United Nations Security Council 311 (R).
(photo credit: ERIC THAYER / Reuters)
Members of the UN Security Council voiced deep concerns on Tuesday about the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and criticized Israel for pressing ahead with the construction of new settlements.
Council members were reacting to a briefing by UN assistant secretary-general for political affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, who told them the search for peace "remained elusive in a context of tensions on the ground, deep mistrust between the parties and volatile regional dynamics."
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Representatives of Britain, France, Germany and Portugal said Fernandez-Taranco's briefing made clear to the 15-nation council that Israeli settlement activity was undermining attempts to restart stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.
"One of the themes that emerged was the severely damaging effect that increased settlement construction and settler violence is having on the ground and on the prospects of a return to negotiations," the four European Union council members said in a joint statement.
"Israel's continuing announcements to accelerate the construction of
settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including east
Jerusalem, send a devastating message," said the statement, which was
read to reporters by British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.
The Europeans called for an immediate halt to Israeli settlement
activity, adding that they hoped the government would follow through on
its promises to bring settlers guilty of violence to justice.
Without explicitly naming the United States, Russian Ambassador Vitaly
Churkin accused Washington of turning a blind eye to the way efforts to
restart the moribund peace process have come to nothing.
"There is one delegation which would not want to hear anything about it,
any kind of a statement, which believes that somehow things will sort
of settle themselves somehow miraculously out of their own," Churkin
South African Ambassador Baso Sangqu read a statement on behalf of the
120-nation bloc of non-aligned countries that generally reiterated the
European statement, describing settlement activities as "illegal" and
"the main impediment to the two-state solution to the
Brazilian Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti echoed Sangqu's words in
a statement she read on behalf of Brazil, India and South Africa.
Lebanon's UN envoy Nawaf Salam made similar remarks.
Altogether, statements criticizing Israel were made on behalf of at least nine of the 15 council members.
Karean Peretz, spokeswoman for Israeli's UN mission, reacted by saying
"the main obstacle to peace has been, and remains, the Palestinians'
claim to the so-called right of return and its refusal to recognize
Israel as a Jewish state."
Neither US Ambassador Susan Rice nor any of her deputies appeared at the
Security Council microphone to speak to reporters after the meeting.
Churkin said the series of addresses to the media on Tuesday on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a "completely new development."
Palestinian observer Riyad Mansour told reporters that "one powerful
member of the Security Council" -- the United States -- was preventing
it from dealing with the settlements issue and other problems related to
the Middle East peace process.
In September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas submitted an
application for full membership in the United Nations, which the
Security Council would have to approve in order for it to go to the
General Assembly for a vote.
Churkin said the council was prepared to act on the Palestinian
application as soon as a draft resolution is submitted that could be
voted on. So far, no country has submitted one, which Churkin suggested
was probably due to the fact that Washington would strike it down.
In February, the US delegation vetoed a council resolution condemning
Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The United States was the only
council member to vote against it.