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November 19, 2013

UN: Israeli-Palestinian Talks at Delicate Moment

by Larry Freund

A senior United Nations official says talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials have reached a delicate moment, with growing strains between the two sides.
 
The top U.N. political chief, Jeffrey Feltman, says on the positive side the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have gone some way toward narrowing their differences.  

But on the negative side, Feltman says the talks suffered what he called a significant setback with Israel’s announcements of settlement plans in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Israeli and Palestinian officials began a new round of talks in July, but earlier this month Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said his negotiators had resigned because of lack of progress in the talks.  Israel had announced plans for 20,000 new homes in contested parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then called for the reconsideration of those building plans.

In remarks to the Security Council, Feltman, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expects the Israeli government to put a full stop to those building plans.  Feltman also said President Abbas has made it clear the resignation of the Palestinian negotiators does not constitute a Palestinian departure from the talks.

Feltman urged both sides to remain steadfast in their commitment to see the peace process through.

“But we fear that unless steps are taken to prevent the reoccurrence of negative developments such as those of recent weeks, the remaining chances to achieve a negotiated two-state solution may be irreparably damaged," said Feltman.

In a separate development, U.N. Secretary-General Ban strongly condemned the terrorist bombing near the Iranian embassy in Beirut.  He urged all Lebanese parties to act with restraint.

A U.N. Security Council statement, read by its president, Ambassador Liu Jieyi, also condemned the terrorist attack.

“The members of the Security Council appealed to all Lebanese people to preserve national unity in the face of attempts to undermine the country’s stability," said Liu.

The Security Council urged Lebanese to refrain from involvement in the Syrian conflict.