IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL, ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL HIGHLIGHTS IMPACT OF ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER ILLNESS, HAMAS VICTORY IN PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS

31 January 2006
SC/8624

IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL, ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL HIGHLIGHTS IMPACT OF ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER ILLNESS, HAMAS VICTORY IN PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS

31/01/2006
Security Council
SC/8624
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5361st Meeting (AM)

IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL, ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL HIGHLIGHTS IMPACT

OF ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER ILLNESS, HAMAS VICTORY IN PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS

Dramatic developments had taken place in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory over the past month, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s serious illness and the recent victory by Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Angela Kane, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said in a briefing to the Security Council this morning.

In Israel, she said, Prime Minister Sharon had suffered a significant stroke on 4 January and remained in an extremely serious but stable condition.  Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had immediately taken over as Acting Prime Minister and stated Israel’s commitment to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in accordance with the Road Map, while leaving open the possibility of further unilateral measures in the West Bank.

Regarding the Palestinian elections, held on 25 January throughout Gaza and the West Bank -- including East Jerusalem -- she said that according to official results announced by the Central Election Commission, the “Change and Reform” list of Hamas had won a majority of 74 seats and the Fatah list 45 seats, with the remaining 13 going to smaller parties and independents.  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had indicated that he would begin immediate consultations on the establishment of a new government, while Hamas leaders had expressed their wish for Change and Reform to work in government with other groups.

Last night in London, she said, the Secretary-General had met with his Quartet colleagues to discuss the political situation in the aftermath of the election, to address the urgent Palestinian fiscal crisis, and to consider the way forward.  The Quartet had heard briefings by James Wolfensohn, its Special Envoy, and Keith Drayton, United States Security Coordinator.  Former United States President Jimmy Carter had also shared his impressions after having headed the observer mission to the Palestinian elections.

The Quartet had welcomed President Abbas’ affirmation that the Palestinian Authority was committed to the Road Map, previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and a negotiated two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It had also urged measures to facilitate the work of the caretaker government to stabilize public finances, taking into consideration established fiscal accountability reform benchmarks.  In addition, the Quartet had concluded that it was inevitable that future assistance to any new government would be reviewed by donors against that government’s commitment to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map.

Barrier construction and land-levelling in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had continued in the reporting period, despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice, she said.  Earlier this month, the Israeli Defence Minister had ordered the resumption of work on three sections of the barrier in Jerusalem, which had earlier been frozen following an order of the Israeli High Court of Justice.  In addition, retroactive permits had been issued for the construction of the Modi’in Illit settlement neighbourhood of Matityahu East, which was being built on land belonging to the Palestinian village of Bil’in.  Yesterday, the Quartet had reiterated its view that that settlement expansion must stop, as well as its concerns about the route of the barrier.

Turning to Lebanon, she said four Katyusha rockets had been fired from Lebanese territory on 27 December, three of which had landed in the Galilee, causing heavy property damage to a Kiryat Shmona apartment building.  There had been 17 Israeli air violations of the Blue Line since the last briefing.

Meanwhile, she said, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora had continued his efforts to secure national unity and discussions were taking place between various Lebanese parties to resolve their differences.  Positive moves had also been made towards initiating a national dialogue.  On 19 January, Serge Brammertz, the new head of the United Nations International Independent Investigating Commission (UNIIIC), had arrived in Lebanon to take up his position.

She said that Nicolas Michel, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, had visited Beirut on 26 and 27 January with the aim of discussing with Lebanese authorities the nature and scope of the international assistance needed to establish a tribunal of an international character, in keeping with the Council mandate given to the Secretary-General under resolution 1644 (2005).  The meetings had been constructive and fruitful, and Mr. Michel believed there was a broad basis of support for a tribunal and the United Nations would continue to work closely with the Lebanese authorities on that matter.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 10:35 a.m.

Statement by Assistant Secretary-General

ANGELA KANE, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said there had been dramatic developments in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the past month, including the serious illness of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the recent victory of the “Change and Reform” list of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.

Recalling that Prime Minister Sharon had suffered a significant stroke on 4 January, she said he remained in an extremely serious but stable condition.  Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had immediately taken over as Acting Prime Minister and had stated Israel’s commitment to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in accordance with the Road Map, while leaving open the possibility of further unilateral measures in the West Bank.

Regarding Palestinian political developments, she said that on 25 January, legislative elections had been held throughout Gaza and the West Bank -- including in East Jerusalem -- after the Israeli Cabinet had agreed to allow 6,300 of the approximately 120,000 eligible voters to vote in six post offices, consistent with the precedent set by the Oslo Accords and the 1996 and 2005 elections.  Overall, 77 per cent of registered voters had cast their ballots.

In accordance with the official results announced by the Central Election Commission, she said, the Change and Reform list had won a majority of 74 seats, and the Fatah list 45 seats, with the remaining 13 going to smaller parties and independents.  President Abbas had indicated that he would immediately begin consultations with on the establishment of a new government.  Referring to the obligations and responsibilities that would fall on the new government, he had cited “Palestinian-Israeli agreements starting with the Oslo Accords and the Arab Summit resolutions and ending with the resolutions that had been agreed upon by the international community, in particular, the Road Map, as the sole framework that is being posed now for implementation”.  Hamas leaders had expressed their wish to explore a government in which Change and Reform worked with other groups representing the Palestinian people.

She said that last night the Secretary-General had met in London with his Quartet colleagues to discuss the political situation in the aftermath of the election, to address the urgent crisis of Palestinian finances, and to consider the way forward.  The Quartet had heard briefings by James Wolfensohn, its Special Envoy, and Keith Drayton, United States Security Coordinator.  Former President Carter had also shared his impressions after having headed the recent electoral observer mission.

The Quartet had welcomed the affirmation by President Abbas that the Palestinian Authority was committed to the Road Map, previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and a negotiated two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Mindful of the needs of the Palestinian people, the Quartet had expressed its concern over the fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority and urged measures to facilitate the work of the caretaker Government to stabilize public finances, taking into consideration established fiscal accountability reform benchmarks.  It had also concluded that it was inevitable that future assistance to any new government would be reviewed by donors against that government’s commitment to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map.

She said that, while the Palestinian Authority security forces had helped to maintain order during the recent elections, there were numerous and varied serious security incidents during the reporting period, many in or emanating from the Gaza Strip.  Those events underlined the need for the Palestinian Authority to ensure law and order and take action against terrorism, as reiterated by the Quartet last night.  The events included kidnappings, attacks on official buildings and installations, breaches of the border between Gaza and Egypt, Kassam rocket fire into southern Israel, and suicide bombings, for which Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.  Israel responded to terror attacks and the firing of rockets by tightening the closure regime, launching air strikes in the Gaza Strip, conducting lethal ground operations in the West Bank, and targeted killings.

Barrier construction and land-levelling in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued in the reporting period, despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice, she said.  Earlier this month, the Israeli Defence Minister ordered the work be resumed on three sections of the barrier in Jerusalem, which had earlier been frozen, following an order of the Israeli High Court of Justice.  In addition, retroactive permits had been issued for the construction of the Modi-in Illit settlement neighbourhood of Matityahu East, which was being built on land belonging to the Palestinian village of Bil’in.  At yesterday’s meeting, the Quartet reiterated its view that settlement expansion must stop, and its concerns about the route of the barrier.  It also took note of Acting Prime Minister Olmert’s recent statements that Israel would continue the process of removing unauthorized outposts.

She said that the resisting of eviction notices by eight settler families living in wholesalers’ market in Hebron had led the Israel Defence Forces to declare the Jewish Quarter of Hebron a closed military zone on 16 January.  That declaration was lifted three days later, after the settlers promised to maintain order.  The security forces announced that the evacuation of the wholesale market in Hebron and the Amona settlement outpost would be deferred until after the Palestinian election.

Regarding Lebanon, she said that, in view of the recent report and briefing to the Council on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), she would not go into details of the situation along the Blue Line.  Four Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanon, of which three landed into the Galilee on 27 December, causing heavy property damage to one Kiryat Shmona apartment building.  Israel had reacted with restraint.  There had been 17 Israeli air violations of the Blue Line since the last briefing.  Lebanon had not reacted to any of those violations.  In addition to UNIFIL’s efforts on the ground, the Special Coordinator and the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Lebanon had continued consultations, in order to explore ways to reduce tension along the Blue Line.

Prime Minister Siniora had continued to bolster his efforts to secure national unity, she said.  Discussions were taking place between various Lebanese parties to resolve the current differences among them.  Positive moves had also been made towards initiating a national dialogue, the necessity of which had been accepted by all.  On 19 January, the new Commissioner of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIC), Serge Brammertz, arrived in Lebanon to take up his new position.  In accordance with Security Council resolution 1644, Mr. Brammertz would extend the Commission’s technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities with regard to their investigation into the terrorist attacks that had taken place since 1 October 2004.

Noting that the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Nicolas Michel, had visited Beirut on 26 and 27 January, she said that the aim of the visit was to discuss with the Lebanese authorities the nature and scope of the international assistance needed for the establishment of a tribunal of an international character in keeping with the Council mandate to the Secretary-General in resolution 1644.  The meetings had been constructive and fruitful, and Mr. Michel believed that there was a broad basis of support for the tribunal’s establishment.  In the following days and weeks, the United Nations would continue to work closely with the Lebanese authorities on the matter.

As the Quartet said last night, “we must remain committed to the principles outlined in the Road Map, and to a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based upon Security Council resolutions 242 and 338”, she said, pledging that the United Nations, through the Quartet and in close consultation with key regional actors, would work tirelessly for that goal.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.