U.S. pulls U.N. Middle East draft disliked by Israel

A00578178.jpgUNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States withdrew on Friday a draft U.N. resolution endorsing action agreed at this week’s Annapolis Middle East peace conference, a document Israeli officials said they felt was inappropriate.

Israeli diplomats at the United Nations said they did not object to the Security Council backing the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting but did not consider a resolution the right means.

Both they and Palestinian officials indicated they had not been consulted in advance on the draft the United States put to the council on Thursday.

After council discussions on the issue, U.S. envoy Alejandro Wolff told reporters Washington’s “intensive consultations” had led it to conclude there was “some unease with that type of product” — a resolution.

“In respect to both parties (Israelis and Palestinians) in terms of what they thought would be most helpful, we reached the conclusion that it would be best simply to withdraw it,” he said, adding that the focus should be on Annapolis.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed at the meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, hosted by U.S. President George W. Bush, to try to reach by the end of 2008 a peace treaty creating a Palestinian state.

Israeli deputy U.N. representative Daniel Carmon told reporters Israel welcomed council support for Annapolis, but added, “We feel that the appreciation of the council has other means of being represented and reflected than resolutions.”

The brief draft resolution, made available to journalists, would have endorsed actions agreed at Annapolis and called on all states to support them as well as to aid the struggling Palestinian economy.

Although Israel apparently had no problems with the uncontroversial text, analysts suggested it was worried a formal resolution would get the United Nations too involved in Middle East peace efforts. Israel and the United States often complain of bias in the world body against the Jewish state.

ORAL STATEMENT

Asked in Washington about the resolution, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “You know, you take time to consider things, and you take a look at all the positive effects that have come out of Annapolis, and I’m not sure that we saw the need to add anything else to the conversation.”

Instead of the resolution, the current council president, Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, made an oral statement to journalists summarizing the feeling of the meeting — the lowest grade of council utterance.

“We as president of the council detect and identify an overwhelming sense of welcome to what has happened in Annapolis … (members) see the need to encourage the parties concerned to follow diligently the joint understanding that was reached,” he said.

Carmon said Israel understood from the United States that the Palestinians were also unhappy about the resolution.

However, Abbas told a news conference in Tunis on Friday that the U.S. draft was “among the signals about the U.S. seriousness” to help forge a Middle East deal, although he said he had no details of the draft.

Both Israeli and Palestinian officials indicated they had not seen the text before the United States circulated it to the other 14 members of the council, who do not include either Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman said on Thursday evening he would be glad to speak to his U.S. counterpart about the draft, “but at the moment I know very little about it.”

A Palestinian diplomat, who asked not to be identified, said on Friday his mission had still not seen the draft and therefore had no comment on it.

French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said in a statement, “We understand the reasons put forward by the United States (for withdrawing the draft), but we remain convinced that the support of the international community to the process initiated in Annapolis remains indispensable.”

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