The Council held 21 meetings on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine question, and adopted five resolutions. In March, the Council adopted, by a vote of 14 in favour with the United States abstaining, resolution 1397, affirming a vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, would live side by side within secure and recognized borders. In a presidential statement issued in April, the Council expressed support for the same vision reflected in the Joint Statement of the "Quartet" (European Union, Russian Federation, United States, United Nations).
Following are summaries of Council activity in 2002.
Escalating violence, the humanitarian situation in the West Bank and the Gaza strip, and the emergence of a "road map" towards two independent States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and internationally recognized borders, dominated the 21 meetings on the situation in the Middle East. The Council adopted five resolutions and issued two presidential statements.
Addressing the Council on 21 February, the Secretary-General said the lack of confidence between the Israeli and Palestinian side made a third-party role essential. During a two-day meeting on 26 and 27 February, the representative of the United States reiterated his country's vision of a viable Palestinian State, living side by side the State of Israel in peace and security. Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of Spain called on the Palestinian Authority to do everything possible to put an end to terrorism, and on the Israeli Government to withdraw its military forces, lift closures and freeze settlement activity.
On 12 March, the Council adopted, in a vote of 14 in favour with 1 abstention (United States), resolution 1397 (2002), in which it affirmed a vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, lived side by side within secure and recognized borders. The Council also stressed the need for all concerned to ensure the safety of civilians and the need to respect the universally accepted norms of international humanitarian law. It also welcomed efforts of the Quartet (Russian Federation, United States, European Union, United Nations), to bring about a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.
Resolution 1402 (2002) was adopted on 29 March, by a vote of 14 in favour, with Syria not participating. The Council, gravely concerned at recent suicide bombings in Israel and the military attack against the headquarters of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, called on both sides to move immediately to a meaningful ceasefire.
In a meeting on 3 April, 58 speakers addressed the Council, many of them stressing the need to implement the Council's call for a ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah. On 4 April, in resolution 1403 (2002), the Council unanimously called for such withdrawal, as well as for both parties to move to a meaningful ceasefire. In a two-session meeting on 8 and 9 April, speaker after speaker called on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian areas. Israel's representative, however, said that withdrawal, if not preceded by a meaningful Palestinian ceasefire, must, at the very least, be accompanied by a reciprocal step from that side.
On 10 April, the Council issued a presidential statement, expressing support for the Joint Statement issued by Quartet members supporting the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders and calling on the parties to move towards a political solution based on resolutions 242 (1968) and 338 (1973), as well as the principle of land for peace.
Reacting to a call made by the Secretary-General during a closed Council meeting for the deployment of a multinational force to the region, 29 non-Council members addressed the Council on 18 and 19 April. Other topics addressed during that meeting were non-implementation of recent resolutions, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, and the need for an independent investigation into an alleged massacre there. Israel's representative, however, said that his country could not put its faith in a "robust international presence, which could not be effective in the face of a continuing strategy of Palestinian terrorism".
On 19 April, the Council adopted unanimously resolution 1405 (2002), calling for further lifting of restrictions imposed, particularly in the Jenin refugee camp, on the operations of humanitarian organizations and welcoming the initiative of the Secretary-General to develop accurate information regarding recent events in Jenin through a fact-finding team. On 3 May, speakers in an open meeting expressed regret at Israel's refusal to cooperating with such a fact-finding team and warned that such failure would jeopardize the Council's authority and undermine its credibility.
On 13 June, the Council met to discuss Israel's reoccupation of Ramallah and imposition of a military curfew on Yasser Arafat's headquarters. The Permanent Observer for Palestine called on the Council to: condemn the Israeli practices and reject destruction of the outcome of the Oslo accords; work to implement relevant Council resolutions; and push towards a comprehensive rapprochement. Israel's representative said that scrutiny of Israel continued, while Israeli forces had discovered clear proof of the Palestinian Authority's support of terrorist activity.
The Quartet's road map, for which support was expressed in a presidential statement of 18 July, was the subject of a briefing by Terje Roed-Larsen, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, on 20 September. He reported that members of the Quartet had agreed on a three-phase plan of action for achieving a two-State solution within three years, progress being monitored by a third-party mechanism to be established by the Quartet.
In a vote of 14 in favour with the United States abstaining, the Council adopted resolution 1435 (2002) on 23 September by which it demanded that Israel immediately cease measures in and around Ramallah, including the destruction of Palestinian civilian and security infrastructure, as well as withdrawal of Israeli forces towards positions held prior to September 2000. The Council called on the Palestinian Authority to meet its expressed commitment to bring to justice those responsible for terrorist acts.
On 20 December, the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution, proposed by Syria, to condemn the killing by Israeli forces of several United Nations employees, as well as the "deliberate destruction" by those forces of a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in the occupied Palestinian territory at the end of November. The draft failed due to the negative vote of the United States. Bulgaria and Cameroon abstained, while 12 Council members voted in favour.
The Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) twice for six months, most recently by resolution 1428 (2002), unanimously adopted on 30 July. During briefings on the situation in the Middle East, the Council was also informed about the problems the Lebanese Wazzani springs water project caused between the two countries. Terje Roed-Larsen warned on 16 December that unless a useful mechanism was established soon to handle future developments through diplomatic channels, there might be a dangerous escalation of tensions between the two countries, with possible regional consequences.
The mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was also extended twice through unanimously adopted resolutions, accompanied by a presidential statement in which the Council identified itself with the Secretary-General's view that "... the situation in the Middle East is very tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached". It did so most recently on 17 December, extending UNDOF's mandate until 30 June 2003. The UNDOF has supervised ceasefire and disengagement between Israel and Syria since 1974.