A senior United Nations official has called on the Israeli government to lift the siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for five years. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe told a Security Council meeting on the Middle East and the Palestine Issue that the prisoner exchange agreement should lead to further steps towards ending the closure of Gaza, where a significant portion of the population are food insecure and dependent on humanitarian assistance.
"We reiterate our call on Israel for more far-reaching steps to ease its land closures and facilitate the entry of construction materials into Gaza, free movement of people in both directions and exports from Gaza, with due consideration for Israel's legitimate security concerns," he said.
"We have seen political will brought to resolve a humanitarian issue, and a readiness in that context to take difficult decisions. We call for this same determination to be displayed regarding the most important issue – the quest for a lasting peace. The parties must rise to this challenge," added Mr Pascoe, voicing the deep concern of the United Nations at the ongoing impasse between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
He said that the parties must refrain from provocations and should stand ready to offer serious proposals on borders and security for negotiation. "We urge them to approach their meetings with the Quartet envoys later this week in this spirit. Otherwise, the impasse will only deepen, and with it, the level of confrontation and the scale of the mistrust."