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Cablegate: Monthly Unsc Mideast Debate: Cautious Optimism For

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1. (U) Summary. During a seven-hour monthly UNSC debate on
the Middle East on August 29 featuring over 30 speakers,
UNSCO Michael Williams professed "guarded optimism" about
recent developments in the Arab-Israeli peace process but was
decidedly downcast about the reality on the ground. Amb
Wolff led several other delegates in calling for
establishment of the rule of law in the Palestinian
territories and in calling for the full implementation of all
UNSC resolutions, including those on Lebanon. Most
delegations expressed cautious optimism about the
U.S.-sponsored international meeting in the fall of 2007, but
warned that it must register meaningful progress on final
status issues and be as inclusive as possible. Delegates
were split on whether to push for Hamas-Fatah reconciliation.
Israel, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Observer exchanged
familiar attacks but also evinced hope for the Abbas-Olmert
dialogue and the upcoming international meeting. Israel took
exception to Indonesia's reference to the "Isreali invasion
of Lebanon" in 2006 and to the Lebanese PR's attempt to draw
an equivalence between abducted IDF soldiers and Lebanese
prisoners in Israel. Iran and Syria, joined at times by
Cuba, excoriated Israel for its "war crimes" and directly
criticized the U.S. for supporting Israel in the UNSC. End

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2. (U) The UN Security Council held a monthly debate on the
Middle East on 29 August 2007. UN Special Coordinator for
the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) Michael Williams
briefed on the situation in Israel, the Palestinian
territories, and Lebanon. Following interventions by all
fifteen Council members, Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon
delivered statements. Eleven other UN delegations, including
Syria, Iran, Portugal (as the EU President), Yemen
(representing the Arab Group), Algeria, Vietnam, Pakistan (on
behalf of the OIC), Cuba (representing the NAM) and Japan,
also spoke. At the request of Qatar, this month's meeting
was open to all interested delegations. A summary and full
transcript of the meeting can be found on the UN website at: tm

UNSCO Williams Says Farewell

3. (U) In his final briefing before leaving his UNSCO post in
September 2007, Michael Williams professed "guarded optimism"
about recent developments towards peace in the Middle East,
including the Abbas-Olmert talks, the appointment of Tony
Blair as Quartet representative, and President Bush's call
for an international meeting in the fall. While welcoming
discussions between Abbas and Olmert, Williams said the talks
"should shift gear to obtain concrete assurances" on final
status issues, and expressed hope that the international
meeting in the fall would feature "meaningful discussion" of
these same issues. Encouraging the "widest possible
attendance" at the international meeting, Williams noted
Syrian commitments to the Middle East peace process and the
Arab League peace initiative. Turning briefly to Lebanon,
Williams reiterated points from the Secretariat's August 16
briefing (reftel). He underscored the SYG's support for
presidential elections in conformity with Lebanon's
constitution, noted modest reductions in Israeli overflights
but called on the GOI to end the practice altogether, and
reiterated the UN's request to Israel for strike data on its
use of cluster bombs in Lebanon.

4. (U) In contrast to his optimism about developments in the
peace process, Williams was downbeat when describing the
reality on the ground. Although PA Prime Minister Fayyad had
registered initial progress instituting much-needed reforms,
the ongoing split between the West Bank and Gaza remains a
cause for "deep concern." Williams emphasized that Hamas was
operating in Gaza outside the rule of law and cited credible
reports of human rights abuses there. But he said continued
closure of crossing points into the coastal strip had brought
the economy there to a near halt. Underscoring the
"essential" need to ease the closures, Williams said UN
policy in Gaza is to oppose collective punishment, address
suffering in Gaza as a means to combat extremism, and work
towards a political reunification of the West Bank and Gaza.
Turning to security responsibilities of the Palestinians,
Williams bemoaned continuing rocket fire into Israel and
smuggling of arms into Gaza. He also decried continuing
Israeli settlement activity and noted the GOI had taken "no
credible action" to remove settlement outposts.

U.S. Leads Call to Build PA Institutions

5. (U) Several delegations joined USUN in calling for

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increased focus on ensuring the rule of law and security in
Gaza and the West Bank. Underscoring that the Abbas/Fayyad
government can be a partner for peace, Amb Wolff noted U.S.
assistance to the PA to reform its security services, and
condemned Hamas for its illegal occupation of Gaza and
provision of safe haven to fellow terrorist organizations
there. Recalling President Bush's July 16 speech, he
described U.S. plans for an international meeting in the fall
of 2007 of countries that support a two-state solution,
reject violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and
commit to all previous agreements among the parties. He
welcomed continuing dialogue between the parties, the Quartet
and Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meetings in New York in
September, and recommendations from Tony Blair following his
visit to the region on the economic and institutional agenda
for the Quartet. Amb Wolff also briefly touched on Lebanon,
calling for full implementation of UNSCR 1701 and on Syria
and Iran to honor their commitments under that resolution.
The new UK PermRep, John Sawers, focused on Blair's role in
building Palestinian institutions and economy. The French
DPR called on the PA to exercise its authority throughout its
territory and to "mercilessly" combat terrorism. Even the
Russian DPR called on the PA to uphold its obligations by
fighting terror.

Cautious Optimism for Fall 2007 Int'l Meeting

6. (U) Most delegations expressed cautious optimism about the
U.S.-sponsored international meeting in the fall of 2007.
(Note: Several referred to it as a conference. End Note.)
Most delegations, however, warned that the meeting must
register meaningful progress on final status issues between
the parties and should be as "inclusive" in its guest list as
possible. Qatar said it expected real results from the
meeting, "unlike previous ones." Russia cautioned that the
event should "not relaunch the Middle East Peace Process,"
whose terms of reference are already clear, and should
include Lebanon and Syria. France called for the meeting to
launch an "authentic process" through which the international
community would give guarantees to secure agreements between
the parties. Italy said it looked forward to details of the
conference, but welcomed it as a sign of U.S. commitment to
the MEPP. Calling on the UNSC to play a "more active role"
in the MEPP, China said it also expects new initiatives from
the Quartet to advance the peace process. Syria maintained
that any international conference ought to be clearly defined
with precise terms of reference and objectives. The event
would also need to provide the necessary guarantees of
respect for international resolutions and the recovery of
Arab land.

Hamas-Fatah: Conciliation or Confrontation?

7. (U) Delegates were split on whether the international
community ought to shun Hamas for its takeover of Gaza and
support Fatah wholeheartedly or to encourage rapprochement
between the two Palestinian groups. While the U.S., UK,
Portugal (on behalf of the EU), and Peru joined the
Palestinian delegate in calling for full support for the
Abbas/Fayyad government, other delegates adopted a more
cautious tone. Arguing that dialogue between Fatah and Hamas
is "critical to moving forward," Indonesia warned that
international support "should not broaden" the split between
the two groups. Russia lamented the "de facto" dual
authority that exists in the Palestinian territories and
emphasized there could be "no alternative" to Palestinian
unity. Norway, while supporting PM Fayyad's efforts to
normalize the situation on the ground, argued that
comprehensive and lasting peace "cannot be achieved through
isolating a major popular movement." Cuba, speaking on
behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), surprised some
delegates by condemning the "criminal actions that were
carried out in the Gaza strip" and calling for the
restoration of the situation in Gaza that existed prior to
recent events. Iran noted Hamas's victory in "free, fair,
and democratic elections" to argue that "efforts by any
faction in Palestine" to exclude it are doomed to fail.

Parties Hopeful Amid Mutual Recrimination

8. (U) Although they engaged each other in a rancorous
debate, Israel, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Observer also
interspersed their interventions with hope for the future
based on recent developments in the peace process.
Palestinian Observer Riyad Mansour excoriated Israel for its
"continued violations" of international law through military
raids, settlement building, and the construction of the
separation barrier in the occupied Palestinian territories.

USUN NEW Y 00000717 003 OF 003

But he also welcomed the Abbas-Olmert talks, plans for an
international conference -- which "could be tranformed to be
under the auspices of the UN" -- and the relaunching of the
Arab Peace Initiative. Lebanese PR Nawaf Salam lambasted
Israel for its overflights of Lebanon, "continuing violation
of UNSCR 425 through its occupation of the Sheba'a Farms,"
and its unwillingness to settle the "long-standing issue" of
Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel. He passionately
decried Israel's refusal to provide cluster bomb strike data
and announced his government's support for efforts to ban
cluster bombs worldwide. Israeli PR Gillerman praised recent
talks between Abbas and Olmert and described Israeli efforts
to bolster the PA, but castigated the continuing terror
attacks from "Hamastan." He took exception both to
Indonesia's reference to "Israel's invasion of Lebanon,"
noting that Hizballah had started the war by abducting two
Israeli soldiers, and to the Lebanese PR's attempt to draw an
equivalence between the IDF captives and Lebanese prisoners
in Israel.

Iran and Syria Strike Discordant Notes

9. (U) Iran and Syria, joined at times by Cuba in its
capacity as NAM Chair, delivered speeches starkly at odds
with the majority of hopeful, forward-looking interventions
given by other delegates. Iran criticized the "Israeli war
machine" for its ceaseless "crimes" against the "defenseless
Palestinian people" and lamented the UNSC's failure to
address these issues because of the "unqualified support"
rendered to Israel by the U.S. Syria leveled similar
accusations against Israel, and charged that it continues its
"terror campaign" with the support of "powers that promote
democracy." Syria and Iran both paid particular attention to
reports of an Israeli nuclear weapons capability. Recalling
PM Olmert's statement to this effect to a German TV station
in December 2006, Iran called on the UNSC to take "urgent and
decisive action" to pressure this "state terror" regime to
relinquish its nuclear weapons and submit to international
monitoring. Syria also decried recent IDF manuevers in the
Golan Heights, testifying to Israel's interest in "provoking
a new war" and increasing tensions along the border.

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