TOPICS: UN accused of undermining Palestinian state

When Ban Ki-moon was asked about the scathing remarks by his former Middle East envoy denouncing the partisan UN role in the ongoing peace talks, the UN secretary-general appeared more distressed with the public revelation of a confidential document than with the strong views articulated by his Under-Secretary-General Alvaro de Soto. On the eve of his retirement, and after 25 long years with the world body, the former Peruvian diplomat blasted the UN in a 52-page confidential report to the secretary-general, accusing the world body of undermining the goal of a Palestinian state.

“I would like to make it clear that this is his (de Soto’s) personal view,” the secretary-general said, seeking an escape hatch. Chris Toensing, editor of the Washington-based Middle East Report, was less

sympathetic towards Ban, who has cultivated the fine art of evading answers to politically-sensitive questions fired off by reporters. “Shame on the secretary-general for disavowing the opinions of this distinguished international diplomat, indicating that he, like his predecessor, will sacrifice the independence of the UN to curry favour with Washington,” he said.

An Arab diplomat told IPS that historically the UN was never seen as an even-handed mediator in the Middle East, primarily because of its inbuilt bias generated under by US pressure. “Judging by the comments of the secretary-general, he will continue to peddle the same line,” he added.

In a stinging rebuke to the UN, de Soto wrote: “The steps taken by the international community with the presumed purpose of bringing about a Palestinian entity that will live in peace with its neighbour, Israel, have had precisely the opposite effect.”

Pointing out that the one-state solution for Palestine-Israel is fast gaining ground, de Soto says that “the combination of (Palestinian Authority) institutional decline and Israeli settlement expansion is creating a growing conviction among Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, as well as some Jews on the far left in Israel, that the two-state solution’s best days are behind it.”According to the report, both Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan provided political cover to the US and the European Union (EU) in their efforts to marginalise Hamas despite its electoral victories in the occupied territories. Annan was accused of “hampering” de Soto’s efforts to maintain regular political contacts with Hamas.

De Soto has little or no faith in the Middle East Quartet — a group comprising the US, EU, the UN and Russia — which is said to provide a political ‘shield” for the US and the EU to bankrupt the Palestinian government. But at the same time, he criticised the Hamas leadership for continuing its advocacy of the destruction of Israel.

That is why, he said, the intra-Palestinian fighting is embedded in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Specifically, the Bush administration and Israel pushed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Fatah elements into conflict with Hamas, he said. — IPS