Security Council mulls joint US-Russian initiative in support of Mideast peace
AFP - Sunday, December 14
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - - UN Security Council envoys on Saturday weighed a US draft resolution endorsing principles underpinning Israeli-Palestinian peace which their ministers hope to adopt here next week.
US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad circulated the draft to his colleagues during closed-door consultations in what was presented as a joint US-Russian initiative to fully involve the Security Council at a crucial moment of transition in Middle East peacemaking.
"We think this is an important for the council to express itself" on the Israeli-Palestinian issue," he told reporters after the meeting, referring to upcoming Israeli elections, the arrival of a new US administration and possible Palestinian polls.
Khalilzad said discussions on the text would continue Monday ahead of a vote by ministers expected Tuesday.
The US text, which received strong backing from Russia, France and Britain, endorses principles agreed by Israelis and Palestinians "for the bilateral negotiating process and their determined efforts to reach their goal of concluding a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues, without exception."
It calls on both parties "to fulfill their obligations ... and refrain from any steps that could undermine confidence or prejudice the outcome of negotiations."
It also urged stepped-up diplomatic efforts "to foster in parallel with progress in the bilateral process mutual recognition and peaceful coexistence between all states in the region in the context of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."
And it welcomed the diplomatic quartet's consideration, in consultation with the parties of an international meeting on the Middle East in Moscow next year.
The Middle East diplomatic quartet -- the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations -- has put forward a roadmap for the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.
Monday, a quartet meeting here will bring together US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
The quartet is also to confer with an Arab League contact group comprising Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen plus Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, diplomats said.
Rice is to be in New York Monday and Tuesday for UN talks that will also focus on Zimbabwe's crisis and piracy off the Somali coast.
"This draft is providing good ground to solidify the efforts of the past few months," said Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, referring to the US-sponsored negotiations launched in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007 after a seven-year hiatus.
"We believe it is very important to continue the momentum," he said.
But no visible progress has been made on ending the core issues of Jerusalem, borders, refugees and security between the Palestinians and Israelis since the Annapolis process was launched.
France's UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, whose country currently holds the European presidency, also hailed the US draft and the Security Council's involvement.
"The text is a very good basis to get a consensus on principles" for a lasting Middle East solution," he said. "I am optimistic" that it will be adopted by consensus on Tuesday.
His Libyan counterpart, the lone Arab member of the council, however told reporters that he would relay the draft to his capital for instructions and said he wanted a paragraph inserted demanding an end to Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is set to travel to Washington on December 19 for Middle East peace talks with US President George W. Bush, and fly to Moscow three days later to confer with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
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US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad is pictured in November 2008. UN Security Council envoys on Saturday weighed a US draft resolution endorsing principles underpinning Israeli-Palestinian peace which their ministers hope to adopt here next week.
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