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Cablegate: January Middle East Briefing: Rancorous Security

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FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3646
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 USUN NEW YORK 000095

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER KPAL KWBG IS LE SY
SUBJECT: JANUARY MIDDLE EAST BRIEFING: RANCOROUS SECURITY
COUNCIL DEBATE OVERSHADOWS ANNAPOLIS PROGRESS

1. (SBU) Summary. During the UN Security Council's monthly
public debate on the Middle East on January 30, past optimism
about the Annapolis process was overshadowed by rancor
resulting from the UNSC's inability to adopt a Presidential
Statement (PRST) on the situation in Gaza as well as
acrimonious exchanges between the parties. Although most
delegations expressed hope that the momentum generated at
Annapolis would be sustained, several decried continuing
Israeli settlement activity as contravening the GOI's Roadmap
obligations. Most delegations also called on the PA to do
more to confront terrorism and expressed concern about or
condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.
Delegates also expressed concern about recent violence in
Lebanon and generally expressed support for the Arab League's
effort to find a solution to the impasse over the
presidential election.

2. (SBU) The Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian
delegates engaged in an acrimonious name-calling exercise at
the end of the debate in which they argued about the source
of Gaza's problems (occupation vs. terrorism). The Syrian PR
accused Israel of "genocide," while the Israeli PR argued
Libya was unfit for UNSC membership given its involvement in
the Lockerbie bombing. Despite the rancor, the Libyan
delegation worked privately with USUN to shelve the proposed
PRST and did not push forward, as would normally be the case,
an unbalanced resolution that would have triggered a USG
veto. Because USUN succeeded in inserting consideration of
the security aspects of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza into
the Council discussion, the Arab group was unable to find
support for its typical tactic of seeking a UN General
Assembly Special Session once the Council has failed to issue
a product.

3. (SBU) Although the Security Council held an unscheduled
debate on the situation in Gaza January 22, Council members
insisted on also holding the regular monthly debate on the
situation in the Middle East January 30. A summary of the
January 30 debate, as well as the full transcript, should be
available on the UN website (www.un.org, then click on "press
center") by January 31. End Summary.

Pascoe Presents Update
-----------------------

4. (SBU) Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn
Pascoe delivered the monthly briefing on the Middle East in a
public briefing of the UN Security Council January 30. Pascoe
highlighted the gap between the aspirations of the political
process and realities of the situation on the ground, and
said that both sides had obligations under Phase I of the
Roadmap - including a freeze on all settlement activity by
Israel and disarming of militants by the PA. Pascoe then
briefed the Council on developments in the crisis in Gaza,
the casualties of the last month (the "month of heavy
bloodshed"), continuing negotiations between Israelis and
Palestinians, follow-up from the Paris donor conference, and
developments in Lebanon. On Gaza, Pascoe said that since
Israel's decision to impose a closure on Gaza on January 18,
32 truckloads of goods had entered Gaza compared to a daily
average of 93 trucks during 2007 and 2008.


Ambassador Wolff Keeps Focus on Annapolis
-----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Ambassador Wolff spoke of continuing U.S. commitment
to a two-state solution and highlighted President Bush's call
for members to support Israeli and Palestinian progress on
four tracks: implementing the roadmap, building Palestinian
economic and security institutions, securing ongoing support
from the international community, and continuing bilateral
negotiations aimed at securing a peace settlement.
Ambassador Wolff also urged the international community to
maintain the Annapolis momentum that was reinforced in the
Paris donors' conference.

6. (SBU) Ambassador Wolff said that the USG shared the regret
of several other delegations that the UNSC was unable to
agree on the draft PRST discussed on January 25, but he
emphasized that the lack of a Council statement did not
signify a lack of concern for the humanitarian crisis. He
called on Hamas to cease its violent terrorist attacks on
Israel, noting that Hamas was at odds with the aspirations of
the Palestinian people, and expressed surprise that the
Palestinian representative did not condemn the rocket attacks
as President Abbas had in public remarks. Ambassador Wolff
said the United States supports contact between Israelis and
the Palestinian Authority to discuss the Palestinian proposal
to assume control over border crossing points inside Gaza.

USUN NEW Y 00000095 002 OF 003

7. (SBU) On Lebanon, Ambassador Wolff strongly condemned the
Beirut bombing in mid-January, but said that the United
States would not falter in its support for a democratic
government in Lebanon. The Ambassador noted the United
States' support for UN efforts on a Lebanon tribunal and
urged other members to provide contributions as soon as
possible to set up the tribunal. Ambassador Wolff also
called for immediate Presidential elections in Lebanon and
for Syria, Iran, and allies to end their interference in
Lebanon's democratic process.

Concern over Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
------------------------------------------

8. (SBU) All delegations expressed concern at the continuing
humanitarian crisis in Gaza. While most delegations
expressed concern about or condemned the mortar and rocket
attacks against Israel, they also admonished Israel for
practicing "collective punishment" by closing the border
crossings, and called on Israel to reopen crossing and allow
free movement of persons and goods. Libya argued that the
siege of Gaza was one link in a long chain of Israeli actions
--including military incursions, terrorizing civilians,
destroying the Al-Aqsa mosque, and imprisoning women and
children --intended to destroy the lives of 1.5 million
Palestinians, and said these activities cast doubt on
Israel's stated intentions to conclude a peace agreement with
the Palestinians.

9. (SBU) The UK, France, Russia noted their support for the
Egyptian government's response to the influx of Palestinians
at Rafah and the UK encouraged all parties to work to
normalize the operation of the Rafah crossing. The UK and
China voiced support for the proposal for the Palestinian
Authority to control border crossings in Gaza, while Russia
and Indonesia advocated talks among Palestinians on national
unity. Italy called Israel's closure policy "unsustainable"
and "counter-productive," and urged a return to the status
quo ante as soon as possible.

Deep Disappointment over UNSC Failure to Agree on PRST
--------------------------------------------- ---------

10. (SBU) With the notable exception of Libya, most
delegations expressed deep frustration over the Council's
inability to reach consensus on a PRST addressing the
situation in Gaza. This frustration fed a public argument
about the merits of public meetings. While the UK questioned
whether the monthly UNSC debates on the Middle East are
useful - whether they were adding "more light" or just "more
heat" to discussions on the issue, South Africa argued that
silence is more dangerous than a discussion in which
temperatures are raised. Indonesia opined that in absence of
consensus, the views of different UNSC members need to be
expressed, and that the monthly Middle East debate was
therefore a useful event. Panama suggested that the General
Assembly is a preferable forum. Ambassador Wolff observed
that these "debates" were typically a platform for unhelpful
rhetoric.

Continued Hope for Progress on Annapolis Commitments
--------------------------------------------- -------

11. (SBU) Despite expressed concerns that recent events on
the ground had jeopardized the momentum generated at
Annapolis, delegations urged the peace process to continue.
Delegations noted that Israeli and Palestinian leaders,
negotiators, and experts continued to meet and they called on
parties to fulfill the commitments in Phase 1 of the roadmap.
A number of delegations, including France and South Africa,
called on Israel to do more to release prisoners, end
settlement activity, and dismantle outposts, while asking
Palestinians to increase security efforts and combat
terrorist activities.

12. (SBU) Delegations also called for the international
community to continue to support the peace process and to
follow-through on financial commitments made at the Paris
donor conference. Repeating a familiar line, Russia said
that only a comprehensive approach to the Middle East would
be successful and called for resumption of negotiations on
the Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese tracks.

Concern Over Continuing Violence in Lebanon
-------------------------------------------

13. (SBU) Most delegations voiced concern over the
deteriorating security situation in Lebanon and condemned the
recent terrorist attacks. They also called for the

USUN NEW Y 00000095 003 OF 003


long-delayed Presidential election to occur quickly, without
outside intervention, and welcomed the Arab League's
mediation efforts. France emphasized that the Special
Tribunal for Lebanon should be established as soon as
possible. The French PR also expressed regret about the
deaths of the Hizballah/Amal supporters on January 27 and
said those responsible for these killings must be found.

Parties Return to Acrimonious Debate of the Past
--------------------------------------------- ---

14. (SBU) After opening statements from the Israeli and
Palestinian representatives in which they argued about the
origin of Gaza's current problems and whether the territory
is still occupied, exchanges between the parties devolved
into open recrimination and name-calling following Lebanese
and Syrian statements. The Palestinian and Israeli
representatives later exercised their right of reply.

15. (SBU) The Lebanese PR said that people of the Middle East
are still looking to UNSC for action and that it needs to end
suffering in Gaza and restore credibility of the peace
process. He also said that Israel is flouting its Annapolis
commitments by continuing to support settlements and noted
that the Israelis haven't lifted the blockade of Gaza.
Ambassador Salam called for a "diplomatic process" to resolve
the status of the Sheba'a Farms area. He expressed the GOL's
full support for the Arab League plan on Lebanon's
presidential elections and said the January 27 deaths of the
Hizballah/Amal supporters are being investigated.

16. (SBU) Syria opened by fully supporting Libya's statements
and complaining that U/SYG Pascoe's briefing had glossed over
Israeli transgressions and had failed to mention the status
of the occupied Syrian Golan. Paying special attention to
the Golan, the Syrian PR decried Israel's refusal to permit
residents of the Golan to visit their families in Syria or to
return Syrian prisoners in Israel. He said Syria was
"determined to regain the Golan to the 1967 lines by all
legitimate means." He then went on to accuse Israel of
crimes of "genocide" and alleged that Israel was undermining
Annapolis by continuing its settlement campaign even after
the peace conference. In response to the United States call
for Syrian non-interference in Lebanon, the Syrian PR noted
that the policy of non-intervention should apply to everyone,
including the United States.

17. (SBU) The Palestinian representative requested right of
reply to respond to Ambassador Wolff's point that he had
failed to mention President Abbas's condemnation of the
rocket attacks against Israel. The Palestinian
representative argued that the Council needed to consider the
totality of Abbas' position; the Palestinians were flexible
on condemning the rockets during the PRST discussions last
week, but that the main reason for the Gaza situation was the
Israeli occupation and military incursions. He also said
that to only address the firing of rockets was not balanced
or fair. The Palestinian representative also observed that
most delegations had welcomed the prospect of the Palestinian
Authority assuming control of the border crossings, which he
said would offer a concrete solution to the suffering of
Gazans.

18. (SBU) Israel also requested right of reply and used the
time to question the legitimacy of Libya's inclusion on the
Security Council, and quoted the UN Charter about criteria
for membership. The representative noted that Council
members were supposed to contribute to international peace
and security, but then said this meeting was filled with the
"bias, bigotry, and hate" demonstrated by the country who had
"recently been under UN sanctions" and had perpetrated the
Lockerbie attack, as well as by the "assassins of Damascus."
The Israeli ended by proclaiming "TGIF - Thank God Its
February," referring to the end of Libya's Presidency of the
Council.

19. (SBU) Syria responded by accusing Israel of disregarding
the organization and international law and noting that the
Israeli representative had only increased his isolation at
the UN and in the world by attacking the Libyan Presidency.
KHALILZAD

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