Intensify peace talks UN and top diplomatic partners tell Israel Palestinians

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.”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 2007, 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.” 15 December 2008The 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. read more

During Skype call Ban voices gratitude for courageous efforts of UN staff

Mr. Ban expressed his solidarity with the staff of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) during the call from Cairo, where he is wrapping up a week-long emergency mission that took him to Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.“I’m still working very hard to bring an end to this intolerable situation,” Mr. Ban told the staff, who briefed him on their efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, as well as the daily challenges they face.“The Palestinian people here are suffering a lot,” one staff member told the Secretary-General, “and they really need help from you and the international community.” UNRWA figures as of 24 July show the number of displaced people in Gaza is now nearly triple the peak number from the 2008-2009 conflict, and exceeds 140,000 people who have sought refuge in 83 schools. “We have filled every available safe shelter,” said one staffer. “We need an end to the hostilities and we need an agreement that addresses the blockade and some of the other security and political problems.”The conversation with staff comes a day after an UNRWA-run school in Beit Hanoun where hundreds of displaced Gazans had taken refuge from the ongoing hostilities came under attack, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. Today an UNRWA team, which included an international weapons expert, went to the school to survey the scene in the aftermath of the incident. However, the mission had to be cut short and the team was forced to leave the area amid gunfire around the school. “The Relief and Works Agency regrets not being able complete even this initial assessment,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters. “It will attempt to visit the site when the situation allows.”The Secretary-General, who is in the region to express solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians and to help them end the current cycle of violence, had deplored yesterday’s attack on the school, saying it underscored the imperative for the killing to stop immediately. On 21 July 2014 in the State of Palestine, children use a candle in lieu of electric lighting at the United Nations school where they and others have taken refuge after fleeing heavy fighting, in the town of Rafah in southern Gaza. By 21 July, the number of children killed in the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza, which began on 8 July, had surpassed 100, representing nearly a quarter of all Palestinian fatalities. Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0982/El BabaHe also stressed to all sides that they must abide by their international obligations to respect the sanctity of civilian life and the inviolability of UN premises, and to honour their obligations to humanitarian workers.The attack was also condemned by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which said the incident is proof that much more needs to be done to protect innocent children. “Using or attacking school premises where children have taken refuge from the violence is unacceptable under any circumstances,” it said in a statement. Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, said the attack as well as the death of innocent children will be seen as an “international outrage” which will sadden millions throughout the world. “Schools should never be theatres of war but should be safe havens for boys and girls,” he stated. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for the creation of a humanitarian corridor to help evacuate the large number of injured people from Gaza. The local WHO office has been discussing this with the Israeli authorities over the last few days, and consultations are also being held with Egyptian authorities.Also, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said today it is deeply concerned about the impact of the ongoing conflict on women’s health and their access to safe births. Reports of the destruction of hospitals and health facilities are particularly disturbing as some 45,000 pregnant women in Gaza are currently in need of maternity care, the agency said in a news release. About 5,000 of those are among the 140,000 displaced people in temporary shelters throughout Gaza. Due to mounting stress and anxiety, many of these women are likely to face obstetric complications, while access to maternal health services is increasingly limited by the conflict.“It is critical that humanitarian assistance, including medical supplies and equipment, be given safe passage into Gaza to enable us to provide the much-needed assistance to pregnant women,” said UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin. “Pregnant women in particular must be allowed unhindered access to maternal health services to ensure their safety throughout their pregnancy and childbirth.”Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) said it has reached over 160,000 conflict-affected people in Gaza with emergency food assistance. This is in addition to the 285,000 people WFP reaches regularly with food assistance. The emergency relief included emergency ready-to-eat food for 140,469 displaced people in Gaza who had taken refuge in UNRWA schools and to 10,000 people who were sheltered in public school buildings. It also included emergency electronic food vouchers to 1,318 displaced families – approximately 7,908 people – who are living with host families. Also, some 2,000 patients and staff in hospitals continue to be assisted with emergency food rations. read more