Cablegate: Unsc: Middle East Open Debate -- Heavy Criticism

Published: Fri 29 Jan 2010 11:20 PM
DE RUCNDT #0055/01 0292320
O 292320Z JAN 10
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Summary: At the Security Council's January 27 Open
Debate on the Middle East, Assistant Secretary-General
Fernandez-Taranco noted the "worrying impasse" that persists
in the region with the lack of progress on restarting
negotiations and called for the Quartet to play a role. He
voiced concern with Israeli plans for construction in
Jerusalem and at the uptick in military operations in the
West Bank. He also called for an end to the "blockade" of
Gaza, noting the recent decline in imports into Gaza but that
the UN had successfully secured the release of humanitarian
aid confiscated by Hamas. The Palestinian Observer called
for the international community to compel Israel to end the
"blockade" of Gaza and to cease its actions in East Jerusalem
to further entrench the de facto annexation of the city. He
reaffirmed that peace negotiations cannot resume while
Israeli settlement activities continue. The Israeli Perm Rep
criticized the Secretariat's briefing as unbalanced and said
Israel is ready for direct peace negotiations. She
highlighted the threats posed to Israel and its civilian
population by Hamas and Hizballah arms smuggling. The
majority of Council members pressed for greater access to
Gaza for humanitarian and reconstruction supplies. All
member states mentioned Jerusalem, with most voicing concern
at recent Israeli activities in East Jerusalem. All member
states criticized settlement activities and expressed varying
degrees of dismay at the failure to relaunch negotiations
between the parties. New Council member Lebanon focused
exclusively on Israel's transgressions, while the other four
new members offered more balanced remarks. Twenty-five
delegations spoke after Council members, including the EU
Delegation (observer) and the Arab League Observer. The ten
Arab speakers harshly criticized Israel on Gaza and East
Jerusalem, as did Iran and three ALBA countries (Cuba,
Venezuela, and Nicaragua). End Summary.
Secretariat Briefing
2. (SBU) On January 27, Assistant Secretary-General for
Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco briefed the
Security Council regular monthly meeting on the Middle East,
which this month took the form of an Open Debate. He noted
that a "worrying impasse persists in efforts to bring about
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, amidst low confidence
between the parties" but that intense diplomatic activity has
continued, including Special Envoy Mitchell's recent visit to
the region. He noted that "the Quartet can and must play its
full role at this crucial juncture." He reiterated the
Secretary-General's concern about the situation in East
Jerusalem calling for an end to activities such as
"settlement construction and expansion, house demolitions,
closure of institutions, and the revocation of residency
rights." He urged the Israeli government not to finalize
approvals of plans for the expansion of settlements within
the Israeli municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, including 692
housing units in three existing settlements announced in late
December, a new project for 24 families on the Mount of
Olives, and 50 new units in the Palestinian neighborhood of
Shu'fat, both announced in early January. He noted that the
partial temporary settlement restraint in the West Bank is
"broadly being implemented" but said that construction
activity has been reported in several settlements due to
exemptions and in some cases construction continuing contrary
to the policy. He called settlement activity throughout the
territory occupied in 1967 "illegal" and "contrary to the
Roadmap." He noted the substantial increase in Israeli
military operations in the West Bank, including Israeli
forces entering Nablus December 26, 2009, where they killed
three Palestinians who allegedly killed an Israeli settler.
3. (SBU) On Gaza, Fernandez-Taranco repeated the call "for
an end to the blockade of Gaza," noting a decline in the
weekly average of imported truckloads of goods to only 534.
He reporting that the UN had been successful in securing the
release of humanitarian aid that had been confiscated by
Hamas at the end of 2009 and underscored that the UN will
continue to insist on non-interference with international aid
operations. Noting an increase in the number of projectiles
fired from Gaza, he called for all parties to refrain from
violence and respect international humanitarian law. He said
that there has been no satisfactory Israeli response to the
UN's proposal to complete stalled projects for housing,
schools, and health facilities. He referred to the
Secretary-General's letter to the Security Council President,
noting that Israel and the UN had agreed that the financial
issues related the Gaza Board of Inquiry incidents had been
USUN NEW Y 00000055 002 OF 007
brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and he called for
Israel to allow into Gaza sufficient material for the
rebuilding of damaged UN facilities.
4. (SBU) Turning to the region, he noted the progress made
in Lebanese-Syrian relations with the Lebanese Prime
Minister's first visit to Damascus. He referred to the
December 26 explosion in a Hamas building in southern Beirut,
the slow reconstruction of the Nahr el Bard refugee camp, and
the discovery by UNIFIL of several men digging a hole where
250 kilograms of explosives were found in the vicinity of
Sarda in southern Lebanon, as well as daily Israeli air
violations. He concluded by noting deep concern at the
current stalemate and emphasized that "if we cannot move
forward decisively towards a final status agreement, we risk
sliding backwards, with potentially profound and negative
Palestinian Observer: Statements alone
will not stop Israel's settlement drive
5. (SBU) The Palestinian Permanent Observer began his
20-minute remarks by noting that the Palestinian Authority
had declared January 27 a day of solidarity with Palestinian
prisoners. He said that the population of Gaza remains
traumatized from the "brutal crimes, including war crimes,
perpetrated by the occupying Power" during the Israeli
aggression against Gaza last winter. He claimed that the
"blockade" of Gaza "is aimed at collectively punishing and
debilitating the population, young and old." He said that
the Palestinians will continue to persist in the pursuit of
accountability and justice, "including in follow-up of the
Goldstone Report, for the war crimes committed against our
people." He called for the international community to compel
Israel to immediately open Gaza's border crossings.
Regarding Jerusalem, he said, "Israel is blatantly and
arrogantly accelerating to artificially create an
overwhelming Jewish majority there and to further entrench
its de facto annexation of the City." He claimed that in
2008 alone Israel revoked the residency rights of nearly
5,000 Palestinians. He said that Israeli actions are
undermining the "viability, credibility and support of the
peace process." He said that the cessation of settlements is
not a "so-called pre-condition fabricated by the Palestinian
side" but a reflection of international consensus. He
reaffirmed that "the Palestinian leadership maintains that
peace negotiations cannot resume while Israeli settlement
activities continue" and called for negotiations to resume
from the point at which they broke off. He praised
international efforts to revive the peace process including
the December 2009 EU Council Conclusions and Special Envoy
Mitchell's efforts. He said that while welcoming and
recognizing "the importance of statements from around the
international community denouncing Israeli settlement
activities and other illegal measures, ongoing developments
provide ample proof that statements alone will not stop
Israel's settlement drive."
Israeli Permanent Representative: UNSC
Debate not a substitute for negotiations
6. (SBU) The Israeli Perm Rep opened her remarks by
expressing condolences to the people and government of Haiti.
She criticized Fernandez-Taranco's briefing as "partial and
unfortunately unbalanced." (Comment: We agree that the
Secretariat briefing was less balanced than usual and really
only called for action by Israel. End comment.) Calling
into question the value of frequent Security Council meetings
on the Middle East, she noted, shows that nothing
substitutes for negotiations between the parties" and
reiterated that "Israel is prepared to immediately commence
direct peace negotiations." She called for the international
community to confront the "real challenges to peace and
security: the threat of extremism, the danger of nuclear
proliferation, and the plague of weapons smuggling and
terrorism." In light of the ongoing smuggling of weapons and
mortars and rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel and the
silence when Israeli civilians are under terrorist attack she
said, "the firing of any weapons from Gaza at Israeli
territory will be met with a strong and immediate response."
She said that the December 26, 2009 discovery in southern
Lebanon of explosives, as well as incidents in Tayr Filsay
and Khirbat Silim in 2009, highlights that Hizballah remains
active in southern Lebanon. She said that "weapons smuggling
--- reflects a menacing pattern by two particular Member
States that use terrorist proxies to sow violence" and called
for continuing attention to the supplying of arms across the
USUN NEW Y 00000055 003 OF 007
Syrian-Lebanese border.
Council members
7. (SBU) PRESS FOR GAZA ACCESS: The majority of remarks from
Security Council members expressed support for greater access
to Gaza for humanitarian and reconstruction supplies.
Brazil, France, Gabon, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Russia,
Turkey, and Uganda called for an end to the of
Gaza, while Austria chose to use the term "de facto
blockade." Most called for the implementation of resolution
1860. Bosnia and Nigeria called for the opening of Gaza's
crossings consistent with the Agreement on Movement and
Access. Mexico noted the need for an international
monitoring mechanism for the Gaza crossings. European
Council members called for "unconditional" access for
humanitarian supplies. The Austrian PermRep noted that the
Israeli financial transfer of 10.5 million dollars for
incidents investigated by the Gaza Board of Inquiry will not
repair the damage in Gaza unless there is unhindered access
for construction materials. In a forceful call for the
easing of restrictions on Gaza access, the UK Perm Rep noted
that a failure to do so increased the volume of tunnel
smuggling, making detecting the smuggling of weapons all the
more difficult, and increasing the power of radical groups in
Gaza. France, the UK, and the United States called for the
release of Gilad Shalit. (Note: Ambassador Wolff gave
remarks drawn from reftel. End note.)
8. (SBU) JERUSALEM/SETTLEMENTS: All member states mentioned
Jerusalem with most voicing concern at recent activities in
Jerusalem including home demolitions, expansion of Israeli
settlements in Palestinian neighborhoods, and revocations of
residency rights for Palestinians. The Turkish Perm Rep
pressed for a solution since Jerusalem "reflects our common
heritage." Both the UK and Turkish Perm Reps called for the
status of Jerusalem to be settled so that Jerusalem can
become the future capital of two states. The Lebanese Perm
Rep spent an undue amount of time focusing on religious
issues. (Comment: Almost as if he was trying to be
provocative. End Comment.) He discussed Israeli
restrictions on Christian access to holy sites during
Christmas and alleged that Israel is threatening holy sites
in Jerusalem and the access of the faithful to those sites.
He termed this a "brazen challenge to international law."
All member states criticized settlement activities, and
Austria, France, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and Uganda took note
of the Israeli settlement moratorium, which the Japanese
PermRep called "a step in the right direction." The French
PermRep said that settlements make the peace process more
difficult and do not improve Israeli security. Brazil,
Japan, Mexico, Russia, and the UK noted the need to refrain
from steps that could prejudice the outcome of negotiations.
9. (SBU) GOLDSTONE: France noted that international
humanitarian and human rights law must be respected both in
Gaza and in southern Israel and expressed support for
independent inquiries in line with international standards.
The Brazilian PermRep said that accountability, through
credible investigations in line with international practices,
is needed in follow-up to the Goldstone Report. Mexico noted
that it is waiting for the Secretary General's report on
Goldstone and called for all parties to respect international
humanitarian law. Austria and Nigeria echoed support for
10. (SBU) PEACE PROCESS: Council members expressed varying
degrees of dismay with the failure to relaunch negotiations
between the parties. The Austrian PermRep expressed grave
concern that the talks are "deadlocked" and that there is
only a "fragile calm" in the region. The Brazilian Perm Rep
said that the paralysis of the peace process risks a
deterioration of the situation in the region. Gabon lamented
that negotiations are again at a state of impasse "because of
the intransigence of the parties." The Mexican PermRep said
that responsibility for the peace process belongs to the
Israelis and Palestinians, but that the international
community can "facilitate." Nigeria, Mexico and the UK
expressed support for Special Envoy Mitchell. The Japanese
PermRep said that although there has been little progress the
international community must not become discouraged from
efforts to revive the peace process. France, Japan, and the
UK noted the positive role that Arab engagement could play.
Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and Uganda noted the importance
of Palestinian reconciliation. The Russian PermRep noted
that Russia continues its contacts with Hamas in order to
seek to convince Hamas leaders to "transcend any
USUN NEW Y 00000055 004 OF 007
consideration not conducive to achieving the legitimate
aspirations of the Palestinian people."
11. (SBU) CONFERENCES: The Russian PermRep announced a
proposal for a Quartet meeting at the Ministerial-level in
February in Moscow to discuss possible opportunities to
overcome the "crisis in the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue."
He expressed regret that it was not yet possible to announce
the dates for the Moscow conference outlined in UNSC 1860,
given the "continuing pause in negotiations." The French
PermRep noted that President Sarkozy is interested in
convening a summit for peace. Brazil voiced support for an
international conference on the Middle East.
12. (SBU) REGIONAL ISSUES: Russia noted the importance of
the Syrian and Lebanon tracks for a comprehensive regional
peace. Bosnia expressed support for efforts to revive
Israeli-Syrian talks. The French PermRep, as usual, began
his remarks with Lebanon, noting the importance of Prime
Minister Hariri's recent visit to Syria and calling for full
Syrian-Lebanese border demarcation. He also noted that an
Israeli withdraw from Ghajar would contribute to the easing
of tension in the area. Austria noted the late December 2009
discovery of explosives in southern Lebanon and called for
keeping the area free from weapons. The Lebanese PermRep
said that his country struggles to implement resolution 1701;
Israel violates its sovereignty and resolution 1701 on a
daily basis, continues to occupy Ghajar and the Sheb'a Farms,
and refuses to provide Lebanon with maps of mines it placed
in southern Lebanon. Lebanon also noted that Israel has
failed to withdraw from the Golan Heights.
Rep, as the Arab representative on the Council, focused his
remarks exclusively on Israel's transgressions, saying that
Israel has turned Gaza "into one big prison;" has destroyed
Palestinian homes; revoked Palestinian residence permits; and
increased construction in the settlements of Gilo and Har
Homa, thereby threatening prospects for the peace process.
As mentioned previously in para eight, he made unhelpful and
provocative references to religious issues. The Brazilian
PermRep called Israeli efforts to create a fait accompli on
the ground "unhelpful." She noted that President Lula will
travel to the region to meet Israeli, Palestinian, and
Jordanian leaders in March. The Bosnian representative
condemned all violations of international humanitarian law
and emphasized that both the Israeli and Palestinian civilian
populations must be protected. The Gabon Perm Rep called for
lifting the blockade of Gaza but also noted the need to
address the legitimate concerns of Israel, including arms
smuggling and ending the firing of rockets from Gaza. The
Nigerian Perm Rep cited the lack of political will to resume
negotiations but said that the Israeli settlement restraint
creates "a window of opportunity that must be seized."
European Union Observer & Norway
14. (SBU) This was the first Open Debate since the
implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, so the European Union
delegation requested a speaking slot as a Quartet member.
The acting head of the EU delegation, which has observer
status at the UN, stressed that the resumption of
negotiations is of utmost urgency. He said the EU would not
recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with
regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed to by the
parties. He voiced support for the ongoing efforts of the
United States, which are closely coordinated with the
Quartet, and those of the Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair,
on building Palestinian institutional capacity. He called
for comprehensive regional peace and for all regional actors
to undertake confidence-building measures, saying an
important Arab contribution would be to build on the Arab
Peace Initiative. The Norwegian Perm Rep noted how similar
the Assistant Secretary-General's briefing was to his
November briefing with the situation remaining at a "deep and
worrying impasse." He said that efforts must still be made
to drive the process forward towards a two-state solution.
He underscored that steps in the right direction in some
areas "must not be reversed by detrimental actions in others,
including East Jerusalem." On Gaza, he called for the
"unacceptable and counterproductive strangle-hold on the
civilian population" to end. As Chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison
Committee, he said Norway continues to stress the need for a
political horizon in order to justify high levels of donor
support to the Palestinian state-building project.
Arab countries: Attack Israel
on Gaza and East Jerusalem
USUN NEW Y 00000055 005 OF 007
15. (SBU) GAZA: Ten Arab countries plus the Arab League
Observer spoke, with Oman speaking for the Arab Group; Egypt
speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); and Syria for
the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). All ten
gave long (significantly over the allotted five minutes)
statements highly critical of Israeli actions continuing the
"blockade" and "siege" on Gaza and "collective punishment" of
the Palestinian people. They called for the Security Council
to assume its responsibility and ensure that Israel
implements resolution 1860 and opens the crossings. The
Emirati representative called on Israel to stop the policy of
starving Palestinians and called on the international
community to double its assistance to the Palestinians.
Egypt called for importation of construction materials into
Gaza and suggested that Israel needs to compensate the
Palestinian people for the damage and trauma they have
suffered during the Gaza conflict. The Arab League Observer
referred to Israel's flagrant violations of international
humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. No Arab
statement mentioned Hamas or rockets attacks from Gaza.
16. (SBU) JERUSALEM: Most Arab speakers also cited, at
length, Israel's "illegal measures" in East Jerusalem,
including home demolitions, evictions, and residency
revocations, which many described as an attempt to "Judaize"
East Jerusalem. The Algerian Perm Rep called Israeli efforts
an attempt to arrange a "fait accompli." The Saudi and
Emirati representatives both referred to the ethnic cleansing
of the city. The Moroccan Perm Rep decried the targeting of
Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem through "suspect"
archeological digs, the construction of a network of tunnels,
and attacks on holy shrines. The Jordanian Perm Rep said
that Jordan will make every effort to protect the identity of
Jerusalem. The Syrian Perm Rep said a redline would be
crossed if there was any action against the Haram al-Sharif.
The Qatari representative referred to continued Israeli human
rights violations against the Arab populations "within the so
called Green Line."
17. (SBU) GOLDSTONE/BOI: The Syrian Perm Rep said that the
GA resolution on Goldstone was an "important first step" but
called for more actions by relevant organizations, including
the Security Council, to put an end to Israel's impunity.
The Qatari representative called on the Security Council to
act on the Goldstone report even though the Human Rights
Council was still considering it. He also noted that the
Security Council has not taken any action "in reply to the
Board on Inquiry's recommendations." The Saudi
representative complained about the complete absence of the
Security Council with respect to the policy of "state
terrorism practiced by Israel."
18. (SBU) PEACE PROCESS: Oman called for a timetable to
complete negotiations. Many, including Oman and Egypt,
attributed Israel's failure to institute a total settlements
freeze as the reason why peace negotiations have not resumed.
Morocco and Jordan did note the efforts of the Obama
administration and Senator Mitchell and hoped they would have
the desired effect to restart negotiations. For there to be
progress, the Algerian Perm Rep called for (1) Israel to give
an unequivocal commitment to the two-state solution and cease
illegal activities; (2) Israel to respect the terms of UN
resolutions that are the agreed framework for the way
forward; and (3) the international community to find a
clearer role for the Quartet. The Jordanian Perm Rep called
for the resumption of negotiations as soon as possible on the
basis of where the last negotiations ended. He stressed that
the fate of the Palestinian people is at the heart of all
conflicts in the region. The Qatari representative
reaffirmed the Arab Peace Initiative but noted that it is
dependent on Israel not taking extreme positions. He also
emphasized the need to "involve all segments of the
Palestinian people for the success of peace efforts." The
Egyptian Perm Rep called for speedy Palestinian
19. (SBU) LEBANON/GOLAN: Many of the Arab delegations also
voiced deep concern by Israel's continued violation of
Lebanese air, sea, and land and its continued occupation of
Ghajar, Sheb'a, and Kfar Shouba. Oman, Qatar, and Syria also
spoke out against Israeli efforts to change the demographic
status of the Golan and called for Israel's withdrawal. They
also called on the Security Council to condemn Israel's
continuing violations of resolution 1701 but did not refer to
the other violations of the weapons-free zone south of the
Litani river.
USUN NEW Y 00000055 006 OF 007
20. (SBU) The Iranian Perm Rep, sitting next to the Israeli
Deputy Perm Rep, decried Israel's "barbaric attack" on Gaza
last year when he said Israel "willfully and systematically
targeted women and children" and even the UN was not spared.
He said these actions amounted to war crimes and crimes
against humanity and called for an end to the culture of
impunity by Israel for war crimes, at which point the Israeli
Deputy Perm Rep exited the Chamber and did not return.
(Note: Iran was the third to last speaker. End note.) He
said that certain Council members are accustomed to giving
long speeches on human rights but their true stance was
revealed during the vote on General Assembly resolution
64/10. He also referred to Israel's persistence with its
"aggressive and expansionist policies" toward Lebanon and its
daily violations of land, sea, and airspace and refusal to
withdraw from Sheb'a, Kfar Shouba, the northern Ghajar, and
the occupied Syrian Golan. He termed the Israeli occupation
of Palestinian territory as the most gross violation and
called for lasting peace.
Mostly harsh Latin American comments
21. (SBU) The representatives of Cuba, Venezuela, and
Nicaragua all gave statements harshly critical of Israel,
which attempted to surpass in tone those of the Arab states.
The Cuban representative referred to the "constant siege of
Gaza" and the "illegal blockade." He said that Israel only
is able to act with impunity because of the support given to
it by "the superpower." The Nicaraguan Perm Rep blamed the
Council's inability to have Israel comply with its
resolutions on Israel's "main ally." She said it is time for
the permanent members to force Israel to make a commitment
and if Israel does not, then the Council should "take steps"
according to the Charter. The Venezuelan representative said
that Israel's policy of "genocide" was apparent in Jerusalem
where it had revoked the residency rights of Palestinians.
The Argentine Perm Rep offered the only balanced statement
from a Latin American non-Council member in which he called
on both sides to fulfill their obligations and for a relaunch
of the peace process with the support of the international
community and active intermediation of the United States. He
explained that Argentina had voted for the Goldstone
resolution in the General Assembly because it had to support
a request to investigate war crimes accusations on both sides.
OIC/NAM Asian members join in
22. (SBU) The Indonesian representative also gave a harshly
worded statement, citing Israel's policies of collective
punishment. He said that the Council has an abundance of
patience on this issue while on other issues it acts
impatiently. He urged greater Council impatience on this
issue. He termed the humanitarian situation in Gaza a
"man-made situation" and called for an end to the "mayhem."
He also called settlements a "blatant violation of
international law" and called for Israel to stop construction
and seek a comprehensive solution. The Malaysian
representative also spoke out against Israeli actions and
called for the Council to focus on restoring the inalienable
rights of Palestinians. The Vietnamese Perm Rep also called
on Israel to cease its "unilateral and provocative
construction" of settlements, but he also noted the worrying
resurgence of sporadic rocket attacks on Israel and the need
for intra-Palestinian unity. The Pakistani representative
highlighted the Middle East as the "sacred birthplace of
great religions" and calling continued conflict there a
"collective failure." He said there is no option but a
return to the negotiating table and emphasized the need for
greater political will to bring the parties together,
stressing the Security Council's "significant and crucial
role." The Sri Lankan representative urged both sides to
move to a climate conducive to the resumption of negotiations
and voiced hope for a peaceful settlement.
South Africa -- only
sub-Saharan African voice
23. (SBU) South Africa was the only non-Arab African state
to speak. The South African Deputy Perm Rep said there could
be no military solution to the conflict and called for the
parties to create a situation conducive to a return to
negotiations. He also called for the implementation of the
Goldstone commission's recommendations and called on the
USUN NEW Y 00000055 007 OF 007
Security Council to assist the Palestinian people in their
"long-held aspirations for self-determination and freedom."
24. (SBU) This was the first Middle East Open Debate since
the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, so the EU delegation
spoke on behalf of its members. With no other EU member
state speaking, the lack of balance on the speakers list was
noticeable and colored the tone of the meeting. End comment.
25. (U) A full transcript of the Open Debate can be found at
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media