What's In Blue

Middle East High-Level Meeting

On Wednesday afternoon (26 September), the Council will hold a high-level meeting on the Middle East focused on cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States. The Secretaries-General of the UN and the Arab League, Ban Ki-moon and Nabil al-Arabi, are expected to brief the Council, while the Foreign Minister of Germany, Guido Westerwelle, will chair the meeting. All Council members, with the exception of India, are expected to be represented at the head of state or ministerial level.

In its 6 September concept paper (S/2012/686), Germany encouraged Council members to address overarching strategic issues to enhance cooperation between the two multilateral bodies—in particular, issues that are on the agendas of both the Council and the Arab League. Despite this suggested focus, it is probable that the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, especially Syria and Israel/Palestine, will be be a significant part of the discussions. Recent developments in Lebanon, Libya, Yemen and throughout the region may also be addressed.

At press time Council members were still trying to reach agreement on a draft presidential statement which they have been negotiating over the past week at expert and deputy permanent representative level. Germany has been conducting bilateral consultations with Morocco and the US to try and reach final agreement on the text. It seems that while there is agreement over including references to the UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative to Syria and recent attacks in the region on diplomatic personnel and premises there remains disagreement on how such language should be framed.

It appears that another sticking-point in the negotiations had been over a paragraph calling for renewed efforts towards a comprehensive peace between Israel and Palestine. The reference had broad support, including by France, Morocco, Pakistan and Portugal. However the US strongly opposed making specific reference to the Israel/Palestine conflict in the statement. As a result, in the later drafts, language referring directly to a two-state solution in accordance with Council resolutions was dropped in favour of a broader reaffirmation of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

The extent to which elements of the presidential statement regarding cooperation between the UN and the Arab League should remain general, rather than specific, also needed extensive negotiation. Additionally, although there were discussions on the creation of a liaison office in Cairo to coordinate the efforts of the Council and Arab League so far there has been no agreement on this. It seems Council members prefer leaving the door open for the Secretary-General to make specific requests and recommendations regarding such an office and, to that end, are expected to request the Secretary-General to report on ways to continue strengthening the relationship between the two organisations.

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