UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- A senior UN official on Tuesday said a new round of talks between the Israelis and Palestinians was a "small but important opening" for peace and could have a positive impact on regional stability.
"We have now reached a decisive point. The test will be for both sides to go the distance and not disappoint their people," Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, assistant secretary-general for political affairs, told the Security Council at a meeting on the situation in the Middle East.
Despite an ever challenging regional environment, a fresh round of direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials, which was held last Wednesday in Jerusalem, provides a small but important opening for peace, he said.
He called on leaders from both sides to realize that this is a chance they cannot afford to lose and said that UN will continue to bring "all possible support to their efforts."
In addition, he said that the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process planned to "meet soon" to discuss next steps and reiterated its July 30 statement welcoming the resumption of discussions and shared commitment to helping the parties achieve a negotiated two-state solution within the agreed timeframe.
The Quartet, which comprises the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States, commits itself to the Middle East peace on the basis of the widely backed two-State solution, which means a secure State of Israel to live in peace with an independent State of Palestine.
Peace talks between Palestine and Israel have been gone off and on during the past two decades. After a three-year break, the two sides resumed talks in Washington on July 30.
They held their second-round talks on Aug. 14 in East Jerusalem under secrecy without disclosing any detail to the media. But it is widely known that the core issues involves Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, borders and refugees.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will hold their third round of talks around the end of this week in the West Bank city of Jericho.
Fernandez-Taranco also said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remained deeply troubled by Israel's continued settlement activity in the West Bank, following a recent announcement that some 2,000 housing units have been approved.
"The position of the United Nations on settlements being against international law remains firm," he said. "Settlement activity deepens mistrust, undermines efforts to advance peace and will ultimately render a two-state solution impossible."
In a related development, Israeli media quoted Palestinian officials on Tuesday as saying that negotiators from both sides met in secret tiwce in the day.