|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Concerned about Recent Threats to Long-standing Ceasefire, Security Council Renews
Mandate of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force
Members Differ over Relevance of Syrian Situation to Resolution 1994 (2011)
Expressing grave concern about the serious events that had occurred in the area of operations of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on 15 May and 5 June, jeopardizing the long-standing ceasefire between Israel and Syria, the Security Council today renewed the mandate of the Force charged with supervising the ceasefire since 1974 for six months, until 31 December 2011.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1994 (2011), the Council also called on the parties to exercise maximum restraint and to prevent any breaches of the ceasefire and the area of separation. It further called for the immediate implementation of Council resolution 338 (1973), which stipulates immediate negotiations between the parties, with the aim of establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.
Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, Council members noted that the renewal deviated from previous practice, with several stressing that the events of 15 May and 5 June were the most serious since UNDOF’s creation and could not go unremarked. Representatives of the United States and Germany, among others, expressed concern that the Syrian Government had played a role in those demonstrations, and suggested that it seemed willing to risk an international conflict to divert attention from its own domestic demonstrations.
A number of speakers highlighted the Secretary-General’s recent call for the Council to express itself on Syria, suggesting that such expression was long overdue. Stressing that the situation in Syria was not sustainable, the representative of the United Kingdom said delegation would continue to press for a resolution on the situation in Syria. However, the representative of the Russian Federation pointed out that Syria was not on the Council’s agenda, while China’s delegate said the Syria question was an internal affair and should be left to the parties concerned.
Syria’s representative, while pledging that his Government would do its utmost to maintain the safety of UNDOF officials, expressed puzzlement over attempts to cite the internal events in his country in a technical draft resolution pertaining to the extension of the Force’s mandate. He suggested that those efforts were only aimed at exerting political pressure on his country, and expressed his deep appreciation to Council members who had avoided such tactics. Reforms that met the aspirations of Syrians would be applied through the National Dialogue Conference, which would begin consultations in the coming days, he stressed, adding that some reforms had already become a tangible reality and enjoyed international support.
Israel’s representative, underscoring the need for all parties fully to respect the disengagement line, said the need to do so had never been clearer, given the prevailing regional instability. Outlining the events of 15 May and 5 June, he said they the Syrian regime’s fingerprints “were all over this process”, stressing that the Syrian authorities must not be allowed to behave in that way simply because they did not want the cries of their own citizens to be heard.
The meeting began at 11:35 a.m. and ended at 12:20 p.m.
The full text of resolution 1994 (2011) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Noting with concern that the situation in the Middle East is tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached,
“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force of 13 June 2011 (S/2011/359), and also reaffirming its resolution 1308 (2000) of 17 July 2000,
“1. Calls upon the parties concerned to implement immediately its resolution 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973;
“2. Calls on all parties to cooperate fully with the operations of UNDOF and to ensure the security of as well as unhindered and immediate access for the United Nations personnel carrying out their mandate, in conformity with existing agreements;
“3. Recalls the obligation on both parties to fully respect the terms of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement, and calls on the parties to exercise maximum restraint and prevent any breaches of the ceasefire and the area of separation;
“4. Welcomes the efforts being undertaken by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force to implement the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to ensure full compliance of its personnel with the United Nations code of conduct, requests the Secretary-General to continue to take all necessary action in this regard and to keep the Security Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take preventive and disciplinary action to ensure that such acts are properly investigated and punished in cases involving their personnel;
“5. Decides to renew the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force for a period of six months, that is, until 31 December 2011;
“6. Requests the Secretary-General to submit, at the end of this period, a report on developments in the situation and the measures taken to implement resolution 338 (1973), including an assessment, with recommendations if any, of the operational capacity of UNDOF to ensure the Force is most appropriately configured to fulfil its mandated tasks.”
The Security Council met this morning to consider the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) for the period 1 January to 30 June 2011, in which he notes that, although the situation in the Israel-Syria sector remained generally quiet during the reporting period, the serious events that occurred in the UNDOF area of operations on 15 May and 5 June are of grave concern. He calls on both parties to show restraint and refrain from provocations so as to prevent the escalation of tensions along the ceasefire line that the Force was established to supervise. He expresses further concern about increasing restrictions on the movement of Observer Group Golan teams in the area of limitation on the Bravo side, emphasizing that unimpeded free movement by UNDOF and Observer Group Golan is imperative for carrying out mandated tasks.
Noting that the tense situation in the Middle East is likely to persist unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East conflict can be reached, he expresses hope that all concerned will make determined efforts to tackle all aspects of the problem, with a view to arriving at a just and durable peace settlement, as called for by Security Council resolution 338 (1973). The Secretary-General goes on to note that, since the discontinuation of indirect peace talks in December 2008, there have been no negotiations between the parties. He encourages them to resume, as soon as possible, peace negotiations aimed at a comprehensive peace, in accordance with the Madrid Conference terms of reference for peace and relevant Security Council resolutions.
Philip Parham( United Kingdom), speaking in explanation of position, deplored the loss of life that had occurred in the mission’s area of operations on 15 May and 5 June, and urged both parties to show restraint. Noting that anti-Government demonstrations had spread to the Syrian side of the area of limitation, he recalled that the Council had repeatedly called on that country’s Government to respond to its people’s legitimate demands, but it had not done so. Instead, it had met those demands with brute force, which had led to an unacceptable loss of life. Recently, President Bashar al-Assad had refused to accept telephone calls from the Secretary-General, while the Syrian authorities had denied a United Nations fact-finding mission permission to enter the country. The situation in Syria was not sustainable, he said, emphasizing that his country would continue to press for a Security Council resolution on the situation in Syria.
MIGUEL BERGER(Germany), also recalling the civilian casualties resulting from the events of 15 May and 5 June, said they had put the ceasefire in jeopardy, and were the most serious incidents since the creation of UNDOF, and could not go unremarked. That was why the Council had deviated from the typical format of its resolution renewing the Force’s mandate. He called on Syria to refrain from actions that could provoke further unrest, while noting, however, that on 15 May and 5 June it had actively encouraged the demonstrators. Syria seemed willing to risk an international conflict to distract attention from domestic events. “Violence in Syria must stop,” he said, stressing that imprisoned demonstrators must be released and serious political reforms implemented. Joining the Secretary-General’s call for the Council to express itself on Syria, he said that was long overdue.
ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States), underscoring UNDOF’s critical role and welcoming today’s vote, said she was deeply concerned about the events of 15 May and 5 June, and had been further troubled by reports that the Syrian Government had played a role in those demonstrations. Such actions were a “transparent ploy” by Syria to incite violence and distract attention from its abuse of Syrians, she said, adding that they showed the regime’s hypocrisy. Syria was risking its ceasefire with Israel and repressing its own people’s calls for democratic change. Syrians had demanded a transition, and the Government must stop shooting demonstrators, she emphasized. It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests and torture. She also expressed concern about breaches in the area of separation, saying both sides must observe the terms of the disengagement agreement, including by preventing breaches of the area of separation.
IBRAHIM ASSAF ( Lebanon) said that, while he had joined the consensus on the resolution, he would have preferred a more technical text, joined by a presidential statement, as in years past. Condemning Israel’s attempts to effect significant demographic changes in the Syrian Golan through settlement expansion, he said such actions were in flagrant violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. He called on Israel to implement resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and to withdraw fully from the Golan Heights to the 1967 line, emphasizing in that context the need for a lasting, durable and equitable peace in the Middle East.
MARTIN BRIENS ( France) said the resolution was a response to the worrying situation in the Golan Heights. The events of 15 May and 5 June called the region’s security and stability into question, and showed that the separation zones were not respected by the Syrian side. Syria had also restricted UNDOF’s movement, which was unacceptable, he said, adding that the parties should guarantee fully the implementation of its mandate by ensuring freedom of movement. The Secretary-General’s report stated clearly that the Palestinians in the zone had benefited, if not from the active support of the Syrian authorities, then by the latter’s willingness to refrain from restraining them.
While stressing that no one was trying to deny the aspirations of the Palestinians, he said the Council could not accept the Syrian regime’s hypocritical use of those aspirations. Recent events were the tragic result of that regime’s attempts to distract attention from the aspirations of its own people, which the Syrian authorities were now crushing. Syria’s stability was crucial for the Middle East and would only be possible through the cessation of violence and the implementation of reforms, he stressed. Today’s resolution showed that the Council retained the possibility to act when peace and security were threatened, he said, noting, however, that it must still work towards a resolution on Syria in answer to the Secretary-General’s recent call to that end.
ALEXANDER A. PANKIN ( Russian Federation), noting that his delegation had initiated the draft resolution on extending UNDOF’s mandate, said it supported the Force’s stabilizing role. The Russian Federation had wished to retain the long-established practice by which the Council expressed its support for the observations contained in the Secretary-General’s report through a presidential statement. However, there had not been unanimity on that point and the resolution, therefore, reflected that support. Underscoring the technical nature of the text, he stressed that it did not address the political situation in Syria, which was not on the Council’s agenda. Furthermore, events there posed no threat to international peace and security.
WANG MIN ( China), commending UNDOF’s role in maintaining regional stability, said the question of Syria was an internal affair and should be left to those concerned. The question of Syria and renewing UNDOF’s mandate were separate issues that should not be linked, so as to avoid politicizing that mandate. Indeed, the situation in the Middle East was complex and the international community should be working to maintain stability and facilitate a just and lasting peace, based on Security Council resolutions, he emphasized.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) recalled that UNDOF owed its presence in the Golan Heights to Israel’s occupation of that area. “I want this fact to be present in the minds of our colleagues,” he said. Expressing appreciation for UNDOF’s efforts, he said Syria had supported its work and respected its mandate since its formation. The Secretary-General’s report, issued regularly since the beginning of the Israeli occupation, had expressed appreciation for Syria’s positive attitude towards the UNDOF mandate, and Syria would do its utmost to maintain the safety of Force officials.
It was regrettable that the sought-after just and comprehensive Middle East peace was yet to be achieved, he said. Israel had not withdrawn from the occupied Syrian Golan, and had not implemented international law. Syria asked the Security Council to play its “real role” in ending the Israeli occupation, thereby upholding its own mandate for the maintenance of international peace and security. Since the recent internal events in Syria, and the use by extremists of violence against law-and-order forces and innocent Syrian citizens — including peaceful demonstrators — it had become clear that some sides, “including some parties in this very Security Council”, had worked to involve the Council by using “weak justifications that have nothing to do with the Council’s mandate”.
Indeed, there had been attempts to involve the Council in issues that were none of its business, he continued, adding that he had been puzzled by attempts to mention internal events in a technical draft resolution pertaining to the extension of the UNDOF mandate. Such efforts were aimed only at exerting political pressure on Syria, he said, expressing deep appreciation to those Council members that had avoided those tactics and “suspicious movements”. Reforms meeting the aspirations of Syrians would be applied on the ground through the National Dialogue Conference, which would begin consultations in the coming days, he said, adding that some reforms had already become a tangible reality and enjoyed international support.
He recalled that, since the creation of UNDOF, Syria had drawn the Council’s attention to Israel’s construction of 44 settlements in the occupied Golan and its continued building of bypass roads around Syrian cities. The occupation authorities continued to oppress Syrian citizens who refused to carry Israeli identity cards, he said, recalling also Council resolution 497 (1981), which condemned Israel’s decision to annex the Golan Heights, and noting that those words had not reached the ears of some delegates who had spoken today. The suffering of people in the Golan deserved a mention, instead of the focus on the strictly internal affairs of a founding member of the United Nations, he said.
Wars launched by the United States had run up costs amounting to $4 trillion, he continued, citing a report issued yesterday in Washington, D.C. They had led to disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was not applying the strict mandate of resolution 1973 (2011). “These are the facts that pertain to the mandate of the Security Council; not some internal and domestic incidents that could take place in any Member State of this Organization,” he said. Syria had received 2 million Iraqi refugees who had fled their country because of the military invasion by the United States and the United Kingdom, yet no one had offered aid to Syria as it bore that humanitarian burden, he pointed out.
He went on to remind the Council that his country hosted half a million Palestinian refugees and half a million Syrian refugees who had fled Israel’s invasion of the Golan. There were no Hollywood stars visiting those refugees, he pointed out. Emphasizing that Syria’s stability was important to the Middle East, he said “messing with the stability is extremely dangerous”, both for the region and the world, especially by countries that harboured animosity towards Syria for political reasons. He also noted that the German representative’s concern for the pluralistic Syrian society was not at all in line with his country’s provision to Israel of six submarines that could be equipped with nuclear technology.
RON PROSOR ( Israel) stressed that the international community must continue to support UNDOF’s mandate, underlining the need for all parties fully to respect the disengagement line. Indeed, given the regional instability, the need for doing so had never been clearer. As for recent events, he recalled that on 15 May a large organized group of protesters had torn through the defence wall and engaged with the Israel Defence Force near Majal Chams. On 5 June, hundreds had sought to breach the disengagement line with Israel, trying to break through the fence, he said, adding that they had also thrown Molotov cocktails and used other modes of violence.
Noting that the Syrian regime had not prevented demonstrators from reaching the line nor stopped their attempt to breach the defence walls, he said its actions were a blatant attempt to distract attention from its own internal actions. Indeed, the regime’s fingerprints “are all over this process”, he said, adding that one need not be a forensic detective to see them. He said Bashar al-Assad was the only ophthalmologist he knew who was incapable of ensuring the vision of his own people, adding that the Syrian regime should not be allowed to behave in such a way just because it did not want the cries of its own citizens to be heard.
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