UN Secretary-General has toed US line in the Middle East


Alvaro de Soto was the UN Secretary-General’s Middle East envoy for two years until his retirement in May 2007.  A Peruvian with some 30 years experience working for the UN, his “End of Mission” report to the Secretary-General was leaked to The Guardian in June 2007 (see photocopy on The Guardian’s website at [1] and text on my website at [2]). 


The report is best known for its revelation (paragraph 56) that, at a meeting of Quartet envoys in early 2007, a US envoy rejoiced at the near civil war between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, in which civilians were being regularly killed and injured.  “I like this violence”, he exclaimed (twice).


But the report is far more significant than that, because it shines a bright light on the role of the UN Secretary-General in the Middle East and shows that the office has become a mere servant of the US in Middle East affairs.  This was true when the office was filled by Kofi Annan, as it was until December 2006, and no less true now that Ban Ki-moon has succeeded him.  This subservience to the US has continued after de Soto’s retirement with Ban Ki-moon giving his blessing in June 2007 to the overthrow of the democratically endorsed National Unity Government in Palestine and its replacement by an entity with no democratic validity whatsoever.


The UN Secretary-General’s subservience to the US is a product, at least in part, of the bizarre decision of Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2002 to associate his office with the US, the EU and Russia in what came to be known as the Middle East Quartet.  Not only that, the UN Secretary-General became in effect the Quartet’s spokesman.  Today, this self-appointed arbiter of right and wrong in Palestine is undeniably an instrument of US policy in Palestine.  Alvaro de Soto put it this way in his report:


“Whatever the Quartet was at the inception, let us be frank with ourselves: today, as a practical matter, the Quartet is pretty much a group of friends of the US – and the US doesn’t feel the need to consult closely with the Quartet except when it suits it.” (paragraph 63)


The Quartet is an instrument for providing a veneer of international legitimacy to US policy in Palestine, whenever this is possible.  But the US continues to pursue its own policy as well, the most important being the arming of Fatah against Hamas.


Multifaceted role

Alvaro de Soto had a multifaceted role in the Middle East on behalf of the UN Secretary-General.  Not only was he the UN envoy to the Quartet, he was also the UN Secretary-General’s Personal Representative both to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and to the Palestinian Authority (Palestinian Authority) and the UN Special Co-ordinator (UNSCO) for the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) [3].


In the latter capacity, as well as being, in theory at least, a political intermediary between Israel and its Arab neighbours, de Soto was responsible for co-ordinating the activity of the various UN agencies bringing humanitarian aid to Palestinians, aid made necessary by 60 years of Israeli ethnic cleansing and occupation.  These agencies include the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) [4], which has provided basic services to Palestinian refugees since 1950 – today it caters for 4.4 million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for the occupied Palestinian territory [5]; the UN Development Programme (UNDP); and UNICEF [6].


Banned from Syria

As regards the so-called Middle East Peace Process, Alvaro de Soto’s terms of reference involved interfacing with Israel and its Arab neighbours – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – and the Palestinians.  His area of operation was therefore supposed to be these five countries plus the occupied Palestinian territory.  However, in his two years in post, whereas he travelled often to Egypt and Jordan, states that had long ago signed peace treaties with Israel, the UN Secretary-General (both Kofi Annan and his successor, Ban Ki-moon) never allowed him to visit Syria, despite his many requests to do so, and allowed him to visit Lebanon only once.


Furthermore, after Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas became Prime Minister in early 2006, he wasn’t allowed to talk to the Palestinian Authority, except by telephone and then only with the specific permission of the UN Secretary-General.


Here is his account of this from paragraph 4 of his report:


“I travelled frequently to Egypt and Jordan, states which have both long since reached peace agreements with Israel. As soon as I was appointed I sought to visit all my interlocutors in their capitals, but I was told by USG/DPA [UN Under Secretary General, Department of Political Affairs] that I should consult before travelling to either Lebanon or Syria.


“I went to Lebanon, for the first and only time as Special Coordinator, late in 2005. I travelled there again as a member of the mission headed by Vijay Nambiar dispatched to the region by the Secretary-General in July 2006 during the war between Israel and Hezbollah.


“Notwithstanding my strenuous efforts, of which there is plenty of evidence in the DPA cables file, I was never authorized to go to Syria. None of my arguments in favour of going were ever refuted, nor was I given any precise reason for denial of the authorization requested.


“In the past two years I have therefore confined my work to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and my related duties as the Secretary-General’s Envoy to the Quartet, to the extent that it is possible to so compartmentalize developments in this region. My capacity to carry out these duties fittingly has been immeasurably hampered firstly by not going to Syria and later by not having contact – save exceptionally, and only by telephone, at the specific request of Secretary-General Annan – with the Palestinian Authority government, duly appointed by the President of the Palestinian Authority and confirmed by the democratically elected Palestinian Legislative Council. …


“At best I have been the ‘UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process’ in name only, and since the election of Hamas, I have been ‘The Secretary General’s Personal Representative to the Palestinian Authority’ for about ten or fifteen minutes in two phone calls and one handshake. But more on these handicaps later.”


It is hardly a coincidence that the UN Secretary-General chose to forbid de Soto from engaging with those Middle East players – Syria and Hamas – that the US regards as untouchable.


US behind decision?

Later in his report, de Soto returned to these matters:


“Let me be more precise and concrete: the Secretary-General’s so-called ‘Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process’ is prevented from even talking to the Palestinian Authority government leadership (to which he is the ‘Personal Representative of the Secretary-General’). Since the UN traditionally talks to every player to whom it needs to talk (examples abound), and there is no Quartet policy barring contacts by its members, since the Secretary-General has a personal representative accredited to the Palestinian Authority, and since only one member of the Quartet [the US] actively discourages contact with it, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority government might justifiably wonder whether that member isn’t behind the decision of the Secretary-General to ostracize that government.” (paragraph 111)


Earlier, he wrote:


“Contrast what we do in Lebanon – talking to Hezbollah, which is not the elected government (as Hamas was) or the majority party (as Hamas still is), and which started an international war last summer (unlike Hamas, whose restraint over the last two years is undeniable). If we really tied our diplomatic boycotts to behaviour, we’d talk to Hamas and boycott Hezbollah. But we talk to Hezbollah, and rightly so, because they are important and no solution to Lebanon’s problems is achievable without their buy-in. It should be the same in Palestine with Hamas.


“As best I can fathom, at almost every policy juncture, a premium is put on good relations with the US and improving the UN’s relationship with Israel.” (paragraphs 96-97)


Of the UN’s boycott of Syria, he wrote:


“Similarly, there is no Security Council resolution prohibiting contact with the Government of Syria. Syria’s territory remains occupied in contravention of international law and Security Council resolutions, and the Security Council advocates a comprehensive settlement to the Middle East conflict – that between Israel and its neighbours – thus making an end to the occupation of Syrian territory part and parcel of such a comprehensive settlement. Given all these circumstances, the Syrian government, in light of the truncation of the exercise of the terms of reference of the UN ‘Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process’, might be forgiven for wondering whether the Secretary-General’s policy is inspired not by international law, including Security Council resolutions, but by the bidding of one or two permanent members of the Council.” (paragraph 112)


Quite so.


As this is written, Ban Ki-moon’s Special Advisor, Ibrahim Gambari, is in Myanmar (aka Burma) to talk to its military leaders, with the laudable aim of preventing the killing of civilians.  This mission has been universally welcomed.  Nobody, not even the US/UK, has objected on the grounds that the UN Secretary-General should not talk to the regime because it isn’t democratically elected or because its security forces have killed an unknown number of its citizens in recent days.


Nobody has objected, because Ibrahim Gambari is performing the traditional UN role of talking to “every player to whom it needs to talk” in attempting to resolve a political problem, including players that are beyond the pale for UN member states.


But in the Middle East, the UN Secretary-General has refused to allow his special representative to talk to every player – because Syria and Hamas are beyond the pale for the US.


Charter breached

The UN Secretary-General and the UN Secretariat as a whole is supposed to act independently of UN member states.  This is laid down in Article 100 of the UN Charter, the first paragraph of which states:


“In the performance of their duties the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization. They shall refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization.”


De Soto’s report provides ample proof that the UN Secretary-General has breached Article 100 of the Charter in the performance of his duties in the Middle East in recent years.


UN staff endangered?

Citing the example of Iraq, Alvaro de Soto goes on to suggest that the security of UN staff might be endangered by the UN’s lack of impartiality in Palestine:


“I have one further point of a starkly practical nature, which I raise at the risk of sounding like an alarmist. Like anyone from the UN who works in the Middle East – or perhaps anywhere – the Baghdad attack against the UN of August 2003 haunts me. The UN deployed there in circumstances under which the UN does not normally operate. Does anyone doubt that that attack took place because the UN was seen to be under the aegis of those who are seen by the perpetrators as the occupiers? Am I mistaken in believing that the UN was attacked as a proxy for the real target under whose auspices the UN was there?


“My point is not that we should withdraw our assistance on the ground to the Palestinians in the oPt [occupied Palestinian territory] on security grounds – I will let the security experts opine and rule on that. My point is that our association in the public eye with policies that have harsh consequences for the Palestinian people – traced, rightly or not, to the Quartet – might well place our personnel in jeopardy over time.” (paragraph 114)


He notes that


“long before current Quartet policies were put in place personnel from the agencies and programmes operating in the oPt [UNRWA, OCHA, UNDP etc] harboured the gravest of doubts about Quartet positions and our involvement in them.” (paragraph 114)


It must be galling for UN personnel engaged in providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians to see another arm of the UN being a party to action by the Quartet which makes Palestinian lives even more miserable.


De Soto also complains that, without his knowledge, UN resources – from the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) – had been drawn upon


“by the US Security Coordinator [General Keith Dayton] to provide technical assistance for his projects, which are seen locally as supporting one side (Fatah and its affiliates) against the other (Hamas)” (paragraph 114).


In words, the UN has been giving assistance to the US in the arming of Fatah against Hamas, thereby putting a further question mark against the UN’s impartiality.


Security Council resolutions ignored

The 2002 decision by Kofi Annan to associate his office with the US, the EU and Russia in the Quartet was bizarre.  If the Quartet had been an instrument for implementing policy on Palestine laid down in UN Security Council resolutions, there might be some justification for the UN Secretary-General joining it, since seeking to have Security Council resolutions implemented is part of his job description.


But, from the outset, the Quartet simply ignored all the UN resolutions that require Israel to take action.  And it now makes the policy for the “international community” on Palestine.  In doing so, it has usurped the role of the UN Security Council.  But instead of complaining about this usurpation, the UN Secretary-General continues to participate in the Quartet and, by so doing, has provided a cloak of international legitimacy to the policy produced by the usurpers.


Israeli obligations

Israel is in breach of some 30 Security Council resolutions (see list compiled by Stephen Zunes [7]).  The most important of these are:


Resolution 252 [8] (passed on 21 May 1968) on the annexation of East Jerusalem, which says:

2. [The Security Council] Considers that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status;

3. [The Security Council]  Urgently calls upon Israel to rescind all such measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any further action which tends to change the status of Jerusalem;


Resolution 446 [9] (22 March 1979) on the establishment of Jewish settlements, which says:

[The Security Council] Calls once more upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to rescind its previous measures and to desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and, in particular, not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories;


 Resolution 497 [10] (17 December 1981) on the annexation of the Golan Heights, which says:

1. [The Security Council] Decides that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect;

2. [The Security Council] Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision;


These resolutions place obligations on Israel, and Israel alone, and it is obviously within Israel’s power of Israel to carry them out.  None of them require negotiation with other states.


These resolutions are in line with generally accepted principles of how states should behave in the modern world.  The forcible capture and annexation of the territory of neighbouring states, as Israel did with regard to East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is contrary to Articles 2.3 and 2.4 of the UN Charter and for the Security Council to demand that Israel reverse the annexation is entirely reasonable.  Likewise, the colonisation of the territories it occupied with Jewish settlers is contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention (on the Protection of Civilians Persons in Time of War), Article 49.6 of which states:


“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” [11]


These resolutions express the will of “the international community” with regard to Palestine.  They were passed by overwhelmingly by the Security Council, 252 by 13-0 (the US and Canada abstaining), 446 by 12-0 (the US, UK and Norway abstaining) and 497 by 15-0.  Yes, the US voted for the unannexation of the Golan Heights in 1981.


The Quartet has been entirely silent about the necessity for Israel to fulfil these internationally agreed obligations, and so has the UN Secretary-General and his representatives, obligations which implemented would change the nature of the Palestinian problem dramatically.


Palestinian obligations

Instead, the Quartet has made up obligations that Palestinians must fulfil, obligations that are not based on Security Council resolutions and, disgracefully, the UN Secretary-General put the weight of his office behind them as part of the Quartet, while remaining silent about Israel’s obligations under Security Council resolutions.  These so-called Quartet “principles” were articulated in a Quartet statement on the 30 January 2006, five days after Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections:


“It is the view of the Quartet that all members of a future Palestinian government must be committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations.” [12]


These “principles” were designed to undo the outcome of the elections and to isolate any Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government formed as a result of it.  The prime mover in this was the US, but the UN Secretary-General (and the EU and Russia) supported them as members of the Quartet.


UN supports regime change

This has ended up with the extraordinary spectacle of the UN Secretary-General refusing to deal with either of the Palestinian Authority governments that were the legitimate product of the Hamas victory – and the even more extraordinary spectacle of the UN Secretary-General supporting the overthrow in June 2007 of the second of these governments – the Hamas/Fatah National Unity Government.


In its stead, the UN Secretary-General now recognises the entity, led by Salam Fayyad, as the legitimate government of Palestine even though it has never been endorsed by the Palestinian Legislative Council, as required by Article 79(4) of the Palestinian constitution (the Basic Law), which states:


“The Prime Minister and any of the Ministers shall not assume the duties of their positions until they obtain the confidence of the Palestinian Legislative Council.” [13]


The UN Secretary-General had no authority whatsoever from the Security Council for supporting the boycott of the two Hamas-led governments, nor for supporting the overthrow of the last one, nor for the recognition of the Fayyad-led entity as a legitimate government, when it plainly isn’t.


Since the Hamas victory in January 2006, Palestinians have been collectively punished by the US and the EU, through the withdrawal of aid to the Palestinian Authority, and by Israel, through its theft of Palestinian Authority revenue (collected by Israel under the Paris Economic Protocols to the Oslo Agreement).  Although the Secretary-General hadn’t a direct responsibility for this unprecedented application of economic sanctions to an occupied people, his office has joined with the other members of the Quartet in declaring the Hamas-led governments to be untouchable because they failed to live up to conditions defined by the Quartet – and this was the excuse for the US and the EU withdrawing their aid (and for Israel stealing Palestinian revenue).


On recognising Israel

The obligations that the Security Council imposed on Israel in resolutions 252, 446 and 497 – unannexing of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and the removal of the Jewish colonies from the territories it occupied in 1967 – are, as we have seen, in line with generally accepted international rules.  The obligations that the Quartet has sought to impose on Palestinian governments are not.


On the question of “recognising” Israel, which Israel is a Palestinian government supposed to recognise?  The history of Israel is one of territorial expansion and the expulsion of Arabs in order to maintain an effective Jewish majority within the expanded state.  The 55% of mandate Palestine awarded to Israel by resolution 181 of the UN General Assembly in November 1947 (in which nearly 50% of the population was Arab) was expanded to 78% of Palestine by Israeli military action in 1947/8 and over 750,000 Arabs were driven out, in order to make the Arab minority manageable.


In 1967, the rest of Palestine was taken over, plus a large bit of Egypt (the Sinai) and a small bit of Syria (the Golan Heights). The Sinai wasn’t abandoned until the Camp David Accords over a decade later.  The Golan Heights and East Jerusalem were annexed, and are still annexed.


Are Palestinians supposed to recognise the 55% entity?  Or is it the 78% entity?  Or it is a future entity of as yet undetermined size, but certainly greater than 78%, in which the large settlement blocks on the West Bank are included, with Palestinians having to be content with perhaps 10% of historic Palestine, Israel having made the painful concession of giving up 10% of the land it currently holds?


On being committed to non-violence

As for being committed to non-violence, there is a generally recognised right of resistance to occupation, by whatever means, including by armed force.  Or is the armed resistance to German occupation in Europe during World War II to be deplored today?  If not, should not the Quartet be supporting the Palestinian right of resistance to occupation, by force, if they so choose?


Another point: the conflict in Palestine is between a militarily powerful Israeli occupier, armed with modern weaponry, and a militarily weak occupied Palestinian people (though it’s difficult to deduce this from British media coverage).  In 2006, the Israeli occupier killed nearly 700 Palestinians, whereas Palestinians killed 23 Israeli soldiers and civilians [14]. But you will search in vain in this or any other Quartet statements for any suggestion that the occupier should be “committed to non-violence”, or even that it should exercise a measure of restraint in the exercise of its massive armed force.


On accepting past agreements

As for accepting past agreements, why should anybody stick to past agreements when the entity with which the agreements were made has failed to stick to them?  The Oslo Agreement [15] signed in October 1993 aimed


“to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority … for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).” (Article 1)


14 years later, the Palestinian Authority has not been established in the Occupied Territories as prescribed in the Agreement, with Israeli forces withdrawn, let alone a permanent settlement negotiated.  Israel resisted the implementation of the Agreement at every turn before Ariel Sharon came to power in January 2001, and Sharon ignored it.  So why should Palestinians be required to stick to it?


The Oslo Agreement accepted the principle that the occupier had a right to negotiate with the occupied about ending its occupation, instead of being forced to withdraw forthwith. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the West told it to leave and, when it didn’t, a half a million troops were assembled within a few months to make it leave.  When Israel invaded the West Bank and Gaza, the West did next to nothing for 25 years and then a process was established which allowed Israel to negotiate about how much of the territory it had occupied for over 25 years it had to leave, and when – and no force was assembled to make it negotiate about leaving, let alone leave.  It’s like allowing a thief to negotiate about how much of the goods he has stolen he has to give back, and when he refuses to return any, saying that’s OK: you don’t need to.


Speaking of theft, Israel is in breach of the Paris Economic Protocols – and is adding to the misery of Palestinians – by refusing to transfer to the Palestinian Authority revenue it has collected on its behalf under the Protocols.  Does the Quartet demand that Israel stick to this agreement it signed in 1994, and threaten to boycott it if it doesn’t?  Of course not.  Sticking to agreements previously made is a requirement demanded of Palestinians only – Israel can breach them at will.


PLC elections

Alvaro de Soto’s account of the events surrounding the January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections and the Quartet’s response is very informative (see paragraphs 30 to 59).  These were the first Council elections for nine years, and the first in which Hamas decided to participate (under the banner of Change and Reform).  The background to this decision was the Cairo Agreement in March 2005 between Mahmoud Abbas (who had just been elected President of the Palestinian Authority) and other Palestinian factions, mostly Hamas.  To quote de Soto:


“The three parts [of the Cairo Agreement] were (a) a ‘hudna’ or ‘tandiyah’ – a lull, or informal ceasefire – on attacks against Israel, (b) legislative elections, the first since 1996, in which Hamas would participate, and (c) reform of the outdated PLO structures (in which Hamas does not participate). The electoral component of the deal included an agreement on a mixed electoral system, 50% national list, 50% district representation. By entering into such a deal, Abu Mazen clearly opted for the approach of co-opting Hamas rather than attempting to control or suppress it.”  (paragraph 30)


In February 2005, Hamas had announced a hudna, which was maintained up to and beyond the elections a year later.  The Palestinian Legislative Council elections were originally scheduled for July 2005, but were unilaterally postponed by Abbas until January 2006.  (The reform of the Fatah-dominated PLO has never been carried out).


Hamas participation

Despite Israel’s opposition to the participation of Hamas in the elections (and threats to prevent them taking place if Hamas was a participant), the Quartet seemed fairly laid back about it initially, perhaps because they didn’t expect Hamas to do well, let alone win.  A Quartet meeting of 20 September 2005 agreed a statement saying:


“The Quartet … welcomes the announcement of Palestinian Legislative Council elections and upcoming municipal elections.”  [16]


And, at the post-meeting press conference, Condoleezza Rice for the US said:


“… we understand that the Palestinian political system is in transition, that it is in transition towards a democratic system, and that that has to be a Palestinian process.  We would hope that the elections can go forward and that everyone will cooperate to make those elections go forward, because elections are fundamental to the continued evolution and development of the Palestinian process.” [17]


This seemed like positive encouragement for Hamas to take part in the elections – and an order to Israel not to obstruct the electoral process.  True, she continued:


“That said, again, we have noted that, ultimately, it is the case that there is a fundamental contradiction between armed activities and the political process.”


But, since Hamas was on ceasefire, this didn’t seem to be a major qualification.


However, a Quartet statement on 28 December 2005, a month before the elections, was of a different stamp.  In it, the Quartet expressed its view that


“a future Palestinian Authority Cabinet should include no member who has not committed to the principles of Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism.” [18]


This must have been a misguided attempt to shore up Fatah by threatening to boycott any government with Hamas ministers.  If it was, it didn’t work: a month later, Hamas won 76 seats to Fatah’s 45, and the Quartet principles emerged in full bloom in a statement on 30 January 2006:


“It is the view of the Quartet that all members of a future Palestinian government must be committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations.” [12]


And, ominously, the statement also contained the following:


“… the Quartet concluded that it was inevitable that future assistance to any new government would be reviewed by donors against that government’s commitment.”


which was the trigger for the collective punishment of Palestinians because Hamas had won the election.


US threatens

The UN Secretary-General went along with all this.  In fact, if the US had got its way, the UN would have had to commit to reviewing its own assistance programmes as well.  As Alvaro de Soto explains (paragraph 47), a draft statement submitted by the US said that the Quartet had decided “to review all assistance to the new PA government unless its members adhered to three principles”.  And at the envoys’ meeting that preceded the Quartet meeting of 30 January 2006, de Soto says that he “was subjected to a heavy barrage” from the US envoys


“including ominous innuendo to the effect that if the Secretary-General didn’t encourage a review of projects of UN agencies and programmes it could have repercussions when UN budget deliberations took place on Capitol Hill” (paragraph 49)


(One of the US envoys was prominent neo-conservative Elliott Abrams, who was convicted in 1991 of lying to the US Congress over the Iran-Contra affair, but was later pardoned by Bush senior.  After Bush junior was elected in 2001, he got a post on the National Security Council in the White House under Condoleezza Rice, and he is now Deputy National Security Advisor responsible for the Middle East.


It is generally thought that he has been the driving force behind the US policy for undoing the Hamas victory by boycotting the Hamas-led governments, collective punishment of Palestinians and arming Fatah.  See, for example, Elliott Abrams’ uncivil war by Mark Perry and Alistair Crooke in the Asia Times, 9 January 2007 [19].


It has been a longstanding practice of the US to threaten the UN with non-payment of its dues if the UN refuses to toe the US line.)


Eventually, the US stepped back from insisting on a Quartet decision that all assistance (including UN assistance) to the Palestinian Authority government be reviewed, and the formula quoted above was agreed that “the Quartet concluded that it was inevitable that future assistance to any new government would be reviewed by donors” (paragraph 49).


De Soto unhappy

In his report, de Soto expresses his unhappiness with the outcome:


“… I pleaded with the Envoys for an approach that would be more compatible with the UN playing the role which comes naturally to us [that is, being free to talk to all parties] … . I was weakened by the willingness expressed by both my EU and Russian colleague, at the outset, to accept the language proposed by the US. I found myself arguing alone for formulations that would be more consistent with the Quartet’s support for Abu Mazen’s strategy of cooptation, firstly, and, secondly, more conducive to conveying to Hamas the message that the international community recognizes and welcomes the movement that they have made by participating in the elections and respecting the electoral rules of the game and by and large respecting the ‘Hudna’, and that we earnestly hope that such movement will continue so that the international community can maintain the support it has always provided to the Palestinians. Predictably, I was unsuccessful in these endeavours; hence the undesirably punitive-sounding tone of the 30 January statement from which we have not succeeded in distancing ourselves to this day, and which effectively transformed the Quartet from a negotiation-promoting foursome guided by a common document (the Road Map) into a body that was all-but imposing sanctions on a freely elected government of a people under occupation as well as setting unattainable preconditions for dialogue.” (paragraph 50)


It’s a pity he didn’t resign at that point and make his reservations public.


The UN Secretary-General should never have yoked his office to the other members of the Quartet in the first place.  Despite his experiences, Alvaro de Soto couldn’t bring himself to say this in his report – and to recommend that it unyoke itself.  The closest he comes to doing so is in paragraph 69, where he admits that UN Secretary-General’s role as Quartet spokesman provides “the appearance of an imprimatur on behalf of the international community for the Quartet’s positions”.  He continues:


“This in itself is awkward since the Secretary-General participates in the Quartet not by delegation or mandate from any UN body, leave alone the Security Council, but in his semi-stand-alone capacity. There are large segments of the international community not represented in the self-appointed Quartet, including the Arab shareholders. Nevertheless, I could live with the arrangements until the point came when the Quartet started taking positions which are not likely to gather a majority in UN bodies, and which in any case are at odds with UN Security Council resolutions and/or international law or, when they aren’t expressly so, fall short of the minimum of even-handedness that must be the lifeblood of the diplomatic action of the Secretary-General.”


Unfortunately, he lived with the arrangements until May 2007.




David Morrison

Labour & Trade Union Review

1 October  2007



[1]  image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2007/06/12/DeSotoReport.pdf

[2]  www.david-morrison.org.uk/other-documents/DeSotoReport-2007may.htm

[3]  www.un.org/unsco/

[4]  www.un.org/unrwa/

[5]  www.ochaopt.org/

[6]  www.unicef.org/oPt/

[7]  www.fpif.org/commentary/2002/0210unres.html

[8]  www.david-morrison.org.uk/scrs/1968-0252.htm

[9]  www.david-morrison.org.uk/scrs/1979-0446.htm

[10]  www.david-morrison.org.uk/scrs/1981-0497.htm

[11]  www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/0/6756482d86146898c125641e004aa3c5

[12]  www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2006/60068.htm

[13]  www.usaid.gov/wbg/misc/Amended_Basic_Law.pdf

[14]  news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6215769.stm

[15]  www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/isrplo.htm

[16]  www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/53569.htm

[17]  http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/53612.htm

[18]  www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2005/58532.htm

[19]  www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IA09Ak03.html