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UN envoy asks for reflection on way forward in wake of U.S. Mideast plan

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) — UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov on Tuesday called for reflection on ways to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations as a new U.S. Middle East peace plan has been rejected by the Arab world.

In a briefing to the Security Council, Mladenov noted that the U.S. proposal unveiled Jan. 28 has been rejected by the Palestinian government, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The European Union believes that the proposal departs from “internationally agreed parameters.” A number of African Union member states also rejected the proposal during their recent summit.

On the other hand, senior figures in Israel’s government have welcomed the proposal, saying that they would be willing to use it as the basis for direct negotiations. Some UN member states have expressed their hope that the release of the vision would be an opportunity to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, in the interests of advancing the two-state solution, said Mladenov.

At this crossroads, he called for international efforts to bring the two parties back to negotiations. “Indeed, what is needed today is political leadership and serious reflection on what needs to be done to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.”

“Today it is not enough to reaffirm our positions. Today is the time to hear proposals on how to move the process forward and to find a way back to a mutually agreed mediation framework that ensures meaningful negotiations can restart,” he told the council.

Mladenov warned that the status quo cannot continue.

“While it is hard to envision a comprehensive agreement between the parties under current circumstances, let me deeply underline that we must avoid continued entrenchment in the status quo. Continuing on the current trajectory … would only push Palestinians and Israelis further apart, deepen the occupation, and imperil the future viability of the two-state solution,” he warned.

In the days since the U.S. plan was unveiled, there have been sporadic violent incidents throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in and around Gaza, said Mladenov.

Further escalation or provocation would be a concerning development. They could complicate the situation on the ground and would serve only those who seek to radicalize people and undermine efforts to achieve peace, he said. “Today, all must show restraint and clearly and unequivocally condemn violence wherever it occurs.”

Following the release of the U.S. proposal, senior Israeli officials vowed to unilaterally annex large portions of the West Bank, including all Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley. The United States has announced that it will establish a joint committee with Israel to produce a more detailed version of the conceptual maps included in the proposal, which in turn would allow it to recognize an Israeli decision to apply its laws in specified areas in the West Bank, he noted.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has consistently spoken out against unilateral steps and plans for annexation, said Mladenov. “Such steps, including the possible annexation of territory in the West Bank or similar moves, would have a devastating impact on the prospect for a two-state solution. They would close the door to negotiations, have negative repercussions across the region, and severely undermine opportunities for normalization and regional peace.”

Just as unilateral steps will not resolve the conflict, those who reject the proposal should not turn to violence. That would be the worst possible response at this sensitive moment, he said.

Mladenov asked the Security Council to join the secretary-general’s call for a negotiated solution to the conflict and constructive engagement of the parties.

The UN policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is defined by relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements. The United Nations has long supported a two-state solution on such basis, he said.

The United Nations remains deeply committed to working with Israelis and Palestinians and with international and regional partners to realize the objective of lasting and just peace. This goal can only be achieved through realizing the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the pre-1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, he said.

“There is no other road to achieve this goal, except through negotiations. There is no other framework except the one that Israelis and Palestinians together agree on, a framework based on relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.”

“In the absence of a credible path back to negotiations, we all face a heightened risk of violence. Violence, which will drag both peoples, and the region, into a spiral of escalation with no end in sight,” he warned.

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