What's In Blue

Posted Fri 25 May 2012

Middle East Briefing and Consultations

Tuesday morning (29 May), the Security Council will be briefed by Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process. Serry is likely to focus on peace process developments including the recent exchange of letters between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Another likely area of interest will be progress with the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, the new coalition government in Israel and the recent hunger strike by more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israeli authorities. Serry is also likely to update Council members on the recent tensions in Lebanon as a result of spill-over effects from the Syrian crisis.

Council members will likely be interested in Serry’s assessment of how political developments in Israel and the Palestinian Authority have impacted the peace process which has been stalled since September 2010.

Abbas sent a letter to Netanyahu on 15 April outlining the Palestinian Authority’s position on renewing direct talks based on 1967 borders and the immediate halt to all settlement activity and warning that the two-state solution might not be possible if the status-quo continues. Netanyahu responded on 13 May and it seems his letter called for a return to talks without preconditions. It seems there has been little progress since this exchange on restarting talks. Rather both parties have focused on strengthening their domestic constituencies and analysts are of the opinion that there is unlikely to be any substantive progress on direct talks before the US presidential election in November.

Serry is also likely to provide insights on how the formation of a new cabinet in Palestine and Israel’s new coalition government might affect the peace process. On 8 May, Netanyahu formed a new coalition government with Kadima giving him 94 out of 120 votes in parliament. On 16 May, Abbas formed a new cabinet followed by an agreement on 20 May between Fatah and Hamas to prepare for elections and a unity government. Council members are likely to be interested in an update on the implementation of this agreement—particularly the registering of voters in Gaza which is expected to begin on 27 May.

Another possible issue which may be raised in consultations following Serry’s briefing is the February invitation by the Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour (Palestine) for the Council to undertake a visiting mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. It seems that both an official visiting mission by the Security Council and the back-up option for permanent representatives to visit in their national capacity seem highly unlikely.

Lebanon is likely to garner more attention than usual during Tuesday’s Middle East briefing and consultations due to recent clashes in Tripoli and Beirut which are related to the crisis in Syria and the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese Shi’a in Syria. (Media reports indicate they may be freed and returned to Lebanon today.)

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