UN Security Council split over basis for Mideast peace parley

Despite the apparent interest of all members of the UN Security Council in convening a Mideast peace conference under UN auspices, such a move would be futile at this time, the UN Secretary-General concluded in a report last week. The reason is the split of the Security Council into three camps, which the report reveals openly for the first time, over the basis for such a conference.

``It is again clear ... that sufficient agreement does not exist, either amongst the parties directly concerned or within the Security Council, to permit the convening of the international peace conference on the Middle East as called for in Resolution 42/66d,'' Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar wrote.

Resolution 42/66d, passed last December, endorses a series of earlier resolutions that favor full Palestinian rights, including the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The US, in one camp, says the resolution is ``one-sided and unbalanced.'' A US diplomat at the UN explains: ``We don't want the Secretary-General [to convene a conference] on the basis of that resolution. We voted against that resolution. But other things are left open.''

The Secretary-General also has a mandate to convene peace talks under Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for Israeli withdrawal from territories it occupied in the 1967 war. Those resolutions, which do not deal with Palestinian national aspirations, form the basis of the current US peace initiative.

But a Western diplomat argues that any UN approach would have to acknowledge some Palestinian rights. The Secretary-General, he says, cannot ``let himself be used by the Americans for a conference which doesn't allow at all for the concept of Palestinian self-determination.'' So far, the US has spoken only of ``legitimate rights,'' and has resisted the broader ``self-determination.''

The four European members of the council (Britain, France, Italy, and West Germany) form a second group, according to the report. They expressed reservations about basing an international conference on the General Assembly resolutions. But they reaffirmed the European Community's support of ``the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, with all that this implies ...''

The nonaligned and East-bloc members of the Council endorsed a conference leading to ``the attainment by the Palestinian people of its legitimate inalienable rights, including the right to return, the right to self-determination, and the right to establish its own independent state in Palestine.''

``They stressed that the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] should have the status of a full-fledged participant in the conference,'' the report said.

The decision to reveal, rather than paper over the divisions, is helpful, says one diplomat on the Council.

``It stops people from persisting in a never-never world,'' he says. ``If the Israelis don't respond to the carefully tailored Shultz plan, they never will to the UN plan. So it's no use to do what is often done, to send the Secretary-General off on a mission impossible, just to cover the intransigence of the parties.''

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