With only 10 days left before the expiration of the original deadline of the Middle East Diplomatic Quartet’s so-called Road Map peace plan for a final and settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a top United Nations official stressed today that the plan is still the agreed framework for reaching a lasting peace in the Middle East.
“This is surely an occasion for all parties to reflect on what more they can do to ensure that Road Map obligations are met,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari told the Security Council, in his regular monthly briefing, regarding the plan sponsored by the Quartet consisting of the UN, European Union, United States and Russia.
Mr. Gambari said that two prime areas of concern during the delicate period before January’s Palestinian elections were the Palestinian Authority’s inability to exercise control over its territory and Israel’s sustained policy of settlement expansion and barrier construction.
The Israeli policy undermined Palestinian leaders running for office on a platform of peaceful negotiation with Israel. He said the Quartet supported the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to quickly stop armed groups from impeding law and order.
Mr. Gambari also stressed the importance of the Agreement on Movement and Access that was signed last month between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority. While some aspects of the pact have been implemented, he said that World Bank officials recently reiterated at a meeting in London that continuing restrictions imposed on movement of goods and people were a major obstacle to Palestinian economic growth.
He noted that the 15 December start of convoys between Gaza and the West Bank were suspended despite efforts of the United States and Quartet Special Envoy James Wolfensohn to ensure that Israel’s security concerns were met. He hoped that discussions to break the impasse would continue.
He said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported a slight increase in the roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank and discussions are ongoing to develop a plan to reduce obstacles to movement there.
At the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting held in London on 14 December, the Palestinian Authority, the Government of Israel and donors met to discuss the economic, fiscal and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and assess progress in Palestinian reform, Mr. Gambari reported.
A key theme of the meeting was the need for the Palestinian Authority to adhere to the reform agenda and re-establish fiscal discipline, he said. The authority’s deficit increased from 14 per cent to 17 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the past year and will reach 19 per cent of GDP in 2006.
“The Palestinian Authority’s fiscal situation is so acute that there is real concern that the December salaries may not be paid,” Mr. Gambari told the council. He said the Committee hoped to hold a pledging conference during the first half of 2006 to mobilize the target sum of $3 billion, as agreed in principal at the G8 Summit in October.