A UN official has blamed Israel for the current impasse in the peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli officials. It is urging Israel to halt its "negative developments" on the ground, Israeli media reported.
The UN's Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, told the UN Security Council that Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiators "have gone some way towards narrowing their differences."
But he warned that Israeli actions on the ground, including the expansion of illegal settlements, may "irreparably damage" peace efforts. He added that, "Strains have been growing dangerously between the parties, and these can and must be overcome."
Feltman described Israel's recent announcements to build new settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem as being a "significant setback" to the peace process.
He noted that on 13 November, when the Israeli government announced its plans to build 24,000 new settlement units, was the major cause of that "setback."
"We hope that these plans are suspended," Feltman said. However, he stressed that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon actually wants "a full stop" and not just a suspension.
Ban Ki-Moon considers the settlements a violation of international law and a real obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine.
Feltman also conveyed that the settlements put the two-state solution at risk and called for the Israelis to "refrain from actions that undermine trust and the spirit of the talks."
He affirmed that "the consequences of failure [of the two-state solution] would be dire for Israelis and Palestinians alike."
Meanwhile, he pointed out that the two-state solution is still the appropriate solution for both sides. "We thus continue to urge the parties to remain steadfast in their commitment to see this process through," Feltman said.
Calling for serious measures, he warned: "We fear that unless steps are taken to prevent the reoccurrence of negative developments, such as those of recent weeks, the remaining chances to achieve a negotiated two-state solution may be irreparably damaged."