United Nations: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s new government must take steps to freeze Jewish settlements that are threatening to "kill the very possibility of reaching peace," the UN`s Middle East envoy said Thursday.
In his final report to the Security Council as Middle East coordinator, Robert Serry said "I frankly do not know if it is already too late" to revive peace talks aimed at the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"The minimum conditions of trust cannot be restored without the new Israeli government taking credible steps to freeze settlement activity," the Dutch diplomat told the 15-member council.
Serry, who served seven years as the UN`s point man on the Middle East, said the Security Council could step in to present a "framework for negotiations, including parameters" to achieve peace.
"This may be only way to preserve the goal of a two-state solution, in the present circumstances," he said in a bluntly-worded assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
The appeal from the top UN envoy came as Netanyahu began talks on forming a new government after vowing in a campaign speech that he would never allow the establishment of a Palestinian state under his watch.
The Israeli prime minister later backtracked on his comments but the US administration appeared unconvinced while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Netanyahu to renew his commitment to a two-state solution.
"Illegal settlement activity cannot be reconciled with the objective of a negotiated two-state solution and may kill the very possibility of reaching peace on the paradigm of two states for two peoples," Serry said.
The United Nations has repeatedly called on Israel to halt the construction of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, which it has branded as illegal and a move to erase the prospect of a Palestinian state.
The envoy said he was concerned by Netanyahu`s pre-election remarks and urged the incoming Israeli government to "quickly demonstrate in words, and more importantly by actions" a commitment to peace.The Security Council rejected in December a Palestinian resolution that would have set a deadline for wrapping up negotiations on a final peace deal to pave the way to a Palestinian state.
After closed-door talks on the Middle East crisis, French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters that "the majority of members supported a stronger role" for the Security Council "to help define and resume negotiations."
But Serry said a new UN resolution to re-launch negotiations would be fruitless without a genuine commitment from both sides to reach a deal.
"If the parties are not ready to negotiate it would be wrong to rush them," Serry told reporters.
France has said it is willing to draft a resolution that would define the goals of a new round of negotiations, but it remains unclear if the United States would back such an effort.
In his parting remarks, Serry said he was "a bit disheartened" by the situation after seven years of diplomacy in the region and likened the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to a "can (that) is kicked down an endless road."
Serry will be replaced next month by Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov, who has served as the UN envoy in Iraq.