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US Britain React Cautiously to Russia Mideast Proposal

Vitaly Churkin, Russian Ambassador to United Nations (File Photo)
Vitaly Churkin, Russian Ambassador to United Nations (File Photo)

The United States has reacted cautiously to a Russian proposal for a special United Nations Security Council mission to the Middle East. Russia called for the mission, which would be the first by the Security Council in three decades, amid political upheaval in Egypt and stalled peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Russian Envoy Vitaly Churkin proposed the visit saying he didn’t believe it was right that the 15-nation Security Council hadn’t visited the region since 1979. Churkin said such a visit could help restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians. In addition, Churkin said a Security Council visit could include Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

U.S. ambassador Susan Rice reacted cautiously on Wednesday to the proposal, saying questions such as timing and itinerary need to be resolved. "I can assure you that many council members, including us, were very clear that this is something we would have to consider very, very carefully, and consult with our capitals," she said.

British Envoy Mark Lyall Grant said the issue is under consideration. "In principle we are in favor of a visit to the Middle East but a number of issues have been raised and they need to be teased out before we can make a decision about whether it is sensible to go ahead and the timing," he said.

Russia is one of five permanent, veto-wielding Council members, along with the United States, Britain, China and France. It also belongs to the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, which includes the U.S., the U.N. and the European Union.

Churkin said he believed the Security Council’s visit would serve to deepen the Quartet’s efforts to restart peace talks in the region.