United Nations, March 31 (IANS) UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said he regretted the lack of progress on the ground, expressing concern over Israeli settlements and its plans to annex Palestinian land.

The expansion of Israeli settlements continues to pose a significant obstacle to achieving a viable two-state solution, Xinhua news agency quoted Mladenov as saying on Monday in a UN Security Council video teleconference.

Israeli settlements have no legal validity and constitute a violation of international law, so they should stop immediately and completely, he said.

Potential settlement advancement in the E1 area of the occupied West Bank, or in East Jerusalem neighborhoods that are crucial to the contiguity of a future Palestinian state, are particularly concerning, said the envoy.

The existence and expansion of settlements further entrench the occupation and systematically erode the possibility of establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian state, and fuel anger and resentment among the Palestinian population, he added.

The senior diplomat said the demolition and seizure of Palestinian structures, including internationally funded humanitarian projects, must stop as such practice violates international humanitarian law and must cease.

Mladenov expressed his concern over possible unilateral steps from the Israeli side. In recent months, Israeli officials have repeatedly stated their intention to annex Israeli settlements and other parts of the occupied West Bank, he said.

“If implemented, such steps would not only constitute a serious violation of international law, but they would also effectively end the prospect of the two-state solution and close the door to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” the envoy said.

There is no justification for violence against civilians, he said. “I call upon all members of the international community to join the UN in condemning it unequivocally and calling for all perpetrators to be held accountable.”

The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars toward civilian population centers is prohibited by international humanitarian law and Palestinian militants must cease this practice immediately, said Mladenov.

Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and only intentionally use lethal force when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life, in accordance with international law, he said, adding that all incidents must be thoroughly investigated.

Mladenov said he also regretted the lack of progress in holding long-overdue Palestinian presidential and legislative elections.

Noting that it is critical that the Egyptian-led intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts continue, he said Palestinian leaders must engage positively with Egypt, reverse the negative trajectory, take concrete steps to end division and schedule elections.

As the region was facing challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and broader geopolitical tensions, the situation on the ground remains fragile, he added.




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