|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7140th Meeting (AM)
Recent ‘Retreat from Brink’ Was Stark Reminder of Unsustainable Status Quo
In Middle East, Political Affairs Chief Tells Security Council
Under-Secretary-Generals Voices Worry over impact of Syria Violence on Lebanon
A fragile retreat last week from the “brink of another crisis” in the Gaza Strip and Israel was a stark reminder that the status quo in the Middle East was not sustainable, the United Nations political affairs official told the Security Council today.
“The Middle East still faces an unpredictable future with multiple sources of uncertainty,” Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said during a briefing on the situation in the region, including the Palestinian question. “What was certain, though, is that the Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be ignored in shaping this future constructively.”
Providing an overview of recent events in the region, he said negotiation efforts led by the United States were ongoing and the international community’s support had remained steadfast in the eight months since the resumption of talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Yet, worrying trends continued in the West Bank, including recent deaths, arrests and attacks by settlers against Palestinians. Tensions concerning the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif also continued to rise, he said, calling on all parties to show restraint in respect of the holy site. He was expressed concern about the plight of eight Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in protest against their administrative detention, emphasizing that detainees should be charged or released.
Turning to the situation in Gaza, he said the underpinnings of an understanding on a ceasefire in the coastal enclave continued to be undermined. A dangerous escalation of violence between 11 and 13 March had seen more than 70 rockets fired into Israel, the majority claimed by Islamic Jihad, and 15 Israeli airstrikes into Gaza. On 5 March, Israel had intercepted a ship in the Red Sea allegedly transporting arms from Iran to the Gaza Strip, he said, condemning all illegal weapons smuggling and calling for the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009).
Highlighting the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, he stressed the need to develop sustainable solutions in order to solve the enclave’s energy and unemployment problems. The United Nations found that the “unsustainable situation” made it increasingly difficult to provide assistance to Gaza’s people while facing delays in approvals for construction, building and access, he said, appealing to all parties concerned to help alleviate the deteriorating conditions of the civilian population.
Turning to the volatile situation in the Golan, he reported heavy clashes between the Syrian armed forces and members of the armed opposition, but further details would be provided in the Secretary-General’s report and in an upcoming briefing to the Council by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
On Lebanon, he said efforts by the Government of Lebanon to improve security and prepare for elections were encourage, but he was very concerned about the impact on Lebanon of the fighting on the Syrian side of the border. Reminding the Syrian authorities of the need fully to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty, he emphasized also that the recent escalation in security incidents along the latter’s eastern border with Syria was affecting humanitarian access. The United Nations was engaging with the newly formed Lebanese Government in coordinating the means to address the needs of nearly 1 million Syrian refugees. As for reports of Israeli military aircraft violating Lebanese airspace, he urged all parties to ensure full respect for the Blue Line.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 10:25 a.m.
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