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During a visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York City this week, discussions I joined with assorted senior U.N. officials and country representatives focused on mediation efforts around the world in recent years, especially in the Middle East.Two things quickly dawned on me: The three toughest conflicts to resolve in the region – Libya, Syria and Yemen – are all being actively addressed by United Nations-appointed mediators; but the longest and most serious conflict in the region – the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – remains without much hope for a breakthrough in part because the U.N. has been sidelined and even ridiculed by its ill-advised participation in the Quartet (U.S., European Union, Russia and U.N.) to promote the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.This juxtaposition of active U.N. mediation in three very difficult internal conflicts alongside a moribund U.N. performance in the Quartet reminds us that credible peace-making efforts depend heavily on factors that are evident in these cases. The U.N. has badly damaged its credibility and effectiveness in the Arab-Israeli conflict through its amateurish and weak-kneed decision to join the Quartet, and subsequently to remain in it, in contrast with its more impressive mediation performance in other parts of the Middle East.
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