21 November 2006
Security Council
SC/8872

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5568th Meeting (AM)


UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL, BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL, DESCRIBES ‘ALARMING


ESCALATION OF VIOLENCE’ BETWEEN ISRAELIS, PALESTINIANS

 


Palestine Observer Welcomes Proposals for Immediate Ceasefire;

Israel Says Situation Could Quickly Change if Syria, Iran Relinquish Terror


With an alarming escalation of violence, the tragic events of November had once again highlighted the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could not be resolved through force, the United Nations senior political official told the Security Council this morning.


“We have seen another month of violence in the Middle East –- one that for the tragedy of Beit Hanoun will almost certainly be remembered as a dark hour in this very long conflict”, Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs said.


Stressing the critical importance of returning to the political track to resolve the current stalemate, he noted that intense confrontations between the Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinian militants had taken place, as Israel’s military operation in Gaza entered its sixth month.  In addition to the high number of human casualties as a result of the incursions in Beit Hanoun, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimated there to be $3.7 million in damages to local infrastructure.  As a result, the General Assembly’s emergency session had requested the Secretary-General to send a fact-finding mission and report back in 30 days.


Civilians on both sides had suffered from the conflict, with Palestinians mourning the loss and injury of more than 240 friends and relatives in Beit Hanoun, and Israelis, only a few kilometres away, in the town of Sderot, grieving the death of one person and the injury of 14 others who had been hit by Palestinian rocket fire.  Palestinian militants had fired over 200 rockets and mortars into the western Negev region, including several that had struck during the visit today of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, in Sderot, causing one death, multiple injuries and significant damage.


Noting that both Israelis and Palestinians needed reassurance that the prospect of actually solving the conflict was not dead, he said new initiatives from the international community were taking shape.  In that connection, a reinvigorated third-party intervention might help to push the parties to move beyond the current impasse.


At the current moment, however, it was difficult to see a breakthrough without the establishment of a new Palestinian Government, he added.  Movement in the right direction should be encouraged by the international community and rewarded when it occurred.  Progress on the regional track was also necessary to stabilize an increasingly volatile situation in the Middle East.  He hoped that, with the international community’s assistance, Israeli, Palestinian and other regional leaders would be able to achieve such progress before the end of the year.  “The people of the region deserved no less,” he said.


Following Mr. Gambari’s briefing, speakers agreed that military action would not resolve the long-standing conflict, but would only exacerbate the already volatile situation in the Middle East.  Progress would only be possible through the cessation of violence and urgent action towards a comprehensive settlement based on Council resolutions, the Road Map and the Quartet’s proposals.


Council members also joined in condemning the today’s assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.  France’s representative, describing the assassination as a new attempt to destabilize Lebanon by violence, intimidation and assassination, noted that, at a time when the Council was taking up the establishment of an international tribunal for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Harriri, it was important to ensure that those who used violence would not go unpunished.  There would be no peace without justice in Lebanon.  An international conference should be organized shortly to revive the hopes of the people in the region and overcome the current stalemate.


The Observer of Palestine welcomed the initiative on the immediate ceasefire in the region -- supported by France, Italy and Spain -- as well as support for a Palestinian unity Government, talks between Israel’s Prime Minster and the Palestinian President, the exchange of prisoners between the two parties, an international mission in Gaza to monitor a ceasefire and the convening of an international peace conference.  While the Council had once again failed the Palestinian people by failing to condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza, they continued to hope that the Council would use its authority to address the issue.


Israel’s representative said the real situation in the Middle East could not be gathered from reports or endless debates.  The real situation in the Middle East was the situation on the ground.  Today’s assassination of a man of liberalism, pluralism and moderation was just another sign of that situation -– a situation that could change overnight if Iran and Syria relinquished terror, Hamas accepted the international community’s demands and the Hamas-led Palestinian Government stopped firing Qassam rockets into Israel.  It was a decision only the Palestinian people could take and the parties could resolve.  If his neighbours made the right choice, they would be surprised by how far Israel would be wiling to go to secure a reality of peace and prosperity of two States living side by side in the war torn region.


Joining the debate, the representatives of Iran said the international community should not allow Israeli military aggressions against an exhausted and defenceless civilian population to continue, and should denounce Israel’s scorn for international law and its contempt for the principles and purposes of the United Nations.  Cuba’s representative, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Council’s inaction not only affected its credibility, but also strengthened the impunity with which Israel’s Government acted.  Calling for the full implementation of the Assembly’s recent resolution, including the dispatch of a fact-finding mission into the events in Beit Hanoun, he said the Council could not remain idle while Israel violated its resolutions.


Other Council members participating in the debate were the United Republic of Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Japan, China, Qatar (on behalf of the Arab Group), Slovakia, Argentina, Denmark, United States, Greece, Russian Federation and Peru.  The representative of Finland, on behalf of the European Union, also spoke.


The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m.


Background


The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.


Briefing by Under-Secretary-General


IBRAHIM GAMBARI, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that, in the past month “we have witnessed an alarming escalation in violence between Israelis and Palestinians,” as well as political developments in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Lebanon that would have an impact on the prospects for peace and stability.


Intense confrontations between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian militants had taken place, as the Israel’s military operation in Gaza entered its sixth month, he continued.  In addition to the high number of human casualties in Beit Hanoun, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimated there to be $3.7 million in damages to local infrastructure.  As a result, the emergency session of the General Assembly had requested, in its resolution, the Secretary-General to send a fact-finding mission and report back in 30 days.  (See Press Release GA/10534.)


He said 128 Palestinians had been killed and over 380 injured during the past month, while one Israeli soldier and one civilian had been killed.  Palestinian militants had fired over 200 rockets and mortars into the western Negev region, including several that had struck just as Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, was visiting Sderot earlier today, causing one death, multiple injuries and significant damage.  Schools had been intermittently closed since October.  Israel had expressed concern that weapons and explosives continued to be smuggled into Gaza.


Meanwhile, he said, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had continued negotiations on a national unity Government with Hamas and other Palestinian factions, and there now appeared to be an understanding, in principle, on the composition and programme of a new Government.  On 10 November, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had announced that he would step down as Prime Minister, while President Abbas had met representatives of Palestinian factions in efforts to cease militant attacks against Israeli targets, in exchange for cessation of attacks by Israel.  However, despite those moves, announcement of a full agreement on a Government was not necessarily imminent and outstanding issues remained: for example the release of the Israeli soldier who remained captive in Gaza.  Also, the official nomination of the next Palestinian Prime Minister was expected to occur only if and when the entire agreement was concluded.


He went on to say that the Palestinian Authority had received only $500 million between March and September, which amounted to only 40 per cent of its revenues from the same period last year.  The wage bill had continued to increase, as had net lending, reflecting non-payment of bills by consumers.  Those revenues had fallen because Israel had refused to hand over the indirect taxes that it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, amounting to approximately half a billion dollars.  The fiscal crisis had contributed to a serious decline in the delivery of public services: schools in the West Bank remain closed; public health facilities could only offer emergency treatment, chemotherapy and dialysis; stocks of essential drugs and medical disposables throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been depleted; and health centres in Gaza were hampered by electricity shortages.


He said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel had strengthened his coalition to include the Israel Our Home Party in the Government, and appointed Avigdor Lieberman, the Party’s Chairman, as Deputy Prime Minister and Minster in charge of Strategic Affairs.  That appointment had caused concern in the peace camp in Israel and alarm among Palestinians.  Meanwhile, Mr. Olmert had also visited the United States in November and held talks with Administration officials in Washington, including on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Turning to movement and access, he said that, despite the stationing of European Union observers, the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt had been open for only 58 per cent of scheduled opening hours over the past year and only 9 per cent since June.  The Karni crossing had only been open for 44 per cent of the time, with opening hours changing on an almost daily basis.  Palestinians had been allowed to export an average of 18 truckloads of produce per day, a small fraction of the targets set by the Agreement on Movement and Access of 400 trucks per day by the end of 2006.  No Palestinian worker had been allowed to cross at Erez to access jobs in Israel since March 2006, and no progress had been reported on bus or truck convoys between Gaza and the West Bank.  Plans to rebuild the sea- and airports also saw no progress.  Since the signing of the Agreement on 15 November 2005, the number of obstacles had increased from 400 a year ago to 542 today, many manned by soldiers.


He said the Government of Israel and the Settlers Council were reported to have agreed on a plan to evacuate 15 illegal outposts, partially evacuate 4 and legalize 8.  That report was not official, but an official denial would help to dispel any impression that a further eight settlements were being built in contravention of previous agreements.  For, despite the stated intention of the Government to evacuate outposts according to the Road Map, no action had been taken in that regard; the lack of action in response to repeated Quartet appeals was a matter of serious concern.  Israel had also continued to construct the barrier, and the Secretary-General’s report on the establishment of a register of damage related to the wall’s construction would provide the institutional framework for such a register to be created.


He then turned to developments in Lebanon, where the political and security situation continued to deteriorate.  Earlier today, Lebanon’s Minster of Industry, Pierre Gemayel, and a leader of the 14 March coalition, had been killed by gunmen.  That assassination had occurred in the midst of a complex political environment, including the process of national consultations initiated by the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament.  After four sessions, no consensus had been reached, leading to the resignation of five Shia and one Christian minister.  The Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, continued to encourage all the parties to return to the negotiating table.  The cessation of hostilities with Israel continued to hold, with no major violations of the “Blue Line”.  However, daily and provocative Israeli overflights over Lebanon, including mock attacks on United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) troops, continued, despite the United Nations calls for an end to those violations.


He said the Israel Defense Forces had withdrawn from areas surrounding the village of Ghajar, while tripartite meetings between the Lebanese Army, the Israeli Defense Force and UNIFIL continued, and all sides remained optimistic that a temporary security arrangement could soon be concluded.


He noted that, on 15 November, the Secretary-General had presented to the Council his report on the establishment of a tribunal of an international character, pursuant to resolution 1664 (2006).


“We have seen another month of violence in the Middle East –- one that, for the tragedy of Beit Hanoun, will almost certainly be remembered as a dark hour in this very long conflict,” he said.  Civilians on both sides had suffered from the conflict.  Palestinians were mourning the loss and injury of more than 240 friends and relatives in Beit Hanoun, which had been devastated by repeated Israeli incursions.  Only a few kilometres away, in the Israeli town of Sderot, Israelis were grieving the death of one person and the injury of 14 others who had been hit by Palestinian rocket fire.


This month’s events highlighted once again the fact that the conflict could not be resolved through force, he said.  The international community fully acknowledged Israel’s right to self-defence as long as it was exercised in accordance with international law.  The incursions in Beit Hanoun, however, had produced a huge number of non-combatant deaths, revealing a manifestly excessive use of force.  There had been, moreover, a subsequent increase in rocket fire into Israel, even though the stated purpose of the operation had been to stop such attacks.  Such actions intensified anger against Israel, both among Palestinians and throughout the Middle East, exacerbating existing resentment over the continued occupation, with apparently no end in sight.  In light of those results, it was hard to see the effectiveness of such operations.  Palestinian rocket fire, which was legally and morally wrong, was also counterproductive.  The occupation of Palestinian territory would not be ended through indiscriminate attacks against Israeli civilians.


“It is of critical importance to return to the political track,” he said.  Israelis and Palestinians both needed to receive reassurance that the prospect of actually solving the conflict was not dead.  New initiatives from the international community were taking shape, and a reinvigorated third party intervention might help to push the parties to move beyond the current impasse.  The Secretary-General fervently hoped that the Quartet would take concrete steps to promote a return to negotiations.


He noted that, at the current moment, however, it was difficult to see a breakthrough without the establishment of a new Palestinian Government that would put the Palestinian Authority as a whole in a position to better address the needs of the people, to fully engage with the international community, to ensure the release of the Israeli soldier currently held captive in Gaza and to maintain a ceasefire.  The establishment of such a Government as a culmination of President Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts was a worthy goal in itself.  Movement in the right direction should be encouraged by the international community and rewarded when it occurred.  The United Nations, therefore, continued to encourage President Abbas’ efforts to establish a Palestinian Government whose political programme reflected the basic tenets of the peace process, as the Quartet had agreed on 20 September.  Formation of such a Government would also help lift the restrictions on donor funding to its institutions, which was crucial, given the gravity of the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal crisis.


Israel must also act responsibly to calm the situation and bring about conditions in which negotiations could resume, he said.  Israel should act prudently and proportionally in defending its citizens, so as to avoid civilian causalities.  Operating with weapons like artillery in civilian neighbourhoods such as Beit Hanoun made civilian casualties inevitable.  A review of the entire policy of military pressure might well be in order.  Israel should also meet its agreements and obligations, setting out a clear time line and method for dismantling settlement outposts and transferring VAT and customs revenues it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.  The absence of such transfers was depriving Palestinian Authority civil servants of their salaries and hurting close to 1 million dependents, as well as weakening the Palestinian Authority institutions on which a Palestinian State was meant to be based.


Progress on the regional track was also necessary to stabilize an increasingly volatile situation in the Middle East, he said.  The Syrian role was crucial in a number of areas, and he continued to hope that international initiatives to encourage a more positive role would bear fruit.  He also hoped that adversaries in the region would begin talking to resolve their differences.  Any and all opportunities for dialogue, however difficult, should be explored.


The inspiration for peace must come from somewhere, and where better than from those Israelis and Palestinians who had been hurt the most by the conflict, he concluded.  Statements from victims on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide suggested a growing fatigue with the current state of affairs and a desire to progress towards a solution, rather than continuing to engage in a never-ending cycle of punishment and revenge.  He hoped that, with the international community’s assistance, Israeli, Palestinian and other regional leaders would be able to achieve such progress before the end of the year.  “The people of the region deserve no less,” he said.


Statements


RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, began by condemning the killing of Minister Gemayel and expressing his people’s support for their sister State, Lebanon.  Continuing, he said the Security Council had, once again, let down the Palestinian people and the individuals who had lost family members, as well as the victims of the massacre at Beit Hanoun.  After the inaction of the Security Council, Israel had continued its aggression against the civilian population, including its air strikes on the Gaza Strip.  The latest Israeli crime had occurred yesterday, when two Palestinians had become subject to extrajudicial execution and six bystanders had been killed in the West Bank town of Qalqilyeh.


Inaction by the Security Council, due to a veto by one permanent member, had led to the resumption of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, according to the “Uniting for Peace” formula.  He had hoped that Member States would collectively undertake what the Council had been unable to do; and indeed, the international community had voted nearly unanimously on a draft resolution practically identical to the one put before the Council.  Out of the 169 present in the voting, 156 had voted in favour, receiving the support of the Non-aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Conferences, the European Union and other Asian nations.


He said that it had not been the first time that the Council had failed to uphold its responsibilities.  Since 1967, the Council had adopted more than 40 resolutions on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the main problem was that it had been unable to implement them.  It was not the failure of the entire membership, but that of one permanent member, who had provided the occupying Power with unjustified diplomatic protection and had tried to neutralize international law.  The consequences of doing so were detrimental to the rights of the Palestinians, as well as the credibility of the international system, sending the wrong message to the occupying Power, who continued to act as if it was above the law.


He reiterated the call made since September 2000 to ameliorate the suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of the ongoing violation of their rights, as defined by international humanitarian law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Since that time, more than 4,300 Palestinians had been killed, and tens of thousands injured.  The Israeli occupying forces had also continued its extrajudicial killings and destroying homes, buildings, agricultural fields, roads and other infrastructure.  It had also confiscated more land for illegal settlement activities and its expansionist wall, as well as destroyed Palestinian institutions.  At the same time, the Israeli occupying forces had tightened its military siege and restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinian people and goods, virtually dividing the Occupied Palestinian Territory into several detention centres.


He welcomed the initiative on the immediate ceasefire in the region, supported by France, Italy and Spain, as well as the support for a Palestinian unity Government, talks between Israel’s Prime Minster and the Palestinian President, the exchange of prisoners between the two parties, an international mission in Gaza to monitor a ceasefire and the convening of an international peace conference.  Senior Israeli ministers, including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Amir Peretz, had called on Prime Minister Olmert to break the diplomatic impasse with the Palestinian Authority.  However, it seemed that the Israeli Prime Minister would rather ignore them.  In that regard, the Palestinian people asserted their hope that the Council would assume its rightful role and use its authority to address the issue.  “The Palestinian people hope that, the next time we are forced back to the Council, it will finally uphold its duties and responsibilities and thus save us all from the tragedy of more death, destruction and misery.”


DAN GILLERMAN ( Israel) expressed the condolences and sorrow of the Israeli people to the Lebanese people for the death of another member of the Gemayel family that had paid so dearly for its moderation, pluralism and liberalism.  It was just another sign of how extremism was taking a toll and how the Lebanese people were paying a high price.  Everyone knew where that extremism came from and whose fingerprints were so apparent in that pattern of assassinations.  Israel waited for the day when moderation would prevail in Lebanon and the region.


However precise the Under-Secretary-General’s reports was and had been, and no matter how many debates were held, the real situation in the Middle East had been manifested in today’s horrible assassination, he said.  The real situation in the Middle East was the situation on the ground.  It was the situation in which the Gemayel family had paid the highest price for its moderation.  It was Hizbollah’s admission today that it was being funded by Iran, the sponsor of terror.  It was the continuous shelling of Qassam rockets of Israeli cities.  Sadly, it was also the plight and pain of the Palestinian people held hostage by a terrorist Government.  That was the situation in the Middle East.


All that could be changed overnight and could stop as he spoke, he said.  For that to happen, Iran and Syria needed to relinquish terror and stop generating it throughout the region.  Hamas needed to accept the three demands of the international community expressed by the Quartet.  The Hamas-led Palestinian Government needed to stop firing Qassam rockets into Israel and immediately release soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.  Everything could end in one second, but not by speeches and biased General Assembly resolutions.  It was a decision only the Palestinian people could take and the parties could resolve.  The choice was clear and the end could be near.  He hoped that his neighbours would make the right choice.  If they did, they would be surprised by how far Israel would be willing to go to secure a reality of peace and prosperity of two States living side by side in the war-torn, bloodshed region.


KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said she spoke after the shocking news of the assassination of Mr. Gemayel, which had been an act by those with no concern for a wider Middle East peace.  She called on all parties to refrain from acts of violence and for all those with influence over extremists to exercise it in the cause of peace.  The United Kingdom remained committed to a Middle East peace process.  All needed to work towards a two-State solution, namely an independent Palestinian State and a safe and secure Israel.


She said the United Kingdom hoped there would soon be a Palestinian Government with whom her Government could have discussion.  She wished also to see a Palestinian Government based on the three Quartet principles, namely renunciation of violence, the recognition of Israel and the acceptance of previous agreements.  When the Council had last met on the Middle East, it had witnessed the events of Beit Hanoun, a tragedy that must not be repeated.  Equally, rocket attacks on Israel were unacceptable.  All sides needed to realize that violence begat violence and could never offer a solution.  The people were dying for the extremists, not the extremists for the people.  The United Kingdom remained troubled by the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The current situation underlined the need to find a political solution to the conflict.  The Road Map offered the best chance for peace.


On Lebanon, she noted that, despite this morning’s events, there had been good progress on many aspects of resolution 1701 (2006).  More needed to be done, however.  She hoped all Member States would meet the obligations under that resolution.  All parties needed to work together in a spirit of cooperation to create the conditions in which peace could flourish.


TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania), expressing his deep concern over the persisting cycle of violence in the Middle East, said that he believed it was improper for the international community to remain unconcerned in light of the disastrous course of events in the region.  He hoped that arrangements for the European Union summit in December would proceed well, and that the outcome from those deliberations would provide a new avenue in resolving the region’s long-standing problems.


He said that a ceasefire -- and, if possible, one monitored by an international observer force -- would pave the way for tackling other issues, as well.  Those issues included the formation of a Palestinian Government of national unity, exchange of prisoners and due recognition of the State of Israel.  Indeed, the formation of a Palestinian unity Government held the key to both ending the current stalemate and building a climate of trust, so that the political process could be rekindled.


On Lebanon, he said he was dismayed to hear about the abrupt resignation of five Hizbollah-associated Cabinet Ministers and the threats of mass demonstrations by Hizbollah, seeking greater political power.  His delegation appealed for calm, so that the readjustment and reconstruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure could be facilitated.


BASILE IKOUEBE ( Congo) began by condemning the assassination of Mr. Gemayel, adding that it should not prevent the international community from encouraging further inter-Lebanese dialogue and combating impunity.  Indeed, the absence of a solution to the situation in the Middle East was not for the lack of trying on the part of the international community.  It had come up with various frameworks for peace, based on modalities that ruled out any use of violence.  Those included texts founded on principles of international humanitarian law, United Nations resolutions, agreements based on principles of the Madrid conference, the Quartet’s Road Map, the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, the “land-for-peace” deal and others.  What was lacking was the ability to implement what had been decided on.


He said that the international community should also support the attempts of Palestinian leaders to form a national unity Government, saying that the current blockage to its advancement amounted to a “punishment” of the Palestinian people.  The international community should send other positive signals as well, such as lending its support to initiatives by Arab leaders to help the people hardest hit by sanctions.  A few weeks ago, Mr. Olmert had said he was prepared to discuss matters with President Abbas -- that, too, should be encouraged, as should Syria’s statement that it was prepared to be part of the solution.  Attempts by regional leaders to deal with the question of Iraq should be similarly commended.  Much could be dealt with through negotiation: in the case of the Council itself, for example, Members States should not be discouraged if its draft resolutions did not appear perfect.  If they were indeed perfect, members would have no need for discussion, leaving them with nothing much to do.


ALBERT FRANCIS YANKEY ( Ghana) said his country was saddened by the assassination of Mr. Gemayel.  In the absence of an active peace process, the world was likely to witness more acts of such nature, and more ugly incidents like Beit Hanoun -– and Qana during the war in Lebanon -- were bound to occur.  The intolerable depravation and poor humanitarian conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory would no doubt continue their downward spiral.  To the repeated denunciation of both the firing of Qassam rockets by Palestinian militants and the consequences of Israeli reprisals, he said it was necessary to emphasize that those actions stemmed from a decades-long power struggle involving the right to self-determination and independent Statehood for both the people of Israel and Palestine.


Ghana had been disappointed that the various peace negotiations had not brought the parties closer to a settlement, he said, emphasizing that, though Israelis had realized their own State, they must confront security threats.  For the Palestinians, the dream of an independent State remained a distant one that, in fact, risked being permanently compromised, given the evolving situation.  Ghana believed that the way to lasting peace was a just and negotiated settlement that gave the two parties meaningful space to realize their national aspirations.  “We recognize that Syria, Iran and Iraq are an essential factor in the equation for peace in the Middle East,” he said, but stressed that a genuine commitment to peace required sustained dialogue among all the parties based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States in the region. 


He said that it was not only the Council’s integrity that had been called into question for failing to implement its own resolutions: the international community also expected the diplomatic Quartet to deliver on its promise to implement the Road Map peace plan.  That was the only way to assure the Palestinians that the international community was committed to helping them realize their aspirations for national independence.  At the same time, Israel’s security must be recognized as a constant in the equation, and the necessary guarantees given, so that Israel no longer felt singled out for condemnation by the international community.


JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) expressed profound shock following the assassination of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel this morning in Beirut.  France conveyed condolences to his family and condemned the new attempt to destabilize Lebanon by using violence, intimidation and assassination.  France reaffirmed its commitment to Lebanon’s territorial integrity, as well as its support for the democratically elected Government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.  At a time when the Council was taking up the establishment of an international tribunal, it was important to ensure that those who used violence would not go unpunished.  There would be no peace without justice in Lebanon.


He said he was also concerned at the violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territory.   On 9 November, France had expressed shock after the tragic events in Beit Hanoun.  At the General Assembly’s request, a fact-finding mission would be sent to the area.  He hoped the mission would fully elucidate the tragedy, and he called on all parties to cooperate with the Secretary-General to that end.  The situation had become worse since those events.  The firing of rockets had caused more Israeli casualties, while Israeli operations had resulted in the loss of life of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.  The Palestinian Authority must combat terrorism and halt the firing of rockets into Israeli territory.  For its part, Israel must halt actions that risked civilian life, including the bombing of residential areas.  Given the increase in the number of civil causalities, an immediate discussion on how to reinforce the protection of civilian populations was needed.


The cessation of violence must be accompanied by a credible political horizon, he added.  In that regard, he called on both sides to adopt confidence-building measures and resume the peace process.  He called on the Palestinians to work for national unity.  He called particularly on all factions to form a new Government.  He called on Israel to refrain from any unilateral action that might undermine the prospects for creating a viable Palestinian State.  It must also end its settlement activities and the building of the wall.  France would continue to act with resolve to find a comprehensive and just solution based on the Council’s resolutions, the terms of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative.  An international conference in liaison with all stakeholders should be organized shortly to revive the hopes of the people in the region and overcome the current stalemate.


KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said his country was appalled at the killing of yet another Lebanese official and condemned that brutal act of violence, since it would only destabilize an already volatile situation.  Japan expected the perpetrators of that crime to be brought to justice, as should the perpetrators of other heinous acts of political violence in that country.


Continuing, he expressed deep concern over the continued political deadlock in Palestine, as well as the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation among the Palestinian population.  Japan remained committed to encouraging all peaceful and political endeavours in the region under its new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and hoped that efforts made by other concerned parties to help establish a new Government of the Palestinian Authority, particularly Arab countries, would continue.  Meanwhile, the Palestinians were urged to find ways to overcome their differences, so as to resume the work already begun on achieving co-existence and mutual prosperity with Israel.  At the same time, Israel was expected to support the efforts of President Abbas.  He hoped that the long-delayed direct talks between the leaders of Israel and Palestine would be resumed as early as possible, since there could be no military solution.


He said Japan strongly deplored the incident that had taken place on 8 November, and urged the Israeli Government to avoid any military action that might lead to civilian casualties.  Israel was also called upon to release the Palestinian ministers and others held in custody, while also urging the Palestinian Authority to take credible, effective measures to rein in the violence of Palestinian extremist groups, including firing rockets against Israel.  Renewed calls were made for the safe return of the Israeli soldier abducted in June.  Japan also called for an early resumption of the transfer of tax and customs revenues to the Palestinian Authority, as well as the full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access, which would help alleviate the dire humanitarian situation.  As a major donor to the Palestinians for many years, Japan would continue providing aid.


As for Lebanon, he said Japan remained committed to the implementation of resolution 1701, and hoped that domestic political upheavals could be resolved.  Syria’s important role in bringing about stability in Lebanon was reaffirmed, and it was hoped that that country would engage itself constructively in the political process, while cooperating with the international community on that issue.


LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said he was shocked to learn of the assassination of Mr. Gemayel and expressed condolences to his family.  He hoped the Lebanese people would remain calm.  Over the past month, the situation between Palestine and Israel had once again intensified, causing heavy loss of life to innocent civilians.  The conflict should be resolved through peaceful negotiation.  He opposed all military actions that caused civilian causalities.  Israel must abide by international humanitarian law and immediately end military actions against Palestine.  For their part, the Palestinians should stop firing rockets into Israel.  He hoped both Israel and Palestine would act with maximum restraint and end the vicious cycle of a “tooth for tooth” policy, so as to avoid a further escalation of violence.


The key to a resolution of the conflict was that both Palestine and Israel should restore confidence and find a solution in the interests of all peoples.  The international community should also provide the conditions for the resumption of talks.  The United Nations, in particular the Security Council, shouldered a heavy responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security, and should play its role in that regard.  Both the Council and the Assembly had convened emergency meetings this month to discuss the issue.  Those meetings had been timely and necessary, sending a clear message to both sides.  Regrettably, the Council had not adopted its resolution.  In the face of the never-ending conflict, the question was how the Council could better fulfil its responsibilities and help both sides achieve lasting peace.


Noting that consultations were going on between the main Palestinian factions -- Hamas and Fatah -- on the formation of a unity Government, he expressed hope that they would continue their consultations, so as to reach agreement at an early date.  He hoped Israel and Palestine would put aside their past differences and resume dialogue.  He also hoped that the Quartet could play a positive role for a resumption of the Middle East peace process.  He hoped the Council would continue to fulfil its responsibilities.


NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar), speaking also on behalf of the Group of Arab States, said tragic news continued to come from the region.  This morning, the news had arrived that Pierre Gemayel, the Lebanese Minister, had been assassinated.  He strongly condemned the “treacherous and heinous” crime and called for the arrest and trial of the perpetrators.  Last week, the Council had failed to adopt a draft resolution on the grave situation in the Middle East, despite the fact that the text was fair and balanced.  That the Assembly, during its resumed tenth emergency special session, had adopted the text with an overwhelming majority gave it international legitimacy.  However, adoption by the Assembly was not adequate to address the crisis, as the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security lay with the Council.


He said all acts of violence, provocation, incitement and destruction deserved condemnation, regardless of who committed them.  Although a lasting and comprehensive settlement was within reach, it could only come about through dialogue.  Violence had proved futile.  He urged all parties to provide full support for the Palestinian national efforts aimed at achieving a Government of national unity.  It was incumbent upon the Council to continue to give the necessary impetus to move the peace process forward, including through continuing to hold high-level debates on the issue, as had been done last September.  The international community, in particular the Quartet, was called upon to take concrete steps to revive the stagnant peace process on all tracks.


The devastating war launched by Israel on Lebanon had had a very negative impact on the stability in the region and had affected the fragile political balance prevailing in Lebanon, he said.  The issue of maintaining stability and balance between the political forces in Lebanon was of critical importance in the quest for peace and stability in the Middle East.  Rapprochement between Lebanon and its neighbour Syria must be supported wholeheartedly, because of the close relations between the two countries, based on historical, demographic and geographical ties. 


He said the issue of the occupied Syrian Golan was an important part of the crisis in the Middle East.  A solution to that question would ease the general tension in the region.  Direct negotiations between the two sides was the ideal way to implement the relevant Council resolutions and to achieve a settlement.


In his national capacity, he announced that Qatar, as next month’s President of the Security Council, would convene a ministerial meeting on the situation in the Middle East.


PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) reiterated his delegation’s deep concern at the escalating tensions and increased violence in Gaza and the West Bank.  He strongly deplored any action that caused civilian casualties.  He called on both parties to exercise the utmost restraint and do everything possible to prevent further dangerous escalation.  Mutual violence must stop, for there was no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.  In that regard, he called on Israel to end its military operations and to take every possible measure to protect Palestinian civilians.  While Israel had the right to defend itself against terrorism, its response must be proportionate and in accordance with international humanitarian law.  He also called for the immediate release of Palestinian ministers and legislators detained in Israel.


At the same time, he said he expected the Israeli Government to continue its commitment to peace in the Middle East based on the principles laid out in the Road Map and to refrain from such steps and activities that threatened the viability of an agreed two-State solution.  He urged the Palestinian Authority to undertake all necessary measures to release the kidnapped Israeli soldier and prevent further military and terrorist attacks on Israel, notably the launching of rockets against Israeli population centres.  He supported the efforts of President Abbas to foster national unity among Palestinians.  Slovakia was deeply concerned at the economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank.  In that regard, he highlighted the importance of the Temporary International Mechanism, which would address the urgent humanitarian and financial needs of the Palestinian people.


He also called for full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access, and that Rafah, Karni and other border crossings remain permanently opened.  Slovakia fully supported the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The Quartet represented the most appropriate mechanism for advancing the peace process and the Road Map the most efficient plan for achieving a lasting peace settlement to the conflict.


Regarding developments in Lebanon, he fully supported the Lebanese Government legitimately elected last year and all efforts to regain control and establish stability within the country.  In that respect, he emphasized the importance of ensuring full compliance with the arms embargo imposed by resolution 1701 and progress towards the normalization of relations between Lebanon and Syria.  There was no military solution to the conflict.  A stable and prosperous Lebanon would significantly contribute to the stabilization of the situation in the Middle East.


CESAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) extended his condolences to the family of Mr. Gemayel, while condemning the assassination and calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.  He renewed his call to the parties and the international community to break the vicious circle of death and destruction and renew the peace perspectives in the Middle East.  Listing the concrete measures needed, he said that the military operations that endangered the civilian population in the Gaza Strip must immediately cease, as well as attacks by Palestinian groups with Qassam rockets into Israel.  The international community should continue supporting the efforts of President Abbas to form a Government of national unity, with which it could fully cooperate.  He hoped that conversations between leaders of Fatah and Hamas would yield fruit and that such a Government could be formed as soon as possible.  Also the Israeli soldier abducted by Palestinian groups must be immediately released, as should Palestinian legislators and ministers held by Israel.  Urgent measures had to be taken to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Palestinian tax and custom revenues withheld by Israel must be transferred through appropriate international mechanisms.  Likewise, the Agreement of Movement and Access should be fully implemented, and the crossings into and out of Gaza be kept permanently opened.


Those measures would be in vain, unless a genuine process of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians was resumed, he pointed out.  As a first step, Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas could meet and start a meaningful dialogue.  However, that dialogue would not be viable if Israel continued with its policies of creating facts on the ground, such as the construction of the separation barrier and continuation of settlement activities in the West Bank.  Those policies should stop.  As the parties by themselves had demonstrated that they were unable to take the necessary measures, active assistance of the international community was needed to resume dialogue.  The Security Council and the Quartet must be more proactive and effective than they had been up to now.


Even though discussion of short-term issues was needed to restore confidence, a long-term perspective should also be incorporated, he continued.  One could not continue to avoid addressing the complex issues related to the final status.  In that context, it would be worthwhile to explore the initiative presented by the leaders of Spain, France and Italy to convene an international conference to return to the path initiated by the Madrid Conference 25 years ago.


Turning to Lebanon, he expressed concern over increasing tension and the deepening political crisis there.  He called on all parties in Lebanon to resolve their differences respecting the democratic rules and not to resort, under any circumstances, to the threat of violence.  All Lebanese actors must exercise utmost restraint and caution.  He was pleased that UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces had continued to maintain peace and order in the area south of the Litani River.  While the measures undertaken in recent weeks to address the question of caches of arms in that zone were very positive, he could not but underline his grave concern over continued Israeli incursions into Lebanese airspace that violated the cessation of hostilities.  He was also concerned over the absence of a solution to the question of two Israeli soldiers taken prisoner more than four months ago.  On other outstanding aspects of resolution 1701, he hoped that the Secretary-General would put forward some specific recommendations in his next report.


The only viable solution was the search for a just and lasting peace that would encompass the Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian tracks, he said in conclusion.  The basis for that were relevant resolutions of the Council, the terms of reference of Madrid, including the principle of land for peace, and the Arab Peace Initiative of Beirut.


ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark) said the assassination of Mr. Gemayel had led her country to reaffirm its condemnation of terrorism, while encouraging all parties to refrain from using violence to achieve political goals.  Such an act was not just a crime, it was also irresponsible, since it added to the region’s instability and confirmed how important it was that the International Independent Investigation Commission also assist the Lebanese Government in identifying the perpetrators.


Continuing, she aligned her statement with Finland’s on behalf of the European Union and said the importance of bringing an end to violence in the Middle East could not be overemphasized.  All sides must cease the use of force for political purposes, including an immediate halt to attacks by Israel, and a halt to rocket attacks from Palestinian territory into Israel.  At the same time, Israel must halt military operations that endangered Palestinian civilians, and act in accordance with international law.  She condemned the loss of life resulting from the military operation in Beit Hanoun on 8 November and she looked forward to the publication of the results of thorough investigations into the incident, which Israel had admitted was a tragic mistake.


She said the right of a State to defend itself against terrorist threats did not justify disproportionate or indiscriminate use of force, which was contrary to international humanitarian law and fuelled further hatred and conflict.  Strengthening the political forces committed to a political solution was the only way out of the current stalemate of violence.  Release of the kidnapped Israel soldier and the freeing of the Palestinian ministers and legislators in Israeli custody were necessary first steps, and the vision of two independent States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace within recognized borders needed to be revived, alongside the core principle of the Road Map.


She warned that the collapse of the Palestinian Authority seemed imminent, and she supported President Abbas’ attempt to build national unity and establish a credible Palestinian Government with a platform that reflected the principles of the Quartet.  She added that Israel had a crucial role to play in improving Palestinian economic prospects, and called for immediate release of the tax and customs revenues now withheld, with channelling through the Temporary International Mechanism, which had proven its ability to target aid directly to the Palestinian people.  She also called for immediate full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access.  She concluded by noting that neighbours, including Syria, must play constructive roles, and that the international community, led by the Quartet, must be willing to provide whatever incentives were needed to set the healing process in motion.  She hoped the Quartet could soon announce a meeting.


JACKIE WOLCOTT SANDERS ( United States) condemned the assassination of Mr. Gemayel, which was a clear act of terrorism.  It demonstrated why it was critical for the Security Council to support democracy and accountability in Lebanon and, in that vein, to support as quickly as possible the establishment of a tribunal, as requested by the Lebanese Government in the wake of the assassination of Rafik Hariri.


Turning to the issue of Palestine, she said the Council had nearly two weeks ago convened a special session to consider an unbalanced and one-sided resolution, which the United States had vetoed.  A politically motivated emergency special session of the General Assembly had followed, where Members States had adopted yet another one-sided and biased resolution that would do nothing to make progress towards greater peace and stability in the region.  The Human Rights Council had met on 15 November in Geneva, continuing its “fixation” on Israel, to the exclusion of addressing human rights issues in places like Belarus, Burma, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.  Those activities had not contributed to the reinvigoration of the Road Map or the two-State solution; hastily called meetings and polemical resolutions were no substitute for the hard work needed to take steps towards peace.


She said that, to advance peace, what was needed was a Palestinian Government that disavowed terror and violence and accepted the Quartet principles -- renunciation of terror, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements.  Also, Corporal Shalit needed to be released, immediately and unconditionally.  The United States was committed to diplomatic efforts to engage moderate leaders and to support Israel and Palestinian leaders to resolve their differences.  Last week, the United States Assistant Secretary of State had met with Quartet counterparts to support implementation of the Road Map.  The efforts of President Abbas to form a unity Government were welcomed.


She went on to say that the launch of conflict by Hizbollah on 12 July had highlighted the risks of acquiescing to a status quo in Lebanon that permitted militias to remain armed and unchecked.  The release of soldiers kidnapped on that day was called for, as was the full implementation of Security Council resolutions regarding the disbanding and disarming of militias.  She expressed alarm at indications that Syria was working with Hizbollah and other Lebanese allies to destabilize the democratically elected Government of Lebanon, in seeming contradiction of the embargo of unauthorized weapons shipments into Lebanon, imposed by Security Council resolution 1701.  The United States remained committed to working with those that had the courage to reject stalemate and polemics.


ADAMANTIOS VASSILAKIS ( Greece), aligning himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, condemned the assassination of minister Gemayel.  Events of the past few weeks had shown that were no military solutions to the region’s problems.  While Greece unreservedly condemned all acts of violence and terror, and recognized Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence and its duty to protect its citizens, it also believed that violence could only result in further violence.  To stabilize the situation in the Middle East, a credible political process was needed, as outlined in the Road Map.  Though the viability of the Road Map had elicited some questions lately, what was needed was not to reinvent the wheel, but to re-examine the ways to make the wheel roll better.  In that regard, the active role and contribution of the Quartet -- which had recently met in Cairo on 15 November -- was welcomed, and Greece looked forward to a meeting of Quartet principals, as well as a meeting with regional partners


Turning to Lebanon, he said he was encouraged by progress on the implementation of resolution 1701, and noted with satisfaction that the troop strength of UNIFIL, when combined with its naval component, had exceeded 9,500.  Indonesian troops that had newly joined the other 20 troop-contributing countries were welcomed.  All parties were urged to put the interest of the Lebanese people above all else, and to avoid antagonistic rhetoric.  The international community was called on to support efforts of the Lebanese Government in advancing the economic recovery of its war-torn country and for the consolidation of its territorial integrity, unity and political independence.


VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) agreed with the assessment of events in Palestinian-Israeli relations and the Syrian-Lebanese area.  Today, more than ever, collective steps were needed to address the situation.  His Government supported the existence of two States, namely a viable Palestine living in security with its neighbour.  Progress towards that goal was possible only through the cessation of violence.  It was crucial to take urgent action to bring about a comprehensive settlement based on Council resolutions, the Road Map and the Quartet’s proposals.


He said the Russian Federation was promoting the revival of the Middle East peace process in all of its aspects.  It was also necessary to hold a meeting of the Quartet at the ministerial level, with the participation of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well.  The participation of Israel and the Palestinian Authority would also be beneficial.  While he recognized Israel’s right to self-defence, Israel should exercise maximum restraint.  He called on Israeli authorities to refrain from targeted assassinations.  He appealed also to the Palestinian Authority to take urgent action to halt violence and terrorist attacks, including the firing of rockets.  He looked forward to the release of Corporal Shalit and supported mediation efforts in that area.  He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation in his report on the register of damage to Palestinian property due to the building of the separation wall.


One urgent task was the need to ensure full compliance with the Agreement on Movement and Access, he said.  It was also essential to resolve questions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Gaza.  He supported President Abbas, and called on all in the Palestinian Territory to show solidarity with his efforts to achieve reconciliation and build a Government of national unity.  Also, it was impossible to ensure the comprehensive nature of the process without progress on the Israeli-Syrian track.  On resolution 1701, he advocated strict respect for Lebanon’s territorial integrity and stressed that Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace posed a threat to the security of United Nations peacekeepers.


He concluded by noting his shock at the assassination of Mr. Gamayel, expressing sincere condolences also to his family.  The perpetrators should be found and receive their due punishment.  He hoped that, in the current difficult moment, Lebanon would not give way to provocation.


Council President JORGE VOTO BERNALES ( Peru), speaking in his national capacity, condemned the assassination of Pierre Gemayel.  The serious events that had taken place this month underscored the need to return to the peaceful solution contained in the Road Map, as well as Security Council resolution 1515 (2003), to fulfil the objective of creating two States living side by side in peace.  The international community needed to encourage the building of a cohesive Government by the Palestinian Authority, since the lack of proper governance made it difficult to prevent rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.  Violence, too, had not helped in obtaining the release of the abducted soldier, nor to end arms smuggling into Gaza.  Peru condemned the violation of international humanitarian law by militants and urged all parties to end the cycle of violence and resume the peace process based on Quartet requirements.


KIRSTI LINTONEN ( Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, expressed her condolences to the family of Mr. Gemayel and condemned his brutal assassination.  She said she was deeply concerned at the continued violence in the Middle East and strongly deplored Israeli military action in Gaza, as well as rocket-firing on Israeli territory.  She underlined the Union’s intention to work within the Quartet to restart the Middle East peace process along the guidelines of the Road Map, relevant Security Council resolutions and the 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh commitments.


She called for the immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldier, as well as Palestinian ministers and legislators detained in Israel.  Urging Palestinians to work for national unity, she said the formation of a Government that reflected Quartet principles would be a partner for the international community.  Strengthening the institutional capacity of the Palestinian Authority was also important.


On Gaza and the West Bank, she called on Israel to immediately resume transfers of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues, and encouraged donors to use the Temporary International Mechanism.  Israel should also implement the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.  On Lebanon, the Union encouraged Lebanese parties to resume the process of national dialogue, and remained supportive of Government efforts to stabilize the situation in that country.  Reiterating the call to immediately release two abducted Israeli soldiers, she supported full implementation of resolution 1701.  Further, she urged Israel to stop violations of Lebanese airspace, and called on all countries in the region to refrain from interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs.


RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the situation in the Middle East and the Occupied Palestinian Territory had not improved, but had, in fact, worsened.  The tragic news of the assassination of Mr. Gamayel reflected that fact.  His delegation was disturbed by the deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as the result of Israel’s excessive use of force, which had led to death and injury.  Despite the worsening of the situation, the Security Council had not been able to act and was failing in its responsibilities in the area of international peace and security.  He noted the United States recent use of the veto on a text related to the Palestinian question.  For that reason, the draft had not been adopted, despite the fact that it had received the favourable vote of the majority of the Council’s members.  The Council’s inaction not only affected its credibility, but also strengthened the impunity with which Israel’s Government acted.  With the paralysis of the Security Council, there was no other alternative but to go to the General Assembly, where there was no room for the obsolete right of veto.


Calling for the full implementation of the Assembly’s recent resolution, including the dispatch of a fact-finding mission into the events in Beit Hanoun, he said the Council could not remain idle while Israel violated its resolutions.  It was unacceptable that the Council continued to shirk its responsibility with regard to the Palestinian question.  The Council must adopt the measures necessary to end Israel’s occupation and its illegal practices in the Palestinian Territory, including the building of the wall.  Cuba confirmed its commitment to a just and peaceful solution to the conflict and the right of the Palestinian people to exercise self-determination.  Israel must also pull out of the entire Syrian Golan.  Lebanon’s sovereignty and territory integrity must also be fully respected.  He underscored the importance of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, as well as the recent call of the Arab Summit to revitalize the peace initiative.


MANSOUR SADEGHI ( Iran) began by expressing sorrow over the assassination of Pierre Gemayel and condemned that act.  The fact that such a crime had happened on the same day that the Council was discussing Israeli crimes in Palestine and the wider Middle East region raised serious questions about whether some quarters were seeking to distract attention away from the real plight facing the Palestinians and other people in the region.  Israeli provocations showed no sign of abating, leaving Palestinians, along with their homes and civilian infrastructure, at the mercy of the Israeli air force.  Also, the Israeli regime continued to violate Security Council resolution 1701, including through daily violations of Lebanese airspace and harassment of UNIFIL, as reported by United Nations and UNIFIL spokespersons.  Those acts represented a continuation of the Israeli policy of using military force to dictate a solution to the intrinsic and rightful resistance that any people under occupation would mount.


He said the tragedy of Palestine lay at the heart of the Middle East conflict, and was a major source of anger and desperation felt throughout the Muslim world.  The Israeli criminal acts against the Palestinians and other people in the region, and their impact on the Islamic world, was the gravest challenge to global security.  The establishment of a democratic Palestinian State with al-Quds as its capital was imperative for the attainment of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East and beyond.  Peace could not be achieved through aggression, State terrorism, intimidation and occupation.  Given the huge threat that the Israeli occupation posed towards regional and international peace and security, it should be treated as the most important item on the Council’s agenda.  Those who impeded justice and accountability for Israeli war crimes by repeatedly abusing the veto power bore responsibility for the bloodshed that was witnessed time and again, and were also responsible for undermining the authority and credibility of the Security Council.


The international community should not allow Israeli military aggressions against an exhausted and defenceless civilian population to continue, and should denounce Israel’s scorn for international law and its contempt for the principles and purposes of the United Nations.  Its practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be investigated and it must be assigned criminal responsibility, and hopefully General Assembly efforts would lead to an independent international investigation.  As for allegations made against Iran at today’s meeting, he said they were absurd and that no smokescreens could conceal the crimes of the Israeli regime in Palestine and the wider region.


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