July 21st, 2006 12:04 EST
Syria Blocks U.N. Efforts To End Lebanon Crisis, U.S. Envoy Says By Judy Aita
United Nations -- Syria is becoming a serious stumbling block in international diplomatic efforts to end the fighting in Lebanon, U.S. officials say.
In the U.N. Security Council July 20, Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlined his plan for a wide-ranging settlement and reported on the efforts of the three-person mission, led by Vijay Nambiar, that he sent to the region July 13 as the fighting intensified. However, Syria's refusal to receive one of the secretary-general's envoys -- experienced diplomat Terje Roed-Larsen -- cast a shadow over the meeting. (See related article.)
Roed-Larsen is the secretary-general's special representative on Resolution 1559, passed by the council in September 2004 calling for "the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Syria's rejection of the U.N. mission "in effect applies to all of our collective efforts to get an international solution" to the crisis in Lebanon.
"We know the root cause of the present conflict is Hizballah's terrorists acts supported by Iran and Syria, but now, I think, we see more clearly the role Syria has and has been playing in frustrating efforts to bring this to a resolution," Bolton said.
During a closed-door meeting with the 15-nation Security Council, Annan emphasized that he would assert his right to select whomever he felt was qualified for such missions. However, the United Nations did not press the point with Syria because the team was needed back in New York to brief the council, he said. Other U.N. officials point out that the United Nations has other means of approaching Syria, as well as Iran, another backer of Hizballah.
It was reasonable to have the Nambiar mission at U.N. headquarters for the Security Council meeting, Bolton said, "but I don't see how the council can be fully informed or the U.N. can play a full role if a major party to the conflict -- Syria -- just isn't even interested in talking."
The action raises "a more profound question of how one gets Syrian involvement and commitment . . . to a solution if they don't talk to the representatives of the secretary-general," he said.
Bolton said that in the absence of a meeting between the Nambiar team and the Syrian government, it is difficult to get a complete picture of to what Syria would agree, including how Damascus is going to terminate its support for Hizballah terrorist activities.
"I don't think there's any question but that Syria, along with Iran is a principle supporter of Hizballah. It has rejected many critical elements of Resolution 1559 and now we find that it has not indicated even a willingness to even speak with the secretary-general's mission," Bolton continued.
The Nambiar mission "has to have access to all governments involved or the secretary-general's role will be severely limited," he said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Syria, as well as Iran, stood apart from the rest of the region by not condemning the Hizballah attacks that started the crisis.
"States in the region condemned this attack, Syria and Iran didn't. So they are outside that consensus in the region," McCormack said. They have isolated themselves "through their actions, through their support for Hizballah, through support for Hamas."
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Source: US State Dept.