UN political affairs chief says Israels withdrawal from Gaza is yet to

“An upsurge in violence has undermined the positive political developments and dulled the sense of optimism that had resulted from last month’s Gaza disengagement,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari, told the Security Council during the monthly briefing on the Middle East situation.The disengagement process had increased cooperation between the parties at the working level, however, and the leaders also seemed closer to resuming bilateral negotiations, he said, noting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had carried out the disengagement in the face of vocal domestic pressure, while the Palestinian Legislative Council had called on President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the Government and form another within two weeks. Mr. Gambari welcomed today’s meeting in Washington between President George W. Bush and Mr. Abbas and said the international community would continue to play its part in consolidating the success of the disengagement.The parties themselves had to take bold steps to fulfil their respective commitments, however, he said. Under those commitments, Israel had to halt all settlement- and barrier-construction activity on Palestinian land and the Palestinian Authority had to continue reforming and strengthening its security services. According to the evidence, Palestinians strongly supported efforts to rein in militant groups and the leadership should build on that support, he added.Since the Gaza disengagement, James Wolfensohn, the Special Envoy of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet – the UN, European Union (EU), Russia and the United States – had returned to the region on 7 October to press for the Quartet’s further agenda on disengagement and to seek to conclude agreements on the “six-plus-three” issues relating to movement, security and reform, the basis for his work since June.The first of the six joint issues concerned border crossings and trade corridors, Mr. Gambari said, with reopening the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza being of immediate social and political importance. He expressed the hope that reports of the crossing being re-opened by 15 November were correct.The parties had reached consensus on the main technical elements of administering a crossing regime and on a third-party presence along the border with Egypt, he said. The EU had offered to consider such a third-party role, but a formal invitation had not yet been issued.Turning to the situation in Lebanon, he said the situation along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel had remained calm, though 11 Israeli air violations, involving 19 aircraft, had been recorded. read more