UN Official says Release of Prisoners Builds Confidence

NEW YORK, July 24, 2013 (WAFA) – Release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel for decades would help to build confidence between Palestinians and Israelis and improve the situation on the ground, Robert Serry, United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process said Tuesday.

Briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, Serry commended efforts by the United States to revive peace talks saying that “progress in the peace process and a more constructive dynamic between the parties would have important positive political regional implications.”

He said that “as the Middle East continues to go through a deepening crisis with an ever deteriorating humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and significant political developments in Egypt, the Middle East peace process remains critical for the fate of the region.”

However, Serry said that for the peace efforts to succeed, “some very tough choices will be required from both sides in the period ahead.”

He expressed hope that Israel would release prisoners as demanded by the Palestinians in order to boost chances of return to negotiations.

“With parties having now agreed to resume negotiations, I have little doubt that a meaningful prisoners release would help to build confidence and improve the situation on the ground,” he said.

Serry also suggested that “While US engagement is central, we are convinced of the need for a broader regional and international role in support of any political initiative, as well as continued efforts to ensure that the Palestinian Authority remains a viable interlocutor and partner.”

He also expressed hope that Israel “will find a constructive way to respond” to the Arab Peace Initiative and the prospect of ending the Arab-Israeli conflict and achieving regional peace, and that “tangible progress is made before the next General Assembly meeting in September.”

He said that the United Nations has been clear that “progress this year can only be expected if a credible political horizon to achieve the negotiated two-state solution emerges.”

Similarly, he said, “plans to shore up the Palestinian economy with a major boost to private sector development are welcome and indeed necessary, but must now be complemented by progress on the political track.”

He said: “In the near to last chance to preserve the viability of this solution, we remain hopeful that renewed negotiations will be substantive and set a clear path towards a two-state solution, the end of conflict, and lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. Nobody else but the parties themselves can make the hard choices required to achieve peace, but the international community and the region should cooperate in a concerted and committed manner to drive the peace process forward.”

Serry also turned to Gaza urging steps to improve the humanitarian situation there.

“We must not forget the situation in Gaza where practical steps to improve the humanitarian and security situation in the wake of transformations in Egypt can be an important enabler for peace and stability,” he said.

He said Gaza was beginning to experience some serious shortages of fuel and basic building materials following the Egyptian authorities’ measures against the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.

He said that 80 percent of the tunnels, which had served as the primary entry point to Gaza of all kinds of goods, including fuel, due to the Israeli blockade, are now no longer functioning. source : WAFA NEWS