Israelis and Palestinians were now engaged in the most intensive negotiations on the final status of their disputed area since the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian political process nearly eight years ago, a UN official said on Wednesday.
"The significance of this should not be underestimated, but neither should the grave risks to the process be overlooked," Angela Kane, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said as she briefed Security Council members on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, during the past month.
In that context, she noted major episodes of violence, especially in and around Gaza, and expressed deep alarm at the prospects of a further intensification of violence.
Kane welcomed Israel's removal of obstacles in the West Bank, but said that of the 44 removed, only five were significant.
In that regard, she strongly urged further and more substantive progress to ease restrictions, and noted that restrictions on UN operations continue to increase in the West Bank.
Turning to Lebanon, Kane said the country remains in the grip of an intense political crisis.
In addition, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has recorded a steep increase in the number of Israeli air violations, which occur on a daily basis, she noted, adding that the over flights constitute violations of Lebanese sovereignty and the Blue Line and continue to undermine the credibility of UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces.