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Next few weeks a ‘crucial period’ for Middle East

Next few weeks are a ‘crucial period’ for the Middle East: UN envoy

The coming weeks are a crucial period for the Middle East, with new governments being formed, the Security Council discussing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and a host of other regional issues in the spotlight, a senior United Nations envoy said today, as he continued his global meetings with key members of the Security Council.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559, which among other things calls for an end to foreign influence in Lebanon, made his comments in Brussels after meeting European Common Foreign and Security Policy High Representative Javier Solana and European Union Middle East Special Envoy Marc Otte.

“The coming weeks are a crucial period for the Middle East…Israel and the Palestinians will form Governments, the Security Council will discuss the Iranian nuclear programme, and Iraq, Syria and of course, Lebanon will equally continue to figure prominently on the international agenda,” said Terje Roed-Larsen.

“Decisions made now will determine the course of events in the Middle East for a prolonged period of time and will form the basis for either continued deterioration or stabilization. My hope of course is that we will make further headway in Lebanon, which will send important signals across the region.”

Mr. Roed-Larsen particularly welcomed the news, announced by Lebanese Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri, that political parties in Lebanon had reached agreement to disarm Palestinian militias and to establish formal diplomatic ties with Syria, as called for repeatedly by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

“Such a consensus is an important foundation. The National Dialogue in Lebanon should be guided by the principles of Security Resolution 1559, and I am glad to say that today’s agreement is in full accordance with the resolution. I look forward to its full implementation on the foundations of this consensus,” he said.

Yesterday, Mr. Roed-Larsen met Russia’s Foreign Minister in Moscow to brief him on developments in the Middle East, during which he also praised the ongoing national dialogue in Lebanon as a central means of implementing resolution 1559. The Moscow visit followed his weekend meeting with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris.

On behalf of Mr. Annan, Mr Roed-Larsen follows up on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, which also calls for the disarming and disbanding of militias in Lebanon and for free and fair presidential elections. The resolution also demands a withdrawal of foreign forces, which Syria complied with last year.

Continuing his series of high-level discussions, Mr. Roed-Larsen is due to meet China’s Foreign Minister later this week in Beijing, before travelling to the Middle East.

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