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UN: Israelis, Palestinians edging towards a decision on direct talks

By Bettina Peter, CNN
  • A U.N. official says "we are nearing a turning point" on direct talks
  • The U.N. is part of the Middle East Quartet, along with the U.S., the EU and Russia
  • Gaza remains a flashpoint for peace talks

United Nations (CNN) -- Israeli and Palestinian leaders are moving towards a decision on whether they should enter into direct talks, the United Nations Security Council was told Tuesday.

"We are nearing a turning point in the efforts to promote direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," said Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for political affairs.

He expressed hope that "leaders on both sides will seize the opportunity and engage in a path of decisive progress towards a sustainable, mutually acceptable two-state solution."

As part of the Middle East Quartet, the United Nations has searched for peace solutions along with the United States, Russia and the European Union. To encourage direct talks as soon as possible, the U.N. is in close contact with the quartet partners now, Fernandez-Taranco said.

U.N. hopes have been dashed before in the Middle East, though.

Gaza remains one flashpoint. Israel has opened up the border for humanitarian goods recently. But the amount of additional supplies doesn't meet the need by far, Fernandez-Taranco reported.

The movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and their access to Jerusalem are slightly eased because of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, he said, but there are still more than 500 movement restrictions in the West Bank. Fernandez-Taranco also expressed concern about an Israeli demolition of buildings in the West Bank that affected 212 people.

The deep split between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Fatah-ruled West Bank under the leadership of Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas causes another obstacle to Palestinian peace talks with Israel. Fernandez-Taranco lamented that Egyptian mediation and visits of prominent Palestinians in Gaza remained fruitless in their efforts for a Palestinian reconciliation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called for direct talks, but Abbas has rejected joining the negotiation table so far. He demands that Israeli settlement activity completely comes to a halt, and he wants a clear agenda and timeline for the talks.

Fernandez-Taranco said it is encouraging that the Arab League is encouraging Abbas to go into direct talks.

"Success will require sustained regional and international support", he said.

This Security Council Mideast briefing is a monthly event on the U.N. Security Council calendar.