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Cablegate: Rancorous Unsc Monthly Middle East Debate Makes

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHTRO RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUCNDT #0280/01 0881507
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281507Z MAR 08
FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4010
INFO RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM PRIORITY 1130
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 1862
RUEHLJ/AMEMBASSY LJUBLJANA PRIORITY 0088
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 0257

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 USUN NEW YORK 000280

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SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER KPKO KPAL KWBG UNSC SY IR LE
IS
SUBJECT: RANCOROUS UNSC MONTHLY MIDDLE EAST DEBATE MAKES
PEOPLE WONDER WHY BOTHER


1. (SBU) Summary. SYG Ban Ki-Moon made an unusual appearance
during the UNSC's monthly Middle East debate on March 25 to
beseech the parties and the international community --
including the Security Council -- to support the
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at reaching an
agreement by the end of 2008. Despite Ban's appearance, the
parties quickly turned the debate into a rancorous,
acrimony-filled exchange, in which Israel, Libya, Syria, and
Sudan attacked each other for supporting terrorism, targeted
assassinations, and genocide. Amb Khalilzad argued that
heated political statements in the UNGA or the UNSC "do
little to help advance the cause of peace or help the
Palestinian people in any tangible way," and questioned the
utility of the public format of these debates. Several UNSC
members expressed sympathy for the U.S. emphasis on the
disconnect between New York rhetoric and direct negotiations
between the parties.

2. (SBU) Summary, cont'd. Most speakers called on the UNSC
to take a greater role in the conflict, lamenting its
inability to implement earlier resolutions or to pronounce
itself on the recent situation in Gaza or the attacks against
Israel, including the March 6 assault on the yeshiva in
Jerusalem. Nearly all speakers criticized Israel for
continuing to build settlements as a violation of its Roadmap
obligations and commitments undertaken in Annapolis. Many
Council members also condemned the attacks on Israel,
although most of these states criticized Israel's military
reaction as excessive, as well. In addressing Lebanon, most
speakers expressed concern about the political crisis and
support for the Arab League plan to resolve it. In a shift
in tone, Israel praised UNIFIL's performance and did not/not
allege arms smuggling into south Lebanon. Lebanon reiterated
its support for UNIFIL's plan to end the Israeli occupation
of the northern part of Ghajar. End Summary.

3. (U) A summary of the public debate, including details of
all the interventions delivered, is available on the UN
website at
http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/resguide/scact200 8.htm. A full
transcript is also available on the same website.

SYG Ban Appeals for Continued Talks
-----------------------------------

4. (U) SYG Ban, making an unusual appearance at the monthly
UNSC Middle East debate, expressed alarm about the prospect
of renewed violence in Gaza and southern Israel and beseeched
the parties and the international community -- including the
Security Council -- to support the Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement by the end of
2008. Emphasizing that negotiations are "the only means" to
address the legitimate aspirations of both sides, Ban said
everyone should ask themselves, "If not this, what? And if
not now, when?"

5. (U) After Ban's speech, DPA U/SYG Pascoe delivered a
largely factual briefing on developments in the Middle East
over the past month, including deaths and injuries on both
sides, including the firing of rockets into Israel and the
March 6 attack on the yeshiva in Jerusalem, the humanitarian
situation in Gaza, continued Israeli settlement building, and
regional efforts to promote Palestinian reconciliation and
train PA security forces. Pascoe also briefly discussed the
situation in Lebanon, reiterating the SYG's full support for
the Arab League initiative, calling on Israel to cease its
overflights of Lebanon, and noting UNIFIL's efforts to keep
its area of operation (AOR) under control.

Parties Exchange Invective and Recrimination
--------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In what has become a regular feature of those
monthly UNSC Middle East debates that are held in public,
Israel, the Palestinians, Syrians, Sudanese (as chair of the
Arab Group), and Cuba (as chair of the NAM) engaged in a
recrimination-filled exchange, with several of these
countries taking the floor twice to continue the spectacle.
(Iran tried to join the discussion after Israel blamed Iran
for providing arms to Hamas; the Russian Presidency
sidestepped the matter by successfully suggesting that the
Iranian delegation send a letter to the Security Council in
reply.) Palestinian Observer Mansour began the exchange,

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recalling a deputy Israeli Defense Minister's alleged threats
to inflict a "Holocaust" on Gaza, and asserting that Israel's
arguments about self-defense do not justify the killing of
children. Israeli PR Gillerman railed against the tendency
of some countries to equate the "lawful state response to
terrorism" with terrorist acts themselves. He accused Libya
of blocking the UNSC from condemning the rocket attacks or
the attack on the Jerusalem yeshiva, and recalling Libya's
"long history of terrorism," questioned its suitability for a
seat on the Council.

7. (SBU) Libyan PR Ettalhi, in return, charged Israel with
trying to "annihilate the Palestinians," in a campaign of
"ethnic cleansing, war crimes," and "racist apartheid
measures." Syria continued this theme, offering a long and
confusing history of Israeli "state terrorism," and accusing
the "outlaw" Israeli state of a new "genocide" and
"Holocaust" in Gaza. Representing the Arab Group in New
York, the Sudanese PR repetitively demanded justice of the
Palestinian cause. After Gillerman took the floor a second
time to sarcastically question the value of lectures from
Sudan and Syria on genocide and targeted assassinations,
referring to the "assassins of Damascus and the butchers of
Darfur," the Syrian PR replied that Israel can only attack
others because it knows a "certain" UNSC permanent member
will protect it by exercising its veto, as it has "44 times
previously." The Sudanese PR, literally shouting in his
right-of-reply, accused Israel of involvement in Darfur and
warned that it would not enjoy impunity for its "crimes."
Gillerman also accused Cuba of failing to represent NAM
states by omitting any condemnation of rockets or the yeshiva
attack from its statement. Cuba responded by insisting that
the NAM would never abandon its Palestinian brothers.

Focus on Role of UN and Security Council
----------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Speaking after Israel and Palestine, but before the
other acrimonious speeches or rights-of-reply by states that
do not sit on the Council, Amb Khalilzad argued that heated
political statements in the UNGA or the UNSC "do little to
help advance the cause of peace or help the Palestinian
people in any tangible way." If monthly meetings or open
debates do not contribute to improving the situation on the
ground or further complicate it, he said, we should consider
whether the public format of these debates is constructive.
Of all the Council members that spoke, only South Africa
expressed support for public meetings, arguing that the UNSC
should be more "transparent" in its handling of this issue.
Panama, which is usually a proponent of scheduling open
meetings of the Council, said the monthly Middle East debates
do not help advance the peace process. Other UNSC members,
including Russia, China, Indonesia and Vietnam, told USUN
afterward that they agree the public debate serves little
purpose.

9. (SBU) Although sympathetic to the often counterproductive
debates, most Council members decried the Security Council's
inability to implement previous resolutions on the Middle
East or to reach agreement on text addressing the situation
in Gaza or attacks against Israel, and called for the UNSC to
become more involved in the issue. Libya offered a
predictable lament, arguing that no other conflict threatened
international peace and security like the Arab-Israeli
conflict, and calling on the UNSC to stop "pussy-footing"
around the issue." Costa Rica said the UNSC had become "part
of the problem" and urged UNSC members to stop serving as an
"echo-chamber" for the complaints of the parties. Of
non-Council members, the Palestinian representative insisted
that the Palestinians would continue seeking redress from the
UNSC, despite its supposed failure to fulfill its duty in the
past. Syria, too, said the Council's failure to "condemn"
Israel's "illegal siege" of Gaza had destroyed what little
remained of the UNSC's credibility.

Near-Universal Criticism of Settlements
---------------------------------------

10. (U) Nearly all speakers criticized Israel for continuing
to build settlements, especially in and around Jerusalem, and
called on it to honor its Roadmap obligations by ceasing all
construction -- including for natural growth. Several
suggested ongoing settlement activity contradicted Israeli

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commitments offered in Annapolis. France "deplored" Israel's
recent announcement about new construction tenders. The UK
and Italy called settlements "illegal" and a threat to the
peace process. Russia pronounced itself "disturbed" by the
growth in Israeli settlement activity and called for a
complete construction freeze. Lebanon, acknowledging that
the Roadmap calls for dismantling of settlement outposts and
simultaneous PA efforts to end violence, questioned how the
PA could control violence admist the "immoral, illegal IDF
siege of Gaza." Syria and its supporters also condemned
Israeli settlement building in the Golan Heights.

Criticism of Rockets and IDF Response
-------------------------------------

11. (U) Although most UNSC members condemned the rocket
attacks on Israel and the shooting at the Jerusalem yeshiva,
most of these states also criticized the conduct of Israel's
reaction in Gaza. Of European countries, Croatia offered the
strongest defense of Israel's actions, labeling the rockets
and yeshiva attacks "reprehensible," and declaring there can
be no justification at all for acts of terrorism. France
condemned the IDF incursion into Gaza and said Israeli
self-defense cannot be applied "indiscriminately." The UK,
Belgium and others called on Israel to ensure that its
actions are in accordance with international humanitarian
law. South Africa and Vietnam condemned the rocket and
yeshiva attacks, while Indonesia remained silent. Most Arab
states ignored the attacks altogether or dismissed them as an
"excuse" or "pretext" for the Israeli incursion into Gaza.

Lebanon: Support for Arab League and UNIFIL
-------------------------------------------

12. (SBU) When discussing Lebanon, most speakers expressed
concern about the political crisis and support for the Arab
League plan to resolve it. The UK supported Amb Khalilzad's
call on Syria to cease interfering in Lebanon's domestic
affairs. Syria responded with "wonder" to these charges,
alleging "constant" U.S. interference in Lebanon, including
the dispatch of the U.S. warships near the Lebanese coast.
Israel offered a more positive outlook on UNSCR 1701 than in
past speeches to the Council or discussions with USUN.
Noting that UNSCR 1701 had changed the strategic reality in
south Lebanon, PR Gillerman said Israel continues to focus on
illegal weapons transfers from Syria, the release of its
soldiers, and preventing the re-armament of Hizballah --
which is adapting to UNIFIL's presence. He praised UNIFIL's
work on the ground and did not/not allege weapons flows into
south Lebanon. Lebanon decried Israeli overflights,
continued IDF occupation of northern Ghajar, and lack of
useful IDF data on its use of cluster bombs. Lebanese PR
Salam also reiterated the GOL's support for UNIFIL's plan to
end the Israeli occupation of Ghajar.
KHALILZAD

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