New effort called to settle Arab-Israeli conflicts

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. political chief called for a new international effort to settle decades of Arab-Israeli conflict, saying the Middle East peace process has reached “a sorry juncture.”

The crises in the region must be addressed in a comprehensive approach “to bring peace and stability to the region as a whole,” Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

His call came a week after Arab League nations also proposed starting a new peace process, arguing the U.S.-backed “road map” for peace, unveiled in 2003, was no longer viable.

Gambari did not mention the Arab initiative. But he said the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace has “slipped further away during the past year.”

“We have reached this sorry juncture in the Middle East peace process,” he said.

“Progress towards a two-state solution would undoubtedly facilitate the resolution of conflicts elsewhere in the region, and vice versa,” he added. “The stalled state of the peace process should therefore be regarded as unacceptable.”

Arab League foreign ministers have asked for a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council in September to discuss their initiative, which would include establishing a Palestinian state and promoting peace with Lebanon after the brutal 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman said last week he doubted a new Arab League initiative would fairly consider Israel’s security needs and insisted the 2003 peace plan remained the only viable option.

That plan, drafted by the U.N., the United States, the European Union and Russia, called for simultaneous steps by the Israelis and Palestinians leading ultimately to a Palestinian state.

On Tuesday, Gillerman blamed extremists throughout the Middle East for the failure to achieve peace. He called for the defeat of what he termed “the quartet of terror” _ Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

“The Middle East is a region caught between rifts of extremism, where radicals engage in fierce battles that have no rules of play,” he told the council. “Israel finds itself lodged between these currents, trying to navigate a peaceful solution to the turmoil and allow civilization to grow and prosper as it should.”

Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour, however, strongly supported the Arab initiative.

“Clearly the peace process in which we have been engaged for 15 years now … has not fulfilled its stated goals, as it has been repeatedly hampered by delays, stalemates, gross violations, cycles of violence and major crises,” he said.

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