Pledged Reconstruction Aid for Gaza Must Materialize, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Saying ‘Clock Is Ticking’

21 October 2014
SC/11607

Pledged Reconstruction Aid for Gaza Must Materialize, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Saying ‘Clock Is Ticking’

7281st Meeting (AM)

Speakers Criticize Unilateral Action, Urge Compromises to Save Two-State Solution

The $5.4 billion in pledges from some 50 countries at a recent donor conference for Gaza’s reconstruction must quickly materialize into assistance on the ground, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council today.

“The clock is ticking,” Mr. Ban said, opening the Council’s quarterly open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.  Mr. Ban said that during a visit to the region last week, which included his first trip to Gaza since this summer’s conflict, he had attended the Conference on Palestine, which focused on reconstruction of the war-torn enclave. 

Some $414 million was immediately needed for humanitarian relief, he said, $1.2 billion for early recovery needs and $2.4 billion for reconstruction efforts.  More than 100,000 residents in Gaza were homeless, with more than 50,000 sheltering in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

While nothing could have prepared him for the “mile after mile of wholesale destruction” in Gaza, he had left with a measure of hope, he said, as the first supplies of construction materials had arrived under the temporary mechanism brokered by his Special Coordinator.  Palestinians, too, were taking critical steps, notably with an intra-Palestinian reconciliation agreement and a “historic” meeting in Gaza of the Cabinet of the Government of National Consensus.

“The cycle of build and destroy must end,” he insisted, as the global community could not be expected to continually pick up the pieces from another war — and then pick up the bill.  Welcoming planned resumption of indirect ceasefire talks under Egyptian auspices in Cairo, he said Israel’s steps to ease restrictions on trade and movement in the West Bank and Gaza must be expanded.

There would be no hope for stability in Gaza without addressing the underlying causes of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he concluded, urging an end to the nearly 50-year occupation of the war-torn enclave, full lifting of the blockade against it, and a solution to Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

Turning to Syria, he called on all parties to protect civilians in Ayn al-Arab/Kobane, stressing that the long-term strategic objective remained a political solution based on the Geneva Communiqué and urging full support for his Special Envoy.  In Lebanon, he was troubled by escalation since the August attacks by Daesh and Nusra Front on Arsal.  Ensuring that calm prevailed along the Blue Line was vital to the stability of Lebanon and the region, he concluded.

Following his briefing, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine thanked the Secretary-General for his leadership in the donor conference and expressions of solidarity and support for the Palestinian people.  The carnage, terror and destruction inflicted by what he called the Israeli aggression against Gaza continued to weigh heavily, fuelling despair and hopelessness.  Providing statistics on the magnitude of deaths, injuries and damage, he accused Israel of war crimes and countered accusations that civilians were used as human shields.

“We will act resolutely, with the support of all concerned and friendly countries, to ensure a broader political horizon and mobilize the global will for political action to justly, finally and peacefully resolve the conflict’s core issues and to realize the legitimate national aspirations and rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.  It was time to realize the two-State solution and, for that reason, Palestinians had approached the Council with a draft resolution delineating a time frame for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, which included East Jerusalem, and for the attainment of the independence and rights of the Palestinian people, based on relevant United Nations resolutions. 

Countering those claims, the representative of Israel said “Israel does not occupy Gaza”.  In 2005, his country had turned over “every inch” of that area to the Palestinians, having opened border crossings and encouraged commerce because “we wanted Gaza to succeed”.  The presence of Jewish homes in the Jewish homeland had never been a root cause of conflict.  Outlining the “real” root causes of regional instability, he cited Hamas’ commitment to Israel’s destruction.  No nation could be expected to “stand by” as its people were the targets of rocket attacks, kidnappings and terror plots.

He said the second root cause — unilateral steps that distanced the sides from peace — had been seen last month, when the Palestinian President had accused Israel of genocide.  State sponsors of terrorism were the third root cause, he said, underlining the threat posed by a nuclear Iran.  In Syria, its Revolutionary Guards fought along the Syrian Government’s forces, while in Lebanon, Iranian-backed Hizbullah terrorists had built a militia larger than many armies.  States should urge Palestinian leaders to denounce Hamas, stop anti-Israel incitement and take steps towards peace.

In the ensuing debate, more than 50 speakers took the floor to decry the violence and the toll it was taking on ordinary civilians.  Many criticized unilateral political actions, as well as settlement activity, urging that the situation around religious sites in Jerusalem be stabilized.  It was time for both sides to make tough compromises in order to save the two-State solution.

In that context, many speakers backed the Palestinian initiative for a Council resolution outlining a timeframe to end the occupation.  Presented on 30 September by Jordan on behalf of Palestine and the Arab Group, the text would set a timeframe for a comprehensive, peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and call for Israel’s full withdrawal, by November 2016, from all Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, and for an independent Palestinian State, as well as resolution of the status of Jerusalem as the capital of two States, and of the Palestine refugee problem, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948.

Against that backdrop, Jordan’s representative said the two-State solution must be translated into reality through a process with a limited timeframe that ruled out illegal and unilateral measures.

The representative of the Russian Federation noted that the draft resolution referred to an international legal basis and confirmed the need to negotiate with Israel, an approach that merited support.

Egypt’s delegate recalled that Palestinians had opted for the political path since the 1990s as the only way to build an independent Palestinian State.  That process had been met with illegal practices that aimed to establish a new reality on occupied land.  Uninterrupted settlement expansion threatened the Palestinian State, he said, stressing that Egypt had constantly supported Palestinian aspirations.

More broadly, speakers condemned ongoing brutality by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), notably in Syria and Iraq, which the United States’ delegate attributed in part to failures in national leadership.  ISIL must be defeated, she said, and the Assad regime held accountable.

The representative of Syria urged the United Nations to help end the collusion of Qatar and Saudi Arabia in financing ISIL.

The flow of Syrian refugees continued unabated, the representative of Lebanon added, which threatened the stability of his country.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said a negotiated political solution was needed and efforts must be intensified towards the formation of a transitional Government according to the Geneva I Declaration.

Also speaking today were the representatives of United Kingdom, Australia, Republic of Korea, France, Luxembourg, Chad, Chile, Rwanda, China, Nigeria, Lithuania, Argentina, Algeria, Guatemala, Brazil, Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Malaysia, Morocco, Norway, Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait, Belize, Tunisia, Zimbabwe (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Indonesia, Pakistan, Namibia, Japan, Nicaragua, Cuba, Iceland, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Peru, South Africa, Bahrain, Maldives, Ukraine, Philippines and India, as well as of the European Union and the Holy See.

The Chairman on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also addressed the Council.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 5:35 p.m.

Briefing by Secretary-General

BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, said he had returned last week from Egypt, Israel and Palestine, which included his first visit to Gaza since this summer’s conflict.  In Egypt, he had attended the Conference on Palestine, which focused on Gaza’s reconstruction, with $5.4 billion in pledges from some 50 countries surpassing expectations.  “It is important that these promises quickly materialize into concrete assistance on the ground,” he stressed.  “The clock is ticking.”

Indeed, $414 million was immediately needed for humanitarian relief, he said, $1.2 billion for early recovery needs and $2.4 billion for reconstruction efforts.  More than 100,000 residents in Gaza were homeless, with more than 50,000 still sheltering in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

He said nothing could have prepared him for what he had seen in Gaza:  “mile after mile of wholesale destruction”.  He visited a United Nations school in the Jabalia refugee camp, which had been shelled and civilians had sought protection under the United Nations flag.  He had spoken with a man whose brothers and sisters had perished in the blasts.  He looked forward to a thorough investigation by the Israeli Defense Forces of that incident, adding that he would also move forward with an independent Board of Inquiry to look into the most serious cases.

Noting that Israelis also had suffered, he said he had visited a kibbutz, where a family was grieving over its four-year old son who had been killed by a Hamas rocket.  He also had visited a tunnel built by militants to launch attacks.  “I fully understand the security threat to Israel from rockets above and tunnels below,” he said.  At the same time, the scale of destruction in Gaza had left “deep questions” about proportionality and the need for accountability.

Nonetheless, he had left Gaza with a measure of hope, he said, noting that the first supplies of construction materials had entered Gaza under the temporary mechanism brokered by his Special Coordinator.  Welcoming the offer by Turkey of a ship to serve as a temporary power plant, and Israel’s positive consideration of that arrangement, he said that was the kind of cooperation needed to alleviate the situation in Gaza.

Palestinians, too, were taking critical steps to forge a united path to the future, he said, including an intra-Palestinian reconciliation agreement, followed by a “historic” meeting in Gaza of the Cabinet of the Government of National Consensus.  He had met the Palestinian Prime Minister and his Cabinet in Ramallah to underscore the United Nations support for a united Palestinian leadership.  A national consensus Government must be consolidated so it could assume its responsibilities in Gaza, including deployment to the border crossings, which was crucial to facilitate the flow of construction materials into that area.

He said civil and administrative reform and other related issues must also be a priority to help unify the two strands of administration for Gaza.  The situation in the West Bank demanded renewed attention.  In his meetings in Jerusalem, he had reiterated his deep concerns about Israel’s plans to build housing units in occupied East Jerusalem, noting that international law was clear: settlement activity was illegal, and he urged Israel to reverse those activities.  He was also deeply concerned by unilateral actions, restrictions and provocations at holy sites in that city.  Noting the Israeli Prime Minister’s personal assurance of his Government’s commitment to refrain from altering policies related to those sites, he voiced concern about the increasing attacks by settlers, as well as plans to “relocate” some 7,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their locations in the central West Bank.

“The cycle of build and destroy must end,” he insisted, as the global community could not be expected to continually pick up the pieces from another war — and then pick up the bill.  Welcoming planned resumption of indirect ceasefire talks between Israel and the Palestinians under Egyptian auspices in Cairo, he said Israel’s steps to ease restrictions on trade and movement in the West Bank and Gaza must be expanded.

There would be no hope for stability in Gaza without addressing the underlying causes of conflict:  an end to the occupation, a full lifting of the blockade and addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.  Ultimately, a peace agreement leading to a viable and independent Palestinian State was required.  The two-State solution was the only viable option.  It was time for courage, vision and tough compromises, and he challenged both sides to rise to the occasion.

Turning to Syria, he said he had called on all parties to protect civilians in Ayn al-Arab/Kobane, one of many places in that country where civilians were under imminent threat.  In addition to the barbarity of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) or Daesh, the Syrian Government continued to attack populated areas. “Our long-term strategic objective in Syria remains a political solution based on the Geneva Communiqué,” he said, urging full support for his Special Envoy’s efforts.

In Lebanon, he was troubled by escalation since the August attacks by Daesh and Nusra Front on Arsal.  Welcoming efforts by Lebanese leaders to uphold national unity, he said parties should show flexibility to open the way for the election of a President without further delay.  Ensuring that calm continued to prevail along the Blue Line was vital to the stability of Lebanon and the region, he concluded.

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, thanked the Secretary-General for his leadership in the donor conference, his testimony of the destruction in Gaza and other expressions of solidarity and support for the Palestinian people.  He paid tribute as well to the staff of United Nations agencies working in Gaza, including those of UNRWA who lost their lives, affirming the centrality of the world Organization in the pursuit of peace in the area was indisputable.  He called again for the Council to visit Gaza.  The carnage, terror and destruction inflicted by what he called the Israeli aggression against Gaza continued to weigh heavily, fuelling despair and hopelessness.  Providing statistics on the magnitude of deaths, injuries and damage, he accused Israel of war crimes and countered accusations that civilians were used as human shields.

Thanking donors for the outpouring of support and affirming the priority of humanitarian action and lifting the blockade in Gaza, he stressed, however, an equal need to reverse a denial of Palestinian rights.   “We will act resolutely, with the support of all concerned and friendly countries, to ensure a broader political horizon and mobilize the global will for political action to justly, finally and peacefully resolve the conflict’s core issues and to realize the legitimate national aspirations and rights of the Palestinian people.”  The Palestinian national consensus Government, he said, remained fully committed to peace, while the Israelis, he maintained, continued provocative actions and incitement, including continued settlement activity.  The credibility of the current peace process had thus been nullified by Israel, he said.

“It is high time to move beyond speaking of the two-State solution in theory and time to act forthwith and actualize it, before the small opportunity that remains vanishes,” he said.  For that reason, he added, Palestinians had approached the Council with the initiative of a draft resolution delineating a time frame for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land that included East Jerusalem and for the attainment of the independence and rights of the Palestinian people, based on relevant United Nations resolutions.  The draft also called for a cessation of illegal policies and practices by Israel.  He reiterated his call to the international community to support that initiative and to thus inject new momentum into efforts to achieve lasting peace and security between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.  In that context, he thanked all countries that had moved to recognize the State of Palestine.

DAVID YITSHAK ROET (Israel) said his country had built a society on democracy, freedom of speech and worship, the rule of law and equal rights.  And yet, in listening to discussion about the “root causes” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was clear those values were not being championed.  “Israel does not occupy Gaza,” he said, noting that in 2005, Israel had turned over “every inch” of that area to the Palestinians, having opened border crossings and encouraged commerce because “we wanted Gaza to succeed”.  Instead, Hamas had sought to destroy Israel.  The presence of Jewish homes in the Jewish homeland had never been a root cause of the conflict.  Resolving the dispute could only be done through direct negotiations.

Outlining the “real” root causes of regional instability, he cited Hamas’ commitment to Israel’s destruction.  No nation could be expected to “stand by” as its people were the targets of rocket attacks, kidnappings and terror plots.  Israel had accepted numerous ceasefires, aborted missions in order to save civilian lives and — before launching attacks — sent text messages and made phone calls.  The second root cause — unilateral steps that distanced the sides from peace — had been seen last month, when the Palestinian President had accused Israel of genocide.  The United Nations must also play its part, he said, noting that the selection of William Schabas to chair the Gaza Commission of Inquiry illustrated the anti-Israel bias that pervaded the Organization.  Israel was working in various ways to advance peace, however only Gaza’s demilitarization could guarantee a durable ceasefire.

Describing the third root cause of the conflict, he cited State sponsors of terrorism, urging that as the international community coalesced to fight extremists it not lose sight of the greater threat posed by a nuclear Iran.  The nuclear deal on the table allowing Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, knowledge and ambitions to remain intact was a “dangerous mistake”.  For decades, Iran had funded terror campaigns in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.  In Syria, its Revolutionary Guards fought along the Syrian Government’s forces, while in Lebanon, Iranian-backed Hizbullah terrorists had built a militia larger than many armies.  The Council must demand that Lebanon abide by resolution 1701 (2006), while States must stand firm against jihadist groups.  The same opposition against ISIS, Al-Qaida and Boko Haram must be shown against Hamas and Hizbullah, he said, pressing States to urge Palestinian leaders to denounce Hamas, stop anti-Israel incitement and take steps towards peace.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) noted a time of worsened turmoil in the entire Middle East.  She said that the horrors committed by ISIL in Syria and Iraq were due in good part to failures in national leadership.  The Assad regime continued to mercilessly attack communities, including the Palestinian communities in the country.  ISIL must be defeated and the Assad regime must be held accountable; a political solution was necessary that was not an enshrinement of the status quo.  Leaders in the region must be part of that effort, but they also must lead their own countries in an inclusive manner and exercise political will.  Lebanon, for example, must complete formation of its Government.  Leadership was also needed to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace; difficult choices must be made.  Noting the assistance being provided by her country for relief and reconstruction in Gaza, she said real change was needed on the ground in order to prevent another round of violence.  In that context, she criticized unilateral political actions as well as settlement activity and urged leaders to think in favour of the long-term future.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said that the conflict in Gaza was a grim reminder of the devastating toll of the conflict on ordinary civilians.  Urgent aid was needed for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, but a return to the status quo was unacceptable.  Rapid progress towards a durable ceasefire was needed, underpinned by a comprehensive monitoring mechanism that ensured security for both sides.  He deplored further settlement plans by Israel and proposals for relocating Bedouins, and urged stabilization of the situation around religious sites in Jerusalem.  He also urged all parties to make the difficult choices required for progress towards a lasting resolution of the conflict.  On Syria, he said that given the violence against the people there, continued governance under the Assad regime was not viable and a transition process must be negotiated.  He welcomed political progress in Iraq and urged a more inclusive approach there leading to reconciliation in order for ISIL to be comprehensively defeated.

DINA KAWAR (Jordan) said that her country had for a long time been concerned over the deadlock in the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Israeli practices continually provoked Palestinians and the entire Muslim world, including incitements around religious sites, making progress towards peace less likely.  Israel must stop such practices and the international community should shoulder its responsibility to end aggression against the holy sites by the occupying Power.  Her country was charged with guarding the welfare of those sites.  She welcomed Egypt’s convening of the conference on Gaza, noting that Jordanian health facilities had cared for many of the wounded there and her country had provided much other aid.  In order to prevent further violence, the two-State solution must be translated into reality through a process with a limited time frame that ruled out illegal and unilateral measures.  In Syria as well she called for a political process to end the conflict and, in Iraq, she called for inclusive governance.  In conclusion she stressed that her country had been fighting terrorism in many ways and would continue to fight extremism in all its manifestations.

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that if a Russian proposal to send a Council mission to Palestine and Israel had not been blocked by one Council member, perhaps the uptick in violence could have been avoided.  Concerned about the events around Al-Aqsa Mosque, he urged refraining from unilateral actions, saying that his Government favoured indirect contacts between the Palestinians and Israel in the Cairo context.  He urged observing the ceasefire and ensuring cargo delivery access under United Nations auspices.  Palestinians must overcome divisions on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative and the Russian Federation would assist through bilateral and multilateral formats.  The Council’s draft resolution referred to an international legal basis and confirmed the need to negotiate with Israel, an approach that merited support.  In Libya, after years of illegal bombing by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the situation had worsened.  In Syria, an aggressive attack by radicals against legitimate Government authorities was taking place with the West’s full support of the Syrian opposition.  In Iraq, the 2003 United States invasion had destroyed State structures.  The Council should analyse the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East.

GARY FRANCIS QUINLAN (Australia) urged all parties to the ceasefire agreement on the Gaza conflict to scrupulously honour its terms.  The conflict was a stark reminder that Israel and the Palestinians must renew their efforts towards finding a two-State solution.  On ISIL’s atrocities in Iraq, his Government, following a request from the United States Government and with the consent of the Iraqi Government, had deployed its aircraft and personnel and would also deploy a special operation task group to advise and assist the Iraqi security forces.  His Government was introducing legislative measures to make prosecution of foreign fighters easier and to prevent people leaving Australia to fight in foreign conflicts.  On the Syrian crisis, he said that people there “deserve better than a choice between the Assad regime and ISIL”.  Lebanon’s politicians should elect a President without further delay as its armed forces were now without a Commander-in-Chief at a time of heightened security threats.  International support was needed as Lebanon faced complex challenges, including the burden of hosting more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) welcomed the United Nations-brokered reconstruction mechanism for Gaza, a “robust” plan to facilitate the Palestinian Government’s lead on reconstruction efforts while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.  His Government had pledged $12 million in assistance to Palestinians, $2 million of which would support economic recovery.  Gaza’s prolonged isolation could lead to the radicalization of youth.  More efforts were needed to build the foundation for peace.  He supported continued Egyptian-brokered negotiations, with a view to addressing outstanding issues and root causes.  Parties should respect previous agreements and return to the table to work out a viable framework for a two-State solution.  He opposed Israel’s new settlement expansion, voicing concern at growing insecurity in the West Bank.  In Syria, mass displacement was unfolding at an unprecedented pace and he urged all actors to take steps to ensure civilian protection.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), associating himself with the European Union, said the two-State solution must be saved and expressed hope that the $5.4 billion pledged at the Cairo Conference would be fulfilled.  He pressed the sides to move beyond the August ceasefire towards a durable solution.  The situation in Gaza was a symptom of deadlock in the peace process.  Stressing the need for free access to holy places for all religions, he said the time had come to implement the two-State solution.  Negotiations must start with clear parameters and a time frame.  The United States role would continue to be central, as would that of Europe and the Arab League.  In Iraq, France advocated a strategy to support Iraqi authorities.  In Syria, France supported a political response and the re-launch of negotiations, as well as coalition strikes against Daesh.  In Lebanon, he urged utmost efforts be made to counter attempts to destabilize that country.  The disassociation policy was the framework in which all Lebanese forces must take part.  As for Libya, the Council must respond to two challenges: the political transition and the terrorist threat.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), endorsing the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the ceasefire in Gaza and the donor conference in the face of the “appalling” consequences of the conflict there.  She stressed that, in addition, the blockade, which she said was strangling Gaza, must be ended and progress must be made in the overall peace process towards a two-State solution.  Bold and concrete measures must be taken.  In that context, she condemned further plans for Israeli settlements and called on the Council to act to save that solution and put an end to the occupation.  On Syria, underlining the magnitude of suffering, she stressed the need for a political solution and demanded that the Syrian authorities and other parties implement Council resolutions on humanitarian access in full.  In addition she expressed concern over continued use of chemical weapons and called for decisive action by the Council to end it.  The advance of ISIL made stability in all the countries of the region an urgent priority.  Those responsible for what she called the abominable crimes of ISIL must be held accountable.

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) welcomed the outcome of the conference on the reconstruction of Gaza, but stressed that the international community must ensure that what he called the aggression against that area did not recur.  In that context, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory must end.  The status quo was dangerous for the entire region.  To bring about the necessary two-State solution, Israel must be brought to reason.  Lacking that, the international community should recognize Palestine and support the initiative for a resolution that put a time limit for ending the occupation.  He condemned those who attacked Muslims visiting holy sites, continued settlement activity and other practices as violations of international law. 

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), noting that his country had recognized Palestine and had assisted UNRWA during the recent conflict in Gaza, welcomed the ceasefire but underlined that the status quo could not continue.  Progress in negotiations must be made.  In that context Hamas’ threats must end and Israel must end practices that were counter to the interest of peace.  His country was organizing an international meeting to encourage the two-State solution.  He called for national unity in Lebanon and for militias for that country not to participate in the conflict in Syria.  In addition, he expressed continued deep concern over the effect on women and children due to the conflict in the latter country, as well as over the violence of ISIL.  Despite setbacks in finding a political solution for that conflict, the international community must persevere in the effort.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said parties must understand there would be no military solution to the situation in the Middle East.  Political terms must be sought in pursuit of peaceful solutions to all issues.  On the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it was important for leaders in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, with support from the United States, the Middle East Quartet and League of Arab States, to keep momentum for negotiations aimed at achieving a two-State solution.  Parties should work to assume direct negotiations and refrain from provocative actions.  He welcomed the outcome of the Cairo Conference, as well as the trilateral agreement among Palestine, Israel and the United Nations.  He called parties to uphold the ceasefire brokered by Egypt in August.  In Syria, he called on parties to resume the Geneva II peace talks and supported the fight against ISIL.  In Lebanon, all parties should continue to uphold the disassociation policy, he said, expressing concern over the prolonged vacancy in the presidency and hope for overcoming differences to end constitutional gridlock.

WANG MIN (China) expressed great concern about the situation between Israel and Palestine, strongly condemning the indiscriminate use of force that killed civilians.  Changing the “worrying” humanitarian situation in Gaza required the two sides to work with the international community.  China hoped the two sides would push forward with substantive negotiations, aimed at creating a sovereign Palestinian State on the basis of 1967 borders.  He called on Israel to end its settlement-building, release Palestinian prisoners, lift the Gaza blockade and create conditions for the resumption of peace talks.  Palestinian factions must work together in support of the national consensus Government and Israel’s legitimate security concerns should be addressed.  The Council should push the sides to keep the ceasefire in place.  Welcoming the draft resolution, China supported the Council’s action to respond to the reasonable request by Palestine and other Arab States.  For its part, China had developed a five-point proposal and twice provided emergency assistance.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said the international community must never lose sight of the need to advance the peace process in a “strident” manner.  “We must seize every moment,” she said, urging Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations without delay, complemented by actions that were in line with United Nations resolutions, the Quartet Road Map and other initiatives.  On Syria, she welcomed the end of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) joint mission, a “milestone” in the context of resolution 2118 (2013).  The Council must now seek ways to end the violence and pursue a political settlement.  She urged parties to lay down their arms and embrace negotiations in the context of the 2012 Geneva Communiqué.  On Lebanon, she was concerned about the threat of armed militias to the country’s security and sovereignty.  No progress had been made in disbanding them, as called for in resolution 1559 (2004).  She urged political leaders to show the will to break the impasse related to the presidential vacancy.

NIDA JAKUBONE (Lithuania) called for thorough implementation of recent Council resolutions 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014).  ISIL and other terrorist groups in the region must be denied safe havens.  All channels of their financing, arming and recruiting must be disrupted.  The phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters added “a new dimension” to the threat.  The Council had two powerful tools, namely the 1267 and 1373 committees, at its disposal.  Iraq had been badly affected by ISIL.  The nation’s new Government must consolidate and sustain effort towards a credible process of reconciliation by overcoming past sectarianism.  The humanitarian situation there was also dire.  Lithuania recently made a voluntary contribution through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help the children of Iraq.  Syria’s Assad Government continued to fight its own people, not terrorism.  Access denial, starvation as a method of war, use of chemical weapons and continued barrel bombings of civilian areas constituted crimes against humanity.  The situation in the region was increasingly affecting Lebanon.  In Yemen, the use of force by the Houthis had dealt a blow to the nation’s peaceful transition.  On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she commended Egypt and Norway for convening a conference on Gaza reconstruction.  “Let us hope that this was the last time when the international community was called upon to rebuild Gaza,” she said.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said that the uncontrolled militarization of the Syrian conflict had resulted in the spread of ISIL and threatened to destabilize the entire region.  Efforts towards a political solution must therefore be redoubled.  Efforts to fight ISIL should be done only in compliance with international law and in conformance with relevant Council resolutions.  In Gaza, she underlined the need for an end to the vicious cycle of destruction.  The people in Gaza needed cement and bricks, but even more basically they needed freedom and an end to the occupation.  “Dignity and occupation are incompatible concepts,” she stressed.  It was not enough to condemn the violence and the death of civilians, as well as settlements and other practices; it was important to say “Stop!” to the situation, before it was too late.  The Council should be a key actor in that respect.  She supported the Palestinian initiative for a resolution on a time frame to end the occupation.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) described how Israeli attacks devastated Gaza, with a majority of causalities being defenceless civilians, many of them children and women.  It was heartening, however, to see a 23 August letter that appeared in The New York Times with signatures representing survivors of the Holocaust that condemned unjustifiable acts on Gaza.  A total of $5.4 billion had been pledged at the Cairo conference on the reconstruction of Gaza.  All the conference participants, however, had stressed the need to address the root causes of the conflict.  It was time to chart a course to a just, final peace.  It was saddening that the Council remained idle on the illegal acts of Israel.  He welcomed the decision by Sweden’s Prime Minister and the United Kingdom’s Parliament to recognize the State of Palestine.  The flow of Syrian refugees continued unabated, threatening the stability of Lebanon. 

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that Palestinian question was a chronic item on the agenda and had been since the establishment of the United Nations.  The tragic events in the Gaza Strip last summer had proved to everyone that the situation was still a threat to international peace and security.  Since the 1990s, the Palestinians had opted for the political path as the only way to settle the Palestinian issue, leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.  That process had been met with the continuation of illegal practices, aiming to establish through settlements a new reality on occupied Palestinian land.  That placed the Palestinian leadership in a difficult situation when it came to its own people.  The uninterrupted expansion of settlements threatened the Palestinian State.  Egypt had constantly supported the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), referring to the killings of children and other innocent people, echoed the sentiment of the Secretary-General, who visited the site of conflict and said “I’m here with a heavy heart.”  He stressed the importance of investigations and the need for accountability and justice.  The $5.4 billion in pledges made at the Cairo conference was a good sign.  Algeria announced a $25 million contribution in humanitarian aid.  Israel had chosen to continue its illegal settlement policy.  The recent case in East Jerusalem was another stumbling block.  His delegation fully supported Mr. Abbas’ proposal to set a time frame for the end of Israeli occupation.  A window of opportunity to address the Syrian crisis was narrowing day by day.  The Council must not evade taking action.

MÓNICA BOLAÑOS PÉREZ (Guatemala) said that recent events between Israel and Palestine had not been encouraging.  Noting much destruction in the Gaza Strip, she said that the conference on the reconstruction of Gaza had been a step in right direction, and also acknowledged the achievement of the tripartite agreement negotiated by the United Nations to ensure the entry of building materials into Gaza.  The international community needed to promote an environment conducive to peace.  It was crucial for the parties to refrain from unilateral action, and it was important not to lose sight of the root causes of the situation.  The parties must make a real effort towards a definitive peace, which included the lifting of the blockade, a halt of settlements, and the taking into account of Israel’s security needs.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) wondered how long the United Nations would continue to hold meetings to put an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of the Golan and of southern Lebanon.  The Council had created the State of Israel.  Therefore, it could end Israel’s illegal occupation of Arab land.  The Syrian people had been suffering from Israeli occupation for half a century.  They were repressed and deprived of the right to their natural resources.  Terrorists were kidnapping and attacking United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) peacekeepers, preventing the mission from discharging its mandate.  He urged the United Nations to help put an end to the collusion of Qatar and Saudi Arabia in financing ISIL.  The United States was forging an illegal alliance involving the United Kingdom, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to support terrorists, who it claimed were the “moderate” opposition.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said that following the shocking scale of destruction and killing in Gaza, it was time to break the cycle of violence and to ensure that Israel and Palestine lived side by side in peace.  For that purpose, a clear, strong message against business as usual was needed.  Noting his country’s aid to Gaza, he stressed that this must be the last occasion that Gaza was in need of rebuilding.  Ensuring accountability for breaches of international law on both sides could help prevent the recurrence of abuses.  On Iraq, he condemned the actions of ISIL and encouraged the new Government to ensure inclusiveness.  He also condemned continued violations of human rights in Syria and called for a political solution, calling it “dismaying” to learn that “there continues to be a belief in the merits of putting more weapons in the hands of armed groups”.  He finally expressed support for the Lebanese Government in fighting terrorism, highlighting his country’s contributions to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and pledging further support for international efforts to end all conflicts in the Middle East.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that there was an international consensus that the status quo was unsustainable and that the realization by the Palestinian people of their freedom and human rights was long overdue.  Condemning the Israeli blockade of Gaza, he urged its end, and further condemned Israel’s continuing settlement construction, especially the series of actions in recent weeks which had included the seizure of 1,000 acres of land near the town of Bethlehem.  Those actions deepened already grave doubts regarding Israel’s commitment to the two-State solution and to peace.  Urging the Council to put an end to the plight of the Palestinian people, he also noted that Lebanon’s airspace continued to be violated by Israel.  He demanded that Israel withdraw fully from the occupied Syrian Golan. 

Speaking in his national capacity, he said that Israel today had repeated nonsense it had stated in the General Assembly earlier, and that it was Israel which had always been the cause of unrest in the Middle East.  While his Government was trying to resolve misunderstanding regarding its peaceful nuclear programme, efforts had been made to sabotage negotiations between Iran and the “P5+1”.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), expressing deep concern over increasing attacks and provocations by Israel on various holy sites in Jerusalem including the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, condemned attempts by Israel to change the status and identity of the holy sites in Jerusalem.  His Government strongly supported the Palestinian effort to set a time frame to end the Israeli occupation, and called on the Council not to shut the door again, but back the endeavour.  Malaysia had contributed $1.35 million to Palestine, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including $100,000 to UNRWA’s Gaza flash appeal.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the European Union Delegation, said that the bloc’s member states pledged an overall contribution of 468 million euros at the Cairo conference on Gaza reconstruction.  Noting that Gaza would be an integral part of the future State of Palestine, he urged participants to ensure the effective and timely disbursement of their generous pledges.  On Syria, the Union yesterday approved further sanctions against the Assad regime, designating individuals and entities linked to the regime to be subject to restrictive measures.  The European Union Council also agreed to impose an export ban on jet fuel and relevant additives being exported to Syria as they were being used by the Assad regime’s air force, which undertook indiscriminate air attacks against civilians.  That body also endorsed the Union’s strategy to combat terrorism and foreign fighters.  The Union would continue to provide political and practical support to the moderate opposition in Syria.  In view of the approaching winter, the Union was deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Syria and Iraq.  To date, the Union had mobilized €2.9 billion for relief and recovery assistance to people in those countries as well as to refugees and their host communities.  The Union had also pledged €215 million at the International Support Group for Lebanon meeting held on 26 September.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) said that the persistence of the Israeli occupation and the spread of extremism in the Middle East must be confronted.  He strongly condemned what he called the aggression of Israel in Gaza, noting the assistance being provided by his country there.  Welcoming the ceasefire, he expressed hope for its durability and its follow-up through a comprehensive solution to the conflict.  The blockade must be lifted.  In addition, he recalled the results of the Conference on Jerusalem hosted by his country that had underlined the centrality of that city in a just solution; he called for an end to incitement at the holy sites.  There must be a political solution to the crisis in Syria.  Morocco was ready to provide more assistance to those affected.  He praised Lebanese parties for their solidarity in the face of the crisis.  On Yemen, he called on all parties to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  On ISIL, he reiterated his country’s condemnation of all forms of terrorism and stressed that the group did not represent Islam.

GEIR PEDERSEN (Norway), noting that his country co-hosted the Cairo conference on reconstructing Gaza and underlining the conflict’s “terrible toll”, welcomed the ceasefire there but called for action towards a permanent end of hostilities to prevent more violence.  Towards the viability of a united Palestinian state, all Palestinian factions should cooperate for Palestinian unity under President Mahmoud Abbas.  Welcoming changes in restrictions on materials allowed in and out of Gaza, he called on Israel to make significant contributions to the reconstruction effort.  In addition, deploring recent announcements of settlement building, he called for the resumption of serious negotiations towards a two-State solution, with the Security Council providing leadership and guidance in that effort.  Political solutions were needed to end the crises in Iraq and Syria, but extremist forces such as ISIL must be confronted “head-on” by a united international community.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said that the recent escalation in Gaza underlined the urgency of a comprehensive solution to the conflict.  It was time for the Council to assume its responsibility and to oblige Israel to end its occupation and measures contrary to international law.  She therefore supported a Council resolution for that purpose that included a time frame.  She also called for an end of Israeli incitement at Jerusalem’s holy sites.  She noted her country’s pledge of half the funds requested by the United Nations for rebuilding Gaza as well as its continuous support to the Palestinian Authority.  In Syria, she said that crimes by the Assad regime had led to the destabilization that bred extremism and the crimes of ISIL.  Qatar had responded to humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees; the magnitude of the needs required an increase of aid from the entire international community.

Y. HALIT ÇEVIK (Turkey), also noting large pledges of funds and other contributions to humanitarian aid and reconstruction in Gaza, said that there must be a focus on a settlement that kept further catastrophes from occurring, through a comprehensive agreement that allowed the Palestinians to realize the rights that they had been denied for decades.  For that reason, he supported the initiative leading to a time frame for reaching a negotiated solution.  Turning to Syria, he said that his country was feeling increased effects of the Assad regime’s brutal practices and had welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees, for which the burden should be shared.  Turkey was taking measures to counter the terrorist groups by preventing transit of personnel and resources across the border and other measures, and its commitment to ending the ISIL threat would continue.  In that context, a political solution to the Syrian crisis was needed.  Turkey would continue to work with all legitimate parties, including Kurdish ones, in that effort, but reiterated that no unilateral solutions should be countenanced.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH A ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) recalled the 50 days of Israeli attacks in Gaza recently.  The occupying Power had conducted horrendous human rights violations.  Welcoming the ceasefire agreement achieved, brokered by Egypt, and urging the Council to adopt the draft resolution proposed by the Arab Group, he underscored the need to set a time frame to end Israel’s occupation.  It was also vital to open crossings into Gaza to allow humanitarian aid to enter.  The $5.4 billion in pledges at the Cairo conference must lead to the reconstruction of Gaza, as a step toward building a just, lasting peace.  Commending the Swedish Government’s recognition of the State of Palestine, he urged other States to follow suit.  Israel must withdraw its forces in line with the 1967 borders. 

FODÉ SECK (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, shared the view of the Secretary-General, who said in Gaza that the “build-destroy” cycle must be broken and that “the mindless pattern of blockades, rockets and destruction must stop.”  The Committee welcomed the arrival of the Government of National Consensus in Gaza.  Its effective work would help consolidate governance and secure the import of crucial equipment for Gaza’s reconstruction.  The decision by the Israeli Government to facilitate access for Palestinian ministers from the West Bank to Gaza was a step in the right direction.  Peace negotiations must resume, this time with a specific deadline and a firm commitment to agree on viable borders for both parties.  The Committee backed the proposals made by the State of Palestine at the United Nations and invited the Council and the rest of the international community to do the same.

LOIS MICHELE YOUNG (Belize) said it was time for Council members who habitually blocked decisive action aimed at redressing the wrongs perpetrated on the people of Palestine to seriously consider that the continued visitation of death and destruction would likely open the door for extremist philosophies to enter and flourish.  Measures should be adopted to achieve the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from the Gaza Strip.  Through the negative trade measures the European Union imposed against her country in March 2014, her Government had known too well that super Powers could achieve their goals, once there was the will.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) said that after its brutal aggression on the Gaza strip, Israel’s illegal practices continued at Jerusalem’s holy sites.  He rejected all such practices and policies and other violations by the occupying Power, which showed that it was trying to buy time to impose a resolution by force.  It was time for the Council therefore to shoulder its responsibilities to help bring about a comprehensive, negotiated two-State solution, he stated, supporting the Palestinian initiative for a Council resolution that included a time frame for a settlement.  In addition, he called for the end to the Gaza blockade and for all donors to fulfil the commitments made in Cairo.  On Syria, he reiterated deep concern over the deterioration of the situation there and expressed hope for a political solution that ended the violence and preserved the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that it was unacceptable that Israel violated the territorial integrity of Gaza and the human rights of the Palestinian people, and the Council failed to intervene decisively.  The body must uphold its Charter responsibilities and act to protect innocent Palestinian civilians.  Israel’s recent announcement that it would acquire 1,000 acres of Palestinian territory in the West Bank was a blatant violation of various Council resolutions.  Israel’s belief that it could continue to act with impunity arose from the protection it received from some Council members.

DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) supported last week’s international conference on the reconstruction of Gaza, which was held at the initiative of Egypt, Norway and Palestine.  But the international community must be clear: the success of that conference should not “blind us to the root of the problem”, which was none other than the continued Israeli occupation.  He called on Israel to heed the demands of the international community to resume the peace negotiations, and allow the establishment of an independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Palestinian national reconciliation was an encouraging factor in the quest for lasting peace.  That courageous move must receive sustained international support, including in the form of recognition of the State of Palestine.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, reiterated its support for a two-State solution in Israel and Palestine, and its conviction that peace in the Middle East could only be sought through negotiated settlements.  Regarding the “horrific” situation in Syria, the Holy See called on all parties to stop the massive violations of international humanitarian law and fundamental human rights, and on the international community to help find a solution.  Regarding Lebanon, international solidarity was needed as that country was gravely affected by the Syrian crisis and by the massive presence of refugees.  The Holy See exhorted Lebanon to find a solution as soon as possible to the vacancy of the Presidency of the Republic.  Regarding the “grave violations and abuses” committed by ISIL, the Holy See appealed in particular for the protection by the United Nations of the ethnic and religious groups who were specifically targeted and victimized.  The Organization should take the escalating international terrorism as the occasion to urgently reinforce the international juridical framework to protect people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and unjust aggression.

MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan) said the Council could not put a spin on the year’s events: the peace process had collapsed, Gaza had been devastated again, Israel had announced its largest land grab in decades and tensions around Al-Aqsa Mosque had increased.  Peace would not be possible without the creation of an independent Palestinian State along 1967 borders with al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital.  All Arab lands must be vacated.  While welcoming United States efforts, he said the Quartet must be re-energized and he called for setting clear goals, timelines and benchmarks.  In Syria, the political process must be revived to resolve the conflict.  The United Nations and regional players should use all diplomatic means to prevent worsening of the situation.  Failure to resolve the Israel-Palestinian issue had spawned other problems.  “Fix Palestine, fix the Middle East,” he said.

WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia), endorsing the statements made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Southern African Development Community, said his country would continue to draw the international community’s attention to the plight of the people of Gaza.  He reiterated the call for investigations of what he called a genocide by Israel against them.  Other policies that were illegal, such as settlements in the West Bank, continued to inflame tensions and prejudice the situation on the ground.  The Council must not tolerate such violations of international law and should support the Palestinian initiative of a resolution to end the occupation within a prescribed time frame.  He welcomed other efforts to resume negotiations for that purpose and reiterated Namibia’s unwavering support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State and its unconditional admission as a Member State of the United Nations.

MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan), noting his country’s significant contributions to Gaza reconstruction and Palestinian development, said that Japan was also ready to work with the parties on an international mechanism that addressed security, humanitarian aid and good governance, which was indispensable for a sustainable ceasefire.  In the interest of a comprehensive peace and the stabilization of the region, Japan was also prepared to assist the parties in building mutual confidence.  In that context, he called on Israel to completely freeze settlement activities and land seizures.  He called on the Palestinian National Unity Government to remain committed to previous agreements and to “refrain from any unilateral action that may hinder the resumption of peace negotiations”.  He described Palestinian development initiatives that Japan was implementing.  His country was also contributing to the fight against ISIL through humanitarian aid and by carrying out various measures to counter international terrorism.  A political solution was needed to end the suffering of the Syrian people.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) expressed solidarity with Palestinian aspirations for self-determination and the creation of a Palestinian State based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and the return of all refugees.  She demanded an end to the blockade and to settlement policies, urging that recently pledged reconstruction funds be turned into a reality.  Palestine had the right to receive development aid.  But Israel refused to negotiate in good faith instead of hiding under a “robe of impunity” provided by one Council member.  The Council must adopt a resolution containing a set timetable for the creation of a Palestinian State, laying the groundwork for a fair, lasting peace in the Middle East.  Peace also required the freeing of Syrian and Lebanese territory occupied by Israel.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that today’s meeting was of particular importance as it followed “inhuman” Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza strip.  Expressing the OIC’s support and solidarity of the OIC to the Palestinian people, he said that Israel was solely and fully responsible for many destructive acts, which he enumerated.  Welcoming the Cairo conference on Gaza’s reconstruction, he stressed the need not to surrender to disappointment at Israeli destruction of infrastructure projects.  He reiterated the call of the OIC for the formation of an independent international investigation commission to investigate all violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The continuation of Israel’s seizure of Palestinian land was evidence of a policy of ethnic cleansing, which undermined the two-State solution, he said.  For the Council to avoid further loss of credibility before the international community, it needed to pass a resolution determining a time limit to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories, among other measures sought.  The OIC welcomed the recent decisions of Sweden and of the United Kingdom to recognize the State of Palestine.  Turning to the situation in Syria, he expressed the deep concern of the OIC over the destruction and violence committed against Syrian civilians, and called on Member States to fulfil their commitments to support those people’s humanitarian needs.  A negotiated political solution was needed, and efforts must be intensified towards forming a transitional government according to the Geneva I declaration.

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), fully supporting the statement made by Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Council in a new show of double standards had sat back and watched as Israel had murdered Palestinian children, women and the elderly.  Israel had to be held accountable for crimes against the Palestinian people.  The Assembly had made a historic decision when its members had granted Palestine the status of observer State.  The international community should continue to support the Palestinian people in their claim for admission as a full Member State of the United Nations.  Settlement activities were a threat to regional and international peace, and only an end to the settlement policy as well as other measures would lead to lasting peace in region.  Turning to the situation in Syria, he reiterated calls for Syrian territorial integrity, adding that the protection of human life and the fight against terrorism could not serve as a pretext for foreign intervention.

GRÉTA GUNNARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) said the Council must play a more active role in reaching a lasting peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as the present state of affairs was unsustainable.  The facts on the ground were shocking: in violence in recent months, 20,000 homes had been destroyed and 2,000 Palestinians were killed, including more than 500 children, as were 70 Israelis.  Condemning Israel’s disproportionate use of force, as well as indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and others against civilian targets in Israel, she said such actions had consequences for the chances of peaceful coexistence.  The core problem was the occupation of Palestine, behaviour that must end.  On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the maintenance of peace and security was, in the end, about people.  As such, the Council must do its utmost to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and other conflicts where children continued to suffer.

PALITHA T. B. KOHONA (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep concern about the humanitarian impact of the recent escalation of violence in Gaza.  The international community needed to ensure that the broader question of peace in the region was addressed.  Restrictions on imports and exports due to the blockade on Gaza were stifling economic growth as well as aggravating the humanitarian crisis.  The security needs of the people of Israel needed to be respected, but the ongoing settlement activity needed to end.  Conflicts in the Middle East were one of the main reasons driving the recruitment of terrorists in the region as well as worldwide.  Encouraged by the political rapprochement between Gaza and the West Bank, his Government supported Palestine’s application for admission to full membership in the United Nations.

KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said that his Government was alarmed that terrorist groups were creating quasi-State entities to fight against legitimate Governments, and condemned attacks by ISIL.  On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all parties had to fulfil their commitments as stipulated by the road map.  Supporting Egypt’s peace initiative, he welcomed the outcomes of the Cairo talks on the long-term settlement conditions.  Reiterating his Government’s recognition of the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, as well as the creation of an independent State of Palestine within the 1967 borders, he called on all parties to commit their political will towards ensuring lasting peace and security through a genuine multilateral approach.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) urged implementation of resolutions for the creation of a Palestinian State along mutually recognized borders and free of threats and acts of force.  Peru had recognized Palestine as a State and had co-sponsored the 2012 General Assembly resolution though which it was granted non-member observer status in the United Nations.  While deploring the disproportionate use of force in Gaza in recent months, he recognized Israel’s right to preserve its existence and security, including through self-defence based on international law, notably the principle of proportionality.  Acquisition of territory by force, however, was inadmissible.  Israel must cease its settlement activity, home demolitions and removal of Palestinians from the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem.

JEREMIAH NYAMANE KINGSLEY MAMABOLO (South Africa), associating with SADC and the Non-Aligned Movement, urged Israel to lift its seven-year blockade on Gaza.  Welcoming the conclusion of a ceasefire agreement, he expressed hope that negotiations would lead to a permanent ceasefire arrangement.  For its part, South Africa was ready to support a Council resolution that would compel Israel to negotiate the framework for a two-State solution within a specific timeframe, welcoming the Arab States that were making efforts in that regard.  South Africa had pledged $1 million for humanitarian assistance in Gaza, which would be transferred to UNRWA.  It was ready to share its experiences in national reconciliation, nation-building and post-conflict reconstruction.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said that a durable, comprehensive settlement would only come through the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The latest aggression against Gaza showed the violations by Israel as well as that country’s breach of all international resolutions.  Stressing the words of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when he had called for international protection for the Palestinian people, as well as his call for a timeline to the end of Israeli occupation, Bahrain paid tribute to the central role of Egypt in its initiative towards a ceasefire, as well as its co-hosting with Norway of an international conference on supporting the Palestinian people and rebuilding Gaza.  His Government would always support the principles of coexistence, as well as international resolutions, and would continue to work towards the implementation of Council resolution 1515 (2003).

AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said that for the past few decades, the international community had expended time, energy and resources towards the realization of a two-State solution, but that time and time again, the progress made ended to the sound of gunfire, rockets, missiles and bombs.  The State of Palestine must be recognized, be granted full independence with its pre-1967 borders, and have East Jerusalem as its capital.  An end to the blockade was the first step in easing the situation.  Hatred spreading across the Middle East threatened the Islamic Ummah, and it was deeply concerning that every day thousands of refugees were fleeing for their lives, with more than 3 million Syrians registered as refugees outside of their country.  A new generation was being created without access to food, water, shelter, education, health care, peace or stability.  It was time the international community stopped repeating its mistakes.

YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine) said a solution to the Palestinian question should be based on implementation of the relevant Council resolutions, as well as the Madrid Peace Conference formula and the Oslo Accords.  Ukraine supported coexistence of Israel and Arab States in peace and security, and welcomed the ceasefire, which gave parties an opportunity to find diplomatic ways of resolving their differences.  The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative was a key element of international efforts to reach a comprehensive peace agreement. On the Syrian issue, he supported the Special Representative, calling on parties to quickly implement the Geneva agreements.  Voicing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation, he said Ukraine had provided humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees through the relevant United Nations agencies.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines) joined the call for de-escalating the Gaza conflict, restoring peace and showing self-restraint by the parties.  She encouraged the international community to act “swiftly and decisively” to end the conflict through dialogue and negotiation.  Condemning ISIS in the strongest terms, she said her Government would do its utmost to thwart that threat.  The existence of non-State actors in armed conflict situations was likewise worrisome.  Anti-Government armed elements had affected the implementation of the UNDOF mandate, with peacekeepers, including from her country, having been held in siege conditions or kidnapped.  “This is unacceptable,” she said, urging that peacekeepers be supported in dealing with emerging factors not contemplated during mandate formulation.

ASOKE KUMAR MUKERJI (India) said that the deep association of his country with Palestine was rooted in India’s modern history, which went back to its struggle for independence.  He reiterated the support of his Government for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Arab Peace Plan and the Quartet Road Map, resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognized borders, side by side and at peace with Israel.  India had pledged $4 million for Gaza reconstruction.  Dialogue remained the only viable option that could effectively address the issues confronting the region and its people.  His Government, deeply concerned with the activities of radicalized and extremist groups in the northern parts of Iraq and Syria, had consistently supported a Syrian-led, comprehensive political solution to the ongoing crisis, in alignment with the Geneva Communiqué of 2012.

Taking the floor a second time, the representative of Israel said countries such as Zimbabwe, Syria, Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as religious rights violators such as Bahrain and Qatar, had attacked his country.  Clarifying the issues, he said Israel respected and protected religious freedoms, granting full religious rights to people of all faiths.  After it reunited Jerusalem in 1967, Israel had abolished discriminatory laws, having introduced freedoms that allowed Muslims and Christians to worship at holy sites.  Jerusalem had a Jewish character long before most cities had any character.  Jews had lived in Jerusalem for 3,000 years.  By denying Jewish history, Arabs and Palestinians had planted seeds of intolerance.

He said the Palestinian Authority had incited violence in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount.  Arab leaders tried to inflame tensions and encourage violence.  Syria had become an expert at blaming others for its problems.  Responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in that country lay solely with that country’s Government.  Blaming Israel for the evacuation of UNDOF troops from the area of separation was revisionist history.  To remarks by the representative of Qatar, he said that country was the “chief financial sponsor” of Hamas and some of the most brutal, dangerous groups in the Middle East, which should be a source of concern for the Council.

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said there could be no two-State solution without ending the occupation.  He challenged one delegation to accept that it was an occupier, refusing to say it was willing to withdraw from Palestinian land and allow for the independence of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  It was a fact that Palestinians under the age of 50 were not allowed to go to Jerusalem to practice their religious freedom.  Palestinians from areas outside East Jerusalem, such as the West Bank, also could not exercise their religious freedom at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  There were numerous stories of such restrictions.

“We live the daily fact in which thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of people, pray in the streets,” he said, because Israeli authorities had denied them their right to pray at religious sites.  He cited a Council resolution outlining that Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem was null and void, without legal authority.  All colonialists blamed their victims for their crimes.  He was confident that the current colonial authority would withdraw from his peoples’ land.  He looked forward to a resolution demanding the withdrawal of the occupying Power and negotiating in good faith an end to that occupation.

The representative of Israel then said that his Government was familiar with the selective description of reality on the ground.  The delegation of the State of Palestine also had selective hearing.  Israel’s Government said it every day, that Israel wanted peace.  The Palestinian delegation was taking unilateral steps. 

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said that his delegation was interested in peace.  Those who were up to their ears in illegal behaviour, such as building settlements and conducting a blockade, should not lecture his delegation not to unilaterally act on something that was legal, such as joining treaties and conventions.

For information media. Not an official record.