Calling for a more vigorous international engagement in the Middle East as an indispensable ingredient in ending the violence and bringing fresh hope for peace, Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council this morning that he had painfully little that was positive to report on the situation and much that was negative.
Briefing the Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, he said it had been heard from many quarters that the time had come for a renewed peace effort, but that the parties to the conflict could not succeed if left to themselves. Violence, not negotiation, continued to be the all-too-frequent mode of communication, and there was a palpable sense of drift and foreboding. That stemmed from an equally pervasive sense of pessimism about the prospects for peace, coupled with frustration because the basis of a settlement - the two-State solution - was well established and enjoyed strong support among both the Israeli and Palestinian publics.
Describing the statistics as staggering, he said that since his last briefing to the Council, just over a month ago, 206 Palestinians and 13 Israelis had been killed, and approximately 1,033 Palestinians and 62 Israelis injured. The number of Palestinians killed since September 2000 was now 3,839, and that of Israelis totalled 979. An estimated 36,433 Palestinians and 6,297 Israelis had been injured since the eruption of the intifada.
Even to speak in terms of a peace process seemed to put one at a distance from present reality, he said. Yet the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians could be settled only through negotiations between the parties, in the continued absence of which the Road Map offered the only way forward. Its implementation would help both parties to find their way back to the negotiating table.
However, he said, the Israeli Government had still not implemented its obligation to dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001 and to impose a settlement freeze, including natural growth, in full consistency with the Road Map and the Mitchell Report. He called on Israel to meet its obligations under international law and the Road Map.
For its part, he said, the Palestinian Authority needed to take genuine, determined and sustained action to ensure that an empowered Prime Minister and cabinet could fulfil Palestinian obligations under the Road Map, particularly in regard to ending violence and terrorism and reforming its security forces. He reiterated the call on President Yasser Arafat to move forward with the much-needed reforms.