Wednesday, September 23, 2009

64TH UN General Assembly: No Peace Deal, Settlement on (illegal) Settlements

(WASHINGTON, DC) September 23, 2009 –President Barack Obama‘s speech at the 64th UN General Assembly meeting displayed evidence that a lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians has made no new ground. If anything, the speech indicated the President’s plans to restart negotiations and retract his demand for Israel to end construction of illegal colonies.

"The time has come to re-launch negotiations - without preconditions - that address the permanent-status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians; borders, refugees and Jerusalem," Obama said in his first address to the world body since assuming office in January.

For weeks rumors swirled with claims that Obama would unveil the plan for a US brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace deal this week. But, with Obama’s promise to re-launch peace talks all signs indicate that those plans have stalled.

The President claimed that talks should resume without preconditions, leaving many to wonder if the US imposed precondition of ending illegal Israeli settlement expansions are included.

"We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," Obama told world leaders at the UN.

The Presidents call for a cease in settlement expansion was countered with Israel’s approval of new Israeli colonies in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian leadership has mirrored the President's call for an end to settlement expansion as a precondition for their participation in US-led peace talks..

"I will not waver in my pursuit of peace," Obama told the UN General Assembly in New York. "I am not naïve. I know this will be difficult. But all of us must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we only lend it lip-service."

Try hard not to diverge into the “lipstick on a pig” metaphor. But, if the United States were to sell the Palestinians a seat at the negotiation table after backing down from Israeli resistance to cease settlement expansion, a small degree of cosmetic enhancement would be needed for the United States’ position as a "truly" honest broker.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

World Powers to Hold Discussion with Iran

CNI Staff Writer

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili have agreed to open talks between the six world powers and Iran on October 1. The meeting will bring together representatives of the UK, China, Russia, France, the US, and Germany with top officials from Tehran in a location yet to be decided.

The news came less than a week after Iran submitted a new package of proposals to representatives of the UK, China, France, Russia, the US, and Germany. While the proposal outlined several political, economic, and security-related issues, it did not specifically mention Iran’s uranium enrichment program. A spokesman for the US State Department stressed that the blueprint for the talks does “not address our nuclear concerns,” but said that the US was ready to “test Iran’s willingness to engage.”

Also on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that now is the time for more “effective” actions against Iran including “harsh sanctions.” While these comments did appear to indicate that Israel has not given up on international diplomacy regarding Iran’s nuclear program, wide speculation remains that Israel could carry out airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Iran has insisted that its enrichment program is solely for civilian energy production and not for weapons development and declared the issue closed. Over the weekend, however, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, “[S]hould conditions be ripe, there is a possibility of talks about the nuclear issue.” The presence of Jalili at the talks also bolsters the potential for discussion on that topic.

In a report released last month, the IAEA noted encouraging signs in Iran’s nuclear program. Representatives of the UN nuclear watchdog have gained greater access to some officials and facilities, though more transparency is needed. The same report also called on Tehran to provide evidence to counter “credible” allegations and intelligence that Iran has explored non-peaceful uses for its nuclear program.

When the report was release, Israel accused the IAEA and its director-general Mohamed ElBaradei of covering up incriminating evidence of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. ElBaradei hit back, saying the “threat has been hyped” and declaring that the facts do not support the idea that Iran is close to developing an atomic weapon. A 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate also concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Israel remains the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, though that capability remains undeclared and Israel has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.