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Nickolay Mladenov: ‘There is no Middle East peace process’

The UN’s Middle East peace process coordinator discusses if there is still hope to end conflict in the region.

The Middle East peace process is a term that has been used by world leaders time and time again.

It refers to efforts by the international community to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One of the most significant events of the past 50 years was the Oslo Accords, a set of agreements first signed in 1993 by the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

It put in place a series of procedures – based on United Nations resolutions – for the eventual goal of an independent Palestinian state.

To oversee this agreement, the UN established the Office of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, the coordinator being given the mandate to lead the UN system in all political and diplomatic efforts related to the peace process.

But nearly 30 years since its establishment, how has it affected Palestinians, Israelis and the broader region? And is there hope to achieve peace in the region?

“There is no Middle East peace process,” says Nickolay Mladenov, who has been the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process since 2015.

“I don’t think either the Israeli or the Palestinian side – for various different reasons – are in a position to actually currently engage in meaningful negotiations… I feel that a lot of our work currently is focused more on preventing war in Gaza… preserving the consensus internationally as much as possible on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved, and really working quietly to build conditions for the future leadership on both sides to hopefully come back to the negotiating table in a meaningful manner.”

He points out that, despite changing realities on the ground and ongoing conflict, “ultimately … you have two million people in Gaza, three million people in the West Bank – and they are not going anywhere. As much as Israel has a right to stay… in the land between the river and the sea, so do they.”

Mladenov shares his concerns about the future of the region and the situation in Gaza, saying: “I am very fearful; if you look at the rest of the Middle East, if you look at Iraq, if you look at Syria. If you leave a community long enough marginalised, and disempowered and disenfranchised and segregated and closed, that community collapses and becomes a breeding ground for radicals. We don’t want to see that happening,” he says.

“I fear every single day that we are just days away from another war in Gaza.”

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, talks to Al Jazeera about Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan, Israeli settlements, and the challenges facing the Middle East.