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Please find attached the report on the work of the Security Council during the presidency of Luxembourg in March 2014 (see annex). This document was prepared under my supervision, after consultation with the other members of the Security Council.
I should be grateful if you would have the present letter and its annex circulated as a document of the Security Council.
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
On 18 March, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. The briefing was followed by consultations of the whole.
The Under-Secretary-General stated that eight months since the resumption of talks between Israelis and Palestinians, United States-led efforts to present a basis for continued negotiations were ongoing. The time for important decisions — by the Israeli and Palestinian leadership — was fast approaching. These decisions were becoming increasingly urgent, given the worrying trends in the West Bank and in Gaza.
The Under-Secretary-General also indicated that according to data collected by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, construction in the settlements more than doubled in 2013 compared to 2012. He recalled that continued settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory was contrary to international law and an obstacle to peace.
Turning to Gaza, the Under-Secretary-General underscored that the underpinnings of the ceasefire agreement of 21 November 2012 continued to be undermined. He stressed that a dangerous escalation of violence took place between 11 and 13 March, with more than 70 rockets and 5 mortar shells indiscriminately fired towards Israel. Israel conducted 15 airstrikes into Gaza in March. The Under-Secretary-General underscored that incitement, whatever its source, poisoned the atmosphere for peace.
During the ensuing consultations, Council members shared the view that the discussions between Israelis and Palestinians had reached a critical and crucial stage, and that efforts would have to be continued to reach a final-status agreement in view of implementing the two-State solution.
Accordingly, members of the Council stressed that all parties should refrain from actions that undermined trust, fed scepticism and made the peace talks only more difficult. Most Council members condemned the continued Israeli settlement activities as illegal, and the provocations in and around the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, including by Israeli officials, which only fuelled tensions. Council members expressed serious concern about actions that could potentially undermine the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem. Council members also expressed grave concern regarding incitement, incidents of violence and demolitions in the West Bank, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, urging parties to cooperate in expanding access for people, goods and humanitarian supplies. Council members also condemned the unacceptable rocket attacks from Gaza.