India hopes UN vote will help resume Palestine, Israel talks

United Nations: India has expressed hope that Palestine's enhanced status at the UN will pave the way for resumption of "serious and direct" talks with Israel as it voiced concern that the continued impasse between the two parties over settlement activities threaten the two-state solution.

India was among the 138 nations that voted in favour of Palestine at a historic UN General Assembly vote that upgraded the status of the Palestinian Authority to non-member observer state from an entity. The US and Israel and were among only nine nations in the 193-member UN body that voted against Palestine in Thursday's vote.

"We hope that the vote in the General Assembly will pave the way for the resumption of serious, direct talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said at a General Assembly session here yesterday on the 'Question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.'

Puri regretted that while democratic aspirations of people in several Arab countries was being addressed through national political processes over the last two years, the Palestinian question and related Arab-Israeli issues remained largely un-addressed and unresolved.

"For more than two years now, there have been no direct talks between Israel and Palestine. Meanwhile, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories has been deteriorating due to settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem," Puri said.

"These activities are creating new realities on the ground, and threaten the very premise of a two-state solution," he said.

Settlements, roadblocks and the related infrastructure of occupation have exacerbated the humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people and are adversely affecting the normal functioning of state institutions, he said.

The Palestinian Authority is also facing a severe financial crisis that could erode significant progress made by it in building state institutions. With the Gaza blockade entering its sixth year, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate and essential services, economic activities and infrastructure development have been disrupted.

"We strongly condemn the violence and deeply regret the loss of human lives during the recent hostilities. We hope both the parties will uphold the ceasefire agreement and implement its provisions in good faith," Puri said referring to the November 21 ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas which brought an end to eight days of violence that left an estimated 158 Palestinians dead.

Tensions had escalated in the region earlier this month following rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.

Puri also lamented that Palestine's application for full membership of the United Nations submitted more than a year ago had not evinced any positive action from the Security Council, despite overwhelming support from the UN member-states.

Reiterating India's continued support for the Palestinian cause, Puri congratulated the leadership and people of Palestine on winning the General Assembly vote.

"While we have long supported the aspirations of the Palestinian people and leadership for the full membership to the United Nations, the vote in the General Assembly is an important milestone towards that goal," he said.

Noting India's long history of solidarity with the Palestinian people, Puri said India was the first non-Arab country to recognise the state of Palestine nearly 25 years ago.