Thursday, December 17, 2009

Israel is always the problem - UN envoy: Settlement freeze falls short of Israel's commitments

(DPA).Robert Serry, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process said Thursday that recent activities by both Israel and the Palestinians are not contributing to settling their conflict and confidence remains low as 2009 draws to a close.

Serry told the UN Security Council that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to temporarily freeze construction in West Bank settlements was "a step beyond previous Israeli government positions, and has not come without domestic political challenges... However, the policy falls considerably short of Israel's commitments under the road map to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth."

He urged Israel to do more by implementing the road map, a peace plan worked out by the UN, the European Union, the United States and Russia - known as the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators. Israel should ease the economic blockade of Gaza and engage in dialogue to resolve thorny issues with the Gazans, he said.

The road map called for the establishment of a Palestinian state living in peace next to Israel. Negotiations and a series of political and security steps must be carried out before such a state is realized.

"Settlement activity is illegal under international law and unilateral actions on the ground prejudicing final status issues will not be recognized by the international community," he added.

"Even the genuine progress taking place in parts of the West Bank runs in parallel with negative trends," Serry said.

"We are in a race against time to overcome the contradictions on the ground and the crisis of confidence between the parties, and move decisively towards a political end game," he said.