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New resolution on Mideast peace passes at UN

With Bush set to leave, the administration tries to nudge forward the process it started in 2007.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / December 17, 2008

Quartet: At the UN Monday were (l. to r.) Javier Solana, EU foreign-policy chief; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Ban Ki Moon, UN secretary-general; and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.



United Nations, N.Y.

The Bush administration, looking to shore up its foreign-policy legacy, and the international community, hoping to influence the future Obama White House, are teaming up to press the Middle East peace process forward.

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It's an against-the-odds attempt. But the first United Nations Security Council resolution on the peace process in five years – since the diplomacy-stalling Iraq war in 2003 – was approved Tuesday. The vote was 14 to 0, with Libya abstaining.

The idea is to show broad support for keeping the peace process that was started by President Bush a year ago on its rails into the next US presidency.

The resolution, sponsored by the US and Russia, has little binding impact but sends a number of signals. First, it indicates, especially to the Israelis and Palestinians, that even though the so-called Annapolis process did not result in a peace agreement by the end of Mr. Bush's term, progress has been made and should be built upon. And second, a signal goes out to President-elect Obama that the peace process should not start over from Square 1 when he takes office.

The irony of this second point is that it is promoted in particular by the Bush administration, which wanted nothing to do with the negotiation structure left behind by the Clinton White House.

The peace process is confronting a period of transition on more fronts than one, as Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, noted repeatedly before the vote. "We believe that the effort has to be pinned down, and it has to continue without a pause, which may be there because of some political circumstances – change of administration in the United States, elections in Israel, possible elections in the Palestinian autonomy," he said.

But the political context is just one reason that some see the resolution having little practical impact. Arab officials who attended a Monday meeting of the Quartet of powers shepherding the peace process – the US, Russia, the UN, and the European Union – expressed frustration over the lack of major progress toward a settlement and a Palestinian state.