A senior U.N. official is calling for direct talks in the Middle East without delay.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe says the effort to advance Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at achieving a two-state solution is at a critical stage.  In remarks during a U.N. Security Council discussion on the Middle East, the U.N. official urged the two sides not to miss the current opportunity to make progress and move to direct negotiations.

"In the period ahead, we must work to bring the parties into direct talks without delay on a basis that gives confidence in the possibility of genuine progress on the core issues and on the ground, including restraint in Jerusalem, implementation of roadmap obligations on settlements and further measures to empower the Palestinian Authority," said Lynn Pascoe.

U.S. Ambassador Brooke Anderson said the gaps have narrowed in the Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks, adding there are opportunities to narrow them further in direct talks.

"We believe that we have an opportunity to make progress toward Middle East peace, which can ultimately only be achieved through direct negotiations and we urge all concerned to work with us toward this goal," said Brooke Anderson.

Speaking for the Palestinian Authority, Riyad Mansour said the situation in the Middle East remains volatile, and accused Israel of challenging the peace talks with illegal and reckless actions.

"There is an extremely wide gap between Israel's words and deeds; that must be obvious to all," said Riyad Mansour. "While Israel professes to want peace, all of its actions are absolutely to the contrary."

Mr. Mansour said Israel's actions have undermined the proximity talks

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, warned against what she called "so-called activists under the guise of humanitarian aid" supporting terrorist forces, particularly in Gaza.  She told the Security Council Israel is deeply concerned about new reports of another flotilla heading to Gaza from Lebanon.

"We call upon the international community to exert its influence on the organizers of this provocative action," said Gabriela Shalev. "We also call on the government of Lebanon to demonstrate its responsibility to prevent this from happening."

The Israeli ambassador called for direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with no preconditions and no delays.

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