Following a Security Council meeting today to discuss the escalating crisis in the Middle East, its President called on all “concerned sides and parties” to fully cooperate with a high-level United Nations team – which includes Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Political Adviser – that has been sent to the region.
“The Security Council welcomes the Secretary-General’s decision to dispatch to the Middle East a senior-level team,” the 15-member body said in a statement to the press read out by its President for July, Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière of France. “The Security Council calls on all concerned states and parties to extend their full cooperation to the team.”
The three-member team to the Middle East, led by Special Political Adviser Vijay Nambiar, has now arrived in Cairo, a UN spokesperson reported, adding they will soon meet Egyptian Foreign Minister Abu Ghait and then the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa. The team will then travel to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel.
“The Security Council looks forward to the earliest possible report of the team mission,” added the French Ambassador in the statement, which came shortly after the end of a two-hour long Council session that was requested by the Lebanese Chargé d’affaires and which focused on the escalating violence between Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinians.
At the start of today’s Council session, the top UN political officer called on all sides in the worsening conflict to show restraint and allow diplomacy to work, warning that a window of opportunity is “quickly closing.”
“We are emphasizing to all parties that a qualitative escalation of the conflict is in no one’s best interests, and the space for diplomatic initiatives is quickly closing. All parties must do their utmost to ensure that this space remains open,” said Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari.
He reiterated the Secretary-General’s call on all parties to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law and international agreements, noting that Mr. Annan “has joined leaders from around the world in working to find a solution to the crisis, to urge restraint and prevent this situation from spiralling even further out of control.”
“We hope that the parties heed this counsel, and that regional players who have influence will do likewise. Reckless and dangerous actions will only lead to further bloodshed and instability, inflaming an already highly volatile region.”
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, also lent his voice to calls for restraint and detailed the recent events leading up to what he described as the “most serious crisis between Israel and Lebanon” since 2000.
He recalled that the Secretary-General has condemned Hizbollah’s attack, which resulted in the capture of two IDF (Israeli Defence Force) soldiers, and has called for the soldiers’ immediate and unconditional release. Mr. Annan “has called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law,” the peacekeeping chief told the Council.
“The Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Lebanon, Geir Pedersen has expressed his alarm at Israel’s heavy attacks and the escalation that has taken place across the Blue Line. He has also voiced deepest concern that the Israeli military enforces an air and sea blockade, which will increase the hardship of the civilian population in Lebanon.”
Following those presentations, the representatives of Lebanon and Israel and all 15 Members of the Council spoke. Nouhad Mahmoud, Lebanon’s Ambassador to the UN, called for international involvement to end the suffering of his people.
“The Security Council meets today while my country Lebanon is suffering until this very moment from a continuous widespread Israeli aggression, an aggression that is destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure and causing the deaths of civilians under the eyes and ears of the international community,” Mr. Mahmoud said.
However, Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman told the Council that his country “had no choice but to react” to the Hizbollah attacks, adding that “it is very important for the international community to understand that while Hizbollah executes this vicious terrorism, it is only the finger on the bloodstained, long-reaching arms of Syria and Iran.”