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June 29, 2006

Stalemate

 
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We've just had a round of interventions in answer to the Chairman's question of whether there is any point in continuing, and if so, how?

The Chairman pointed out that if on Thursday afternoon we are going to throw out the way we have been working all week, there probably isn't time to accomplish anything. So he asked for statements.

I was hoping for a Friday off.

There was a round of statements where everyone pretty much reiterated their positions. There are those who find the Chairman's document unacceptable, and instead want their document used and pretty much rubber-stamped, and there are those who find the Chairman's document to be a reasonable attempt at consensus and an adequate basis of discussion.

Then our friend Usman from Nigeria perfectly timed his suggestion that, instead, what we should be doing is not rejecting any proposal, and not characterizing any proposal as off-the-table (or "consigned to a locker," as he put it). His point is that we should not be grouping proposals as either having consensus, possibly having consensus, and not having consensus, but rather should view them as those for which there is consensus now, and those for which there will be consensus later.

In other words, it is inevitable that all 111 proposals will eventually be accepted, no proposal can be rejected, and the process should continue indefinitely.

After this suggestion, the Chairman dismissed the meeting for consultations. Immediately thereafter Usman came over to where I was sitting to speak with us. We congratulated him on his skill as a diplomat, and expressed our hope that his diplomatic skills are appreciated by his colleagues. And we sincerely meant it.

That does not mean that I agree with his position. I see no real point in this process continuing, and I think it's dangerous to grant that all of these proposals will eventually be accepted. It seems to me that no matter how long this process continues, we will always end up right where we are now, which is with significant disagreements upon which there is no possibility of consensus. But diplomats like to talk, and the cardinal sin in diplomacy is to say that there is no point in talking further. So we'll see how this all plays out.

We got right up to the brink of either an agreement or an end of discussion. Either would have been fine, in my opinion. But, no. This is about diplomacy, not about getting things done and moving on to the next thing.

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