- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2002

Diplomatic 'fatigue'
The Palestinian quest for statehood probably has never had as much popular support as it has now, three months after an Israeli military incursion that has left 1,400 Palestinians dead, imprisoned Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in shattered offices and given birth to the myth of a "Jenin massacre."
So you would expect the United Nations to be a little more energetic in its pursuit of a Palestinian state.
But it is evident that even among the Palestinians' most passionate supporters there is growing fatigue with the issue, and frustration with the drive of Palestinian Ambassador Nasser al-Kidwa.
Arab, European and council diplomats said last week that they had begged Mr. al-Kidwa, the popular and long-serving ambassador who is also a nephew of Mr. Arafat, not to demand Thursday's formal council meeting on the Middle East.
"I said to Nasser, 'Please, don't. Nothing will come of it here. Wait for the Quartet to meet and then decide what to do,'" said one Arab diplomat of the conference of Russian, U.S., U.N. and European officials who met in Washington on Friday. "Several of us went to him, but he would not listen."
So on Thursday, the council met for an entire day and deep into the cocktail hour to read into the record their familiar positions. The Israeli, Palestinian and Syrian exchanges were quite heated, but for nearly all of the 36 speeches, there was a lot of discreet doodling and nail cleaning in the back rows.
In the end, the first open meeting on the Middle East in six weeks ended without a council resolution or statement.
The council had conducted nearly daily debates on the region in April, when Israeli troops first entered Palestinian-controlled areas. But the meetings tapered off after Arab states concluded they had little effect.
Mr. al-Kidwa, who has promoted the Palestinian cause at the United Nations for nearly a decade, said last week that he insisted on the open council meeting "on a matter of principle."
"We had hoped for more concrete action, but given the membership of the council, that would not happen," he said, a reference to Washington's ready veto of any resolution that criticizes Israel.
Envoys here often praise Mr. al-Kidwa's skill and energy.
Supporters say his pursuit of council statements shows his dedication to the cause, while detractors say it's more about his desire for the limelight.
"These council meetings are at best hollow victories," said David Malone, president of the International Peace Academy, who watches the council closely.
"Mr. al-Kidwa and his uncle are probably clinging to these as the only victories they can show the Palestinian people."
Mr. Malone, a self-described "believer in the justice of the Palestinian cause," said support for the Palestinians is, paradoxically, at a recent historical low.
He pointed to May's General Assembly resolution rejecting Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, which passed by a vote of 74-4 and a whopping 54 abstentions. By comparison, a similar resolution was passed six months earlier 124-5 with 25 abstentions.
"Less than half the membership agrees with them," said Mr. Malone. "The Palestinian cause, as currently led, has suffered a major loss of support."
Mr. Malone and others say the drop in support for the Palestinians is directly related to the use of suicide bombers, which has "turned people off in a way that nothing else could."
The day of the most recent assembly referendum, a young Palestinian woman killed six in a crowded Jerusalem market. It was, diplomats say, the kind of event that compromises the moral position of the Palestinian government.

From envoy to minister
Congratulations to Guinean Ambassador Francois Lonseny Fall, who has just been named foreign minister. Mr. Fall, who leaves for Conakry this week, said his two terms at the United Nations had prepared him for his new responsibilities.
"This is the place where we are facing all the problems of the world political, cultural, social, military," Mr. Fall said last week. "This is very good training for the foreign minister. We learn a lot here."
The ambassador will go from commanding a staff of 10 to managing more than 40 Guinean embassies around the world.
Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]



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