10 December – The presence of Israeli and Palestinian officials in Rome for a donors’ conference on the Middle East is the “most powerful expression yet” that both sides have a renewed desire to engage, the senior United Nations envoy for the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, said today.
Speaking at a meeting of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, which is forming part of this week’s donors’ conference in Italy, Mr. Roed-Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said the optimism should not lead people to ignore the large divide between the two sides, and within them, over how to resolve the Middle East conflict.
“If a nascent peace process is to build momentum and succeed, it must be guided by the Quartet’s Road Map,” said Mr Roed-Larsen. He was referring to the diplomatic Quartet of the European Union, the Russian Federation, the UN and the United States.
The Road Map calls for parallel and reciprocal steps leading to Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security by 2005.
The envoy stressed today that while progress on security is essential to the peace process, it is equally vital to alleviate what he described as “the disturbing humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinian people.”
Mr. Roed-Larsen added that the economic challenges faced by the Palestinians are enormous, pointing out that between 2000 and last year, economic losses amounted to about $5.4 billion. He said 60 per cent of Palestinians, or about 2.5 million people, are now living below the poverty line.