Israel must be pressured on Middle East peace process, Lebanon tells UN debate

General Michel Sleiman, President of Lebanon

25 September 2009 – The international community must step up pressure on Israel to fulfil its obligations to the Middle East peace process, Lebanon’s President told the General Assembly today, warning that Israeli “threats of attacks and wars” were futile and only delayed a long-term solution to the region’s troubles.

Michel Sleiman told the Assembly’s high-level segment, held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, that Israel should be compelled to meet its obligations “within a specific and reasonable time-frame,” in line with a recent declaration by the Arab League at a summit in Doha.

“Or else, how are we to convince our peoples that the international community is capable of achieving a just and comprehensive peace and thus of putting an end to the various aspects of the Middle East conflict, including Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State with Al-Quds as its capital, if it is not capable of forcing Israel to halt its settlement construction, to lift the unjust siege on Gaza, and to stop the judaization of Jerusalem?”

Mr. Sleiman said a lasting solution to the Middle East conflict will not work unless the parties demonstrate “genuine political will to commit themselves to peace and its obligations.”

But he accused Israel of not showing that will, given that “the soundness and usefulness of a just peace are still under discussion on both its Government and grass-roots levels.”

He added that “Israeli threats of attacks and wars persist as a means to impose control hegemony, as well as to impose a fait accompli, should they not be as means of expansion, displacement, and further encroachment of the Palestinians’ and Arabs’ rights.”

Mr. Sleiman contrasted this with the position of the Arab countries, which he noted “had put forward an integrated peace initiative that was unanimously adopted” in 2002.

Stressing the importance of the Palestinians having “their natural and legitimate right of return to their lands and homes, the Lebanese President described the Palestinian cause as being at the heart of the Middle East crisis.

“Israel’s resorting to force to impose a fait accompli is futile and shall neither weaken the will nor the determination of the Arab people to retrieve their rights. Partial and unilateral solutions could not achieve genuine peace, and unjust solutions are short-lived.”

Also criticizing “Israeli intransigence” in achieving Middle East peace was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In spite of immense efforts, including United States President Barack Obama’s unveiling of his vision for a peace pact based on a two-State solution and a halt to all settlement activities, “all of this has not lead to a conclusion to this conflict,” he told the Assembly.

“How is it conceivable that negotiations can be held on the borders and on Jerusalem at the same time that Israeli bulldozers are working to change the reality on the ground with the aim of creating a new reality and imposing the borders as Israel desires?” Mr. Abbas asked.

In his speech, the leader voiced his appreciation for Mr. Obama’s address to the debate earlier this week in which he “affirmed the necessity for ending the occupation that began in 1967 and the illegitimacy of the settlements.”

He also warned that “time is running out, and the risks are becoming greater as a result of the continued suffering of the Palestinian people under the last occupation in the world.”

Sheikh Naser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait, also called today for an end to Israeli settlement activity, urging the international community and the Security Council to act to end Israel’s “policy of collective punishment it imposes on the Palestinian people.”

The United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict at the start of this year, he said, “clearly proves” that Israeli forces committed war crimes during the fighting.

The Council, the Kuwaiti leader said, must to end the “crimes against humanity” committed during Israel’s “brutal aggression” against Gaza.


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