World cannot afford another year like 2006 in Middle East and Lebanon: UN official
Warning the Security Council that the world cannot afford another year like 2006 in the Middle East and Lebanon, the top United Nations political officer today called for a “resumed political process” between Israel and the Palestinians, adding that solutions are also urgently needed in Lebanon, where more clashes occurred in the capital Beirut.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari described the last month or so as a period of “heightened levels of instability and suffering,” although he said there was a renewed sense of international urgency to find a political way ahead in the region, as shown by next week’s planned meeting of the diplomatic Quartet – the UN, European Union, Russian Federation and United States – and other initiatives.
“None of us can afford another year like the last one in Lebanon and the Middle East. Therefore, a resumed political process between Israel and the Palestinians is a clear priority,” he said, voicing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s encouragement to the two leaders “to build on their progress to date by implementing agreements and by starting to address the fundamental issues of the conflict.”
“Solutions are urgently needed to the political impasses both among the Palestinians and in Lebanon,” Mr. Gambari told the 15-member body. “Lebanon, as its people will know all too well, can ill afford any further deterioration. For many Lebanese, ugly spectres of the past have again begun to emerge.”
He said that Tuesday’s clashes in Beirut “showed how easily political tensions can spill-over into violence.” Separately, the office of the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Lebanon reported today that there had been more clashes in and around the capital, including reports of killings.
Mr. Gambari said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been “working hard to try to ease tensions” between the two sides, although he noted that internal politics in both the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel had complicated the process.
He also told the Council that Egypt was continuing to lead efforts to secure the release of Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit who was captured last summer, and also the freeing of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, although neither effort has yielded results.
“Prospects for a wider regional dialogue must also be cautiously monitored, and the door should remain open to discussions that might lead towards a wider, regional and comprehensive peace,” Mr. Gambari said, adding that Mr. Ban, who will attend the 2 February Quartet meeting in Washington, D.C., considers it an “important opportunity.”
The Quartet is seeking a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict based on a blueprint known as the Road Map, which envisages Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace. After today’s Council discussions, its president for this month also highlighted the importance of next week’s meeting.
“Of course there were come expressions of concerns about the main difficulties which remain there [in the Middle East] but also there was a strong feeling that there are some signs of hope which should be fully taken advantage of by the international community,” Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia told reporters.
“So there was a strong expression of interest in the successful meeting of the Quartet on the 2nd of February, and support for the work of the Quartet and the Road Map,” he added.
Secretary-General Ban is currently in France attending a major international donors’ conference on Lebanon, from where he will travel to Africa before attending the Quartet meeting in Washington.