UN Security Council urges Israeli-Palestinian settlement

The UN Security Council voted 14-0 Tuesday to support the Annapolis Middle East peace conference initiative and commit itself to the "irreversibility" of the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to end their conflict with a comprehensive settlement that includes a Palestinian state, dpa reported.

Libya, one of the council's 15 nations, abstained in the vote. The resolution was worked out by the United States and Russia, two of the quartet on diplomacy for the Middle East which has been working for years to find an end to the conflict.

The other parties in the quartet are the United Nations and the European Union.

The resolution declared the council's support for the initiative from the Middle East peace conference held in Annapolis, Maryland, in November, 2007, and "its commitment to the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations."

It supported the parties' "agreed principles for the bilateral negotiating process and their determined efforts to reach their goal of concluding a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues, without exception, which confirm the seriousness of the Annapolis process."

It urged an intensification of the diplomatic efforts to achieve a "comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

The meeting was attended also by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts Sergey Lavrov of Russia and David Miliband of Britain. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei and other council members also attended.

"A Palestinian state is long overdue," Rice said in an address to the council before the vote. She urged the two sides to take political and security steps to arrive at a full-fledged Palestinian state.

The foreign ministers attended the Quartet meeting on Monday to call on Israel and the Palestinians to move forward to a settlement of the conflict.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced regret that the two sides had not been able to reach a settlement by the end of December because of new hurdles. But he said a "serious process" was underway in negotiations between the two sides.

"We must ensure that what has been started is seen all the way through to its conclusion," Ban said.

On Monday, the Quartet issued a statement reaffirming its support for the "bilateral, comprehensive, direct, uninterrupted, confidential and ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations."

A peace roadmap adopted by the Quartet had called for achieving a Palestinian state by the end of 2008. While that target will not be met, the Quartet urged the two sides to move on and lock in progress made so far in talks.

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