UN official: Israel should extend freeze

Security Council briefing summarizes recent activity in the area.

Tractor in settlement 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Tractor in settlement 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
NEW YORK – In a briefing to the Security Council at its meeting Tuesday morning on the Middle East, a senior United Nations official called on Israel to continue the partial moratorium on settlement construction beyond September 26 and to extend it to all settlement activity, as well as to construction in east Jerusalem.
“We are nearing a turning point in the efforts to promote direct negotiations,” Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez- Taranco told the Security Council, in his briefing on the situation in the Middle East.
RELATED:UN: Aid convoys to Gaza don't helpHe characterized a continued settlement freeze as a move which would further establish “an enabling climate on the ground.”
“We urge them to be forthcoming in their deliberations and are hopeful that leaders on both sides will seize this opportunity and engage in a path of decisive progress towards a sustainable, mutually acceptable two-state solution, within a realistic timeframe,” Fernandez-Taranco said.
Fernandez-Taranco’s briefing summarized recent activity in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
After noting an increase in demolition or dismantlement of Palestinianowned structures, as well as Israeli incursions into the West Bank, Fernandez- Taranco discussed internal politics within the Palestinian Authority.
Fernandez-Taranco told the Security Council that an August 15 report from the Palestinian Authority indicated progress on the government’s two-year state building agenda, but that “without significant additional external financing, the Palestinian Authority will face a serious liquidity crisis in September and will have difficulty paying August salaries.”
Projecting that the financing deficit will soon exceed $300 million, Fernandez- Taranco called on donors to “reaffirm their support” in order to reinforce stability in the government.
Fernandez-Taranco characterized the “comparative restraint of the past few months” in Jerusalem as “eroding” with the announcement of construction, demolitions and evictions, including the authorization of construction of 40 homes in Pisgat Ze’ev.
Fernandez-Taranco noted that the volume and variety of supplies entering Gaza continues to increase, with a weekly average of over one thousand truckloads of imports, but that imports into Gaza remain below the weekly average of truckloads before the closure was initiated in 2007.
“The current extent of easing cannot meet the crucial longer-term construction and rehabilitation needs of Gazans, and resuscitate the legitimate economy,” Fernandez-Taranco said, reiterating the call of the Quartet to find a comprehensive solution ensuring unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid while not compromising Israeli security.
Fernandez-Taranco recommended streamlining Israeli procedures to approve and admit materials for construction of 11 United Nations projects in Gaza, noting that UNRWA is currently running an $84m. deficit that “could soon force it to shut schools and clinics in the Gaza Strip.”
August 4 marked the 1,500th day since the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, Fernandez-Taranco said.
“We very much regret that international calls for his release, immediate humanitarian access, and completion of a prisoner exchange agreement have not been heeded,” he said.
Fernandez-Taranco remarked on rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel that the UN continues “to condemn rocket fire, which indiscriminately targets civilians.”
Discussing the recently formed panel of inquiry into the May 31 flotilla events, Fernandez-Taranco noted that the panel “is not designed to determine individual criminal responsibility” and that the panel will provide the secretary-general with an interim report on September 15. A UNIFIL investigation is under way as to the August 3 exchange of fire between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the IDF, Fernandez-Taranco said, and the Security Council will be briefed on its conclusions when they are reached.
Concluding his remarks, Fernandez- Taranco said that “direct and meaningful negotiations are the only avenue towards a comprehensive, sustainable solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples,” and that the United Nations “stands ready” to provide support for this process.
Fernandez-Taranco’s half-hour briefing was the only open-door component of the Security Council’s meeting, which subsequently continued for two hours behind closed doors.