Middle East Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (27 March), the Council will be briefed by Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Serry is likely to focus on developments in the Quartet’s efforts to create sufficient momentum for direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Council members also seem interested in Serry’s assessment of the recent exchange of Gazan rockets and Israeli air strikes and how the subsequent Egyptian-brokered truce is holding. There may also be interest in the reports of severe fuel shortages in Gaza and the impact on the humanitarian situation there. Another likely area of interest is progress with Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as both remain key obstacles to the resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Some members may be concerned that aside from the exploratory talks hosted by Jordan in January there has been little other progress towards meeting the timeline set out by the Quartet on 23 September 2011 for an agreement by the end of 2012. In particular, the deadline for parties to be in direct negotiations and to exchange proposals for border and security arrangements by 26 January was missed. (There are reports that only the Palestinian Authority submitted the requested proposals.)
The Quartet last met on 12 March on the sidelines of the Security Council high-level debate on challenges and opportunities in the Middle East. At that meeting the Quartet signaled its intent to meet in April in Washington DC. However, at press time no specific date had been set. There is increasing interest from several Council members for the Council to play a constructive role in reviving the peace process. This was clearly expressed during the high-level debate.
Another possible issue which may be raised in consultations is the February invitation by the Palestinian Permanent Observer, Riyad Mansour, for the Council to undertake a visiting mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem.
On a working methods note, the UK, as part of the initiative to improve interaction among Council members during its presidency in March, had suggested that only the permanent representatives attend the informal consultations following Serry’s briefing. However, it seems that although all permanent representatives will attend, some will come with their experts.
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