At a briefing for the United Nations Security Council, the U.N. Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, said "we are in the midst of a delicate period which will determine whether a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is possible."
Talks between Israel and the Palestinian authority halted when Israel's partial moratorium on settlement construction ended in September. Pascoe told the Security Council that efforts to re-start the peace talks have reached what he called a critical phase. He said it is essential that Israel and the Palestinians engage seriously and make substantive progress quickly once the talks resume.
Pascoe said there has been significant construction in a number of Israeli settlements since the end of the 10-month partial moratorium, including the announcement of plans to build 1300 units in one East Jerusalem settlement.
"In the period ahead we must work to bring about a return to direct talks between the parties and to support an atmosphere on the ground conducive to quick and concrete progress in those talks, including a freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory," said Pascoe. "Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas must show vision and leadership and rise above the domestic constraints and seize this opportunity to secure a historic and lasting peace."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not return to the peace negotiations with Israel unless a renewed Israeli freeze on building in settlements includes East Jerusalem, territory claimed by Palestinians for a future capital. Israel says it has a right to build anywhere in the city. The United States is urging Israel to halt settlement construction for 90 days, in an effort to re-start the peace talks.