NEW YORK, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territory is counterproductive though both sides are called to task for the sake of peace, a U.N. envoy said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry moved to put more diplomatic capital behind a stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process earlier this year. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said 2013 would be a decisive year for a two-state solution to the crisis.
Robert Serry, U.N. special envoy for the Middle East peace process, told members of the U.N. Security Council he welcomed an Israeli decision last week to increase the number of work permits for Palestinians living in the West Bank by 5,000 to 50,000.
However, he expressed concern over clashes between Palestinians and settlers, reminding Israel that settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was counterproductive and against international law.
A July decision to move ahead with direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators was a step in the right direction, he added. He said the nine-month time-frame to reach a comprehensive settlement may be ambitious.
"We do not underestimate the challenges ahead and the momentous efforts required to sustain and successfully conclude negotiations within the prescribed time-frame," he said in his remarks Tuesday.