Secretary-General’s Briefing on Middle East Visit and AU Summit
This afternoon (8 February), the Secretary-General is scheduled to brief Council members in informal consultations on his recent visit to the Middle East and Addis Ababa where he attended the AU Summit from 29-30 January. (The Secretary-General was in Lebanon from 13-15 January and then Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories between 31 January and 2 February.)
During his Middle East trip, the Secretary-General had the opportunity to cover several issues of interest to Council members. These included the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Israeli settlement policy, the effect of the blockade in the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, as well as the situation in Lebanon. It seems that some members may also want him to touch upon developments in Syria as this was raised during some of his discussions.
In briefing the Council on the AU meeting, the Secretary-General might highlight some issues related to Sudan and South Sudan. (On the margins of the AU meeting the Secretary-General met with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayradit as well as with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, both of whom are involved in negotiations to end the dispute.)
While in Jordan, one of the key issues the Secretary-General focused on was keeping up momentum towards a renewal of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations along the timeline proposed by the Quartet (comprised of the EU, Russia, the UN, and the US) on 23 September 2011. (Jordan has hosted five rounds of exploratory talks from 2 to 25 January but other than that there has been little progress in direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.)
In Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Secretary-General met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. He discussed the Israeli settlement policy and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with both leaders. He also called on Israel to lift restrictions on imports and exports from Gaza and said there needed to be an end to the Palestinian divide. (Following the 6 February agreement in Qatar between Hamas and Fatah confirming that Abbas would lead an interim government preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections,the Secretary-General spoke to Abbas urging him not to abandon talks with Israel.)
In briefing the Council on Lebanon, the Secretary-General is likely to cover the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s mandate, which expires in early March. He may also touch on other issues raised with the Lebanese leadership, including the need to reconvene the national dialogue. (This has been stalled since November 2010 over the issue of Hezbollah’s arms and the spillover effects from the Syrian situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border.)
Some members are expected to raise the issue of Syria. In the last few days the Secretary-General has made a number of statements on Syria. Following the Council’s failure to adopt a draft resolution on Syria (S/2012/77) on 4 February (Russia and China vetoed, with the other 13 members in favour), the Secretary-General said the lack of agreement in the Council gave no license to the Syrian authorities to step up the attacks on the Syrian population. He also said he was appalled by the escalating death toll in Syria and called on President Assad to immediately cease all hostilities against civilians. The Secretary-General also called on the international community to redouble efforts to seek a Syrian-led political process that respects the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.
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