secretary-General’s support for unity in the framework of the positions of the Quartet – comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States – and the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Arab Peace Initiative.

He acknowledged Israeli concerns about the Palestinian reconciliation accord, but counselled against reaching a hasty conclusion over the accord’s merits or prospects.

“Reunification of Gaza and the West Bank is a vital goal for all interested in peace, and the process should not be undermined in its infancy.

“We must encourage the formation of a non-factional government under President [Mahmoud] Abbas, with an effective prime minister and ministers, who are able to preserve the functioning security apparatus on the ground in the West Bank, adhere to calm out of Gaza, expand the State-building agenda, oversee reconstruction in Gaza, begin the process of re-integration, and prepare for new elections,” said Mr. Serry.

He noted that calm has largely prevailed in Gaza, adding that the de facto authorities there must actively maintain the “encouraging and important calm. “Israel must show maximum restraint and ensure a conducive environment for calm.”

He noted the continuing security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in the West Bank and stressed that collaboration should continue “under any future government.”

Mr. Serry said that a successful Palestinian State-building agenda must go hand in hand with the unity process, so that “real security and economic improvements” can continue in the West Bank, and be broadened to include Gaza, and to enable elections to be held within a year.

On the blockade of Gaza, Mr. Serry said that measures of liberalization are essential to solidify the modest progress already made and empower those seeking continued calm. “A free flow of both people and construction materials for Gaza remains a central objective of the United Nations,” he said.

Mr. Serry also briefed the Council of the deadly incidents which took place on 14 May between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territory, as Palestinians demonstrated to mark what they call “Nakba Day,” and urged all parties to exercise restraint.

“We further note that the protests involved violations of the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon and the disengagement line along the occupied Golan Heights, and stress the importance of the governments in the area to ensure respect for these lines,” he said.

On Lebanon, Mr. Serry told the Council that with the exception of the grave incident on 15 May, the overall situation in the area of operation of the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has remained generally stable over the past month. Israeli air violations, however, continued on an almost daily basis.

He also noted that almost four months after his nomination as Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate, consultations between Najib Mikati and the new parliamentary majority have not led to agreement on the composition of the country’s next government.

He called for continued funding for UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which he said faces an overall deficit of almost $65 million in its general fund. UNRWA also requires an additional $6 million for its 2011 Summer Games activities for children in Gaza.