Cablegate: Security Council Split Over Support for Abbas

DE RUCNDT #0505/01 1720058
O 210058Z JUN 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 85617


1. (SBU) In the monthly briefing to the Security Council on
the situation in the Middle East, Michael Williams, the
recently appointed UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East
Peace Process, said the Middle East was in a time of crisis.
Williams focused his briefing on recent events in Gaza and
offered two priority recommendations: (1) the international
community should support the new Palestinian government
formed by Abbas; and (2) immediate action should be taken to
open the crossings into Gaza to allow delivery of commercial
and humanitarian supplies. Council reaction to the situation
was divided. Russia, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Qatar,
Panama and Congo declined to explicitly express support for
Abbas and his emergency government, while the U.S., U.K.,
Belgium, France, Italy, Slovakia and Peru called on the
international community to rally around Abbas. Most members
of the first group blamed the Quartet, the international
community, and Israel for actions and policies that
contributed to the Palestinian infighting. Most Council
members, including the Europeans, called for Israel to
promptly release VAT and customs revenues, and urged
continued support to the Palestinian people in Gaza. Many
delegations also stated a desire for Palestinian unity, and
called on the Quartet to facilitate a relaunching of the
peace process. In response to calls for dialogue between
Fatah and Hamas, Williams said it would be "not easy to
overcome the wounds caused by (Hamas') armed insurrection"
and expressed doubt that there is currently a basis for
renewed dialogue. He praised Abbas, however, for sending a
"strong signal" of inclusion by forming a cabinet of
independents, technocrats, and Gazans. Familiar themes on
Lebanon, including the challenge to the LAF posed by Fatah
al-Islam, the assassination of parliamentarian Walid Eido,
and the recent rocket attack against Israel, were also

Williams Calls for Support for Abbas

2. (SBU) In his first briefing to the Security Council as
UNSCO, Williams traced the events before and after Abbas
dissolved the unity government. He noted SYG Ban convened a
teleconference of Quartet principals at the height of the
crisis, which resulted in a statement of support for Abbas's
decisions as "legitimate actions." He said the decision by
the U.S. and E.U. to renew direct assistance to the
Palestinian Authority "signaled the legitimacy of the new
government and the fact that President Abbas's positions are
consistent with those of the Quartet." Williams called for
political and financial support to be immediately delivered
to Abbas. He welcomed the news that Israel was "examining
options for the resumption of transfers of VAT and customs
revenue and was planning to ease substantially movement
restrictions in the West Bank." He also stressed the
immediate need to open crossings. (Note: Full text of his
statement e-mailed to NEA/IPA and IO/UNP June 20.)

3. (SBU) During private consultations of the Council that
followed his public statement, Williams stated that the
brutality and violence in Gaza has led to a rupture in the
Palestinian community, and observed that this political
rupture is compounded by territorial division. He stressed
that Abbas had formed a "good government led by an
extraordinary man" (Salam Fayyad). The composition of the
emergency government including independents, technocrats,
Gazans and "maybe one Fatah member," sent an important
message of inclusion. He concluded: "Despite what has
happened, Gaza and the West Bank remain one Palestinian
territory, administered by one Palestinian Authority headed
by President Abbas."

Council Divided on Abbas

4. (SBU) Drawing from reftel, Amb Wolff delivered the U.S.
statement, casting the situation as a fundamental choice
between extremism and tolerance, and describing USG actions
to support Abbas. He also restated USG support for Lebanese
Prime Minister Siniora, and expressed concern about Syria's
role in the region. Both the U.K. and Belgium called the
Hamas action in Gaza "unacceptable." The U.S., U.K.,
Belgium, France, Italy, Slovakia and Peru explicitly endorsed
Abbas's new government as legitimate.

5. (SBU) Russia, China, Indonesia, Qatar, South Africa,
Panama and Congo did not/not express support for President
Abbas. Russia said responsibility for the recent violence in
Gaza fell on many parties, and blamed the Quartet for not

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supporting implementation of the Mecca Agreement. Russian
PermRep Churkin also said that Russia opposed any steps that
would drive a wedge between the Palestinians. The Qatari DPR
blamed the violence on the political and economic "embargo"
that had been imposed on the previous Palestinian government.
The South African blamed the situation on Israeli occupation
and practices that caused hardship to the Palestinians,
including a financial "embargo" and restrictions on movement
and access. The Indonesian DPR said the international
community should not be distracted by the core problem, which
he defined as Israeli withdrawal from the occupied
territories and establishment of a Palestinian state. The
Congolese representative attributed the situation to the
"consequence of 40 years of occupation of Palestinian

6. (SBU) Russia reiterated its desire for an international
conference on the Middle East. Qatar recommended a UN
mission to the territories (no one reacted to this request).
Most of these delegations expressed support for the June 15
Arab League statement on the situation.

7. (SBU) All delegations, including the Europeans, expressed
a desire for Palestinian unity. Those delegations that
declined to express support for President Abbas emphasized
the need for dialogue between Fatah and Hamas. The
Indonesian DPR said "steps to exclude Hamas will not lead to
a solution. We cannot have one group at the expense of
others." The Chinese stated "regret" at the internal armed
conflict and called for a resolution based on dialogue. All
delegations also called for Israel to immediately release VAT
and custom revenues. Many urged the Quartet to play a role
in relaunching the peace process so as to provide a
"political horizon."

Humanitarian Situation in Gaza

8. (SBU) Williams said the UN's most immediate humanitarian
concern was the re-opening of crossings, particularly Karni,
to allow for food and medical supplies to be imported into
Gaza. He noted that Gaza relies almost entirely on imports,
and urged immediate action to prevent a humanitarian crisis.
He noted that his deputy Kevin Kennedy was in Gaza July 20
and had been consulting with the GOI on this matter. Summing
up, he said the two immediate priorities are supporting
President Abbas, especially financially, and opening the
crossings. He said Hamas had won a victory in Gaza at a
terrible cost to the Palestinian people and Palestinian

Lebanon and Syria

9. (SBU) Discussion of Lebanon was limited, as many
delegations noted that the Council had other opportunities to
address that subject. Those delegations that did raise
Lebanon echoed Williams's condemnation of the assassination
of Lebanese parliamentarian Walid Eido and the recent rocket
attack from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Williams
noted that the incident, though without casualties, was the
"most serious violation of UNSCR 1701" since last summer. He
also reported that Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace
had increased and that UNIFIL-led talks concerning the
marking of the Blue Line were continuing. On the Tribunal, he
said SYG Ban was taking steps to put the court into place in
consultation with the GOL.

10. (SBU) Recalling his recent visit with high-level Syrian
officials, Williams said the Syrians "impressed on me their
desire to see the start of negotiations leading to peace with
Israel." He also said that Syrian and Israeli interlocutors
assured him in recent conversations "that there was no
interest in breaking the decades of calm which have
prevailed" on the Israeli-Syrian border. The Panamanian PR
said the silver lining of the rocket attack from southern
Lebanon was that it was condemned by both the Siniora
government and Hizballah. Williams later corrected him:
Hizballah did not condemn the attack; rather, Hizballah had
denied responsibility. The Qatar DPR said the activities of
Fatah al-Islam were not in the interests of Palestinians and
not representative of Islam.

Quartet Meeting

11. (SBU) Noting Council interest in a more proactive Quartet
role, Williams said there had been difficulty in scheduling a
meeting of principals, but reported that SYG Ban is working
toward that end and remains in frequent phone contact with
his counterparts. Williams said a meeting of envoys has been
tentatively scheduled June 26 in Jerusalem.

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