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Cablegate: Unsc: Gaza Situation Undermining Annapolis Optimism

VZCZCXRO7951
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUCNDT #0180/01 0580039
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 270039Z FEB 08
FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3804
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 USUN NEW YORK 000180

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER IS LE KPAL KWBG
SUBJECT: UNSC: GAZA SITUATION UNDERMINING ANNAPOLIS OPTIMISM

REF: STATE 18360

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Recently appointed UN Special Coordinator
for the Middle East Peace Process Serry and UN Under
Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Holmes provided

SIPDIS
the Security Council on February 26 with a detailed
description of the situation in the Palestinian territories,
arguing that dire conditions on the ground are undermining
the optimism generated by the launch of the Annapolis
process. The Israeli delegation purposely absented itself
from the open briefing to show Israel's opposition to these
UN statements, including assertions that Israeli measures
amount to collective punishment and an appeal to Israel to
abide by its obligations under international law.

2. (SBU) In closed consultations following the briefing,
Council members agreed the situation on the ground threatened
the Annapolis process. All delegations except Libya
condemned rocket attacks and suicide bombings. While
asserting Israel's right to self-defense, most including the
Europeans called on Israel to respond proportionately in
accordance with international law, and also called for the
reopening of the Gaza crossings. In response to an appeal by
Holmes for the Council "to speak up," several delegations
lamented the Council's silence on the subject. Many
expressed support for a more active Quartet role. In his
remarks, Ambassador Khalilzad cited the four elements
necessary for a solution to the situation in Gaza (reftel),
and recalled the Council's failure last month to reach a
balanced statement. Although most delegations withheld
comments on Lebanon pending upcoming UN reports, the Russian,
UK, French, Italian, and Chinese delegations noted their
support for the Arab League's mediation efforts. END
SUMMARY.


UN REPRESENTATIVES EMPHASIZE DIRE CONDITIONS
--------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace
Process Robert Serry briefed the Council for the first time
on February 26. Serry emphasized that the Annapolis process
could only progress if there were real changes on the ground.
He called for an intensification of efforts in the West Bank
in accordance with the Road Map and for a different and more
positive strategy to address the situation in Gaza, which he
called "unacceptable and unsustainable." He urged Israel to
meet its obligations to the civilians of Gaza under
international law, but also noted that Hamas had not acted
sufficiently to end the rocket and mortar attacks against
Israel. In closed consultations with Council members, Serry
said he plans to update the Council regularly and expects to
play an active role in the Quartet.

4. (SBU) Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and
Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes briefed the Council
on his recent trip to the West Bank, Gaza, and Sderot. He
focused his remarks on the "grim and miserable" situation in
Gaza. He said only 10 percent of the goods and people that
had gone into Gaza in January 2007 was allowed to enter in
January 2008, and he noted that 80 percent of the population
was receiving food aid. He also said that most industry and
agriculture had collapsed, power cuts were impairing the
functioning of essential services and infrastructure, water
quality was declining, the sewage system was inadequate, and
the medical and education systems were approaching failure.
Holmes made clear that Hamas must accept its full
responsibility for the situation, but said no matter the
provocation and illegality of terrorist acts, the Israeli
response amounts to collective punishment and is contrary to
international humanitarian law. He further argued that the
Israeli response is not having the desired effect, but
leading to further radicalization. In closing, he called for
the reopening of the Gaza crossings and appealed to the
Council to speak up about the impact of the situation on
civilians.

5. (SBU) Israel purposely did not attend the briefing to
signal its disagreement with the content of the UN
statements. The Israeli mission informed USUN that Israeli
PermRep Gillerman met with Serry on February 25 and told him
that the Israeli response to the rocket and mortar attacks is
not targeted against civilians per se, but driven by security
concerns. Gillerman said the recent drop in the number of
Qassam rockets fired into Israel showed the measures were
effective.


UNSC: HUMANITARIAN SITUATION UNDERMINING ANNAPOLIS PROGRESS
--------------------------------------------- -------------


USUN NEW Y 00000180 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) In closed consultations following the briefing,
Ambassador Khalilzad reiterated the U.S. commitment to the
Annapolis process and its support for progress on four
tracks. He also welcomed the dialogue between Egypt, Israel
and the Palestinians on the humanitarian situation in Gaza
and outlined four elements necessary for a solution (reftel).
In response to calls for Council action, Ambassador
Khalilzad raised last month's failed efforts to reach
consensus on a balanced statement.

7. (SBU) Delegations noted the growing gap between the
aspirations of the political process and the reality on the
ground, and said the dire humanitarian situation was
undermining the optimism generated by the Annapolis process.
All delegations except Libya condemned the rocket and other
attacks against Israel, but also objected to what was
characterized as Israel's disproportionate response. Libyan
PR Ettalhi questioned Israeli actions, asking if it is
possible to say that Israel has a desire for peace. All
delegations called on both parties to fulfill their Roadmap
obligations. The UN's appeal for the Gaza crossings to be
re-opened was supported by the UK, Belgium, France, Russia,
China, South Africa, and Costa Rica.


MEMBERS DISAPPOINTED BY UNSC INACTION
-------------------------------------

8. (SBU) In reaction to Holmes' call for the Council to speak
up, several elected delegations expressed disappointment at
the Council's failure to issue a statement on the situation
in Gaza, and the delegations from South Africa, Costa Rica,
and Panama spoke out strongly against Council inaction on
this file. Panamanian PR Arias blamed the inaction on "some
members'" unconditional support for the parties. South
African PR Kumalo contested Ambassador Khalilzad's statement
that the Council had made every effort to issue a statement
in January, arguing that the Council would never come to
agreement if it was expected to equate the rocket attacks
against Israel with the humanitarian plight of the
Palestinians. Kumalo also urged the Council to visit the
area to demonstrate its concern to the international
community. In seeking a greater Council role, Kumalo and
Costa Rican PR Urbina also criticized the Quartet for failure
to fully engage the Council on its activities.


SUPPORT FOR ARAB LEAGUE EFFORTS IN LEBANON
------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) Given the focus of the statements by Serry and
Holmes, most delegations said they would wait for the UN's
upcoming reports on Lebanon before speaking to the issue, but
the UK, Russian, French, Italian, Chinese delegations voiced
their support for the Arab League's mediation efforts.
KHALILZAD

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