Cablegate: Unsc: Open Debate On Middle East - Most States

DE RUCNDT #1199/01 3581953
O 231953Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: On December 18, the Security Council held
its first Open Debate on the Middle East in five months only
two days after a ministerial-level Security Council meeting
that saw the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1850
which confirms the irreversibility of the bilateral
negotiations between the two parties. In addition to a
briefing by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East
Peace covering recent developments in Gaza, the West Bank,
and the region, the 15 Council members spoke, as well as
Israel, the Palestinians, and 15 other member states. Most
welcomed the adoption of UNSCR 1850 and the Quartet's
December 15 statement and expressed hope for a peace
agreement in 2009. Many states called for an improvement of
conditions on the ground, especially in terms of humanitarian
access to Gaza and a continuation of the "calm." Libya,
Syria, Iran, and Cuba came out stridently against Israeli
actions. Syria raised the October 26 incident on the
Syrian-Iraqi border and termed it unjustified aggression that
constituted a serious violation of Syrian sovereignty. The
full verbatim transcript of the Council meeting is available
on the Security Council's website at End summary.

UNSCO briefing: direct appeal
for calm to be extended

2. (SBU) On December 18, UN Special Coordinator for the
Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry briefed the Council at
the start of its Open Debate on the Middle East. Serry, on
behalf of the Secretary-General, made a "direct and urgent
appeal for the calm to be respected and extended." He also
strongly appealed for "basic humanitarian principles to be
continuously observed." He noted the daily average of
truckloads of supplies entering Gaza was currently 29, down
from 123 in October and 475 in May 2007. He said, "the
unprecedented level of closure of crossing points into Gaza
has caused unacceptable hardship to the civilian population"
and noted that UNRWA had suspended all food distributions.
He said that UN projects worth over USD 150 million remain
suspended due to a lack of materials. He noted the
Secretary-General's letter to his Quartet colleagues
outlining his concerns about Gaza and said that the UN
continues to "seek more effective communication and
cooperation with the Government of Israel, to ensure that the
UN is able to execute its mandated programs." On Palestinian
reconciliation, he urged Hamas to respond positively to the
exhortations of the Quartet and the Security Council to
restore Palestinian unity based on PLO commitments. He said,
"It cannot be in the interests of the Palestinian people for
essential cornerstones of Palestinian legitimacy and national
aspirations to be challenged."

West Bank

3. (SBU) On the West Bank, he said, "efforts of the
Palestinian Authority, together with unprecedented donor
support, and improved Israeli-Palestinian security
cooperation are enhancing security and creating prospects for
economic improvements." While there were 620 obstacles to
movement in the West Bank, he did note the easing of
restrictions around Nablus instituted on December 7. He
welcomed the Israeli release of 227 Palestinian prisoners and
called for the implementation of Quartet Representative
Blair's measures and for Israeli action on its Roadmap
commitments regarding settlement expansion and refraining
from unilateral actions in Jerusalem. He welcomed the
Israeli evacuation of the house in Hebron on December 4,
condemned the resulting settler violence, and reminded Israel
of its obligation to protect the civilian Palestinian
population under occupation. He welcomed the Security
Council's reaction December 5, commended the restraint of the
PA security forces, the efforts by the parties to contain the
violence, and noted the forceful denunciation of the settler
attacks by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert.

Region and Lebanon

4. (SBU) In the region, Serry said he had held consultations
in Damascus, Amman, and Cairo. No further round of
Israeli-Syrian indirect talks had taken place. He noted the
joint letter from the Saudi Foreign Minister and the Arab
League Secretary-General to the U.S. President-elect
underscoring the Arab world's continuing commitment to the
Arab Peace Initiative. In Lebanon, he noted several isolated
security incidents; that Lebanon and Syria had exchanged
documents on the locations of their future respective
embassies in Damascus and Beirut; and that bilateral visits
continued. In terms of preparing for 2009 legislative

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elections, he confirmed that the ten members of the
Supervisory Commission on Election Campaign were appointed
December 13 by the Lebanese cabinet. While reconstruction
continues at the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, he said the
appeal remains under-funded. The UNIFIL area of operations
remains quiet, he added.

Palestinian statement

5. (SBU) Palestinian Ambassador Mansour said that the
Council's actions in December to address current developments
"are welcome and signal reassertion of the Council's
authority and its intention to play a more active role in
advancing a peace settlement." He welcomed UNSCR 1850
"despite serious misgivings about the exclusionary process
and limited scope." He emphasized the importance of the Arab
Peace Initiative. He called for a reflection on what
happened over the last year that prevented the conclusion of
a peace treaty by the end of the year, saying, "Only this
will enable us to pinpoint what has gone wrong and to
determine what needs to be done henceforth to avoid the
pitfalls...." He called for the sharing of the report by
U.S. General Fraser with the Quartet and the Council so that
it can be known who is upholding their obligations and who is
not and what needs to be done to create the appropriate
conditions on the ground and between the parties to advance
the process towards a two-state solution.

6. (SBU) Ambassador Mansour then called for an end to the
"siege of the Gaza Strip" and an opening of the crossings,
and for Israel to freeze its settlements and dismantle
outposts in the West Bank. He also cited the increased
number of obstacles in the West Bank over the last year,
while all concerned parties are praising Palestinian
Authority security efforts. He called on the Security
Council and the Quartet to uphold their responsibilities and
to ensure that obligations are met and that the parties
refrain from any steps that undermine confidence or prejudice
the outcome of negotiations. He expressed appreciation for
Egypt's help and for the latest Arab Ministers' meeting's
effort to help achieve Palestinian reconciliation. He said
he hoped the cease-fire would be upheld and extended to the
West Bank and that "2009 will indeed be the year we bring an
end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Israeli statement

7. (SBU) Israeli Perm Rep Shalev opened her statement by
noting the substantial progress that had been made in 2008 on
the Annapolis framework. She congratulated the Council on
the passage of UNSCR 1850 which she said sent a clear message
to Hamas that lasting peace will be based on "an enduring
commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence,
incitement, and terror...." She said the real test is with
the parties on the ground and noted that Israel is operating
on two tracks -- "trying to promote peace with the moderate,
responsible leadership on the Palestinian side" and "fighting
the extremist Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza
Strip." She said the two parties have demonstrated real
courage in the negotiations over the last 13 months. She
noted the growing cooperation between the security services
in Jenin and Hebron and the opening of more than 20 new
Palestinian police stations. She stressed the need to
encourage moderates in the region and noted the Israeli
decision to release 230 convicted Palestinian prisoners for
Eid al-Adha.

8. (SBU) Ambassador Shalev said that serious obstacles
remain, namely the 2,900 rockets that were launched from Gaza
at Israeli territory in 2008. She noted the incessant
attacks targeting crossings and fuel depots that are needed
to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza but said that "Israel
acknowledged the need to provide humanitarian aid to the Gaza
Strip, and we do our utmost to facilitate the work of the
international community." She noted that CPL Shalit has
remained in captivity for 910 days and commented on the rally
in Gaza which had mocked his suffering. She said that Iran
and Syria remain the epicenter of Hamas' world and that
Israel remains concerned by the rearming and redeployment of
Hizballah, both north and south of the Litani River.
Nevertheless, she stressed that Israel remains fully
committed to the peace process because "peace remains the
salient goal for the State of Israel."

Council members welcome
adoption of UNSCR 1850

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9. (SBU) The U.S., UK, Italian, French, Burkinabe, Belgian,
Russian, Indonesian, Chinese, Costa Rican, South African,
Vietnamese, Croatian Perm Reps welcomed the adoption of UNSCR
1850. (Note: U.S. remarks are posted on the Mission's
Internet site. The full verbatim transcript of the Council's
meeting is available on the Security Council's page on the
UN's website, End note.) The UK Perm Rep said
that UNSCR 1850 "is an important milestone in a series of
resolutions, including 242, 338, 1397, and 1515." Many
delegations noted that the real test for UNSCR 1850 will be
whether it is implemented. The South African Perm Rep noted,
"It is thus imperative that both sides ensure that their
actions and pronouncements be calculated to advance the quest
for peace." Many delegations, including the U.S., UK,
France, and Panama, called on Israel to take action to freeze
settlement building and improve conditions for Palestinians
in the West Bank and Gaza. The British Perm Rep called on
Palestinians to find a "way to reunite around negotiations
and nonviolence, with Hamas ceasing their rocket attacks and
moving towards the Quartet principles." The Russian Perm Rep
called for intra-Palestinian agreement on the Quartet
criteria and said the matter would be discussed with
President Abbas in Moscow.

10. (SBU) China and Costa Rica specifically called for the
"calm" to be extended. Both the UK and French Perm Reps
called for an early commitment from the next U.S.
administration to sustain the peace process from the start of
its term in office. The Burkinabe Perm Rep said he hoped
2009 keeps the spirit of Annapolis alive. As he usually
does, the Libyan Perm Rep focused his comments almost
exclusively on Israeli practices that violate Palestinian
human rights and on Palestinian humanitarian issues. Italian
Acting Perm Rep devoted most of his statement to Lebanon,
calling for Israel and Lebanon to work with UNIFIL to effect
a quick withdrawal from northern Ghajar and for Syria to
provide a written confirmation to the SYG of Lebanon's
sovereignty over the Sheba'a Farms.

Other parties brief Council:
Syria and Lebanon

11. (SBU) The Syrian Perm Rep began his remarks to the
Council stressing that Syria has "chosen peace as a strategic
option" since its participation in the Madrid Conference.
However, he then launched into a litany of Israeli wrongs and
abuses in the West Bank and Gaza. He accused Israel of
plundering the Golan's natural resources and continuing to
bury nuclear waste there. He said that while Syria has
entered into indirect talks with Israel, "we would have liked
to have agreed on a basis to start direct negotiations under
the auspices of multiple international partners, but the
matter requires an American will to make peace in the Middle
East one of its top priorities." He then turned to the
October 26 incident on the Syrian-Iraqi border and said,
"this aggression was unjustified and constitutes a serious
violation of Syrian sovereignty and of the principles and
purpose of the United Nations Charter." He said his
government "has appealed to the United Nations and the
Security Council in particular to shoulder their
responsibilities to prevent the repetition of this serious
violation and to lay the responsibility for the killing of
innocent Syrian civilians squarely on the aggressors in order
to maintain security and stability in the Middle East." At
the end of his statement he accused the Israeli Perm Rep of
referring to Syria as a funder of Hamas as a way to "divert
attention from the root cause of the problem of violence and
terrorism in our region, which is the Israeli occupation of
Arab territories." He referred to Israel as "imposing an
unjust siege and carrying out a sadistic and pathological
holocaust against more than 1.5 million people in Gaza and a
similar number in the West Bank." (Comment: There was no
mention of Lebanon in the Syrian Perm Rep's statement. End

12. (SBU) The Lebanese Perm Rep noted the Council's passage
of UNSCR 1850, but commented that it lacks: a specific
timeline for the achievement of peace, a clear call to put an
end to the Israeli occupation, and a denunciation of Israeli
practices against Palestinian civilians. He recalled
Israel's settlement expansion, its continued construction of
the separation barrier, its obstacles to Palestinian movement
in the West Bank, and increased settler violence. He
referred to Israeli Foreign Minister Livni's recent statement
which he said "brought to mind something similar to the
policy of transfer." With regard to Lebanon, he said "Israel
continues its stubborn refusal to fulfill all its
obligations" under UNSCR 1701. He said Israeli violations of
Lebanese airspace totaled more than 1,100 over the last four

USUN NEW Y 00001199 004 OF 005

months and called for an immediate cessation of them.
Referring to northern Ghajar, Sheba'a Farms, and Kfar Shouba,
he called for the UN to "launch a new diplomatic initiative
that allows the restoration of the land to its rightful
owners and puts an end to the occupation." He referred to
statements by the Israeli Prime Minister threatening to
"destroy Lebanon," but said Lebanon has chosen to abide by
"the choice of a comprehensive and just peace based on the
Arab Peace Initiative."

Future Council members, a future
permanent member contender, and an
unsuccessful SC candidate weigh-in

13. (SBU) 2009 Security Council member Turkey welcomed UNSCR
1850 and urged both parties to not take any action that might
prejudice or undermine future negotiations. The Turkish Perm
Rep quoted recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari
that "all conflicts can be settled and there are no excuses
for allowing them to be eternal." He pledged that Turkey
will continue to work for a comprehensive peace based on a
two-state solution and will contribute to the "stability,
security, and prosperity of the region." The Japanese Perm
Rep, also representing an incoming 2009 Security Council
member country, reiterated Japan's strong support for a
negotiated two-state solution and welcomed UNSCR 1850 and the
Quartet's efforts. He noted Japan's concern for the
deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and urged that
the blockade be lifted; and called for the end of the rocket
fire and an extension of the cease-fire. He also called for
a freeze on settlement activity and the need for rule of law
to counter settler violence. He noted Japan's commitment to
Palestinian economic development and noted that it had
provided over a billion dollars in assistance since Oslo and
would continue to do so.

14. (SBU) Permanent Security Council seat contender Brazil
also took advantage of the debate to note its ties to the
region, including the fact that some 10 million Brazilians
trace their roots to the Middle East. The Brazilian Perm Rep
welcomed UNSCR 1850 and said the leaders of Israel, the
Palestinian Authority, and the U.S. bear a special
responsibility to assist the Council with its implementation.
Iceland, which failed in its bid for a two-year rotation on
the Council, addressed the Council as a strong supporter of
UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security and advocated for
greater women's participation in the peace process,
especially for proposals by the International Women's
Commission for a Just and Sustainable Israeli-Palestinian
Peace. The Icelandic Perm Rep said, "The solidarity among
women across the lines of conflict can offer inspiration and
hope for their societies as a whole and has generated proven
added value in the resolution of numerous conflicts."

OIC members: Morocco,
Qatar, Pakistan, Iran

15. (SBU) Given Pakistan's own domestic and regional
challenges, one might have expected the Pakistani Perm Rep to
draw some comparisons between the Middle East and his own
region but he did not do so, except when referring to the
responsibilities of the "occupying power;" and his
intervention made no mention of the challenges of terrorism.
He attributed the current situation largely to "Israel's
policies and actions," though at the end he did "urge our
Palestinian brothers to put aside their differences and pool
all their energies in the pursuit of peace." He lamented the
lack of progress in negotiations for the past year and gently
criticized UNSCR 1850 for not doing "full justice to the
gravity of the situation." He did call on the Quartet to
"engage more seriously" with the Arab League and with the
Organization for the Islamic Conference, which he termed "a
key partner for peace efforts in the Middle East."

16. (SBU) The Moroccan Perm Rep expressed support for the
negotiations, welcomed UNSCR 1850, and said that progress
should be protected from rollbacks. The Qatari Perm Rep
referred to UNSCR 1850 and said that while it was
commendable, it only focuses on principles. He called on the
Council to adopt the Arab draft resolution on settlements
which is still before the Council "in blue." He went on to
criticize Israel for its blockade of Gaza, for turning away
vessels bearing humanitarian aid, and for not protecting
Palestinians from settler violence. The Iranian Perm Rep
criticized the Council for failing to live up to its
responsibility to protect Palestinians from increased Israel
settler violence and from Israel's collective punishment in
the Gaza Strip. He accused "a permanent member" of the

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Security Council of extending its "unqualified support" to
the Israeli regime which has "emboldened the said regime in
its war crimes and crimes against humanity." (Note: Israel
later replied to Iran,s remarks, calling them against the
spirit of hopefulness that characterized the remarks made by
most delegations. End note.)

Others: Norway, Australia,
Venezuela, Cuba

17. (SBU) The Norwegian DPR stressed the importance of
economic growth to the political process and a successful
settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. She
noted that support from donors has increased. While she
criticized increased Israeli settlement activity, she did
laud Israel's evacuation of the Hebron house in early
December. She said that Norway welcomes UNSCR 1850 and its
call on donors to assist in the development of the
Palestinian economy and reminded the Council that the Ad Hoc
Liaison Committee remains the key instrument for mobilizing
and coordinating donor support. The Australian Acting Perm
Rep welcomed the December 15 Quartet statement and UNSCR 1850
and pledged Australia's commitment to provide international
support for the peace process.

18. (SBU) The Venezuelan Perm Rep welcomed UNSCR 1850,
co-sponsored by the U.S. and Russia, and urged its broad
implementation. He also called for an end to "the ongoing
aggression against the Government and people of Palestine"
and said that "we must not allow those who have committed
crimes of genocide to go unpunished." Cuba, on behalf of the
Non-aligned Movement, expressed support for UNSCR 1850 but
stressed that the Council still needs to implement the
resolution, as well as previous resolutions on the Middle
East. Cuba criticized Israel extensively in its statement,
stating that Israel had increased unilateral actions in the
face of renewed interest in peace efforts, and expressed
support for refugees' right-of-return.

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