Quartet: Israel must urgently halt settlement expansion

Middle East diplomacy group’s new report says Palestinian incitement also ‘severely undermines hopes for peace’

File: UN Middle East peace envoy Nikolay Mladenov after a press conference in Gaza City, April 30, 2015. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
File: UN Middle East peace envoy Nikolay Mladenov after a press conference in Gaza City, April 30, 2015. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

A much-awaited report by the diplomatic Quartet supporting the Middle East process demands that Israel take urgent steps to halt the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, the UN envoy said Thursday.

Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that ongoing Israeli construction in the West Bank was one of three “negative trends” that must be quickly reversed to keep the hope of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal alive.

Palestinian incitement to violence and the Palestinian Authority’s lack of control over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip also “severely undermine hopes for peace,” Mladenov said.

“These negative trends can and must be urgently reversed in order to advance the two-state solution on the ground,” he said.

The full report prepared by the Quartet — the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations — is expected to be released on Friday after months of delays, mostly over of the thorny issue of settlements, diplomats said. Its findings and recommendations are intended to serve as the basis for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been comatose since a US peace initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Mladenov said the report outlined a “reasonable set of steps” that could set Israel and the Palestinians “firmly along a navigable course toward establishing a comprehensive peace with historic implications for the entire region.”

But he warned that a final peace agreement can only be achieved through direct, bilateral negotiations.

“It is time for both sides to rise to the challenge,” he said.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the report could help advance plans for a Paris peace conference on the Middle East later this year.

“The French initiative and the Quartet report mutually reinforce each other and have a common goal to put the peace process back on track,” Delattre said.

The UN envoy asked the Security Council to endorse the recommendations of the report in a move that would turn the document into an internationally agreed roadmap for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

As the council discussed the new peace plan, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed and killed a 13-year-old Israeli girl, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, in her home in a West Bank settlement.

Since October, a spate of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks have killed 33 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese.

At the same time, over 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli police, soldiers or civilians, some two-thirds of them while carrying out attacks against Israelis and the remainder during clashes and demonstrations, according to Israel.

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