Thu, Feb 10, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Russia seeks Security Council visit to Middle East

AFP, UNITED NATIONS

Russia on Tuesday called for the UN Security Council to carry out a mission to the Middle East to unblock the peace process and assess turmoil in Egypt and other countries.

The Security Council has not visited the troubled region for more than three decades. Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said council envoys should go to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon.

“We are making this proposal now because we are concerned about the situation in the Middle East,” Churkin told reporters. “As we all know, the efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian talks are at an impasse and the situation in the region is quite fragile. It is fraught with further possible complications.”

He said a Security Council mission “could stabilize the situation in a certain way and could help the international efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

Churkin said there has been no Security Council mission to the Middle East since 1979.

“We think that this is not right, that for so many years the Security Council members as a body have not been to the Middle East,” he said.

Russia is one of the five permanent members of the 15-nation council along with Britain, China, France and the US.

There was no immediate public reaction from other members. One council diplomat said though that a visit would be “difficult” to arrange.

“There are many sensitivities involved,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Churkin acknowledged that it was a “complex proposition.”

He said council envoys were discussing details, but there have been “no point blank objections.”

Russia is also a member of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East, with the US, EU and UN, which met in Munich last weekend amid growing concerns about the peace deadlock. The Quartet has set a target date of this September for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Speaking at a separate press encounter, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who attended the Quartet meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, highlighted how the Egypt crisis has cast a shadow over the peace process.

“I am also concerned by the very slow process, almost an impasse now of the Middle East peace process,” Ban told reporters.

He said the Quartet had decided to step up its efforts to revive the peace process.

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