Global Policy Forum

Expert Urges UN to Withdraw from Mideast Quartet

Associated Press
October 15, 2007

The United Nations should withdraw from its role as a key mediator in the Mideast conflict unless the human rights of Palestinians become a central part of the negotiations, an independent expert said Monday.

John Dugard, the U.N. Human Rights Council's investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said the global body must press for humanitarian law and "considerations of fairness" to guide the work of the Mideast Quartet — a group which also includes the United States, European Union and Russia. Furthermore the U.N. should enforce a 2004 world court ruling against Israel's security barrier in the West Bank, and help restore unity between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, he said. "If this cannot be done, the United Nations should withdraw from the Quartet," Dugard said in a report to be delivered to the U.N. General Assembly next week. An advance copy of the report was sent to The Associated Press.

In Jerusalem, U.N. spokesman Richard Miron said Dugard "speaks for himself, not the secretary-general," and noted that Dugard has made similar statements in the past. In March Dugard compared the Jewish state's treatment of Palestinians to apartheid, prompting an angry reaction from Israel, which described the South African lawyer's statements as "inflammatory." Miron said Dugard has a limited mandate and has "no influence" over the U.N.'s membership in the Quartet. In any case, he said withdrawing from the Quartet is not under consideration. "This is just not on the radar," he said.

In his report, Dugard accused the Quartet — "which is in practice led by the United States" — of ignoring Israeli abuses in the West Bank and Gaza. Thousands of Palestinian prisoners are treated "in an inhuman and degrading manner" by Israel, which continues its practice of carrying out extrajudicial killings of militants, he said. Dugard said the Quartet was also "indirectly responsible for imposing economic sanctions" on the Palestinian territories.

Israel's blockade of Gaza, where Hamas violently seized power in June, has put a severe strain on its fragile economy and prompted the U.N. to warn of a humanitarian crisis in the narrow coastal strip. "It is difficult to imagine how Palestinians could survive without the assistance of bodies" such as the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, Dugard said, before adding: "Unfortunately the story at the high political level in New York is very different."

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