UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The UN Security Council on Monday is to hold talks on reviving the stalled Middle East peace process and creating an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side with a secure Israel.
Although Israeli and Palestinian representatives will not take part in the UN talks, Russia called for the debate saying that “vigorous” diplomacy was needed to resolve the issue of Middle East peace.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who chairs the 15-member Security Council this month, called the Council meeting to stress the “urgency of reaching comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”
The open debate, to include foreign ministers of Russia, Britain, France, Turkey and Austria as well as US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, comes as Israel is led by a new government headed by hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has so far refused to publicly endorse the idea of a Palestinian state, a bedrock principle of international plans to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Vigorous diplomatic action is needed to attain the goal set by the international community,” said a preliminary draft statement Russia wants the council to adopt unanimously.
“Lasting peace in the region, based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence, incitement and terror, and the two-state solution, building upon previous agreements and obligations.”
The text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, also encouraged the work of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet — the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States — “to support the parties in their efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
A roadmap drawn up by the Quartet calls for the peaceful co-existence of Israel and an independent Palestine and for a halt to Jewish settlement activity in Palestinian territory as well as an end to Palestinian attacks against Israel.
The plan has made little progress since it was drafted in 2003.
But the Quartet’s envoy, former British prime minister Tony Blair, told reporters last week that the group is working on a new framework for Israeli-Palestinian talks.
“We’re about to get a new framework,” Blair told journalists in the occupied West Bank’s political capital of Ramallah on Tuesday.
“The reason I say people should be more hopeful is that this is a framework that is being worked on at the highest level of the American administration and the rest of the international community,” Blair said.
He said he did not have the details of the new plan. “I can only speculate right now about what that framework will be.”
“I think we’ll know better in a few weeks time where we’re coming out on this,” he said.
US President Barack Obama has pledged to work vigorously to jumpstart the stalled peace process, but his efforts risk running against Netanyahu’s hardline policies.
Netanyahu is to arrive in Egypt Monday for talks to garner Arab support against Iran’s nuclear drive, and is due to present his cabinet’s policy on the peace process at a meeting with Obama on May 18 in Washington.
But Netanyahu’s efforts in Egypt are less than certain to succeed given the deep differences with Cairo on the Middle East peace process, which has been on ice since Israel’s massive offensive on the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
Egypt has urged Netanyahu to clarify his stance on the two-state principle.
“It is important for the Israeli prime minister to express in a clear manner his acceptance of the principle of a two-state solution and the vital necessity of the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said last week.
The creation of a Palestinian state constitutes “the primary aim of all the efforts exerted and the real guarantee for security and peace in the region,” he said.
Participants at Monday’s open debate are to include Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov of Russia, David Miliband of Britain, Bernard Kouchner of France, Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, their counterparts from Austria and Costa Rica.
Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned in comments published by The Times of London Monday that if critical talks on a Middle East peace process were delayed further, the world would be “sucked into another conflict” there.