UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged Israel and the Palestinians to avoid unilateral steps that would put the peace process in further jeopardy.
In an official statement, Ban said he had been keeping abreast of ongoing developments in the Middle East peace process — most recently, the US-mediated peace talks that hit a standstill after both sides deviated from their commitments.
In Israel’s case, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to release a fourth round of Palestinian prisoners before the Palestinians agreed to continue talks beyond their April deadline and because of a dispute over Israeli-Arab releases. On the Palestinian side, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed appeals on behalf of his intended Palestinian state to join 15 international conventions, breaking his commitment to abstain from unilateral steps to statehood while negotiations mediated by US Secretary of State John Kerry were taking place.
Finally, on April 23, the Abbas-led Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed a reconciliation pact with Islamist terror group Hamas, leading to the suspension of the talks.
On Thursday, Ban said the Security Council had convened on April 29 — the deadline for completing the talks restarted by Kerry last July — to discuss the latest developments and reflect on “how to preserve the prospects for a two-state solution.”
Ban said the time had come for reflection for the international community and the two parties themselves. The objective, he said, should be to find ways to move the peace process forward.
Urging both the Israelis and Palestinians to “exercise prudence and avoid unilateral steps that would diminish the prospects for a resumption of negotiations and reach an agreement,” Ban said it was “incumbent” upon both sides, amid growing mistrust, “to convince each other anew that they are partners for peace.”
Ban appealed to the international community as well, calling on it to “uphold its long-stated commitment to realizing a comprehensive peace settlement.”
“The Secretary-General appeals to all concerned to use this time constructively to find a meaningful path forward,” Ban’s statement concluded.