UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N.'s political chief said Tuesday that Israel and the Palestinians remain far apart on reaching a peace accord but insists "now is time for everyone to give diplomacy a chance."
B. Lynn Pascoe told the U.N. Security Council the main obstacles to setting up a Palestinian state - a bid which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted last week despite a promised U.S. veto - are political, not institutional. He said the main issue remains the "continuing Israeli occupation and the ongoing Palestinian divide."
The remarks at the monthly briefing on the Middle East came as Israel announced it would build 1,100 more homes on contested land in Jerusalem.
They highlighted the tenuous path confronting not only the Palestinians and Israelis, but also the Quartet of Mideast mediators - the U.N., U.S., European Union and Russia. The Quartet has drafted a plan to bring the two sides together for negotiations, with an ultimate goal of achieving a deal by the end of next year.
"Resuming negotiations, and making progress, is easier said than done," Pascoe told the council.
With the Quartet's proposal and the push to restart negotiations, he said, "this would be a moment where the parties would be truly tested in their readiness to make serious proposals that addressed the core concerns of the other."
Abbas' insistence on presenting the application for Palestine's full membership to the U.N. pushed the long-stalled peace process again to the forefront of this year's General Assembly discussions and sparked a frenzy of last-minute diplomacy to dissuade him from submitting the application. The U.S. has vowed to veto the statehood bid in the Security Council.
Abbas said that if it was rejected, the Palestinians could turn to the General Assembly to raise their current status as a permanent observer to the a nonmember observer state, and resubmit the application again with the council.