UNITED NATIONS - Despite U.S. reluctance, the U.N. Security Council plans to hold a meeting of foreign ministers Thursday to discuss an Arab League proposal to revive the Mideast peace process with a goal of ending all Arab-Israeli conflicts.
But the outcome is uncertain because the United States, Israel's closest ally, prefers leaving such negotiations in the hands of the so-called Quartet that drafted the road map to Palestinian peace in 2003.
"We still don't see the real utility of the meeting," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said. "We have not agreed completely with the idea."
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the Arab proposal is not an attempt to sideline the Quartet, rather would go beyond it by also seeking an end to Israel's conflicts with the Lebanese and Syrians.
"We are talking about the Arab-Israeli conflict, not only the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. ... We want to end this conflict," he said.
The Quartet aimed to establish a Palestinian state by 2005, but Israel and the Palestinians have failed to carry out the parallel steps in the peace plan and it has languished.
Bolton said the United States had proposed a meeting of the Quartet, which will be held on Wednesday, and "we think that's the appropriate vehicle to use."
The Arab League proposal asks Secretary-General Kofi Annan to prepare a report "on possible mechanisms" to resume direct negotiations in close consultation with the parties to the conflict, states in the region and the Quartet.
Greece's U.N. Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, the council president for September, said he proposed elements for a formal council statement to be read at the end of the meeting, but members were still divided, and "we need to work more."
"What will be the outcome, I cannot tell you yet," he said. A presidential statement, which becomes part of the Security Council record, requires the support of all 15 council members.
Ido Aharoni, Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said if the ministerial session goes ahead, "Israel is considering its participation in the meeting."
Council members discussed the proposed ministerial meeting early Monday afternoon and Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said afterwards that "it's definitely going to take place."
But he said "it isn't clear whether there is going to be an outcome."