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TODAY SPECIAL
 
Situation in Middle East remains "critical": top UN official

Efforts have been made to bring about conditions toward a resumption of the Israeli- Palestinian talks, but the situation on the ground remains " critical" and the efforts need to be sped up, a top United Nations official told the Security Council on Wednesday.

"We cannot afford to lose this opportunity to reach an agreement," Lynn Pascoe, the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, said while briefing the 15-member Security Council on the Middle East. And he called the situation there " critical."

The situation on the ground "remains fragile and a crisis of confidence between the parties has so far prevented the resumption of talks," he said.

The international community has been intensifying the joint efforts aimed at bringing the resumption of peace talks, such as the League of Arab States Summit at the end of March, where UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon urged the Arabs to support proximity talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis in order for direct negotiations to end the conflict.

"The United Nations will continue to engage with its Quartet partners to ensure that the circumstances which made it possible to agree to launch the proximity talks be respected," Pascoe said

The Quartet comprises the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

Noting that the Israeli government's partial restraint on settlement construction in the West Bank remains in effect, Pascoe said that there has been a reduction in construction activity " despite some violations."

Also noting with concern, Pascoe highlighted the daily clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank and the " volatile" security situation in Gaza Strip.

Detailing the Palestinian state-building agenda, Pascoe reiterated the continued support from the United Nations and international community.

"Peace is in the hands of the parties themselves but the international community must continue to play a crucial role," Pascoe said.

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