UN Security Council Backs Mideast Peace Push

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday passed its first resolution in five years aimed at giving new impetus to U.S.-sponsored Middle East negotiations at a time of transition in the peace process.

Resolution 1850, a U.S.-Russian drafted text, received 14 votes in favor. Libya, the lone Arab member of the council, abstained.

U.S. officials said the point of the resolution was to endorse the goals of talks on Palestinian statehood launched in November 2007 by the administration of President George W. Bush in Annapolis, Maryland, while avoiding specific disagreements.

The text only indirectly addresses Israeli and Palestinian complaints by urging them to avoid "steps that could undermine confidence or prejudice the outcome of the negotiations."

It recognizes progress made in the U.S.-led talks and calls for "an intensification of diplomatic efforts" to secure a "comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed the resolution, but added that he hoped "it will not be added to the archives of other resolutions that have not been implemented so far."
No Deal

The U.S. administration had wanted a deal on Palestinian statehood by the end of 2008 but all sides now say that will not happen. The Republican Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, when Democrat Barack Obama will become U.S. president.

In a speech to the council, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the situation in the Middle East as catastrophic when Bush took over from Bill Clinton in 2001.

"The establishment of the state of Palestine is long overdue, and there should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967," said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, probably making her last appearance at the Security Council before president-elect Barack Obama takes office on January 20.

Rice said the significance of the text was that it "confirms the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations" under the U.S.-sponsored process begun in Annapolis, Maryland 13 months ago.

By 2007 "it was clear to all that there was no alternative to President Bush’s vision of a state of Palestine and a state of Israel," she said.

U.N. diplomats said the Bush administration, unpopular in the Arab world, hoped the resolution would help secure a positive legacy for its Middle East policies and counter criticism over the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Diplomatic Efforts

The vote took place at a high-profile ministerial session that also included Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Chinese deputy foreign minister He Yafei and UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

The text endorses principles underpinning Israeli-Palestinian peace at a time of transition with the arrival of a new U.S. administration and early elections scheduled in both Israel and among the Palestinians next year.

The text urges 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 consideration by the Middle East quartet — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — of an international meeting in Moscow next year.

The quartet has put forward a roadmap for the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

But no tangible progress has been made on resolving the core issues of Jerusalem, the future borders of a Palestinian state and refugees since the Annapolis process was launched.

(Agencies via Alarabiya.net)

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