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January 18, 2011

UN: Middle East Talks Deadlocked

by Larry Freund

A senior United Nations official says Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are deadlocked, adding that Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank continues to undermine trust.

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, told the U.N. Security Council that he is seriously concerned at the continuing lack of progress in the search for a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. He warned that peace and Palestinian statehood cannot be further delayed. Pascoe was critical of Israeli settlement activity.

"Further settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continues to undermine trust and prejudices final status discussions," said Pascoe. "The sharp increase in Israeli settlement construction activity recorded at the end of the settlement moratorium on 26 September 2010 has continued, with construction work beginning on up to 2,000 units in the West Bank since that time."

Pascoe called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity. He also condemned what he called the indiscriminate firing of projectiles towards Israeli civilian areas by Palestinian militants.

The U.N. official spoke during a Security Council discussion of the situation in the Middle East. Lebanon has drafted a Security Council resolution, reportedly co-sponsored by more than 120 other countries that would declare the Israeli settlements illegal. However, the representative of the United States, Rosemary DiCarlo, said the U.S. does not believe a resolution on Israel’s settlements would be helpful.

"As we have consistently said, permanent-status issues can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties and not by recourse to the Security Council," said DiCarlo. "We therefore consistently oppose attempts to take these issues to this Council and will continue to do so, because such action moves us no closer to the goal of a negotiated final settlement. Rather, we believe it would only complicate efforts to achieve that goal."

The U.S. representative, in her remarks to the Security Council, urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to good-faith, direct negotiations. She also said that continued settlement expansion is corrosive, not only to peace efforts and the two-state solution, but to Israel’s future itself.

Riyad Mansour, the representative of the Palestinian Authority, called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities and said Israel must be compelled to cease all settlement activities in the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

Israeli representatives did not participate in the Security Council’s discussions because of a labor dispute in Israel involving its foreign service employees.