Russia proposes Security Council mission to the Middle East

"The efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian talks are at an impasse and the situation in the region is quite fragile and fraught with further possible complications," Russia's envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin told reporters.

"So we think that a mission of the Security Council could help on both tracks. Could help to stabilise the situation in a certain way and help the international efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations," he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon today also acknowledged that the Middle East process was stuck.

"I am also concerned by the very slow process, almost an impasse now of the Middle East peace process," he said. The Quartet -- the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia, met in Munich on Feb 5 to discuss the Middle East peace process.

In the meeting, the group reiterated its call for concluding these negotiations by September 2011. Israel's refusal to extend a 10-month moratorium on settlement activity, last September, led to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refusing to enter direct talks with the Israeli side, which had started after a two-year lull.

Israel's refusal was also seen as a snub to the Obama administration, which has appealed to the Israeli authorities several times that it would jeopardise the peace talks. But in the last few weeks, the US has indicated that it won't support a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

Churkin said that Russians had been thinking about the Security Council's visit to the Middle East since Christmas and they had also spoken about it with the Council members involved in the Middle East peace process.

After getting a generally positive feedback from the Council members, Russia was going to initiate "consultation" on where and when to go. The Russian envoy ticked off Gaza, West Bank, Damascus and Lebanon as potential areas for the Council's mission, which would be its first since 1979, as well as Cairo, where he said, the Security Council could also have a meeting with the Arab League.

Churkin described the trip as an "important venue of activity in the immediate future." Last year, the Security Council visited Sudan.

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