Middle East tops agenda at talks between UN envoy and Russian foreign

Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, which among other things calls for an end to foreign influence in Lebanon, hailed the ongoing national dialogue in Lebanon as a central means of implementing the resolution.“This is a momentous event in Lebanese history: the first ever such dialogue without foreign interference or facilitation. It is guided by the Taif Agreement and the principles of 1559 and offers a historic opportunity,” Mr. Roed-Larsen was quoted as saying of the dialogue, which was begun earlier this month by the Lebanese Speaker of Parliament.Welcoming its initiation on March 2, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said such a national dialogue was a “crucial and timely initiative,” and last month, the UN Security Council said it was needed to make more progress in satisfying resolution 1559.While the withdrawal of Syrian forces and the holding of credible parliamentary elections in May and June 2005 had been accomplished, the Security Council pointed to the need for a dialogue on disbanding militias and reasserting Government control over parts of the volatile country.At today’s discussions, the UN spokesman also said that Mr. Roed-Larsen had thanked the Russians for their facilitation of a private, closed meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Al-Muallem.At the weekend, Mr. Roed-Larsen had reviewed the latest developments in Lebanon and their regional context with French President Jacques Chirac, saying that the national dialogue was “one of the few signs of conflict resolution through peaceful means in the Middle East.”He reiterated the UN’s continued commitment to the full restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty and political independence, and personally pledged “to work relentlessly with all relevant parties towards this end.” read more