Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Kerry Chronicles: Before the World

"Kerry addresses 3 crises in first official stop at UN" by Rich Gladstone |  New York Times, July 26, 2013

NEW YORK — Secretary of State John Kerry made his first official visit to the United Nations on Thursday to discuss three of the world’s most intractable crises: turmoil in Africa’s Great Lakes region, the war in Syria, and what he called “the granddaddy of them all,” the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Appearing briefly at a welcoming ceremony with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Kerry thanked Ban for his organization’s work, particularly in dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis, which has sent hundreds of thousands of people into neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

Kerry, who toured the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan last week, spoke of the “enormous levels of suffering” among Syria’s civilian population and said there was “no military solution” to that conflict, now in its third year. He reiterated his joint commitment with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, to convene a Syria peace conference in Geneva.

Leading a delegation that included a former Senate colleague, Russ Feingold, whom he appointed as his special envoy to the Great Lakes region last month, Kerry’s main order of business at the United Nations on Thursday was to lead a special Security Council meeting on the protracted conflicts in the area, which he said had been “beleaguered by targeted, egregious violence.”

Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act.

The Great Lakes region includes Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the mineral-rich eastern section of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area of recurrent fighting, atrocities, and absence of government authority. A Rwanda-backed rebel group known as M23 has been fighting Congolese government forces in eastern Congo, and rights groups have accused M23 of executions, rapes, and forcible recruitment of child soldiers. On Tuesday, the United States publicly called on Rwanda, an American ally, to end support for M23.

Related: Crisis in the Congo

Kerry’s main preoccupation in recent weeks has been to broker a resumption of talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, which could start next week in Washington. But he called the Middle East challenge “the granddaddy of them all, I guess, the question of the possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

He commended President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, saying they had “made a courageous decision to try to return to final status talks.” Kerry also said he hoped such talks “will be able to happen as procedures are put in place by both countries in order to empower that.”

Related: The Kerry Chronicles: Paying Lip Service to Palestinians 

After heading the Security Council meeting on the Great Lakes, Kerry planned to meet with a visiting delegation of the Syrian opposition coalition.....