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I should be grateful if this letter and the attached assessment could be circulated as a document of the Security Council.
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
On 30 January, during the informal consultations, members of the Security Council heard a briefing on the situation in the Middle East by Terje Roed-Larsen, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. This was the first such briefing following the Council’s decision at the beginning of the month to hold regular briefings on the situation in the Middle East.
The Special Coordinator stated that the situation on the ground was extremely dangerous and identified three basic problems, namely, occupation, violence and economic distress, as the major causes for the deterioration in the situation. Since the beginning of the current crisis in September 2000, up to 25 January 2002, 904 Palestinians had been killed and over 17,000 Palestinians injured; during the same period, 259 Israelis had been killed and over 2,400 injured.
He also stated that many of the deaths resulted from the failure of both parties to live up to their obligations under international law to protect the basic rights of civilians, including the right to security.
In a statement to the press on behalf of Council members on 30 January, the President of the Council expressed concern at the unprecedented levels of violence and deplored the loss of lives and suffering of the civilian population on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. He further stressed that there could be no military solution; that violence would only create more violence and that the only way forward was a return to dialogue and negotiation. He expressed support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and those of the Special Coordinator to assist the parties to move forward in the peace process. He also encouraged sustained engagement by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, the Russian Federation, Norway, China and other countries involved in the peace process.
On 21 January, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, briefed the Security Council at a private meeting with the troop-contributing countries on the situation in south Lebanon, on the basis of the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) (S/2002/55). The Assistant Secretary-General stated inter alia that the situation continued to be generally stable throughout most of the UNIFIL area of operation with the exception of ongoing tensions in the Shab’a farms area. He also mentioned that the Israeli air violations of the Blue Line continued on an almost daily basis. He also supported the phased configuration of UNIFIL to a strength of 2,000 all ranks.
At the informal consultations held on 28 January, Council members heard a briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, who introduced the report of the Secretary-General (S/2002/55). Members of the Council welcomed the generally stable situation throughout the UNIFIL area of operation, called upon all parties to stop the violations of the Blue Line and deplored the ongoing tensions in the Shab’a farms area. Members of the Council encouraged the Government of Lebanon to continue to take steps with a view to re-establishing its authority within its internationally recognized boundaries. Council members took note of the communication to the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL of maps and information on the location of mines, and expressed support for ongoing demining operations. Council members also endorsed the recommendations of the Secretary-General for phased reconfiguration of UNIFIL as outlined in his report and for an extension of the mandate of UNIFIL for a further period of six months, until 31 July 2002.
At its 4458th meeting, on 28 January, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1391 (2002) inter alia extending the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 July 2002.