October 29, 2015 / 10:15 PM / in 2 years

New Zealand pushes for U.N. action to break Middle East deadlock

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - New Zealand has drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution that calls for Israel to stop building settlements in occupied territories and for the Palestinians to refrain from referring cases to the International Criminal Court.

A Palestinian protester hurls back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during clashes in the West Bank town of Al-Ram, near Jerusalem October 22, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The two-page draft, seen by Reuters on Thursday, also asks both sides to avoid provocative acts and not to question the “integrity or commitment of the other party or its leaders.”

The text was circulated this week to the 15-member council, Israel, the Palestinians and other countries in the region to gauge reaction. New Zealand U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen told reporters the aim was “to try and get the council to speak with a united voice even if in a relatively modest way.”

“There’s been a worrying deterioration on the ground and we’re stuck with nothing happening in the peace process and no commitment in the council to do anything,” van Bohemen said. “We have to find a starting point and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Security Council is generally deadlocked on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which U.N. diplomats say is due to the United States’ determination to protect its close ally Israel. The last council resolution adopted on the conflict was in 2009.

“This is not about New Zealand trying to assert ownership or leadership of the Middle East peace process,” van Bohemen said. “We do feel as a member of a council that’s been unable to do anything on this front for a long time, we at least ought to try.”

Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967. Settlements that Israel has built on territory captured in 1967 are considered illegal by the United Nations under international law.

U.S.-mediated peace talks collapsed in 2014. The draft resolution declares that stalled talks were “unacceptable and calls on all parties to take the necessary steps to rebuild trust ... and to prepare to return to negotiations.”

In frustration at the stalemate, the Palestinian Authority joined The Hague-based International Criminal Court in April, a move opposed by Israel.

Violence flared again in the past month, partly triggered by Palestinian anger over what they saw as Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is also revered by Jews as the site where two biblical Jewish temples once stood.

The draft “demands that both parties take the necessary steps to end the violence, avoid incitement and protect civilians, including publicly urging restraint in their own communities.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool

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