Key report: Israel, Palestinians must tackle peace barriers

Updated at: 07/15/2016 10:07 AM
By EDITH M. LEDERER

(AP) UNITED NATIONS - UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Seeking to revive Mideast peace negotiations, international mediators will call on Israel to urgently reverse settlement expansion, the Palestinian Authority to assert control over Gaza, and demand an end to "violence, terrorism and incitement," the U.N.'s Mideast envoy said Thursday.

Nicolay Mladenov told the Security Council that a soon-to-be released report by the Quartet of Mideast negotiators — the U.N., U.S., European Union and Russia — will recommend ways to address these negative trends and call on Israel once again to implement "positive and significant policy shifts" to give the Palestinians greater civil authority.

Mladenov expressed hope that both sides "will find the strength to go beyond the criticism" in the report, which he said is expected to be released Friday morning, and engage with the Quartet to move the peace process forward.

"The Quartet has outlined a reasonable set of steps that, if implemented sincerely and resolutely, with support from the international community, could set Israelis and Palestinians firmly along a navigable course towards establishing a comprehensive peace with historic implications for the entire region," he said.

But Mladenov stressed that a final peace agreement can only be reached by direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

He said the report isn't an attempt to assign blame but to outline ways to set the stage for talks leading to a two-state solution "that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues."

Mladenov said Israel's West Bank settlement-building is making the prospect of a cohesive Palestinian state "much more difficult and complicated," Palestinian divisions are hampering peace efforts, and the ongoing "violence, terrorism and incitement" are undermining trust between the two sides.

He called on the Security Council to welcome and support the Quartet's efforts.

The Quartet had been sidelined in peacemaking efforts which the U.S. has led. But following Secretary of State John Kerry's failure to broker a peace agreement in April 2014, the Quartet is now trying to take on a bigger role and give efforts to reach a peace deal much broader international backing.

Since the collapse of the Kerry-led talks, a war between Gaza militants and Israel later in 2014 killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, and there is no end in sight to the current round of violence that erupted last fall.

Mladenov cited two "acts of terror" against Israel — Thursday morning's stabbing death of a 13-year-old girl by a Palestinian home invader in the West Bank and a June 8 attack in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis. He also noted a Palestinian teenager shot to death by Israeli security forces on June 21, which Israel said was "a mistake."

"All three incidents clearly illustrate the environment of fear in which both Palestinians and Israelis have lived for generations," Mladenov said. "Palestinian frustration cannot be wished away ... But neither will the violence and terror, fueled by resentment, bring about a Palestinian state."

(Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)