UN pressures Israel on peace policy


Date: 11th May 2009
Source: Al Jazeera English

Israeli settlements are a key contention in
the Middle East conflict [AFP]

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has urged Israel to “fundamentally change” its policies towards settlements and commit to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.

Ban told a ministerial level meeting of the Security Council that Palestinians faced “unacceptable unilateral actions” by Israel, such as settlement activity, violence, house demolitions and restriction of movement.

“Action on the ground, together with a genuine readiness to negotiate on all core issues, including Jerusalem, borders and refugees, based on Israel’s existing commitments, will be the true tests of Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution,” he said on Monday.

Ban also said Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel must end and that the Palestinian Authority must develop an effective security structure and state institutions.

In a statement issued by the council following the meeting, all 15 members said that “vigorous diplomatic action” was needed to achieve peace and a two-state solution.

It also urged the Quartet of Middle East negotiators – the UN, the US, Russia and the European Union, to continue such efforts.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York. said that not a lot had come out of the meeting other than a sense of urgency over the conflict and a feeling that there was a need to invigorate the entire process.

However, there was a new emphasis on the Arab peace initiative and of the need for a “regional element” to push the process forward, along with a sense of the importance of bringing all the Palestinian factions together, she said.

Israeli boycott

The meeting was called by Russia, current president of the security council, but boycotted by Israel.

“Israel does not believe that the involvement of the Security Council contributes to the political process in the Middle East,” Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, said in a statement.”This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves.”

The meeting comes shortly before Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is to visit the US for talks with President Barack Obama.

Netanyahu said on Monday that he hopes to resume the peace process with the Palestinians in the coming weeks following talks with Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.

However, Netanyahu has refused to commit to discussions on an independent Palestinian state, a key factor in global peace efforts to which Israel committed itself under the “roadmap” in 2003.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said the US adhered “fully and unequivocally” to the creation of “an independent, viable Palestinian state”.

“We share a sense of urgency. This is a moment that should not be lost,” she said.

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