UN council affirms Mideast 'road map'
( 2003-11-20 08:59) (Reuters)
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to endorse the stalled Middle East "road map" that envisions a Palestinian state by 2005 in exchange for security guarantees for Israel.
The council, at the instigation of Russia, put its stamp of approval on the peace plan that was formulated a year ago by the "quartet" of Middle East advisers -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
The resolution "calls on the parties to fulfill their obligations under the road map in cooperation with the quartet and to achieve the vision of two states."
The road map lays out steps the two sides should take toward setting up a Palestinian state by 2005. It has been derailed by months of violence and Israeli demands the Palestinian Authority crack down on militants.
Frustrated by the continuing violence and lack of peace talks, Russia said it wanted to breathe life back into the "road map" Moscow helped design a year ago.
Russia's U.N. ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, noted the resolution did not have enforcement powers but was now part of international law and "had to be implemented."
He told reporters he did not think the resolution would radically change the peace process. But he said it could "play a very important role" in promoting a current trend toward negotiations.
Lavrov first circulated a draft late last month but the United States argued the timing was not right until a new Palestinian government was formed, which happened last week.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said after the vote that since a Palestinian government has been created "the conditions have become somewhat more propitious for going forward with this."
The road map was the way to realize the vision of "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," Negroponte said.
"That said, peace and security in the region can only be achieved through political dialogue and direct negotiations by the parties," Negroponte added, making clear the United Nations should not be involved in such talks.
Israel does not want U.N. involvement in the peace process. "We need action, not words," said its deputy ambassador, Arye Mekel.
Mekel said Israel was willing to implement the road map "provided we have a Palestinian partner committed to eradicating terror and pursuing a peaceful negotiated settlement."
Israeli officials said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would meet the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qurie, next week, although no date was set.
The Palestinian U.N. envoy, Nasser al-Kidwa, applauded the resolution, calling it a "political breakthrough focused on a two-state solution." He said if the parties did not abide by the road map the council should "take the next step."
Before the vote, Kieran Prendergast, the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, told the council the Middle East peace process was marked by inaction.
"Everyone has waited for others to act," he said. "And we, the international community, waited for the parties to make progress on their own, despite the accumulation over the years of compelling evidence that they are incapable of making peace without international intervention."
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