Peace not process urgently needed in Middle East – top UN official

“For the sake of the people of the region there must be peace and not simply further process,” B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said during the 15-member body’s monthly briefing on the long-running conflict.Mr. Pascoe said that international stakeholders were poised to step up their diplomatic engagement toward achieving a two-State solution, following the new United States administration’s commitment to vigorously pursue the creation of a Palestinian State during a recent separate meetings of the US envoy with the new Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority.Envoys of the complete diplomatic Quartet – comprising the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia – met in Ramallah on 17 April to reinvigorate the groups’ efforts, he added.In addition, the 30 March summit of the League of Arab States recommitted that group to the Arab Peace Initiative, while calling on Israel to take steps toward its implementation.However, in Gaza – which recently endured a devastating Israeli offensive with the stated goal of ending rocket fire into its southern territory – the situation remains fragile in the absence of a proper ceasefire regime, he said.“I cannot overemphasize the importance of addressing the situation in Gaza and of implementing the provisions of Security Council Resolution 1860 (2009),” he said, citing the January resolution that called for an end to the fighting.The official said that the Israeli policy of near total closure of crossing points into the Gaza Strip, in force since the Hamas take-over of the territory in June 2007, has continued, severely hampering relief and reconstruction efforts.Despite almost two weeks without violence, there were 30 rockets and mortars fired by Palestinian militants into Israel during the month, and Israel carried out two air strikes on the Strip, with smuggled explosives continuing to be intercepted by Egyptian and Israeli forces, he reported.Lack of progress in reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas has also continued to harm the population of Gaza, he said, citing the negative effects of the Hamas take-over of hospital patient referrals.The Palestinian division has also prevented the drawing of a framework for reconstruction of Gaza, despite the $4.5 million pledged last month at the donor conference in Sharm el-Sheikh. The forces of the Palestinian Authority – which is facing continuing financial problems – has increased its security activities, and Mr. Pascoe noted that violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians and settlement-building activity continued in the West Bank.“In addition to construction of housing units, road infrastructure is ongoing, creating further obstacles to a viable, contiguous Palestinian State,” he stressed, expressing serious concern over demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and obstacles to Palestinian movement as well.In his presentation, Mr. Pascoe also briefly summed up the regional security situation, noting that the occupied Syrian Golan was quiet and the overall situation in Lebanon remained stable despite a number of disconcerting incidents. 20 April 2009Describing a reduction of violence between Palestinians and Israelis but with little progress made towards peace, a top United Nations official told the Security Council today that a comprehensive Middle East agreement is urgently needed.

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