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Since its founding at the end of World War II, the United Nations has played a major role in defining--if not solving--the conflicts that grew out of colonialism’s retreat from the Middle East. UN resolutions, usually from the Security Council, have often been the closest thing to an international consensus on the region’s many disputes. Some of these resolutions have proved unenforceable, untimely, or just plain unwise. But the following few dozen remain relevant today.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
- General Assembly Resolution 181 (II). Future government of Palestine (November 29, 1947). Recommends that the British (as mandatory power for Palestine) evacuate; armed forces should withdraw no later than August 1, 1948; independent Arab and Jewish states and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem administered by the United Nations should come into existence; and the city of Jerusalem should preserve the interests of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.
- General Assembly Resolution 194 (III). Palestine: Progress report of the United Nations mediator (December 11, 1948). Calls for protection and open access to the Holy Places, including Nazareth and Jerusalem; places Jerusalem under United Nations control; determines that Palestinian and Jewish refugees wishing to return home should be allowed to as soon as possible and the remaining refugees be compensated for loss of property.
- General Assembly Resolution 273 (III). Admission of Israel to membership in the United Nations (May 11, 1949). Admits Israel into the United Nations and recalls the November 29, 1947, and December 11, 1948, resolutions.
- Security Council Resolution 242. Situation in the Middle East (November 22, 1967). Calls for Israeli armed forces to withdraw from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict. During that conflict, Israel captured the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula. The resolution also affirms the respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every state in the area, including Israel, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The resolution calls on the international community to recognize the state of Israel. It also highlights the "necessity to settle the refugee problem," a reference to displaced Palestinians, though the term "Palestinian" never appears in the resolution. Arab and Israeli interpretations of the call for a "withdrawal from territories" differ sharply, with Arabs arguing this is an affirmation that a Palestinian state should exist. Resolution 242 also guarantees freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area.
- Security Council Resolution 338. Ceasefire in the Middle East (October 23, 1973). Calls for an immediate ceasefire in the October 1973 War (within twelve hours after the adoption of the Security Council decision) and implementation of Security Resolution 242. Essential terminology in this resolution is the rare Security Council "decision," not just a demand or recommendation.
- General Assembly Resolution 3379. Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (November 10, 1975). Proclaims "any doctrine of racial differentiation of superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust, and dangerous." The resolution is a response to racial discrimination by governments around the world. The General Assembly’s examples of "racist regimes" are the occupied territories of Palestine, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The resolution specifically notes that eliminating colonialism, foreign occupation, Zionism, and apartheid are necessary to end discrimination. In 1975, the Soviet Union pioneered Resolution 3379 and was bolstered by Arab and African states amidst accusations that Israel supported the apartheid regime in South Africa through economic cooperation. In the early 1990s, with the emerging war in Iraq and the collapse of both South Africa’s apartheid government and the Soviet Union, the resolution was formally repealed.
- Security Council Resolution 446. Territories occupied by Israel (March 22, 1979). The Israeli settlements in Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have "no legal validation" and obstruct the achievement of peace in that region (occupied areas include Gaza and the West Bank). The resolution also calls upon Israel not to transfer members of its own civilian population into occupied Arab territories. A commission of three Security Council members was established to examine the Israeli-occupied settlements in Arab territories since 1967, including Jerusalem.
- Security Council Resolution 478. Territories occupied by Israel (August 20, 1980). Demands that Israel rescind declaration of "basic law," which establishes Jerusalem as Israel’s unified capital. Censures "in the strongest terms" Israel’s refusal to comply with Security Council resolutions in the past by changing the character and status of Jerusalem. The Security Council determines that "basic law" in Jerusalem is null and void.
- Security Council Resolution 1397. The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question (March 12, 2002). The first resolution to introduce the idea of a two-state solution, it also orders an immediate stop of all violence in the region.
- Security Council Resolution 1860. (January 9, 2009). Calls for a cessation of the Gaza War between Israel and Hamas to prevent further civilian casualties.
- Security Council Resolution 350. Israel-Syrian Arab Republic (May 31, 1974). Creates a United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights to monitor withdrawal of opposing Syrian and Israeli forces.
- Security Council Resolution 425. Israel-Lebanon (March 19, 1978). Demands that Israel withdraw from Lebanon and respect the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries. Decides that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) should be established in Lebanon.
- Security Council Resolution 497. Israel-Syrian Arab Republic (December 17, 1981). Demands that Israel rescind annexation of the Golan Heights.
- Security Council Resolution 1559. The Situation in the Middle East (September 2, 2004). Demands withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, cooperation in the investigation of the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and the disarming of Hezbollah.
- Security Council Resolution 1701. The Situation in the Middle East (August 11, 2006). States the escalation of hostilities was sparked by Hezbollah’s attack on Israel on July 12, 2006. The resolution welcomes the efforts of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the Lebanese government to regain control of Lebanese territory and reestablish full political sovereignty, which includes authority over Lebanese armed forces and weapons. The sale or supply of arms and related material to Lebanon is prohibited without the consent of the Lebanese government. Resolution 1701 also welcomes the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the fifteen thousand Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon as the Israeli army withdraws behind the Blue Line. The resolution calls for immediate and full cessation of hostilities by both Hezbollah and Israel to further a long-term peace solution, permitting the international community to facilitate humanitarian assistance. The resolution reiterates Security Council Resolution 1559, which includes a call for the disarmament of all militias.
- Security Council Resolution 598. Iraq-Islamic Republic of Iran (July 20, 1987). Calls for a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq War and urges that prisoners of war be released immediately. While this resolution was rejected by both sides, it ultimately formed the basis of the ceasefire which took effect in 1990.
- Security Council Resolution 612. Iraq-Islamic Republic of Iran (May 9, 1988). Condemns the use of chemical weapons by both Iran and Iraq in the course of their long war.
- Security Council Resolution 660. Iraq-Kuwait (August 2, 1990). Demands withdrawal of Iraqi troops in Kuwait and grants right "to use all necessary means" to make Iraq comply.
- Security Council Resolution 661. Iraq-Kuwait (August 6, 1990). An update of Security Council Resolution 660 that ultimately gives authorization for invasion. In an effort to end Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, the resolution puts economic sanctions on Iraq such as preventing imports and exports.
- Security Council Resolution 678. Iraq-Kuwait (November 29, 1990). An update of Security Council Resolution 660 that ultimately gives authorization for invasion. "Authorizes Member States . . . to use all necessary means" to bring Iraq into compliance with previous Security Council resolutions if it did not do so itself by January 15, 1991.
- Security Council Resolution 688. Iraq (April 5, 1991). Condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population, including a clause to protect Kurdish refugees on the Turkish border. To protect both ground troops entering the area and airdrops of aid to the Kurdish population, a no-fly zone over the area was implied. The resolution insists that Iraq allow international humanitarian organizations immediate access to anyone in need of assistance and make available all necessary facilities for their operations. The resolution requests the secretary-general pursue his humanitarian efforts in Iraq and report on the troubles of the Iraqi civilian population, in particular the Kurdish population and the suffering from repression inflicted by the Iraqi authorities.
- Security Council Resolution 949. Iraq (October 15, 1994). In response to Iraqi military deployments near the Kuwait border, demands that Iraq immediately withdraw all military units deployed in southern Iraq, and not utilize its military or any other forces to provoke or threaten neighbors or UN operations in Iraq.
- Security Council Resolution 986. Oil for food program (April 14, 1995). States concern over the nutritional health of the Iraqi population; finances export of medicine, food, and other supplies for Iraqi civilian needs.
- Security Council Resolution 1441. Iraq (November 8, 2002). Gives Iraq final notice to cooperate with UN inspectors, asking for a declaration of all aspects of programs to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Declares Iraq in breach of previous guarantees.
- Security Council Resolution 1483. Iraq (May 22, 2003). Gives blessing for the Coalition Provisional Authority to run post-war Iraq until Iraq holds elections. Lifts non-military, trade, and financial sanctions. Establishes position and responsibilities of UN secretary general’s special representative to Iraq.
- Security Council Resolution 1546. Iraq (June 8, 2004). Applauds end of occupation by June 30 and proposed democratic elections by January 2005. Supports the formation of the Iraqi Interim Government, a caretaker government between the Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi Transitional Government, formed from the results of the January 2005 election.
- Security Council Resolution 1762. The situation concerning Iraq (June 29, 2007). Concludes weapon inspectors’ mandates in Iraq, specifically the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which were searching for weapons of mass destruction. Asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to transfer remaining funds in the UNMOVIC escrow account to the Development Fund for Iraq.
Algeria and France
- General Assembly Resolution 1573 (XV). Question of Algeria (December 19, 1960). Considers the situation in Algeria a threat to international peace and security and recognizes the right of the Algerian people to freedom and independence.
- General Assembly Resolution 1754 (XVII). Admission of Algeria to UN (October 8, 1962). Admits the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria to membership in the United Nations.
Western Sahara Conflict
- Security Council Resolution 690. Western Sahara (April 29, 1991). Establishes peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) following a ceasefire between the Polisario Front--an abbreviation of the Spanish name for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro, an independence nationalist movement--and Morocco. The Polisario Front, comprised mostly of Sahrawi, the indigenous population in Western Sahara, has been fighting to end Moroccan control of the region since 1976. Since then, the UN has extended MINURSO’s mandate several times in succeeding resolutions, with both sides continuing discussions.
- Security Council Resolution 1495. The situation concerning Western Sahara (July 31, 2003). Continues support of peace plan for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, calls upon the Polisario Front to release all remaining prisoners of war in compliance with international humanitarian law, and urges the international community to continue to provide support to the United Nations Human Rights Committee Reports (UNHRCR) and the World Food Program in order to overcome the deteriorating food situation among refugees.
- Security Council Resolution 748. Libya (March 31, 1992). Puts economic and diplomatic sanctions on Libya after it failed to cooperate in Pan Am Flight 103 investigations.
- Security Council Resolution 1506. Libya (September 12, 2003). Accepts a deal that lifts sanctions on Libya dating from Security Council resolution 748.
- Security Council Resolution 1970. Libya (February 6, 2011). Condemns the regime of Muammar al-Qaddafi for violence against civilians, including the "systemic violation of human rights," which may amount to "crimes against humanity." Expresses concern at the plight of refugees fleeing the violence as well as the shortage of medical supplies. Acting under Chapter VII, the UNSC demands an "immediate end to the violence" and urges access for human rights monitors. Refers the situation to the International Criminal Court. Establishes an arms embargo against Libya that includes "arms and related materiel of all types" and "technical assistance." Establishes a travel ban and asset freezes on top Libyan officials. Calls for humanitarian assistance of member states.
- Security Council Resolution 1973. Libya (February 26, 2011). Condemns failure of Libya to comply with Resolution 1970. Condemns continued violations of human rights, including torture, executions, and violence and intimidation directed at the media. Expresses UN "readiness to consider taking additional appropriate measures" to support humanitarian work and "ensure the protection of civilians and civilian-populated areas." Authorizes recognized member states to take all necessary measures to protect civilians, but excludes a foreign occupying force. Establishes and enforces a no-fly zone for Libyan aviation, specifically emphasizing the support of the Arab League. Reinforces and adjusts the arms embargo, travel ban, and asset freeze. Establishes a panel of experts to consult on Libya’s future.
- Security Council Resolution 2009. Libya (September 16, 2011). Reaffirms previous resolutions. Condemns the use of sexual violence. Considers the return of refugees. Notes the intention to dispatch personnel and reaffirms that the UN "should lead the international community in supporting the Libyan-led transition and rebuilding process aimed at establishing a democratic, independent, and united Libya." Applauds the work of the Libyan National Transitional Council and encourages it to lead in peacekeeping and reconstruction. Establishes a UN Support Mission in Libya for an initial period of three months. Amends and updates the arms embargo, no-fly zone, and asset freeze.
Iran, the United States, and Nuclear Proliferation
- Security Council Resolution 1696. Nonproliferation (July 31, 2006). Gives Iran until the end of August 2006 to halt its enrichment of uranium and all other "research and development" activities or face the threat of sanctions.
- Security Council Resolution 1737. Nonproliferation (December 23, 2006). Imposes sanctions preventing the import and export of nuclear materials and related equipment into and out of Iran, in light of Iran’s refusal to comply with Resolution 1696. The sanctions also freeze the financial assets of individuals or entities involved with proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear-weapon delivery systems. The Security Council establishes a special committee to which UN members states are obliged to report compliance with sanctions measures.
- Security Council Resolution 1747. Nonproliferation (March 24, 2007). Reaffirms the mandates of Resolution 1737 and asks the director general of the IAEA to report on Iran’s compliance. The resolution also expands sanctions to include blocking the country’s arms exports and lengthening the list of individuals who are restricted from travel and whose assets are frozen because of their involvement with Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities. It requests that all states and international financial institutions refrain from entering into commitments of financial aid to the government of Iran, except for humanitarian and developmental purposes.
- Security Council Resolution 1803. Nonproliferation (March 3, 2008). Expands the list of individuals and entities subject to travel bans and asset freezes. Widens restrictions on transfers to Iran of nuclear or missile technology or "dual-use" goods that also have nonnuclear uses. Also calls for UN members to "inspect the cargoes to and from Iran, of aircraft and vessels, at their airports and seaports, owned and operated by Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line, provided there are reasonable grounds to believe that the aircraft or vessel is transporting" goods prohibited under sanctions resolution.
- Security Council Resolution 1929. Nonproliferation (June 9, 2010). The fourth round of sanctions against Iran widens an arms embargo and further restricts financial and shipping activity. Calls upon states to review their banking and financial relationships with Iran to limit and prevent transactions related to nuclear proliferation. Prohibits Iran from investing in uranium enrichment and nuclear and missile technologies or programs domestic and abroad. Reaffirms the UN’s demands for Iran to cease all nuclear-related behavior. Adds to already existing asset freezes of Iranian companies and individuals associated with proliferation activities. Travel restrictions on individuals, including members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, are now travel bans.
--Jennifer Ching and Julie Ginsberg contributed to this report.