|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6757th Meeting (AM & PM)
Top UN Envoy, Briefing Security Council, Hopes Israeli-Palestinian Agreement
on Exchange of Letters Can Be Transformed Into Opportunity for Dialogue
Palestinian Observer Says Hopes Being Eroded without Political Horizon;
Israel: Primary Obstacle to Peace ‘Claim of Return’, Not Israeli Settlements
Welcoming the recent agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to exchange letters and expressing hope such moves would maintain positive momentum towards resuming peace negotiations, B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said today it was now important to transform that fragile opening into an opportunity to incrementally promote dialogue, as he briefed the Security Council on the latest developments in the region, including on the question of Palestine.
For the United Nations, achieving peace for Israelis and Palestinians was an “undiminished” priority, he said, noting that the Secretary-General had joined the Middle East Quartet — the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation — at their 11 April meeting to help find ways to make progress. Both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had since reiterated their desire to negotiate. Mr. Netanyahu also had indicated his intention to respond to a letter from Mr. Abbas delivered on 17 April.
At the Quartet meeting, held in Washington, D.C., participants had recognized the urgent need for progress on the ground, he said, as well as for international support for the Palestinian Authority’s institution-building efforts. They also underlined the need for $1.1 billion in assistance to meet the Authority’s 2012 financing requirements, and for quick resolution of outstanding issues related to tax and customs revenue collection. On Gaza, the Quartet had stressed that the situation would remain unsustainable as long as the area was not reunited with the West Bank under the Authority.
Turing to Syria, Mr. Pascoe said “we are at a pivotal moment”. With the 21 April passage of resolution 2043 (2012), establishing a United Nations supervision mission in that country, it was hoped that observers would help stop the killing and consolidate the calm. The goal was to create conditions for a serious and credible political process. He urged the Syrian Government to immediately stop using heavy weapons and pull back its military from population centres. The United Nations was coordinating with Lebanon on the provision of assistance to the 9,700 Syrian refugees registered in Northern Lebanon, as well as on their protection and determination of their status.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said it was clear that the international community had not forsaken the noble goal of peace in the region. Yet, without a credible political horizon, Palestinians’ hopes and convictions were being eroded. Israel had refused to respect the long-standing parameters of the peace process and the international community could not remain on the sidelines. Serious practical measures must be taken to compel Israel to halt its illegal settlement activities and unlawful policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and move towards ending its illegitimate 45-year occupation.
A visit by the Council to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, was “long overdue”, he said, and would enhance its credibility in the region. “We urge Council members to make a positive decision soon on this matter,” he said.
Taking a different view, Israel’s representative, Ron Prosor, said the truth was that conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain and other parts of the region had nothing to do with Israel. “Make no mistake”, he said, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not stop the persecution of minorities, end the subjugation of women or heal sectarian divides across the region. It was a myth that Israeli settlements were the main obstacle to peace. The Arab world had not lifted a finger to create a Palestinian state when, from 1948 to 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan and Gaza part of Egypt. The primary hindrance was the so-called “claim of return” and the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Moreover, the United Nations had overlooked that more than 850,000 Jews had been uprooted from their homes in Arab countries in the last 64 years. Nowhere had that been mentioned in the more than 1,088 resolution passed on the Middle East. The word “double standard” did not begin to describe that gap.
When the floor was opened for debate, many of the more than 40 participating Governments welcomed the exchange of letters between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. But, despite commendable efforts, notably by Jordan, which had put forward an initiative for resuming negotiations, there had been stagnation on the political track. The situation was worse in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, many said, where settlement building continued unabated. The plight of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli detention centres was also of concern, and some wondered why the Council had not condemned the situation.
Negotiations required robust international accompaniment, said the representative of the Russian Federation. Quartet members had firmly called on both sides to meet their Road Map obligations and focus on efforts to improve the climate for resuming talks. For its part, the Russian Federation planned to hold a meeting in mid-May to encourage national reconciliation based on the Doha agreement. In a similar vein, other speakers highlighted the importance of supporting Palestinian institution-building, including through contributions to 2012 current financing requirements, which would promote a cooperative atmosphere.
Echoing the remarks of many in the chamber, Abdou Salam Diallo, Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the Palestinian question was becoming increasingly urgent as a major challenge to the world’s conscience. “Those who think they can ignore it may well face a rude awakening, given the growing deterioration of the situation, both on the ground and politically,” he asserted.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Togo, Portugal, Colombia, Guatemala, Azerbaijan, Morocco, South Africa, France, China, Pakistan, United Kingdom, India, Germany, United States, Lebanon, Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), United Arab Emirates, Japan, Jordan, Brazil, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iceland, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Canada, Syria, Turkey, Cuba, Tunisia, Kazakhstan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Group in New York), and Ecuador.
The Head of the Delegation of the European Union also spoke.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and adjourned at 6:10 p.m.
Meeting to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, the Security Council was expected to hear a briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, to be followed by an open debate.
B. LYNN PASCOE, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said achieving a full and sustained cessation of violence and seeking a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Syria were at the centre of efforts in the Middle East, noting that the Council had taken decisive action on 21 April by authorizing a United Nations Supervision mission (UNSMIS) to that country. The Joint Envoy and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations would brief tomorrow on the good offices efforts and deployment of observers.
“We are at a pivotal moment in Syria,” he asserted. Too many lives had been lost and human rights violations were being perpetrated with impunity. It was hoped that the observers would help stop the killing and “consolidate the calm”. The goal was to create conditions for a serious and credible political process and the Joint Special Envoy had called on the Government and opposition to urgently engage in such a process. The Syrian Government must fully and immediately implement its obligations and stop using heavy weapons, while also pulling back its military from population centres. Measures taken to date — including on the release of arbitrarily detained persons and respect of the right to peacefully demonstrate — were “clearly insufficient”.
Ending the suffering of those most affected by the fighting was a top priority for collective efforts, he said, noting that the second Syria Humanitarian Forum had taken place on 20 April in Geneva. While Syrian Government representatives had recognized there were serious humanitarian needs, he urged the Government to take all necessary steps to facilitate the humanitarian response, as 1 million people were in need.
Turning to the Middle East Peace Process, he said achieving peace for Israelis and Palestinians was an “undiminished” priority. The Secretary-General had joined the Quartet in Washington, D.C., on 11 April to consider developments over the last six months with a view to making progress in a way that built on the Quartet’s 23 September 2011 statement. Both President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had since continued to reiterate their desire to negotiate, efforts that should be supported. Mr. Netanyahu had indicated his intention to respond to a letter from Mr. Abbas delivered on 17 April.
As for the Quartet, members had recognized the urgent need for progress on the ground, underscoring the need for international support for the Palestinian Authority’s institution-building efforts, he said. They also had drawn attention to the need for $1.1 billion in assistance to meet the Authority’s 2012 financing requirements and speedy resolution of outstanding issues related to tax and customs revenue collection. Area C in the West Bank also must be improved, Quartet members had stated. They also had reiterated the call for avoiding actions that undermined trust, he said, recalling that 30 March protests marking “Land day” had been held in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
Other security incidents had been observed this month, he continued, citing clashes between demonstrators and the Israeli Defense Forces which had led to the deaths of four Palestinians and 293 injuries. Those Forces had conducted 314 operations in the occupied West Bank, during which one Palestinian had been killed and 248 injured. Two Israeli soldiers had also been injured. On 18 April, the Israeli military suspended a senior officer who had assaulted a foreign activist in the West Bank.
The Quartet had taken note of “significant” progress on security achieved by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, he said. But, he also cited one incident in which a Palestinian militant had been killed and others injured in a 15 April shoot-out with Palestinian security forces conducting an arrest raid near Jenin. The Israeli Government had announced tenders for more than 1,000 housing units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 870 of which were in the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa, with the remainder in the West Bank, actions that undermined efforts to achieve a two-State solution and contravened international law.
Two Palestinian households of refugee families had been evicted from their homes in Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem, he said, while, in sum, 54 Palestinian structures — including 14 residences — had been demolished in the West Bank. The Quartet was concerned about ongoing settler violence in the West Bank and called on Israel to bring perpetrators of such acts to justice. Some 320 Palestinians were imprisoned in Israeli detention centres. On 17 April, protests in Gaza and the West Bank commemorated “Prisoners’ Day” and 1,200 Palestinian prisoners had begun a hunger strike.
On Gaza, he said the Quartet had stated the situation would remain unsustainable as long as it was not reunited with the West Bank under the legitimate Palestinian Authority adhering to Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) commitments. The reconciliation process had yet to see progress since the 6 February Doha Declaration. This month, 13 rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel, while the Israeli Defense Forces had conducted three incursions and three airstrikes into the area. Two Palestinians had been killed by those Forces on 1 and 3 April, respectively. On 7 April, Hamas de facto authorities executed three prisoners, two of whom had been charged in criminal cases, and one accused of collaboration with Israel. The execution had been carried out without approval of President Abbas, as required by Palestinian Basic Law.
Noting that the Secretary-General had welcomed the recent joint public commitment of the Israelis and Palestinians, he said: “What is important now is to transform this fragile opening into an opportunity to incrementally promote dialogue”. Finally, on Lebanon, he said that on 4 April, the leader of the Lebanese Forces had escaped an apparent assassination attempt and authorities were investigating the attack. The situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border was of concern, as on 9 April, a cameraman for the Lebanese television network Al-Jadeed had been killed in the Lebanese border region of Wads Khaled by gunfire emanating from the Syrian side. Lebanese authorities had launched an inquiry and had requested Syria to do the same. He said the United Nations continued to coordinate with Lebanon on the provision of assistance to the 9,700 Syrian refugees registered in Northern Lebanon, as well as on matters of protection and determination of their status. Overall, the situation in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations had been generally quiet.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, representative of the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said, despite the failure to hold Israel accountable and to fulfil the legal and moral obligations towards Palestine, it was clear that the international community had also not forsaken the noble goal of peace for Palestine and Israel and the wider region. Numerous efforts and the provision of humanitarian aid and financial assistance to Palestine reaffirmed the international commitment that emboldens the goal of a sovereign, viable, contiguous, democratic State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. “Yet, we are all aware that hope cannot be sustained in a vacuum,” he said. “Without a credible political horizon our hopes and convictions are being eroded. The continuity of this horizon is being obstructed by Israel’s refusal to respect the longstanding parameters of the peace process, enshrined in relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles, Arab Peace Initiative and Quartet Road Map, and its brazen impunity that makes peace seem impossible.”
Belief in a two-State solution was particularly diminishing as Israel continued its illegal settlement activities throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The failure to halt that settlement campaign threatened to unravel all that had been achieved to date and to usher in an era of even greater instability and uncertainty, he said. Settlement expansion had continued in a devastating manner.
“The Council remains unable to uphold its duties to stop Israel’s aggression, which is further destabilizing the situation and literally destroying the two-State solution,” he said. “The international community cannot remain on the sidelines. The Security Council’s Charter duties are clear, the responsibilities of United Nations Member States are clear. The obligations of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are clear. Serious practical measures must be undertaken to compel Israel to halt its illegal settlement activities and all other related unlawful policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to begin genuinely moving towards ending this illegitimate, belligerent forty-five year occupation.”
Turning to the Palestinian prisoner crisis, he said thousands of Palestinian civilians were being inhumanely imprisoned. On 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners Day, about 1,600 Palestinians in Israeli prisons joined a hunger strike to protest deplorable conditions. He called on the international community to immediately address the crisis.
Moreover, he pointed to the escalation of Israeli military attacks against the Gaza strip, including extrajudicial killings and the use of tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition against the civilian population. To avert the escalation of tensions and the further deterioration of the situation required halting those and other Israeli aggressions, with the settlement issue being the “main obstacle” to the peace process.
“It is time to end the selective application of the law and shameful pretexts that have only fed Israel impunity,” he said. “Should Israel choose to ignore this appeal — instead, entrenching the occupation and continuing to oppress the Palestinian people — the international community has a responsibility to act to bring an end to this unlawful situation.”
He then stressed the importance of the proposed Security Council visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Such a visit was “long overdue” and would reaffirm the Council’s role in securing peace and enhancing its engagement and credibility. It would also allow Council members to assess first-hand the reality on the ground under Israel’s occupation, better informing their understanding of the various dimensions of this conflict and of the efforts needed to overcome the obstacles to direct negotiations and to salvage the two-State solution on pre-1967 borders.
“We urge Council members to make a positive decision soon on this matter,” he said, reiterating a call on the Depositary, Switzerland, to take the necessary measures to convene a conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to determine the means to ensure respect of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “We stress the value of such a conference for upholding the rule of law, compelling compliance by Israel, and reaffirming the primacy of international humanitarian law for the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including under foreign occupation.”
Palestinian leadership remained committed to its international obligations and the pursuit of peace, justice and the fulfilment of the rights and national aspiration of the Palestinian people in accordance with international legality. “It is time for Israel to respect the law and finally respond to the historic, genuine compromise made by the Palestinian people and the Arab States… and to respond to the hand that continues to be extended for peace,” he said. “In word and deed, Israel must prove that it is serious about ending its military occupation of the Palestinian land since 1967 and reaching a comprehensive peace that will allow the Palestinian people to live in freedom in their State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
“Should Israel once again respond with intransigence and impunity, undermining all of our efforts and deepening the impasse, the Palestinian people and their leadership will not give up, but will continue to pursue all peaceful, non-violent, legitimate political, diplomatic and legal avenues in the international arena to ensure the restoration of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights and the ultimate achievement of peace and justice,” he said. “And we will not cease our appeals to the international community to uphold its responsibilities in this regard.”
RON PROSOR (Israel) said that in the barren deserts of the Middle East, “myths find fertile ground to grow wild”. Facts often remain buried in the sand. To the idea that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would solve all other conflicts in the region, he said: “make no mistake”, it was important for both sides to resolve their conflict, but the truth was that conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain and other parts of the region had nothing to do with Israel. Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not stop the persecution of minorities across the region, end the subjugation of women or heal sectarian divides.
Obsessing over Israel had not stopped [Syrian President Bashar] Al-Assad’s tanks from flattening entire communities, he continued. Dedicating the majority of debate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had not stopped Iran’s centrifuges from spinning. On the contrary, Iran’s nuclear programme was advancing at the speed of an express train, while international efforts to stop them were at the pace of the local train, pausing at every stop for nations to get on and off. “The danger of inaction is clear,” he said.
Addressing another myth — that there was a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip — he said, in fact, numerous international organizations had stated clearly that there was no such crisis, including the Deputy Head of the Red Cross Office in the area. Gaza’s real gross domestic product (GDP) had grown by more than 25 per cent in the first three quarters of 2011. Exports were expanding. There was not a single civilian good that could not enter Gaza today. The equation was simple. Gazans would face hardship as long as terrorists used them as human shields to rain rockets down on Israeli cities. Each rocket in Gaza was capable of causing a political earthquake that would extend well beyond Israel’s borders. “It is time for all in this chamber to finally wake up to that dangerous reality,” he stressed. “Today’s silence is tomorrow’s tragedy.”
To the myth that settlements were the main obstacle to peace, he said the fact was that from 1948 to 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan, and Gaza part of Egypt. The Arab world had not lifted a finger to create a Palestinian state and it sought Israel’s annihilation when not a single settlement stood anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza. In 2005, Israel had taken every settlement out of Gaza and only got rockets in its cities in return. The Israeli Government had put in place an unprecedented ten-month moratorium on settlements and the Palestinian leadership had used the gesture as an opportunity to take Israel — and the international community — on “another ride to nowhere”. For nine of those months, they rejected the moratorium as insufficient.
The primary obstacle to peace was the so-called “claim of return”, he said, and the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The Palestinian leadership had never said publicly it would give up the so-called claim of return. Since the Palestinian leadership refused to tell its people the truth, the international community had the responsibility to tell them the truth. “You have a duty to stand up and say that the so-called “claim of return” is a non-starter”, he said. Also, in debate after debate, speakers in the Council had accused Israel of committing “ethnic cleansing” in Jerusalem, despite the fact that the percentage of Arab residents in that city had grown from 26 per cent to 35 per cent since 1967. The holiest sites in Jerusalem had been closed only to Jews from 1948 to 1967, yet the world had been silent about the situation. Since Israel had unified the city, Jerusalem had thrived under the values of tolerance and freedom.
Another truth the United Nations had overlooked was that more than 850,000 Jews had been uprooted from their homes in Arab countries in the last 64 years, he said. They had been vibrant communities dating back 2,500 years. On the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Babylonian Jewry had produced many of Judaism’s holiest books. In the synagogues and libraries of Cairo, Jews had preserved the intellectual and scientific treasures of antiquity into the Renaissance. “All of these communities were wiped out,” he said. In the more than 1,088 United Nations resolutions on the Middle East, there was not one syllable about the displacement of Jewish refugees. While Palestinian refugees had their own United Nations agencies, none existed for the Jews. The word “double-standard” did not even begin to describe that gap. Israel had welcomed its Jewish refugees with citizenship and unlocked their vast potential.
To the myth that peace could be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians by bypassing direct negotiations, he said history had shown that peace and negotiations were inseparable. Direct talks were the only tool — the only path — to creating two States for two peoples. Last January, Israel offered a proposal in Amman for restarting those talks, which was filled with Israel’s vision for peace. But, it continued to gather dust, as Palestinian leaders piled up new pre-conditions for sitting with Israel. “They are everywhere except the negotiating table,” he said. This week, Israel would mark its day of remembrance and day of independence. But, Israelis also understood they could not turn a blind eye to the dangers around them. The price of conflict was too high; the evil of war too great. That truth guided Israeli leaders.
In the Middle East, he Council had never had a greater responsibility than separating myth from truth, he said. The need for honest discourse had never been clearer. It was time for the Council to sweep out the cobwebs of old illusions and plant the seeds for a truly open debate on the Middle East.
KODJO MENAN ( Togo) said events in the Middle East gave more of a rise for concern than a rise for hope. Concerning Syria, he said while his country was pleased the Council had adopted two resolutions on sending a supervision mission, the situation on the ground remained tense. The Council had done what it could to address that situation, with Resolution 2043 (2012) being the most tangible proof of those efforts, he said, urging the Government of Syria to cease violence and meet for talks. Turning to Yemen, he was encouraged that tensions had experienced a lull since the February 2012 elections, and urged the Government to support peace and to work with the opposition and interest groups. The international community should continue to aid the Government to battle terrorism in its borders.
While there had been no significant progress in the Israel-Palestine situation, he said he was encouraged by Jordan’s involvement, which was a display of efforts to relaunch negotiations. “The Middle East peace hinges on the resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine,” he said, emphasizing that direct negotiations were key to reaching peace.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said as daily life in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had become increasingly harsh, he welcomed efforts aimed to continue negotiations with a view to a final settlement. Both parties must engage wholeheartedly in negotiations and fulfil their obligations, he said, noting that Israel’s settlement and outpost activities must end, as they were a blockade to the peace process. Israel also needed to do much more to ensure the economic recovery of Gaza, and Hamas, as the de facto authority, must end rocket attacks on Israel. A sustainable peaceful settlement to the conflict relied on a commitment by Israel on security matters, and he called upon Israel and the Arab States to seriously engage on all dimensions of the conflict.
Turning to Syria and the Council’s authorized supervision mission, he urged Syrian authorities to implement their commitments under the six-point proposal and reiterated a call for all parties to cease violence.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said it was encouraging that new plans for dialogue between the parties were being discussed. The creation of a viable Palestinian State living in peace side by side with Israel must be the fruit of direct negotiations. The parties should continue in their efforts for a rapprochement, as dialogue was the only possible road to renewal of a negotiation process. He urged the Quartet representative to continue his work to achieve that goal. While noting progress in West Bank made by the Palestinian Authority, he urged that all forms of extremism end. In Gaza, Colombia was concerned at rocket attacks from that area and urged their end. Israel must stop settler violence and bring perpetrators to justice. Underscoring the Palestinian Authority’s progress in the creation of their institutions, he backed international efforts to enhance capacity-building efforts. Parties should refrain from unilateral measures that contravened international law.
The international community should ensure that parties took measures that respected human rights, he said. In Syria, violence and repression had not come to an end. Colombia had voted in favour of the establishment of a United Nations Supervision Mission in that country, believing that the unanimous statement showed the Council’s determination to resolve the situation. He hoped that a broader presence would allow for the constant evaluation of the six-point plan to which the Syrian Government had committed. That plan was the ideal response for ending the crisis and creating conditions for broad political dialogue. It was crucial that the Council work with the Joint Special Envoy and maintain an attitude marked by cautious optimism. It should continue to urge the parties to uphold the ceasefire.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said the widespread transformation processes in the Middle East did not take away from the importance of the Arab-Israeli issue. One could not overstate the risks of the “flagging” attention to today’s theme on a regional level, especially in face of policies being pursued in a fait accompli manner. Diffusing tensions could be done only with direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. A serious step that would allow for resuming contacts was the exchange of letters between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Mr. Abbas had laid out his readiness to undertake substantive talks on an internationally recognized legal basis.
Negotiations required robust international accompaniment, he said, notably by the Quartet. In its 11 April statement, the Quartet had firmly called on both sides to meet their Road Map obligations and focus on efforts to improve the climate for resuming talks. The Quartet had supported a range of programmes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Regional players — especially Jordan and Egypt — could play a role, in that regard. For its part, the Russian Federation planned to hold a meeting in mid-May to encourage national reconciliation based on the Doha agreement. The stalemate in the Middle East also called on the Council to act, and the idea to send a mission to the region remained relevant. That would stimulate the resumption of substantive talks, including on the basis of the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant United Nations resolutions.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said that Syria could not be examined in an isolated manner, given that the so-called Arab Spring had shown a propensity for events in any single country rapidly spilling over to its neighbours. He said the situation in Syria had the capacity to divide the international community and even the League of Arab States, not only regarding the interpretation of what was going on, but also regarding how to react to situations that clearly carried the risk of spinning out of control.
Turning to the Palestinian people’s demand for a homeland, he said the complex panorama offered multiple opportunities for the Council to find ways to attain the vision of a more prosperous, more democratic and more inclusive region. United, and especially partnering with the League of Arab States, “we can make a contribution, first, to avoid that the existing crises explode in our hands, and second, offer ideas and perhaps concrete mechanisms which will assist the directly involved countries to find their own way,” he said, reaffirming that the situation in the Middle East as an agenda item clearly justified the Council’s constant follow-up.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said patience, diligence and political dexterity should be the best tools in making the region’s current democratic transformation process as smooth as possible. Turning to specific issues, he first welcomed the exchange of letters between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and hoped that they would maintain the current positive momentum for resuming negotiations. Highlighting efforts geared towards the same end, he was concerned about the continuing illegal settlement activities, which threatened a two-State solution and the emergence of a viable Palestinian State. In addition, continuing human rights violations could not go unheeded by the Security Council, he said.
Turning to Syria, he said his country was encouraged by the tireless efforts by the United Nations and League of Arab States’ Joint Special Envoy, but was still concerned about continued sporadic violence. UNSMIS expressed a unified Security Council position and he hoped the mission would carry out its monitoring task. “With more political will, rigorous work and concerted efforts, peace and security will no longer be rare commodities in the Middle East,” he said.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said it was incumbent on the Council to salvage peace in the Middle East, and he highlighted the value of the Council’s visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Colonization in those areas was the most serious danger threatening the peace process, he said, citing Israel’s decision to build housing units in those territories. At the Washington meeting this month, the Quartet had expressed concern at the violence and called on Palestinians and Israelis to find a solution. The Quartet had also called for international assistance to Palestinian authorities. The Human Rights Council had authorized a fact-finding mission on the impact of those settlements on human rights in those areas. East Jerusalem was being targeted by Israel’s settlements, notably with the construction of bypass roads to isolate the city from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Palestinians had shown their commitment to negotiations and the peace process, he said, noting that the Arab League Summit in Baghdad last month had reaffirmed comprehensive peace as a strategic option. Mr. Abbas’ initiative to write to Mr. Netanyahu about the revival of negotiations would enable Palestinians to establish their independent, viable State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. He urged Palestinians to embark on the reconciliation path, in line with the Doha Declaration. The economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was in a precarious situation. Israel had placed many Palestinian prisoners in solitary confinement. Palestinian leaders had confirmed the Leagues’ 23 September 2011 statement to accept Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, which was in line with the United States President’s vision for peace, based on a two-State solution. He called for international instruments to be implemented, and on Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian Arab territories.
ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the last 18 months had seen dramatic developments in North Africa and the Middle East. What was clear was that the status quo — the unfulfilment of peoples’ rights — could no longer continue, and in that light, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must be solved. He voiced disappointment that, since 23 September 2011, tangible progress had yet to be seen. Despite commendable efforts, notably by Jordan, there had been stagnation on the political track. The situation was worse in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The most dramatic development had been the continued settlement building, which undermined the creation of a viable Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel. Taking note of the 11 April Quartet statement and efforts to revive the peace process, he asked, yet again, whether it was time to assess the Quartet model and what the Council could do to foster the pursuit of lasting peace. The Road Map had not been complied with, nor had the request to start negotiations. The submissions of proposals on borders and security had not been followed.
The Council could not be absolved of responsibility on this crucial matter, he said, noting that a visit to the region would be beneficial. It also should consider the views of regional organizations, including the League of Arab States. He commended Mr. Abbas for having taken the initiative to write to Mr. Netanyahu to begin negotiations. If that opportunity was not seized, the viability for a two-State solution would fade. The prospects for direct talks appeared slim. Aside from illegal settlements, Israel continued with illegal demolitions and maintained its hold on Gaza, among other things. Gaza was of particular concern. On 12 March, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had expressed deep concern about children in that area. Perhaps the Council should consider that matter in its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. On Syria, he supported the adoption of resolution 2043 (2012) and urged both sides to guarantee the safety of the new mission’s personnel. All in the international community must give the resolution a chance to succeed.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said the daily stalemate among Israel and Palestine was having a perilous affect on the situation, exacerbated by Israel’s illegal settlement activities and rocket fire against Israel. “Deep brainstorming” was needed on how the international community could support the peace process based on a realistic timetable. The parties must undertake their obligations, along with compromise and confidence-building measures needed to be implemented to restore trust between the two parties, he said. The latest ad hoc liaison committee showed that the Palestinians were ready to build their State; however, donors needed to mobilize to provide assistance and Israel needed to address the issue of providing fees to Palestinian authorities, he said. “There can be no lasting solution as long as the Palestinian territories remained divided,” he said.
Turning to Syria, he was concerned at the situation on the ground, noting that Damascus had failed to meet its commitments, with assaults undertaken on Homs and the Syrian Army continuing bombing. The United Nations supervision mission was not without risk, and no threat to the mission should be tolerated by the Council.
LI BAODONG ( China) said the peace process remained at a worrying impasse since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained at the root of regional peace. China had taken part in efforts to eventually establish a Palestinian state and welcomed efforts made by both parties to break the impasses, hoping the Quartet would continue work towards the same end. Israel’s settlement activities were the main obstacles to peace talks, he said, urging Israel to cease those actions. In addition, the security and humanitarian conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were grave, and the international community should continue to provide more assistance and support to the Palestinian people. Likewise, Syria-Israel and Lebanon-Israel territorial issues needed to be resolved to contribute to a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.
Turning to Syria, he called on Syrian authorities to abide by the six-point plan and the work of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), supported Palestinians’ right to self-determination, as well as the creation of an independent fact-finding mission in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. He noted that the Secretary-General had visited the region in February, a timely initiative that would help refocus international attention on the “festering” dispute. Indeed, Israel was implementing policies in defiance of international law, including through efforts to redraw the map of Palestine, settlement activity and its reluctance to accept 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations. He strongly condemned the 4 April announcement of new tenders for over 1,100 settlements in East Jerusalem, whose mayor also announced measures that would effectively divide that city. Those were major roadblocks to peace. The Quartet had reaffirmed its commitment to all elements of its Road Map, but it was disconcerting that its statement focused more on the financial viability of the Palestinian Authority than on settlements as a basis for starting negotiations.
For its part, the Security Council should help create the conditions for restarting the peace process, he said, and hold Israel accountable for its defiance. Pakistan would continue to engage other Council members to bring the idea for a Council visit to the Occupied Territories to fruition. More than 4,700 Palestinians languished in Israeli prisons and the international community should force the occupying Power to amend its ways. Israel’s blockade of Gaza was diminishing the economic prospects of that area, and he called for implementing resolution 1860 (2009). Palestine had proved it was ready to take its place among the community of nations,” he said. Pakistan supported lasting peace for all Middle Easterners, as laid out in the Road Map, Madrid Terms of Reference and the Arab League Initiative. Progress on Syria, Israel and the Syria-Lebanon border area also was essential and he called on Israel to withdraw from the Syrian Golan.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) voiced deep concern at the crisis in Syria. In its 21 April resolution 2043 (2012), the Council had taken an important step for a supervision mission to that country. It did so, despite Syria’s failure to meet its commitments laid out in resolution 2042 (2012). It was essential for Syria meet its commitments on troop movements and heavy weapons, and to allow the mission to effectively operate, including by allowing unhindered humanitarian access. Failure to do so must be met by “real and robust” consequences. Turning to the plight of Palestinians, he said the shared goal remained a two-State solution. All had agreed that negotiations were the best way forward. They should be based along 1967 lines, a just solution for refugees, and Jerusalem as a joint capital of both States. The United Kingdom was fully committed to that and welcomed the recent Quartet statement on the issue.
Nonetheless, there had been a “depressing” lack of progress, he said, noting that in the immediate term, threats to a two-state solution must be thwarted. He was disappointed by the 4 April announcement of renewed Israeli settlement activity. Israel was obliged to uphold international law and fulfil its commitments. Systematic settlement activity was the most significant threat to the viability of a two-State solution. He condemned Israel’s decision to publish tenders for settlements in Har Homa. Israel’s policy was illegal and provocative. He urged Israel to desist from further settlement announcements, revoke previous ones and remove illegal outposts. Failure to do so would damage the two-State solution and undermine the security it sought to deliver. For Palestinians, the rocket fire from Gaza must stop. In the longer term, international support must be lent to the Palestinian Authority. The United Kingdom would continue to be a principal supporter of state-building efforts and welcomed the Quartet statement’s focus on Area C. A sustainable solution required a sustainable approach to Gaza. Israel must remove the restrictions that were damaging that economy.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said the continuing Israeli-Palestinian stalemate was undermining gains in the peace process. Israeli settlement activities needed to be addressed and both parties should commit to their obligations and restart negotiations. His country hoped the recent meeting between negotiators would be fruitful. Reiterating that settlement activities were destroying the possibility of a two-State solution, he called on Israel to stop all related activities.
Given the dire conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the West Bank should be augmented, he said. India was providing $10 million to various projects to assist the Palestinian people, in part to express its strong support of Palestine’s right to become a sovereign State. The issue of other Arab lands under Israeli occupation also needed to be addressed to ensure peace in the region.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) said both parties in the Israel-Palestinian conflict must commit to further negotiations, because such progress was key to achieving regional peace. Both sides needed to look for ways to bring about mutual trust and the resumption of direct talks. However, settlement activities threatened to undermine those efforts, he said, deploring the recent publication of tenders for additional settlements and to approve outposts previously deemed illegal. Those actions were an obstacle to peace, he said. The social and economic development of Area C was critical to the viability of a Palestinian state, and transparent procedures were needed for planning and building, he said. Tax and custom collection issues also needed to be resolved. As a major donor, Germany fully expected Israel to live up to its obligations.
Turning to Syria, he said Resolution 2043 (2012) was an important advancement and he hoped the supervision mission would be undertaken safely. He was concerned about recent violence, and he strongly supported Mr. Annan’s six-point plan and its full implementation.
SUSAN RICE (United States) said the United States Secretary of State had hosted the Quartet meeting in Washington, D.C., last month, where the Quartet had welcomed plans for dialogue between the parties. “We should all support the creation of a conducive climate,” she urged. On 17 April, the start of dialogue had emerged after senior Palestinian officials delivered a letter to Mr. Netanyahu. In a joint statement afterward, both parties had stated their hope that the exchange would help find a way to advance peace. The United States shared that hope and viewed the exchange as positive step, building on Quartet statements since last September. The Quartet also focused on maintaining international support for institution-building efforts. The international community must support the steps needed to build capacities of a future Palestinian State. She welcomed efforts to resolve issues related to tax and revenue collection. The international community must support those moves.
Calling for international support of Palestinian institution-building, including through contributions to 2012 current financing requirements, she said the utmost must be done to promote a cooperative atmosphere. Partners should urge refraining from provocative actions, including in Jerusalem, that threatened to derail prospects for negotiated settlement. Provocative actions, including rocket fire from Gaza, should be unanimously condemned. Any Palestinian Government must accept the Quartet principles of renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and accepting previous agreements. Israel must step up to deter and prosecute anti-Palestinian violence. The United States did not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity, or efforts to legalize outposts. In Syria, the threat to peace and security was grave. The United States had provided more than $33 million in humanitarian assistance. “We’re all sober in our expectations,” she said, urging Syria to seize the chance for a peaceful political situation to the crisis before it was too late.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said his Government was totally committed to the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). Lebanon stood by its position of support for Syria’s unity, territorial integrity and people’s right to live in freedom and safety. Despite its shortcomings, the 11 April Quartet statement should be commended for reminding both parties of their obligations. The Road Map provided for Israel to dismantle its settlement outposts and freeze all settlement activity. In line with the 23 September statement, the Quartet now called on the parties to refrain from provocative actions. Citing Israel’s 4 April decision to issue tenders for new settlements, and Mr. Netanyahu’s plan to ask his Cabinet to legalize the status of three West Bank outposts, he asked, yet again, whether such activities were inconsistent with the Road Map and clearly provocative. By not responding, the Council would be again be failing to uphold its duty.
He said the March 2012 report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had identified water springs taken over by Israeli settlers which placed use by Palestinians at risk. Fifty-six such springs had been identified as privately owned by Palestinians. Palestinians had been deterred from using them by Israeli settlers. Such practices violated international law, he said, citing also General Assembly resolution 64/292 on the human right to water and sanitation. The Council should condemn such practices. He also found profoundly inappropriate that the Road Map used the terms “a future Palestinian State”. The State of Palestine already existed and had been recognized by a large majority of United Nations members. The question of Palestinian statehood could not be subject to any outcome of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, which comprised 120 countries, said the global consensus to realize the independence of the State of Palestine was long overdue and its continued postponement would only put that noble goal further out of reach. He regretted that all efforts exerted to date had failed to achieve any progress, due to the deliberate obstruction by Israel and its failure to abide by well-known parameters of the peace process, including illegal settlement activities. He welcomed Palestinian efforts to resume credible negotiations and called on Israel to respond positively. He called on the Security Council to act and demand that Israel, the occupying Power, abide by its legal obligations.
Humanitarian concerns in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must also be addressed, he said. “At a time when the two-State solution is being severely weakened and should be strengthened, we recall the application submitted by Palestine on 23 September 2011 for admission to United Nations membership,” he said. “We look forward to Security Council action that recognizes the legitimate and historic rights of the Palestinian people and contributes to the peace effort. We are at a critical juncture and must do all we can collectively to prevent further destabilization and continuation of this tragic, destructive conflict and instead promote peace, justice and security.” The Non-Aligned Movement also condemned Israel’s ongoing violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and demanded that Israel abided by resolution 497 (1981).
AHMED AL-JARMAN (United Arab Emirates) said Israel’s illegal settlement expansions were the direct cause of the failure of all regional international efforts made so far to resume peace negotiations and had resulted in increasing anger, tension and instability in the region as a whole. The Arab Group, of which he was Chair, was deeply concerned about the continuing inability of the international community to end such violations or the aggressive Israeli measures, which encouraged Israel to continue its provocative decisions regarding the establishment of new settlements. He demanded that the Security Council support the recent Human Rights Council decision, which called for sending an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the repercussions of Israel’s settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people, which had continued to suffer. He urged donor countries to fulfil their commitments to provide in 2012 $1 billion to the annual budget of the Palestinian Authority. He condemned Israel’s occupation in the Syrian Golan and deplored Israel’s violations of Lebanese sovereignty.
Turning to Syria, he said the Arab Group supported Security Council resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012). He hoped the concerned parties in Syria bore their national responsibilities and complied with commitments and pledges set out in the six-point settlement plan in order to end the bloodshed, allow the Syrian people to achieve their legitimate aspirations, and restore security and stability throughout the country. He hoped the Council would take the critical measures required to revive the efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace and security in the Middle East.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said there was a need to ensure meaningful progress on the Middle East peace process, with the central role played by the Quartet. Negotiations were the best way forward, if there was to be lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a bold and decisive demonstration of political leadership was needed on both sides, he said, emphasizing the European Union’s commitment to a two-State solution. He called on the parties to demonstrate their commitment to a peaceful solution by confidence-building measures and to refrain from provocative actions. A sustainable Palestinian economy was needed, which would mean a relaxing of Israeli restrictions on access to land, water, raw materials and export markets. He called on the parties to cooperate to facilitate the social and economic development of Area C, which was of critical importance for the viability of a future Palestinian State.
All illegal settlement activities and the separation barrier constituted an obstacle to peace and threatened to make a two-State solution impossible. The European Union was concerned about approvals for new construction in a range of settlements and outposts and would be watching developments closely. Escalating violence in Gaza and southern Israel was another concern, he said, calling for a complete cessation of rocket attacks on Israel and the full respect of international humanitarian law, as well as an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings. Israel needed to take further steps in allowing for reconstruction and the economic recovery of the Gaza Strip, he said.
The European Union welcomed the adoption of resolution 2043 (2012) and called for its full implementation, alongside resolution 2042 (2012). He remained deeply concerned about the situation in Syria and called on the Government to show a visible change by withdrawing all troops and heavy weapons from population centres to their barracks. He also called on all parties to cease violence in all its forms and urged Syrian authorities to grant immediate, unimpeded and full access of humanitarian organizations to all areas to deliver assistance, including medical care.
TSUNEO NISHIDA (Japan) was deeply concerned at the situation in Syria and deplored that more than 9,000 people had died due to the violence. He reiterated the call for Syria to unconditionally implement the six-point proposal in its entirety and to end all human rights violations. While the adoptions of resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012) were important steps to address the Syrian situation, he voiced deep concern at the escalated violence in recent days and the failure of Syrian authorities to implement their commitments. He hoped the supervision mission would carry out its mandate effectively. In that context, he underlined the safety of observers and called on Syria to cooperate with United Nations personnel. He also was concerned at the humanitarian situation for Syrian internally displaced persons and refugees in neighbouring countries. It had provided $3 million in emergency funds. Personnel must have full access to those in need of such assistance.
On the Middle East peace process, he supported a two-State solution, which could only be achieved through sincere negotiations, as well as elements of the 23 September 2011 Quartet statement, which was reaffirmed two weeks ago. He strongly expected recent efforts, including the correspondence from Mr. Abbas to Mr. Netanyahu, would lead to direct negotiations. Japan did not recognize any measure that would prejudge any outcome and he called on both parties to refrain from provocative actions. Israel must immediately freeze West Bank settlement activities, while the Palestinian Authority must continue to improve security and fulfil commitments to cease violence. Japan supported the Authority in its efforts to achieve statehood. He called on Israel to support the fiscal stability of the Authority, including through tax transfers.
PRINCE ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said current regional conditions were exceptional in nature at a time when the Arab world was facing decisive difficulties. In Syria, he condemned the massacre of civilians and taking of civilians as a target, which contravened international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such actions must be submitted to determine legal responsibility. Despite recent events, the Palestinian question was the central one in the Middle East. Citing Jordan’s initiative to start negotiations, support Quartet efforts and advance from the current impasse, he welcomed Mr. Abbas’ letter to Mr. Netanyahu, voicing hope for a positive response from the Israeli side. Israel’s delegate had said the West Bank was part of Jordan from 1948 to 1967, and that Jordan had not lifted a finger to create a Palestinian state. Neo-revisionists in Israel had put forward that idea.
In reality, in the Act of Union (1950), Jordan had agreed — without prejudice — to the rights and aspirations of Palestinians, he said, as seen by King Hussein’s attendance at the 1964 opening ceremony of the PLO. What had been non-Israeli territory prior to 1948 remained so today. Its status from 1950 to 1967 had been in dispute between Jordanians and Palestinians. Everyone agreed it was non-Israeli territory, which remained so today. To the point that Jordan had closed holy sites to Jews, he said that action had been taken because Christian Palestinians had not been permitted by Israel to travel to Nazareth. Jordan had been responding to prior action taken by Israel. He urged a political solution to the Syrian crisis. He called for not abandoning the Syrians, ending the targeting of civilians and starting dialogue between the opposition and the Government.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had seen no progress in recent months, despite the latest efforts by the Jordanian authorities, which had cast a glimpse of hope. “We have been watching with dismay and serious concern the steady and unabated continuation of illegal settlement activity in the Occupied Territories, which puts in grave risk the prospects for a two-State solution,” she said. Brazil considered the continuation of the illegal settlement policy the most important single reason for the longstanding and dangerous paralysis of the peace process. She reiterated the call on Israel to stop and reverse settlement activity. Furthermore, she called on the Council to fulfil its Charter responsibilities in regard to the Question of Palestine and act, in order to avoid having the prospects for peace unravel.
On the situation in Syria, she said that the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for greater political participation, economic opportunities, dignity and social justice be fully heard and realized. Brazil condemned all violence against civilians and underlined the crucial role of the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan in bringing about a political solution to the crisis. She called on the Syrian government to fulfil its commitments and fully implement all aspects of the six-point plan. In addition, the opposition must understand that dialogue, not armed struggle, was the means to advance democracy, freedom and justice. Lastly, she said that Brazil continued to follow carefully the situation in Lebanon and was interested in maintaining its current contribution of personnel and equipment to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon’s Maritime Task Force.
GARY FRANCIS QUINLAN (Australia) said his country was frustrated with the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian situation. He supported Jordan’s efforts in the matter, as well as last week’s meeting with negotiators, and hoped those actions would help to provide a path to peace. “But the window was closing quickly,” he said, noting that the situation on the ground was increasingly fragile, including Israeli settlement activity. “Settlements are directly corroding the viability of a two-State solution,” he said. Violence of any kind targeting civilians must stop and more must be done to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza. If direct negotiations did not resume, the opportunity for peace “would disappear”. International and regional donors must continue their support. He admired the Palestinian leadership in providing a basis for statehood and his country would continue to support its work.
Turning to Syria, he supported the recent Security Council resolutions. However, the Syrian Government had yet to remove troops and heavy weapons. He urged Syria to ensure the effectiveness of the United Nations mission. Australia would continue to address related issues, including the many Syrians who had been forced to flee their country.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said international efforts to meet and advance the Palestinian-Israeli situation had “so far failed” to facilitate the resumption of direct talks between parties with a view to resolving the issue before the end of the year. Despite warnings that provocations hampered that process, Israeli settlement activities had increased in volume and intensity and Palestinian state-building efforts faced an increasing risk of failing. His country strongly supported Palestinian rights to an independent and sovereign State alongside a vision of two Sates living side by side in peace.
“As we focus on this objective, the international community must move beyond rhetoric,” he said. “We must contribute in real terms to support the Palestinian people to prepare for the day when they finally exercise their right of sovereignty.” He said Israel must realize that human rights must be respected and protected, and the will of the oppressed would prevail. It was the international community’s responsibility to continue its efforts to create conducive conditions for the early establishment of an independent State of Palestine. Turning to Lebanon and Syria, he urged Israel to respect the former’s sovereignty and respect Security Council resolutions 1701 (2006) and 497 (1981).
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia) said the rapid and substantive developments in the Arab world in the past 15 months had led to the unintended neglect of the Palestinian people, who had been forced to live under the longest military occupation in modern history. He called upon all Member States to redirect their focus to Palestine. He wished to highlight for the international community the continued Israeli violations of provisions of international law. Illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, along with blockades in Gaza, had unleashed violence, with the latter causing “a cruel case of deliberate economic strangulation of Palestine and a form of collective punishment” that was totally against international law. “Seventy per cent of the population of this narrow strip, or 1.1 million inhabitants, are made dependent on United Nations humanitarian assistance,” he said. “To alleviate this suffering, Malaysia calls on Israel to unconditionally and completely lift this illegal blockade.”
Turning to Syria, he welcomed the recently adopted resolutions and sought a peaceful settlement through an inclusive Syrian-led political process, where the rights of all parties were protected. He hoped the international zeal seen in those resolutions would be replicated in ending the illegal Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan. Further, he reiterated his country’s call on United Nations Member States that had yet to do so to recognize the independent State of Palestine.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said her country condemned Israel’s illegal occupation of territory in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon and demanded its immediate withdrawal. Nicaragua also condemned Israeli settlement construction and the inhuman blockade in Gaza. Israel’s impunity must end, and continued only because of one permanent member of the Security Council, she said. It was time to recognize the Palestinian State and for Security Council members to end their double standard of requiring some, but not all, to comply with resolutions.
The situation in the region had also worsened, with conflicts being resolved with weapons and war instead of through dialogue, she said. Now the role of the United Nations and its members should be to support peace, and keep open the channels of communication and dialogue. The calls that rose from this chamber should be for peace, not war. Her country called for the combined efforts of the Russian Federation, China and the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to be supported by the United Nations and all its members. Global peace could only be preserved, if it became clear that interventionism could never serve as a basis for a new world order.
PALITHA T.B. KOHONA (Sri Lanka), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that although a durable solution to the Middle East situation continued to evade the Council, it was important to keep engaged. Israel’s settlement activities were a factor in the recurrence of violence in the region and the Quartet — and wider international community — had repeatedly called for a freeze on it. Such activity, a source of continuing friction in the Occupied Territories, must be brought to an end that was in line with international law. He encouraged both parties to exercise the utmost restraint for the sake of civilians.
He said political unity and the economic advancement of Palestinians would contribute to the viability of the two-State solution, adding that it was notable that the President of the Palestinian Authority and the leader of Hamas had agreed to form a transitional Government. Sri Lanka looked forward to Palestinian legislative and presidential elections. He also strongly urged occupying authorities to lift restrictions on Gaza for persons and goods, which would contribute significantly to the area’s economic advancement. Finally, he said Sri Lanka supported Palestine’s application for full membership in the United Nations.
ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said resolution of the Arab Israeli conflict, including on the issue of Palestine, must be the collective objective. He encouraged Jordan’s efforts in that regard. Among the recent developments, he cited the Quartet meeting on 11 April, but noted that little progress had been made on meeting the timeline set out in September for agreement by the end of 2012. The Quartet should adopt a clear position on the 1967 borders, including for Jerusalem, and ease the financial burden on the Palestinian Authority. The United States President had called Mr. Abbas on 19 March, reaffirming the United States’ commitment to the peace process and Quartet commitments.
Continuing, he voiced hope that the independent fact-finding mission established by the Human Rights Council would be granted access to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He was disheartened that progress on Palestine’s application for United Nations membership had been shelved after an inability to take a unanimous decision. Palestinian prisoners were also of concern and they must be charged, or otherwise freed. To achieve a two-State solution, he cited resolutions 242 (1967) 338 (1973), 425 (1978), the land for peace principle, and the Arab Peace Initiative, among other instruments, as a basis in that regard.
ABDOU SALAM DIALLO, Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said “the Palestinian question was becoming increasingly urgent as a major challenge to the world’s conscience. Those who think they can ignore it may well face a rude awakening, given the growing deterioration of the situation, both on the ground and politically.”
He said settlements, which undermined a two-State solution, and the recent project launch for constructing 1,121 residential structures were the latest instalment in the vicious cycle of Israeli decision-making that had dashed the tentative hopes of those intent on achieving a negotiated solution. The Committee called upon the Security Council to act resolutely in order to put an end to settlement construction and to dismantle them. He supported the Human Rights Council fact-finding mission and called for a revitalization of the work of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The serious financial crisis affecting the Palestinian Authority could also stymie progress already made in its State-building efforts, unless donor generosity negated the “economic strangulation” it was facing, he said. Palestine’s application for United Nations membership should be given proper and fair consideration.
The international community must take bold and urgent action to break the deadlock while the two-State solution could still be salvaged, he said. The Quartet and regional partners must also remain firmly resolved to enforce the deadline set for the end of 2012 to reach the long-awaited agreement. He called upon the parties to return to the negotiating table.
For its part, the Committee had continued to make a constructive contribution to achieving its shared aim of having two States living in peace and security. A seminar in February examined the cost of Israeli occupation, which amounted to $7 billion each year. A United Nations meeting in Geneva earlier this month reviewed the humanitarian and legal aspects of the prisoner problem, underlining that no agreement would be possible unless a just solution was found for the 4,400 prisoners in question. That issue required the constant attention of the United Nations, and particularly the Security Council, he concluded.
JÓN ERLINGUR JÓNASSON (Iceland) said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continued to be the core issue for peace and security in the Middle East. The changes in the region must include a solution to the conflict. Continued and accelerated settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained the main obstacle to peace, he said. Iceland welcomed the Human Rights Council resolution on conducting an investigation into the settlements. He encouraged Security Council members to accept President Abbas’ invitation to visit, which would give members a chance to see the situation on the ground.
At the moment, it seemed all avenues were closed to the Palestinians, he said. “Their membership application to the United Nations has been vetoed beforehand.” The current situation reflected very badly on the international community. The Security Council should renew its commitment to solving the conflict and inform the rest of the membership on how they intended to proceed. His country fully supported the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and reiterated its call to the Security Council to recommend to the General Assembly that Palestine be accepted as the 194th Member State of the United Nations.
MORTEN WETLAND ( Norway) said Israel and the Palestinians had responsibilities to achieve a comprehensive, just and durable peace. Hostilities against Israeli civilians and the expansion of Israeli settlements were unacceptable, the latter being the “most severe impediment to peace”. Israel must comply with international law and abide by its obligations, he said. Current actions on the ground were not compatible with peace negotiations and establishing a two-State solution. More needed to be done for Gaza to realize its full economic and social potential, he said.
On Syria, he noted that the end of violence remained to be seen. Syrian authorities must immediately withdraw their security forces and heavy weapons from populated areas. He said Norway supported Mr. Annan’s efforts to stop the bloodshed and facilitate a political transition towards democracy. He welcomed the adoption of resolution 2043 (2012) and the deployment of up to 300 military observers and civilian experts to monitor the full implementation of Mr. Annan’s six-point proposal. He hoped that those efforts would contribute positively and create conditions for a meaningful transition in Syria.
YOUSEF SULTAN LARAM ( Qatar) said the Palestinian issue was the central one in the region’s peace and security. While the Palestinian side had shown its desire for direct negotiations and presented its vision in all rounds of talks to resolve the two most prominent issues — borders and security — Israel had not provided anything in writing. It instead declared its determination to retain control of the Jordan Valley and the eastern border. It had expanded settlements, which undermined the two-State solution by imposing a fait accompli that made it impossible to build a viable Palestinian state. Qatar renewed its call on States that had not yet recognized Palestine to do so, and on the Security Council not to “obstruct” the Palestinian demand for full United Nations membership.
On the question of Jerusalem, he said the International Conference for the Defence of Jerusalem had been held in Doha last February, where Qatar urged rejecting Israeli attempts to prejudice the sanctity of Islamic and Christian holy sites, demolish homes and expel the Arab population. Turning to Syria, he said Qatar had strived to play a positive role in resolving the crisis, but the Syrian authorities had decided to resort to killing, detentions and torture in hopes of extinguishing protests. Qatar had repeatedly emphasized the unity of Syrians and the territorial integrity of Syria. It had supported sending an observer mission to that country. He called on the Syrian Government to stop all violence, protect civilians, withdraw its military forces and ensure freedom for peaceful demonstrations. Syrian authorities had directed false accusations against Qatar to divert attention from the massacres it was committing against its people.
ABDALLAH YAHYA A. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), supporting the League of Arab States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement, said there was profound disappointment at the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories. The Council must deal with the occupation in a firm way. Yesterday, Israel expelled two Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, while building permits had been granted to settlers, with an aim to “Judaize” Jerusalem. Israel was denying the work of the Quartet, especially the 11 April statement, which itself did not meet Palestinians’ aspirations. Saudi Arabia, which was responsible for holy places in Medina and Mecca, was following Israel’s attacks in East Jerusalem. A Saudi initiative sought to end the Arab-Israeli conflict by ending the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights. His Government wished to see a Palestinian state, but that initiative had been refused by Israel.
He urged the Council to take measures to end the blockade of Gaza, end Israeli occupation and recognize a Palestinian state on Palestinian land, in line with the 4 June 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. He urged full accession of Palestine in the United Nations. As for Iran’s occupation of three islands belonging to the United Arab Emirates, he said the Iranian President’s visit to those islands was unacceptable. He supported the United Arab Emirates in its efforts to resolve the issue peacefully through mediation and arbitration. On Syria, he supported resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2043), saying it was high time for the Syrian Government to stop using arms against its people. He urged the Council to ensure that Syrian authorities were not able to get away with not respecting their commitments. The Council could not give Syria any more time. He urged implementing international law.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela) said Israel promoted a regime of exclusion and called itself democratic. “There is no democracy when a group is privileged over another, through the use of laws, policies and force in order to impose religious or ethnic identities, and when a people is subjected to oppression, spoliation and discrimination,” he said. “It is imperative to put an end to the Palestinian drama, through a global and sustainable peace.” Reiterating the importance of convening a conference of High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to determine ways to ensure compliance with the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, he said the Security Council remained indolent to the systematic violations by Israel of international law. “We deplore that, given the complicity of a political and military power, all the resolutions on the Palestinian question are ignored,” he said, adding that there was an urgent need to move towards a new international order, based on the legal equality of States. He reiterated his country’s support for recognizing the Palestinian State as a full member of the United Nations.
Turning to Syria, he said Israel ignored the legitimate aspirations of the Golan Heights. On security, he said the Council must contribute to the implementation of the six-point peace plan. He encouraged a ceasefire and a political and peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria to move towards democratic reforms. The quest for peace must never be abandoned, he said. However, some war mongers did not want peace in Syria and were seeking a regime change that, if accomplished, would destabilize the Middle East and would encourage the aggression from Israel against the Palestinian people, he said. The Syrian people had the right to decide their destiny democratically, and the Government of President Al-Assad was a legitimate representative of its people, he said. He then condemned violations of Lebanese sovereignty and violations of resolution 1701 (2006).
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said illegal policies and constant provocations and incitement by the Israeli regime and its extremist settlers against the Palestinian people risked further destabilization and tension on the ground. Israeli occupying forces continued to storm holy compounds in Occupied Jerusalem and use force against hundreds of Palestinian worshippers, unleashing tear gas, and using grenades, sound bombs and rubber bullets. The Security Council and the world community must note the escalation of tensions and confrontations in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque, with similar situations at this and other Muslim and Christian holy sites in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Illegal settlements were another grave concern, which violated article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. His country supported the Non-Aligned Movement’s request that Switzerland reconvene a conference of High Contracting Parties. The situation in Gaza and the West Bank was equally dire, including attacks, bombings and systematic human rights violations. “There is no justification for the Security Council to remain silent vis-à-vis the perpetrators of these crimes,” he said, emphasizing that the international community was responsible for ending the deliberate human rights violations.
Turning to Syria, he said his country firmly believed that the current crisis should only be resolved through Syrian-led political dialogue in a peaceful manner. During a visit to Iran, Mr. Annan received support from Iranian high officials for his mission and was informed of Iran’s deep concerns over the regional consequences of any violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He was glad that the Syrian Government was constructively and actively engaged with Mr. Annan’s mission. Regarding the baseless allegations levelled by the representative of “such a criminal regime”, he did not intend to delve into a detailed response. The Israeli regime’s clandestine development and unlawful possession of hundreds of nuclear warheads was threatening the region, as well as international peace and security.
In response to references made by Saudi Arabia’s representative to islands in the Persian Gulf, he said the islands were integral parts of Iranian territory and rejected claims to the contrary. The Iranian President’s visit to Abu Musa island was fully based on the sovereign rights of Iran, he said. Iran placed great importance in brotherly and good neighbourly relations with countries of the Persian Gulf, which reflected a broadened commitment to regional security. Constructive negotiations with Iran and the United Arab Emirates would lead to further understanding in various fields, he concluded.
SIN SON HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said establishing the independent state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital was a unanimous demand by the international community. Many United Nations resolutions and proposals had been adopted, including the Arab Peace Initiative, but their prospects were unclear. Israeli military occupation in Palestine prevailed and its settlement activities challenged the international community. Such moves had resulted in a deadlocked peace process. Israel’s bombing of Gaza and use of force had killed civilians. The situation in Lebanon and the Syrian Golan was the same.
He urged the Council to pay attention to those priorities, as the creation of an independent Palestinian state was an inalienable sovereign right. Israeli occupation must end in order for Palestinians to exercise their full right to self-determination. The Council also should not delay Palestinian membership to the United Nations. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had recognized Palestine as an independent sovereign State since 1988. There would not be any change in its position in supporting the just cause of Palestinian and Arab peoples. All disputes should be settled peacefully through dialogue and negotiation between the parties without outside interference, including the Syrian issue.
GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI (Canada) applauded Mr. Annan’s efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria and welcomed Syria’s acceptance of his peace plan. However, those words should be backed up by actions and Canada was gravely concerned that violent incidents had continued since the 12 April ceasefire. The presence of United Nations observers was vital to helping to stabilize the situation on the ground. In the past, President Al-Assad had exploited peace initiatives to stall for time. It was time for all Security Council members in a position to influence Syria to urge President Al-Assad to honour fully his commitments to the Joint Special Envoy, he said.
Turning to Iran, Canada welcomed the leadership shown by the P5+1 in opening discussion over that country’s nuclear programme and acknowledged Iran’s decision to engage in talks. He urged Iran to engage in good faith and take meaningful steps towards complying with its international nuclear obligations. The implementation of international sanctions was not a decision Canada took lightly, and its intent was not to punish the Iranian people, but rather to persuade the Iranian leadership to abide by Iran’s obligations, he said. Canada would also continue to work with the international community to ensure that the rights of the Iranian people were not forgotten or overshadowed by the nuclear issue. On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Canada supported the Quartet efforts and shared the goal of negotiating with a vision of two States living in peace and security. He urged both parties to take further confidence-building measures and sit down to negotiate a final agreement.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said Mr. Pascoe’s statement had clearly declared his intentions. However, the agenda item currently under consideration by the Security Council was a dangerous issue. There was a way truth could be altered and that the agenda item could be altered, he said. Of utmost importance, there was a need to put an end of Israeli hostility against Palestinians. His delegation remained concerned by a number of delegations who sought to deviate from critical issues in the Middle East. In Syria, irrespective of the “Question of the Middle East” agenda item, the situation had become dangerous because of Israel’s crimes against Palestinians and Syrians. It was the Security Council’s job to preserve security, he said. The agenda item had been on the agenda for decades, bringing to light a failure to find solutions. It was regrettable that a number of Arab delegations had touched upon issues that had nothing to do with putting an end to Israeli occupation of Arab territories. Discussions virtually ignored the issue of the Golan today, he said.
The Saudi authorities did not hesitate to kill peaceful demonstrators and intimidate civilians, with more than 30,000 political detainees currently crowding Saudi prisons, he said. Saudi sheikhs had issued fatwas that protestors would be killed, he said. Yet, some of those who criticized Syria were partly responsible for imposing restrictions that had affected the Syrian people’s lives and livelihoods. It was regrettable that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were actively participating in those measures, he said. Regarding the humanitarian situation, he said the actions of terrorist groups that had been financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar had persisted.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) said continued Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territories obstructed the revitalization of the peace process and endangered the vision of the two-State solution. The resort to violence could not be tolerated. Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons required urgent attention. Israel’s policies raised doubt about its sincerity towards the peace process. Turkey deplored the escalated violence in the Gaza Strip due to Israel’s indiscriminate moves, which could not be tolerated. Such behaviour recalled the grave situation around health and housing in Gaza and he called for the lifting of the illegal embargo. Also, there must be accountability for the Israeli attack against a flotilla on the high seas. Turkey hoped the letter sent by Mr. Abbas to Mr. Netanyahu could pave way for sincere progress in the Middle East peace process.
He said Turkey would continue to promote unity in Palestine, stressing that transparent elections in Palestine should be supported without prejudice. Turning to the grave situation in Syria, he said Turkey attached the utmost importance to the verifiable implementation of resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012), including all aspects of the six-point plan. He hoped the Syrian Government would immediately take all necessary steps in that regard, and called for an immediate end to violence. Turkey would continue to follow developments closely in that country. Turkey had sided with the democratic aspirations of people in the Middle East and believed that same principle must apply to Palestinians’ aspirations, which must be answered. An independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and living in peace alongside Israel must be realized. Turkey also supported Palestine’s application for full United Nations membership.
PEDRO NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories had hindered a just and lasting solution for the region, and its presence there must end, as must the building of settlements, the indiscriminate use of military might against civilians, and the illegal blockade against Gaza. Cuba supported Palestine’s bid for full United Nations membership and urged the Council to pronounce itself positively on the matter. If that application had been unsuccessful to date it was because of the threat of veto by one country. The situation of some 4,000 Palestinian prisoners also was of concern and he wondered why the Council had not condemned it.
He said Cuba had objected to the building of settlements in the Syrian Golan since 1967, which violated international law, and unconditionally supported Syria’s right to reinstate its sovereignty in that area. He objected to efforts to destabilize Syria with the aim of regime change. The Council could not bring about regime change in any country. It must protect the innocent; not manipulate them for geopolitical purposes. He supported efforts towards a peaceful solution in Syria, with full respect for its sovereign rights. He categorically rejected any foreign intervention in the country, including through the provision of logistical support for armed groups. Cuba also rejected attempts to undermine Syria’s independence and territorial integrity.
GHAZI JOMAA (Tunisia) said his country hoped for positive change on the ground towards efforts aimed at a two-State solution. However, Israel had been inflexible and the signs on the ground were not promising. Rather, unfair settlement policies were a stumbling block to attaining equality. Despite waves of demonstration for rights in countries worldwide, those rights eluded the Palestinian people, who faced daily suffering. There was no clear international stance to condemn their repression. “We need to ensure the principles of international laws were respected,” he said. Palestine’s legitimate, historic request for statehood was its right, and would promote peace. Broad international support was reflected by Palestine’s membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
However, Israel’s settlement policy was an obstacle to relaunching the peace process, he said, and his country condemned those actions. Many international bodies, including the International Court of Justice, recognized illegal activities and their effect on the Palestinian people, he said. Tunisia condemned any plans to change the demographic or religious nature of the State. Lifting the Gaza blockade was crucial, as it caused suffering to nearly 2 million Palestinians. The international community had a historical role to assist in the situation. There was also a need to push Israel to fully withdraw from lands in Lebanon and Syria.
AKAN RAKHMETULLIN (Kazakhstan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Group in New York, said Israel’s military occupation of Arab lands and international law violations were at the heart of regional unrest. Israel continued to approve settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, build the apartheid wall, and restrict Palestinian access to places of worship — all of which systematically undermined prospects for the two-State solution. Israeli practices in East Jerusalem, including settlement construction and excavations under the Aqsa Mosque, were more alarming than ever. The United Nations had a special duty to pressure Israel to end such aggressions, as well as assist Palestinians in realizing their right to self-determination, sovereignty and independence.
He said the plight of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons was a question of missing justice, as they were victims of inhumane practices perpetuated through application of Israeli laws. He urged international action be taken to advocate their cause. The Council also should affirm that a just, comprehensive solution to the Middle East conflict required enforcement of international law. Full support for Palestinian state-building efforts, and living up to political and financial obligations to the Palestinian Authority were significant. With that, he reaffirmed full support with Palestinians in their pursuit to regain their inalienable national rights, including their right of return. Israeli actions to alter the legal, physical and demographic status of the Occupied Syrian Golan, or impose jurisdiction there had no legal effect.
JENNY LALAMA (Ecuador) said her country was concerned about the Security Council’s prolonged debate on the Israeli-Palestinian question. Ecuador had already recognized Palestine as a State. Now was the time to find mechanisms for peace efforts to help meet the needs of the Palestinian people, she said. Despite the Quartet’s calls for dialogue, Israel had undermined such discussions with its settlement policies. Area C included the most fertile, resource-rich ground, which could be used by the Palestinian people. She called upon the Security Council to halt the demolition of homes and construction of illegal homes. As a result of Israeli expansion efforts, the time for negotiating a two-State solution was dwindling.
The international community must continue to exert pressure on Israel to stop its illegal practices and human rights violations. She reminded the Council of its responsibility in the matter. She called for dialogue between the two parties.
* *** *For information media • not an official record