Only 'brief window' open for new Mideast talks: UN official

UNITED NATIONS- International powers must quickly bring Israel and the Palestinians together for new talks to avoid a new Middle East crisis, a top UN official told the Security Council on Monday.
"We have a brief and crucial window to overcome the current impasse," Oscar Fernandez Taranco, assistant UN secretary general for political affairs, told the council.

Highlighting international opposition to Israel's refusal to extend a freeze on settlement building, Taranco said progress was needed in weeks. "The secretary general continues to believe that if the door to peace closes it will be very hard to reopen."
Israel and the Palestinian leadership started new US-brokered talks six weeks ago. But they have not met since September 15 and Palestinian leaders have said they will not negotiate because Israel refused to extend a 10 month old moratorium on settlement building.
Arab nations have given the United States one month to end the dispute.
The Palestinian envoy to the UN reaffirmed demands to the Security Council that the settlement moratorium be resumed. Israel's ambassador insisted that the West Bank buildings are not an obstacle to peace talks.
"Intensive diplomatic efforts led by the United States and supported by all members of the Quartet are ongoing to create conditions conducive to the continuation of negotiations," Taranco said.
He said the diplomatic Quartet -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- could meet soon to discuss the deadlock.
The United States has called on Israel to extend the settlement building and its representative at the meeting, Brooke Anderson, reaffirmed US "disappointment" at Israel's announcement of new building tenders on Friday.
She said it was "contrary to our efforts to resume negotiations."
"We have long urged both parties to avoid actions that could undermine trust," Anderson added.
Palestinian envoy, Riyad Mansour, said Israel's settlement building showed its "intention to continue pursuit of its narrow, reckless expansionist agenda, at the expense of the prospects for peace and security."
Israel's ambassador, Meron Reuben, accused Palestinian leaders of having "belittled" the moratorium gesture when it was first announced and "now demand its extension as a precondition for continuing talks." But he said Israel was "closely engaged" with US efforts to get talks back on track.
The Security Council's permanent powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- all urged Israel to halt the West Bank construction, however.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called the settlements illegal and highlighted that they run contrary to the Quartet's roadmap to Middle East peace.

Monday, October 18th 2010

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