UN looks at stabilising MidEast and tackling piracy

The UN Security Council has passed two important resolutions in one day. One is aimed at creating favourable conditions for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in 2009. The other deals with tackling piracy – an issue that has recently become more p

Middle East peace process

The resolution comes just two days before the ceasefire is due to end between Israel and Hamas, it comes at a crucial time. It’s the UN’s first resolution on the Middle East in almost five years after a round of talks held by the Middle East Quartet – which includes Russia, the US, the EU, and the UN.

The Security Council resolution creates an important legal basis for further steps in a process that began last year. At a conference in Annapolis, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was first articulated.

The UN resolution – proposed jointly by Russia and the U.S. – continues that line of thought. The new UN document means sides will continue working so that a secure Israel co-existing with a viable Palestinian state could become a reality.

“The adoption of the resolution of course doesn't guarantee that the situation will develop in the right direction. Much will depend on whether the Israelis and Palestinians themselves will be able to build and develop the necessary preconditions to move forward successfully. We are calling here for the full implementation by all parties of the conditions outlined under the roadmap,” commented Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The Bush administration had ambitions to have a Middle East peace deal sealed by the end of the year. This did not happen. Some analysts say the U.S. was pushing the resolution forward in a bid for at least some foreign policy success before George Bush steps down in just over a month.

The next conference on the Middle East will take place in the Russian capital next year.

Fighting piracy

The Middle East wasn’t the only topic of the day at the UN. A resolution on piracy in east Africa was adopted unanimously by the Security Council.

“No U.S. government wants to see chaos in Somalia. We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and it did not look good,” said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The document authorizes for the first time international military action against pirates on Somali territory – although Rice later said no U.S. troops would be part of any operation.

Russia says the moves have the full backing of Somali authorities.

“A week ago, we had a request from Somalia’s government asking that – apart from operations in the territorial waters of the country – we would also consider action on land and in the air. This is a goal that has been set and has in principle been supported by the Security Council. The mechanisms of bringing such action to life – if they become necessary – will be worked out in close communication with the government of Somalia,” Lavrov said.

Somali pirates are currently holding at least 17 ships, including an arms-laden Ukrainian cargo vessel and a Saudi supertanker carrying two million barrels of crude oil.