United Nations: The quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians has reached a "dramatic" crossroad, a top UN official said, emphasising that the two sides should refrain from provocative steps and set conditions to return to negotiations to resolve the vexed issue.
"We have reached a dramatic moment in the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians," UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry told the Security Council yesterday in a briefing.
Serry warned that the region's future of a two-state solution remained "more uncertain than ever" and "it is for Palestinians and Israelis and their leaderships to take the courageous steps, now more necessary than ever, to salvage a peaceful and secure future for their people."
Speaking to the 15-member body, Serry said that as Israel heads into election season following the recent collapse of its ruling coalition, the resulting "deadly diplomatic vacuum can be no excuse for either side to let the present situation get even worse."
"Now is the time to de-escalate and refrain from provocative steps, re-build trust and set conditions for a return to negotiations that will resolve this conflict," Serry told the Council.
"Hope for a lasting solution to the conflict must be restored before it is too late."
The international community's growing impatience with the regional stalemate and the simmering tensions between Israelis and Palestinians was recently highlighted by parliamentary decisions in France, Spain and Portugal to recognise a Palestinian state.
Despite a broad desire for Middle East peace among many outside the region, however, Serry warned that the situation on the ground remained "explosive" amid a recent escalation of tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Last month, two Palestinians killed five Israelis and injured several others at a West Jerusalem synagogue before being shot dead by local police.
Over the summer, a 51-day conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip killed over 2,100 Palestinians, including 500 children, and more than 70 Israelis.
In addition, the fighting damaged and destroyed over 1,00,000 homes, affecting more than 6,00,000 people.
As a result of the widespread damage in Gaza, the UN official noted that a UN-backed reconstruction mechanism had begun to assist with the deliveries of construction materials into the war-ravaged enclave.