New UN Mideast envoy arrives

Serry is expected to make a trip to Sderot one of his first high-profile acts in Israel.

robert serry 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
robert serry 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dutch diplomat Robert Serry formally took up his post Monday as the new UN Middle East envoy, with diplomatic officials expecting that he will look further than just the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for areas where the UN may be able to contribute. According to the officials, the UN is increasingly aware that there is limited "space" in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for additional players, with the US and Quartet envoy Tony Blair currently taking up most of the room, and that the UN might want to increase its profile in the region by becoming more engaged on Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese issues, and even with Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Serry is coming to the post from Ireland, where he served as the Dutch ambassador. From 1986-1992 he headed the Middle Eastern Affairs division at the Dutch Foreign Ministry. Serry was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is viewed very positively by diplomatic officials in Jerusalem. He is replacing Michael Williams, who left the job after a short period in September and was seen as effective in Jerusalem. By contrast, Williams replaced Alvaro de Soto in the summer, a UN envoy whose term was characterized by poor working relations with Jerusalem. Serry is expected to spend his first week getting acquainted with the UN apparatus in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and next week will begin talks with Israeli officials. He is expected to make a trip to Sderot one of his first high-profile acts in Israel.