Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco. UN Photo/Evan SchneiderA senior United Nations political official today urged Israel and the Palestinians to redouble efforts to resolve all their permanent status issues, end the conflict and establish an independent and democratic Palestinian state that will exist peacefully alongside Israel.

?Leadership is needed to ensure that the process moves forward with the support of the regional and international partners,? said Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, as he briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East.

He told the Council?s open debate, which heard from over 40 speakers, that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had started meeting on 3 January under the facilitation of King Abdullah of Jordan and the country?s Foreign Affairs Minister, in the presence of envoys of the so-called Quartet ? the diplomatic grouping bringing together the UN with the European Union, Russia and the United States. It was the first time both parties had held direct talks in 15 months.

?The parties began discussing important issues related to territory and security,? said Mr. Fernandez-Taranco. ?They are also discussing ways to build confidence and create a positive environment for these talks to succeed,? he added.

?Neither the international community nor the parties can afford to let this opportunity pass by. The Secretary-General continues to call on the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show vision, courage and determination to reach a historical peace agreement that would meet the legitimate aspirations of the people on both sides,? said Mr. Fernandez-Taranco.

Actions on the ground, however, continue to contribute to tensions, he told the Council. Settlement activity, including in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, continued during the reporting period. Violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians also remain troubling.

On the continuing bloody unrest in Syria, Mr. Fernandez-Taranco told the Council that the bloodshed and human rights violations must stop for a credible, inclusive and Syrian-led political process to start in that country.

?We hope that the international community will act in a concerted and coherent manner in support of ongoing efforts for a peaceful resolution of the crisis,? he said.

The UN also continues to monitor the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon, he said, adding that both the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Lebanese Government had registered 5,660 Syrian refugees. The significant increase in number is largely due to intensified refugee registration, he added.

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