Israelis, Palestinians Face ‘Difficult Choices’ Following Suspension of Peace Talks, Special Coordinator Tells Security Council

29 April 2014
SC/11373

Israelis, Palestinians Face ‘Difficult Choices’ Following Suspension of Peace Talks, Special Coordinator Tells Security Council

29 April 2014
Security Council
SC/11373
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7164th Meeting (AM)

Israelis, Palestinians Face ‘Difficult Choices’ Following Suspension of Peace

Talks, Special Coordinator Tells Security Council

 

Delegates in Open Debate Also Consider Situations in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen

With the nine-month-long peace negotiations between them suspended, Israelis and Palestinians should reflect on whether they wished to live up to their stated commitment to a two-State solution, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today.

“Difficult choices are now required of the parties,” said Robert Serry, noting that the United States-brokered talks had been suspended due to the inability of the parties to bridge the gaps in their substantive positions.  Following a 23 April agreement by rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas to form a unity Government in five weeks, with elections to be held no later than six months later, Israel had cancelled a scheduled meeting between negotiators from both sides and decided to suspend its participation in the talks, the Special Coordinator added.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that Israel’s reneging on a prisoner-release agreement, its unlawful settlement-construction activities and incessant aggression in Occupied East Jerusalem seriously undermined the peace process.  That had prompted the Palestinian leadership to undertake actions deemed necessary to assert and protect the rights of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian people under international law, including the signing of 15 instruments of accession to multilateral treaties.  Despite the killing of more than 60 Palestinians, including children, by occupying forces during the nine-month-long negotiation period, the State of Palestine stood ready to uphold its obligations and commitments to make peace a reality, he emphasized.

Ron Prosor (Israel) said that before taking a step towards the negotiating table, the Palestinian leadership had demanded that Israel submit to substantial concessions.  Once Israel had agreed, the Palestinian President had invoked every possible delaying tactic and then deserted the talks, he said, adding that such had also been the case in 2008, 2009 and 2012.  The Palestinian leadership had recently broken its commitment by applying to join 15 international treaties and conventions, while Israel had agreed, during the latest negotiations, to what no other Government in the world would consider — the release of “murderers”.  He emphasized that his Government wished to negotiate with a single, legitimate entity representing the Palestinian people, but not with a Hamas-backed Government.  The millions of international dollars channelled to the Palestinian Authority would now be at the disposal of an “internationally recognized terrorist organization”.

The representative of the United States said the announcement of a technocratic Palestinian Government was unhelpful to efforts for agreement on extending the negotiations.  The United States would measure any such Government against its commitment to non-violence and its recognition of the State of Israel as well as previous agreements.

Among Council members who urged both parties to refrain from provocative actions, especially settlement activities, was the representative of the Russian Federation, who stressed the importance, “in this dramatic moment”, of not allowing the Palestinian-Israeli track to veer off the rails.

Council members also discussed developments in other parts of the Middle East, including Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.  Many of them expressed grave concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria and its spill-over effects on Lebanon.

Other participants were speakers representing the Republic of Korea, France, Australia, Chad, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, China, Rwanda, Chile, Argentina, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Iran (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Pakistan, Brazil, Algeria, Japan, Cuba, Morocco, Guatemala, Namibia, Malaysia, Iceland, Peru, Qatar, Kuwait, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Oman, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bahrain and Guinea (for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation).

Also speaking today were the Head of the European Union Delegation, the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 5:27 p.m.

Briefing

ROBERT SERRY, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, noted that today marked nine months since the launch of United States-brokered negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides with the previously agreed objective of achieving a comprehensive settlement on all core issues by the present time.  Yet efforts had faltered due to the inability of the parties to bridge the gaps in their substantive positions or even to accept, with reservations, a United States framework that would attempt to do just that.  As of today, the talks had been suspended, he said, emphasizing that it behoved both parties as well as all other stakeholders to recognize that “this is another moment of truth”.

He recalled that on 28 March, the Israeli Cabinet had postponed its decision to follow through with the release of the fourth and last tranche of 30 pre-Oslo prisoners.  Interpreting that decision as a breach of the quiet understanding of a diplomatic truce in return for the release of 104 pre-Oslo prisoners, the Palestinians, by unanimous vote of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), had proceeded on 1 April to submit accession instruments to 15 international treaties and conventions.  The 708 tenders for settlement units in Gilo reissued on the same day had reinforced the Palestinian conviction that they had no other choice, he said, pointing out that President Mahmoud Abbas had nevertheless reiterated his commitment to negotiations.

That had been met with surprise by the Israeli side, which had since indicated its understanding that a deal to extend the negotiations had been close.   Subsequently, on 23 April, the Palestinians had reached a unity agreement on a National Consensus Government to be formed in five weeks, with elections to be held no later than six months later, he said.  Following that announcement, Israel had cancelled a scheduled meeting between negotiators from both sides and decided to suspend the talks.  The political stalemate posed risks to the prospects of a two-State solution, he warned.  “Difficult choices are now required of the parties,” he said, urging them to realize that not making a choice was the most detrimental choice of all.  This was a time for them to reflect upon whether they wished to live up to their stated commitments to a two-State solution, or whether they would let it slip further away by default.

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that despite all the difficulties, the Palestinian leadership remained committed to negotiations and had acted in consummate good faith, regrettably, all to no avail.  The convergence of Israel’s bad faith during the negotiations, including its reneging on the prisoner-release agreement and its unlawful actions on the ground, particularly its intensified settlement activities and incessant aggression in Occupied East Jerusalem, seriously undermined the peace process, which was now totally suspended due to Israel’s unilateral decision to halt negotiations.  That had prompted the Palestinian leadership to undertake actions deemed necessary to assert and protect the rights of the State of Palestine and of the Palestinian people under international law, he said.

He said President Abbas had signed 15 instruments of accession to multilateral treaties, affirming the State of Palestine’s acceptance of the principles therein, its readiness to uphold its legal obligations, and its commitment to promoting the rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with the law.  On 26 and 27 April, the PLO Central Council had held a meeting to address issues of national priority, including continuing efforts to advance the State of Palestine’s status in the international arena; and the vital role of the international community, including the Security Council and the General Assembly, in holding Israel accountable for its violations and upholding United Nations resolutions on the achievement of peace.  More than 60 Palestinians, including children, had been killed by occupying forces during the nine-month period of the negotiations, yet the State of Palestine stood ready to uphold its obligations and commitments to make peace a reality, he said.

RON PROSOR (Israel) said there was a predictable pattern in Palestinian negotiations with his country.  Before taking a step towards the negotiating table, the Palestinian leadership demanded that Israel submit to substantial concessions.  Once Israel agreed, the Palestinian President invoked every possible delaying tactic and then deserted the talks.  Such had been the case in 2008, 2009 and 2012, he said, adding:  “This goes to the very heart of the problem.”  The Palestinian leadership had recently broken its commitment by applying to join 15 international treaties and conventions, while Israel had agreed, during the latest negotiations, to what no other Government in the world would consider — releasing “murderers”.  Israel wished to negotiate with a single, legitimate entity representing the Palestinian people, but not with a Hamas-backed Government, he emphasized, noting that the millions of international dollars channelled to the Palestinian Authority would now be at the disposal of an “internationally recognized terrorist organization”.

Addressing complaints by the Palestinians as well as Arab States that Israel was impeding freedom of worship, he said that his country was the only one in the Middle East that granted full religious rights to people of all faiths, in stark contrast to the Palestinians’ treatment of minority faiths.  Rather than helping to mitigate the situation, the United Nations Special Envoy had lost his voice when it came to denouncing the persecution of Christians by Palestinians.  As for Iran, the primary sponsor of Hamas and Hizbullah, its nuclear-weapons capability and long-range missile capability should be fully dismantled, he stressed.  Turning to the crisis in Syria, he noted that his country was providing medical treatment to hundreds of the neighbouring State’s citizens, and blaming Israel would not stop its President from dropping barrel bombs.  Palestinians must be held accountable for their actions, sanctions against Iran must extract a real price and dictators should not be allowed to torture civilians, he said, expressing hope that every United Nations Member State would accept Israel as the nation of the Jewish people.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said her Government would continue to support negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians because the only real solution was two States living side-by-side in peace and security.  Theannouncement of a technocratic Palestinian Government was unhelpful to efforts for agreement on extending the negotiations, she said, adding that the United States would measure any such Government against its commitment to non-violence and its recognition of the State of Israel and previous agreements.  Describing Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegitimate, she opposed their expansion, while also condemning rocket strikes from Gaza into Israel and the 14 April murder of an Israeli police official.  On Syria, she said photos of the torture and killing of 11,000 detainees illustrated the horrors inflicted by that country’s President, emphasizing that the Council must hold the perpetrators accountable.  Calling for the postponement of planned elections in Syria, and for the creation an atmosphere suitable for an electoral process to advance, she expressed “profound concern” over indications that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, had been used in an attack against an opposition village.  Turning to Lebanon, she also voiced concern about that country’s fragile security situation, including tensions along the “Blue Line”, and expressed hope that all parties would adhere to the Government’s disassociation policy while urging full implementation of all Council resolutions.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said his Government supported the latest negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, yet positive results had not been achieved amid differences over final status issues and other key problems.  The Russian Federation regretted that Israel’s decision to cease dialogue had been linked to the realization of the State of Palestine’s right to participate in international treaties and conventions, he said, emphasizing that without Palestinian unity, no future agreements would last.  It was important, “in this dramatic moment”, not to allow the Palestinian-Israeli track to veer off the rails, he emphasized, urging both parties to refrain from provocative actions, especially settlement activities.  He also condemned rocket launches and other terrorist actions, he said.  On the Syrian crisis, he stressed that there was no alternative to a political and diplomatic settlement, voicing support for a third round of inter-Syrian talks.  The moderate opposition should disassociate itself from terrorist organizations and broaden its delegation, he said.  As for Lebanon, he expressed hope for the holding of presidential elections, which would help reduce interfaith tensions.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) deplored the absence of meaningful progress by the deadline for the nine-month negotiation period, urging both sides to stop the violence that had bred further mistrust.  The door was not closed as long as the parties and other stakeholders did not give up, he said.  The new Government to be created as a result of the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas should proceed in such a way as to contribute to the Middle East peace process and genuine democracy, while avoiding confrontation.  Turning to Syria, he condemned the indiscriminate aerial bombardments carried out in that country, while also urging both the Government and opposition groups to secure humanitarian access to civilians trapped in the crossfire.

GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said that, among other developments, Israel’s postponement of the release of Palestinian prisoners and the State of Palestine’s decision to seek accession to 15 international conventions had exacerbated relations between the two sides, while the violence and Israeli settlement activity on the ground continued to worsen.  France was prepared to work with a new Palestinian Government if it renounced violence and showed commitment to the peace process, he said, emphasizing, however, that if the parties were incapable of finding a solution, the international community must conclude sooner or later that it might have to intervene.  He expressed concern about the planned presidential election and alleged chemical attacks in Syria, while welcoming the new Government of Lebanon and its efforts to rebuild the State.  As for the presidential election to be held there, he stressed the importance of avoiding a political vacuum.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) commended the persistence and patience of the United States in encouraging meaningful negotiations, and urged the two sides not to be diverted by mutual recriminations, but to maintain their political courage so that the immense efforts invested to date would not prove futile.  On Syria, he noted that the conflict there had now entered its fourth year, and a political solution was urgently needed.  As for the situation in Lebanon, he said last week’s visit there and to Jordan by the Australian Foreign Minister underscored his country’s support for both as they faced growing humanitarian and security challenges resulting directly from the Syrian crisis.

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) said the peace process required a favourable political environment, which could not be achieved amid settlement activities or the continuing presence of the Gaza blockade and separation wall.  How could Palestinians build a State if Israel continued to defy international law? he asked, calling upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to avoid unilateral actions and urging them to resume dialogue.  On Syria, he noted that more than 200,000 of that country’s citizens were in Government-controlled zones and 45,000 in areas controlled by the opposition, and called for implementation of resolution 2139 (2013).  Turning to Lebanon, he expressed concern that violence arising from the Syrian crisis was impacting its national security, and the influx of Syrian refugees impeding its ability to meet their needs.  He called for a redoubling of international efforts to help Lebanon and emphasized the need for social cohesion in order to restore State institutions.

ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said that incursions by right-wing extremists into Al-Haram al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which spiked during religious holidays and other occasions, threatened peace and security in the region and beyond.  He recalled that during a recent meeting with a past Council President, a delegation of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation had outlined the essential features of the broader violations on the part of the Israeli authorities, including a blatant disregard for the decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  The mosque compound, together with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, had been under Jordanian custodianship and protection since 1924, he emphasized.  East Jerusalem was occupied territory under international law, and Israel, as the occupying Power, was obliged under the 1907 Hague regulations to treat religious institutions as private property, even when it was State-owned.  Unless threats to the compound ceased, such provocations would engender a massive crisis with the Muslim world, and even parts of the Christian world, while jeopardizing the region’s security, he warned.  The incitements must therefore end, for it would be the one crisis to overwhelm all crises in a region that could ill afford yet another.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania), associating herself with the European Union, urged the Israeli and Palestinian sides to “seize the rare opportunity created by the perseverance and dedication of [United States] Secretary of State Kerry” and continue negotiations, leading to a viable two-State solution.  While expressing concern over recent events, including new settlements in Hebron and attacks from Gaza against Israeli territory, she called on Hamas to subscribe fully to the Quartet principles.  Turning to Syria, she said the Council could not remain silent in light of new reports of industrial-scale torture and a forced-starvation campaign carried out by the regime.  She also urged the international community to give political support and assistance to Lebanon, which was now harbouring 1 million Syrian refugees while preparing for elections.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), associating herself with the European Union, expressed hope that Palestinian reconciliation would lead to national elections.  She welcomed the commitment by President Abbas to respect the principle of non-violence, support the two-State solution and honour all previous agreements.  As for the Syrian crisis, she said the decision to hold elections soon was incompatible with the Geneva process.  The parties, especially the Syrian authorities, were not in compliance with the Council demands contained in resolution 2139 (2013), a text that also expressed the Council’s intention to take additional measures in the event of non-compliance.  The Council must insist on the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, she stressed, adding that it was essential that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW) investigate claims of chlorine gas attacks.

LIU JIEYI (China) said the land-for-peace principle, as well as United Nations resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative and other agreements, provided a realistic basis for peace and reconciliation.  There was a need for mutual recognition by each party of the other’s right to exist, the prompt release of Palestinian prisoners, an end to settlement construction, lifting of the Gaza blockade and an end to civilian violence.  As for Syria, the top priority was to place its national interests above everything else, he said, urging an end to violence, an inclusive political transition and implementation of resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2139 (2013).

LAWRENCE MANZI (Rwanda) said that, with today marking the deadline of the nine-month period for Middle East peace negotiations, which had ended with a minimum outcome, the international community and mediators should not lose hope, but step up their efforts.  It was concerning that the situation in Gaza was deteriorating, with rocket attacks from the enclave into Israel continuing.  He also expressed concern that the conflict in Syria was spilling over into Lebanon, and urged respect for the latter’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said his Government had always supported a two-State solution in line with United Nations resolutions and based on the internationally recognized borders.  Today, with the end of the nine-month deadline, peace in the region appeared ever more distant, he said, expressing regret over unilateral actions, such as Israeli settlement construction, and non-action, such as the failure to prevent rocket attacks from Gaza.  The old city of Jerusalem must be shared, he said, emphasizing also that Hamas must reject the use of force and recognize the State of Israel.  On Syria, he called for implementation of resolutions aimed at addressing the humanitarian situation there and removing chemical weapons.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said she supported the State of Palestine’s membership in various organizations.  Given that certainty, the door for a two-State solution remained open — but not forever.  Aspects of the peace process that were headed in the wrong direction included illegal settlements, displacements in East Jerusalem, increased settler violence and clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the West Bank.  Emphasizing that dialogue could not be the framework for consolidating the unsustainable status quo, she said negotiations must aim to end the occupation and create a Palestinian State.  The Council must play a more active role in support of a two-State solution, reacting to attacks against Israel and discussing the State of Palestine’s request for United Nations membership, she said.  On Syria, she said the Council must consider referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, and discuss measures to restrict weapons transfers to both sides.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) urged an end to the separation of Gaza and the West Bank, saying the two areas should be reunited under a Palestinian Authority committed to peace with Israel.  He condemned the expansion of Israeli settlements, as well as rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and called for a united stand against those who denied the Holocaust.  Turning to Syria, he said the regime had disregarded resolution 2139 (2013), and the Council must act in the event of further non-compliance.  Reports of chemical weapons use called into question the regime’s commitment to dismantling its programme fully, he said.  Emphasizing the importance of ensuring that perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity were held to account, he called for referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, and for the country’s President to travel to Geneva to negotiate on the basis of the Special Envoy’s agenda.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria), Council President, spoke in her national capacity, saying that the Middle East situation was getting “slippery” with the negotiations having broken down two days before the deadline.  That was a considerable setback for the peace process.  Regarding the proposed new unity Government to be formed by the State of Palestine, she said Hamas should keep the faith by recognizing Israel and committing itself to non-violence, in accordance with its own pledge.  Peace must emanate from both sides because the international community could not enforce a solution, but only facilitate it.  On Syria, she noted that 92 per cent of its chemical weapons had been eliminated and called for continuing momentum towards the complete removal of all stockpiles.  Turning to Yemen, she welcomed the formation of that country’s constitution-drafting committee as a step on the path to sustainable stability.  The new Government had a unique opportunity to initiate national dialogue to address its domestic north-south issue as well as matters relating to gender and youth, she said.

CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon) condemned Israel, saying that its practices in Jerusalem were only part of a wider scheme to create new realities on the ground and make a two-State solution more difficult to attain.  On the Syrian crisis, she said the Government of Lebanon was determined to expedite implementation of the road map established to mitigate its socio and economic impact on her country, on the basis of the assessment study prepared jointly with the World Bank.  Lebanese gross domestic product (GDP) had shrunk by $7.5 billion, while the cost of the crisis on the Treasury was estimated at $5.1 billion, including $3.6 billion spent directly to provide services for Syrian refugees.  Treasury revenues had dropped by $1.5 billion due to the decline in economic growth, and today, Lebanon hosted more than 1,024,000 registered Syrian refugees, she said.

MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged Israel to review its decision to suspend its participation in the negotiations and impose additional sanctions on the Palestinians, saying its actions contravened Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as international law and prior accords reached with the Palestinians and the United States mediator.  He condemned restrictions on Palestinian Christians as an attempt to force the status quo on holy sites, emphasizing that Israel must end such action.  On Syria, he called on all parties, especially the Government, not to make decisions that were not aligned with the 30 June 2012 Geneva process, stressing, however, that the situation there could not justify ignoring Council resolutions on ending Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan.

Mr. AL-ABDALLAH (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the League of Arab States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Israel’s settlement policies, flouting of holy sites and apartheid practices contravened international law.  He strongly condemned provocations at holy sites, which prevented people from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as all attempts to change the historic or religious nature of such sites.  Welcoming the State of Palestine’s accession to various treaties and conventions, as well as the recent Palestinian reconciliation efforts, he recalled that Israel’s Foreign Minister had called for ethnic cleansing, while his fellow Cabinet members had cast doubt on a two-State solution.  Israel was hiding behind a pretext of wanting agreement among Palestinian factions, while it had no interest in such a settlement, he said.  Turning to Syria, he said authorities there were carrying out “scorched earth” policies.  The Council had said it would take steps in the event of non-compliance with resolution 2139 (2013), yet it could not agree on a statement condemning such actions, he pointed out.  Asking how some parties could set up “transitional governments” while one party called “false presidential elections”, he stressed that the Council was unable to implement its resolutions, thereby undermining its credibility.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said it was deeply saddening that none of the speakers had mentioned today’s terrorist attacks in his country, including in Homs, which had killed 36 people and injured 85, most of them children.  The statements made today were misleading and only helped insurgents in Syria while distracting attention from the need to end Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan.  Member States had described armed terrorist forces who had killed dozens in Damascus and Homs as holding moderate positions, and had provided them with arms, training and shelter, while helping them cross borders to spread terrorism and spoil any Syrian-led solutions.  It was ridiculous that some States that had no democratic system and which deprived women of basic rights could then talk about establishing democracy in Syria, a country with a woman as Vice-President.

What had not been broached was the need to end the occupation of the Golan Heights, territory that United Nations resolutions said should be returned to Syria, he said, citing the occupying Power’s refusal to submit maps on landmines planted in the Golan Heights.  They had killed more than 750 Syrian citizens, including hundreds of children, he added.  There was a “clear alliance” between certain Member States and terrorist groups, he said, adding that the colleague who had described Syria as a sisterly country “is a liar”.  Syria wanted no part of any terrorist criminal fraternity, he emphasized, adding that Israel, as an occupying Power, had never been concerned with peace.  It was concerned with, among others, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and violating the resolutions and Charter of the United Nations.  How could Israel then speak of peace, when its practices undermined peace?

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the European Union Delegation, underlined the bloc’s consistent support for intra-Palestinian reconciliation, saying it should take place behind President Abbas, who remained fully in charge of the negotiation process.  In respect of Syria, he lamented the failure of the first two rounds of negotiations in Geneva, attributing it to the Syrian regime’s “constant obstruction”.  Calling on it to accept the Geneva Communiqué, he expressed outrage over the continued barrel bombing of civilian areas and the use of starvation sieges as a tactic of war.  Furthermore, the Syrian regime must fulfil its obligations relating the destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal, including production facilities, by the end of June.  He commended Lebanon and Jordan for keeping their borders open and providing safe havens for refugees fleeing Syria, including Palestinians, and called on the international community to help Lebanon implement its reform agenda.

LEVENT ELER (Turkey) emphasized that the peace process and Palestinian reconciliation efforts were not mutually exclusive and should not be represented as such.  Unfortunately, the political atmosphere of the negotiations could not be described as conducive because the Israeli side had not lived up to its commitments to release the fourth batch of pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners, among other actions.  Turning to the situation in Syria, he said the regime had missed yet another deadline to eliminate its “declared” chemical weapons, while the humanitarian situation was deteriorating as the number of people in need of urgent assistance increased and the regime continued arbitrarily to deny access.  Turkey had, from the beginning of the crisis, maintained an open-door policy, facilitating zero-point humanitarian assistance and providing for the needs of refugees, he said, adding that Syria’s upcoming “so-called presidential elections” were in flagrant contradiction of the Geneva Communiqué.  Peace and security in the Middle East was not an unattainable goal as long as there was strong political resolve, he said, calling upon the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to return to the negotiating table.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that despite the clarity of international law, including demands made by the Security Council, little progress had been made towards a just and peaceful solution to the question of Palestine.  That failure undermined the rule of law, compounding the conflict and human suffering.  He urged the Council to uphold its Charter responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and to contribute tangibly to a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  As a result of the illegal policies pursued by Israel against the Palestinian people, their land and holy sites, tensions had risen and there remained a vast gap between hope and expectations for the political process and the reality on the ground, he said.  Rather than negotiating in good faith and abiding by its legal obligations, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel had intensified all its illegal activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including, by continuing and escalating its settlement construction, confiscation of land and forced displacement of Palestinian civilians.

Turning to the increasing acts of aggression in occupied East Jerusalem resulting from provocations by Israeli extremists, he said Israeli Government officials continued to “recklessly fuel” tensions by encouraging the extremists to carry out acts of provocation which threatened to ignite a religious conflict, with far-reaching consequences for the region and beyond.  The Non-Aligned Movement was also gravely concerned about the continuing illegal Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which had resulted in severe hardship for Palestinians.  If Israel persisted in its contempt for the law, the international community must act to uphold the law and to ensure accountability, he stressed.

Speaking in his national capacity, he challenged accusations levelled by Israel against his country during the debate, saying they distracted attention from the matter before the Council.

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that the United States-brokered negotiations were the best chance in recent years to find a solution, but the deadline established nine months ago was “upon us”.  The Committee had held a round table with leading international law experts last week to discuss the implementation of various measures, relating in particular to the legal status of Palestinian prisoners and solutions available to the State of Palestine considering its accession to the Geneva and Hague Conventions as well as other international treaties.  Noting that Israeli actions aimed at changing the legal status as well as the physical, demographic and cultural characteristics of occupied East Jerusalem, the future capital of the Palestinian State, were prohibited by international law, he said that, in order to shed light on that situation, the Committee would, in cooperation with Turkey and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, organize an international meeting on the question of Jerusalem, on 12 and 13 May in Ankara.

AHMED FATHALLA, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, said the League had worked to establish a genuine vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and endeavoured to find a fair solution in efforts to complement Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  However, Israel continued its occupation of the Golan Heights and to ignore United Nations resolutions over the years.  It was therefore important that the Council tackle Israel’s aims on the ground, including its settlement plans, which it had been carrying out with peace negotiations under way.  Israel seemed to be seeking a strategy to end the negations, as demonstrated after the recent Palestinian reconciliation, he noted, emphasizing that Palestinian unity was an important component of a Palestinian State and of a two-State solution.  The success of national reconciliation would be the only way to ensure the unity and integrity of Palestinian territory, he said, stressing the importance of recognizing that instead of using it as an excuse to leave the negotiations.

There was also a need to change methodology and end the occupation, he continued, emphasizing that the Security Council’s limited action had previously been disappointing to the League.  Furthermore, it was necessary to condemn Israel’s seizing of territory and natural resources in the Golan Heights, he said, calling for international law to be upheld in that regard.  As for the situation inside Syria, he said the international community must shoulder its responsibility in the crisis, given the current state of affairs and the stalemate between the opposition and the Government.  He also called for implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions on Israel’s violations of Lebanon’s airspace, national waters and territories.  The conflict in the Middle East was not limited to a regional dimension, but was a multifaceted conflict with international implications, he stressed.  The Security Council should carry out its mission, as prescribed in the preamble of the United Nations Charter, which called for the protection of future generations from the scourge of war.

MAMADI TOURÉ (Guinea), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the suspension of the peace talks underscored the need to accelerate the realization of stability in a rapidly changing region.  Israel’s recent actions, such as its ongoing building of settlements, threatened to sabotage the two-State solution and inflame the situation on the ground, he warned, adding that those and other actions constituted a grave breach of international law.  The international community, particularly the Security Council, must ensure respect for its resolutions and assume full responsibility for addressing Israel’s attempts to entrench its occupation further through de facto annexation of more Palestinian land.  Israel’s illegitimate and illegal policies were aimed at altering the historical, religious and demographic composition of Jerusalem and its holy sites, as well as the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future State of Palestine.

He went on to warn that such illegal and aggressive actions, including incitement, excavations and attempts to enact illegal laws to impose Israeli sovereignty over Al-Aqsa Mosque, could have extremely dangerous and far-reaching consequences that would not only jeopardize the peace progress, but destabilize the entire Middle East region.  It was therefore critical to ensure full respect for the sanctity of Islamic and Christian holy places, as well as for the Islamic, Arab and Palestinian identity of the Occupied East Jerusalem.  In addition, there was grave concern about the plight of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and detention centres, which reflected the constant injustice and oppression to which the Palestinian people had been exposed for decades.  Extreme Israeli abuse of Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, and the hunger strikes undertaken by detainees in protest of their treatment and captivity without charge or trial, were also of grave concern.  Welcoming the recent announcement of Palestinian national reconciliation, he said unity was imperative to Palestinian national aspirations and a just and lasting peace.

Special Coordinator’s Response

Mr. SERRY, taking the floor once more in order to respond to comments and concerns raised by delegations, noted that many had appealed for prudent actions, emphasizing that he was “stubbornly determined” to remain engaged.

YOTAM GOREN (Israel) took the floor a second time to deny allegations made against his country, emphasizing that the description of life in Jerusalem by Lebanon’s representative was incorrect.  There was great tolerance in Israel for all people, including gays and lesbians, he said, adding that Jerusalem was open to and tolerant of all religions.  Such an environment would not be allowed in Lebanon.  Furthermore, regarding a State vying for a leadership role, he said it was ironic to demonize the region’s single democracy considering that State’s own human rights record.  Denial was not the name of a river, he pointed out.

Others speakers today included representatives of India, Pakistan, Brazil, Algeria, Japan, Cuba, Morocco, Guatemala, Namibia, Malaysia, Iceland, Peru, Qatar, Kuwait, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Oman, Guinea, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Bahrain.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.