Divisions over Resolution on Settlements Deemed Illegal Risk Destroying Peace Prospects, Special Coordinator Tells Security Council

SC/12683
17 January 2017
7863rd Meeting (AM)

Divisions over Resolution on Settlements Deemed Illegal Risk Destroying Peace Prospects, Special Coordinator Tells Security Council

Israelis, Palestinians Must Create Conditions for Direct Final-Status Talks, He Stresses, as Each Side Takes Opposing View of Text

Divisive positions among Israelis and Palestinians following last month’s adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) risked destroying the prospects for peace, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today, stressing that both sides must create the conditions for launching direct final-status negotiations.

Speaking via video link from Jerusalem, Nickolay Mladenov said that message had also been delivered at the conference on Middle East peace held on 15 January in Paris, where representatives of 70 countries and others reaffirmed their support for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their readiness to foster a return to the negotiation table.

Through those measures, he said, the international community had called on Israel to halt its settlement activities and shift policies to align with prior agreements.  Similarly, the international community urged Palestinian leaders to condemn all acts of terrorism and to curb incitement.  “Such steps by both sides would have a powerful and positive impact on the prospects for peace,” he said, pointing out that the July 2016 report by the Middle East Quartet (United Nations, United States, European Union, Russian Federation) had made the same call.

Amid calls for the partial or total annexation of Area C, he cautioned against unilateral actions that could prejudge a negotiated final-status solution.  More generally, rare opportunities to advance peace must be seized, he said.  “What is required is action, first and foremost by the parties themselves,” he added, pledging that the United Nations remained committed to supporting Israelis and Palestinians on the difficult road ahead.

In the ensuing open debate, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine described resolution 2334 (2016) as a chance to salvage the two-State solution.  The text was not anti-Israel, but pro-two-States and pro-peace, he emphasized, adding that it represented a turning point.  “The stakes are too high — the possibility of peace in the present, but also our collective future — and must be prioritized,” he stressed.  The State of Palestine was ready to abide by the resolution, bearing in mind the serious obstacles arising from the occupation.

Israel’s representative, however, said resolution 2334 (2016) had “set us back in the pursuit of peace” by designating the country’s presence in parts of Jerusalem liberated in 1967 as a flagrant violation under international law.  The message from the Council, from Washington, D.C., and now from Paris only encouraged Palestinians to continue down a dangerous path of spreading lies.  “Their end game is not to create a State alongside Israel, but rather to replace it completely.”  The conflict was not about settlements, but about refusal to accept a Jewish State, he said, adding that Israel had suspended $6 million from its 2017 United Nations contributions, which should be seen as an act of protest.

Nonetheless, many speakers voiced support for resolution 2334 (2016), with Jordan’s delegate emphasizing that it would, in fact, reduce tensions and bolster Israel’s security.  Indonesia’s representative said the measure implied a change of heart that her country had urged for years.  The Council must now come down on the side of justice over injustice, she emphasized.  An inability to implement resolution 2234 (2016) would be evidence of its paralysis and proof that “even when its words are strong, its muscles and sinews are not”.

Other speakers agreed that unless reversed, the situation on the ground would lead to more hatred in the region.  Italy’s representative, warning that the erosion of a two-State solution could lead to a “one-State illusion”, urged the two sides to commit to re-establishing a political horizon that would lead to direct negotiations.  Similarly, Egypt’s representative highlighted his country’s connection with both sides, stressing that his delegation would spare no effort to seek a just peace based on the two-State solution and in cooperation with like-minded countries.  The representative of the United States, meanwhile, stressed that no one except Israelis and Palestinians could make decisions on final-status issues, adding that her delegation’s position on settlements remained unchanged.

Several delegates urged Israel to abide by its international obligations and to resume negotiations towards a two-State solution.  Venezuela’s representative pressed Israel to stop turning its back on international law.  Bolivia’s representative cited his counterpart from Israel as having said that the dozens of resolutions adopted since 1947 in support of Palestinian rights could be left to “collect dust” since they remained unimplemented.  It would be the United Nations Charter doing so unless something was done to stop Israeli violations, he emphasized.

More broadly, speakers welcomed the recently announced ceasefire in Syria as a much-needed sign of hope.  The Russian Federation’s representative said that a meeting to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 23 January would include representatives of the Government of Syria and opposition groups.  The event should be seen as a bridge to the Geneva negotiations planned for February, he added.

Speakers also hailed progress made in Lebanon, where the newly formed Government had outlined a national vision.  India’s representative said that Lebanon’s resolution of complex sectarian issues through institutional means and political processes carried valuable lessons for other situations in the region.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Senegal, Uruguay, Ethiopia, Japan, China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom, Sweden, Lebanon, Norway, Iran, Cuba, Turkey, Syria, South Africa, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, Morocco, Brazil, Argentina, Uzbekistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Maldives, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Arab Group).

A representative of Israel took the floor a second time in response to remarks by her colleagues from Iran and Bolivia.

The Council also heard from the Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 3:12 p.m.

Briefing

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, spoke via video link from Jerusalem, saying that attacks such as the 8 January truck ramming that had killed four Israelis, must be universally condemned.  Despite the tranquillity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in comparison to developments elsewhere in the regional, the spectre of violence was always near, he noted, adding that leaders on all sides were obliged to reduce tensions and provide a political horizon for their peoples.  It was the responsibility of all to prevent the conflict from being engulfed by the nexus of violent extremism and religious turmoil sweeping across the Middle East, he emphasized.

Applauding the United Nations country team’s efforts on the ground, he said the Organization’s agencies, funds and programmes deserved full support.  Each day they provided free basic education to more than 300,000 students in 350 schools, and every month, they delivered an average 780,000 litres of fuel.  They also provided food aid to 1 million refugees in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, he said, adding that they also supported the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to create some 14,000 businesses and 45,000 jobs.  Such achievements would have been impossible without cooperation on the part of both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, he stressed.

He went on to recall his repeated warnings to the Council that failure by both sides to reverse the negative trajectory of events would ensure the existence of both Israelis and Palestinians as prisoners of fear, trapped in perpetual conflict.  The obstacles to a negotiated two-State solution, identified in the July 2016 report by the Middle East Quartet, included illegal settlement construction, and acts of violence, terrorism and incitement.  The international community had called upon Palestinian leadership to condemn all acts of terrorism and curb incitement, he noted, adding that such steps by both sides would have a powerful and positive impact on the prospects for peace.

Noting that the Council’s adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) on 23 December had heightened emotions on the ground amid calls for partial or total annexation of Area C, he emphasized that all stakeholders must avoid unilateral actions that could prejudge a negotiated final-status solution.  France had recently hosted some 70 countries and organizations at a conference that had reaffirmed support for a two-State solution, he said, pointing out participants had welcomed the Quartet recommendations.  Citing important events on the ground, he said they included 24 demolitions that had resulted in the displacement of 167 people in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the fatal shooting by the Israeli Defense Forces of a 17-year-old Palestinian near Bethlehem.

As for internal Palestinian developments, he said the reported revocation of parliamentary immunity for five Fatah-bloc members of the Palestinian Legislative Council had renewed debate about the legality of that decision in the absence of regular meetings of the legislature.  Safeguarding the independence of Palestinian institutions was vital to maintaining public trust, he stressed.  Concerning Gaza, he expressed concern about tensions exacerbated by closures and the protracted humanitarian situation.  The authorities must find a long-term solution to chronic electricity shortage, he said, adding that, “on the plus side”, Israel had authorized the entry of increased amounts of construction materials in recent weeks.

Turning to Lebanon, he said the formation of a Government on 18 December 2016 had sustained the momentum generated by the appointment of a Prime Minister on 3 November 2016 and the election of a new President on 31 October 2016.  The Government had outlined its vision for Lebanon  and those developments signalled cautious optimism and the potential for consolidating Lebanese institutions.  On the Golan, he noted that the ceasefire between Syria and Israel had been maintained, albeit in a highly volatile security environment, and both sides had stated their commitment to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement.  More generally, he emphasized that opportunities to advance peace were rare and must be seized.  “What is required is action, first and foremost by the parties themselves,” he stressed, pledging that the United Nations was committed to supporting Israelis and Palestinians on the difficult road ahead.

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said described the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) as a chance to salvage the two-State solution and make Palestinian-Israeli peace a reality.  Noting that the will of the Council and the international community to implement the measure would be an indicator of whether or not the two-State solution could be saved and whether peace would be possible, he emphasized that the resolution was not anti-Israel, but pro-two-States and pro-peace.  To the few appalled by the text’s adoption, it was a clear call for peace and represented a turning point.  “The stakes are too high — the possibility of peace in the present, but also our collective future — and must be prioritized,” he stressed.  “It is a moment of truth.  Israel, the occupying Power, must choose between occupation and peace.”

Citing a range of concerns, he pointed out that halting settlement activities was neither a concession nor a precondition.  It was about respecting the laws prohibiting such illegal actions.  The Council must now implement its resolutions, without exception.  Appealing to all States to uphold their obligations not to help perpetuate the illegal changing of the 4 June 1967 lines, he said neither the existence nor absence of bilateral negotiations could exempt States and international bodies the assumption of their responsibilities.  He thanked Secretary-General António Guterres for having declared the pursuit of peace as the hallmark of his Administration.

He said the State of Palestine was ready to abide by the obligations of resolution 2334 (2016), bearing in mind the serious obstacles arising from the occupation.  Pointing out that it had supported every recent peace effort, he said the Middle East Peace Conference convened by France on 15 January had underscored the urgent need to restore a credible horizon for meaningful negotiations, and reaffirmed the role of multilateral diplomacy in addressing challenges.  It was to be hoped that the Paris Conference would serve as an impetus for continued global peace efforts, he said, cautioning that the world was fast approaching the point of no return.  Implementing resolution 2334 (2016) was the only way back from the brink, he stressed, urging the international community to seize the opportunity to usher in a new era of peace.

DANNY DANON (Israel) recalled that the Council chamber had erupted into applause following the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016), noting that the action had also been welcomed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  Those organizations had killed countless innocent Israelis and had celebrated the recent truck attack by a Palestinian led to believe that he could use terror to remove Jewish people from Jerusalem.  Among its many “biased and false” clauses, he recalled, the resolution designated Israel’s presence in parts of Jerusalem liberated in 1967 as a flagrant violation under international law.  That included Jerusalem’s Old City and Jewish Quarter, as well as the Western Wall, the last remnant of the temple first built by King Solomon some 3,000 years ago, he said, adding that today he was representing not only Israel, but also the 16 million Jews around the world who yearned for Jerusalem.

Recalling that his Prime Minister had called time and again for the Palestinian President to meet him directly for negotiations, he emphasized that the offer still stood today.  “Last month’s resolution has set us back in the pursuit of peace,” he said.  The message from the Council, from Washington, D.C., and now from Paris encouraged Palestinians to continue down a dangerous path of spreading lies that the Western Wall was not sacred to the Jewish people.  He said the Palestinian Foreign Minister’s reaction to the resolution had been to declare “no to Israel as a Jewish State” — a rare moment of honesty that the conflict was not about so-called settlements, but about Palestinians’ refusal to accept a Jewish State within any borders.  “Their end game is not to create a State alongside Israel, but rather to replace it completely.”

He went on to state that Israel had initiated a reassessment of its relationship with various United Nations organizations, and its first step had been to suspend $6 million from its annual contributions for 2017.  That represented the portion of the United Nations budget allocated to anti-Israel bodies, including the Division for Palestinian Rights, which spent more than $1.3 million on travel alone.  “These steps we are taking should be seen as an act of protest,” he said.  Despite recent events, however, Israel remained hopeful that the Council would stake out a new and honest course encouraging peace in the region, that a new Secretary-General would offer an opportunity to institute real reforms, and that a new United States President would return that country to its policy of rejecting unfair and biased Council resolutions.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that, at the Paris Conference, more than 70 States and international organizations agreed to three principal objectives:  to prioritize the Arab-Israeli conflict, support the two-State solution and advance negotiation efforts.  The 70-year-long conflict represented a threat to international security and must be addressed.  “We cannot accept the status quo,” he said.  The Paris Conference’s Joint Declaration represented a collective mobilization to support existing efforts, including those of the Quartet, the Arab initiative and Russian and Egyptian efforts.

Condemning the recent killing of four Israeli soldiers, he underlined the precarious reality on the ground and said the situation required attention in order to rapidly advance peace efforts.  A spirit of responsibility and vigilance must prevail, he said, calling on all to avoid unilateral actions that could inflame tensions.  The best guarantee of security in Israel was peace with the Palestinians, the creation of an independent Palestinian State and the implementation of the two-State solution.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said that, despite difficult realities on the ground, the international community had demonstrated its support for a peaceful solution at the Paris Conference and with the Council’s adoption of resolution 2334 (2016).  That text had called for halting illegal settlement construction and starting peace negotiations.  Obstacles included accelerated settlement-building and violence, such as the recent deadly attack on Israeli soldiers.  Echoing recommendations in the Quartet’s recent report, Senegal called for ending settlement activities and the incitement of hatred.  Drawing attention to the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, he invited Member States to support the work of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  Israelis and Palestinians must overcome differences and support the two-State solution and relevant Council resolutions.  Efforts must be redoubled to advance peace.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said that, if not properly addressed and reversed, facts on the ground would lead to more hatred, intolerance and violent extremism in Israel, Palestine and the region.  “The erosion of the two-State solution may leave room to a sort of dangerous ‘one-State illusion’,” he said.  The parties must take substantial steps to demonstrate their genuine commitment to re-establishing a political horizon that would in turn lead to direct negotiations.  He expressed appreciation for the efforts by the outgoing Secretary of State of the United States, adding that he was confident that the next United States Administration would invest the same political capital — and deploy the same efforts — to resolve the conflict on the basis of the two-State solution.  Turning to Lebanon, he said parliamentary elections in that country this year would mark a significant step towards strengthening its democracy and consolidating its State institutions.  All countries, especially those in the region, must shoulder their responsibilities in that regard.

NAME TO COME (Uruguay) recalled the General Assembly’s 1947 adoption of resolution 181, recommending the partition plan for Palestine, saying that his country had supported it from its belief that the two States should coexist in peace.  That position had not changed.  Palestine faced difficulties that hampered its development and international integration, he said, adding that the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) and the Paris Conference were clear signs of the need for a successful conclusion to the peace process.  It was important that the authorities on both sides send political signals to break the cycle of misunderstanding, and refrain from unilateral measures, he emphasized.  Ukraine condemned the 8 January terrorist attack in Jerusalem, he said, while expressing dismay that the Palestinian Authority had not done so.  There was no place for glorifying violence or complicit silence, he stressed.  Turning to Syria, he said much remained to be done in ending the conflict there, adding that the situations in Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere were equally dire.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said the situation remained tense and explosive, as demonstrated by the 8 January terrorist attack and ceasefire violations around Gaza.  Advocating a fair and stable settlement on the basis of Council resolutions, the Madrid Principles and the Arab Peace Initiative, he emphasized the need for direct negotiations without preconditions.  The Russian Federation had voted in favour of resolution 2334 (2016), signalling that unilateral efforts were unacceptable, he said, pointing out that the recent Paris Conference had reaffirmed the legal basis for a settlement and encouraged the parties to commit to a two-State solution.  Indeed, the time had come for practical measures to bring the peace process out of its dangerous impasse, he said, calling for direct political dialogue.  Moscow could be the venue, he added, recalling that the meeting was supposed to have been held in 2016.  Noting that Palestinian groups had met in Moscow, he said that resolving the intra-Palestinian conflict would create the conditions for their exercise of their legal right to an independent State, living in peace with its neighbours.

Turning to the Gaza Strip, he said that his country had earmarked a $2 million voluntary contribution to UNRWA in November 2016.  As for conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, there was no alternative to political processes, he emphasized.  The Russian Federation had made efforts to support one in Syria, and had welcomed the 29 December 2016 ceasefire between the Government of Syria and the main armed opposition groups, he recalled.  The forthcoming 23 January meeting to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, was to include representatives of the Syrian Government and opposition groups, he said, adding that the event should be seen as a step towards implementation of resolution 2336 (2016) and a bridge to the Geneva negotiations planned for February.  It could help to revive the intra-Syrian dialogue.  The inclusion of those with influence on the ground would likely be at the heart of discussions, as would trust-building, improving humanitarian access and elements of the political agenda.  New opportunities must be taken at all costs, he stressed.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said peace and stability in the Middle East would have broad implications for the Horn of Africa due to the proximity of the two regions.  Expressing his country’s support for Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, as well as the inalienable right of the Palestinians to self-determination, he said that, while the parties alone could resolve the conflict, “the Council cannot be a mere spectator”.  Indeed, it must “nudge, prod and encourage the parties” to ensure that the two-State solution remained viable.  At a time of expanding terrorist influence in the region amid rising sectarian violence, the absence of any meaningful progress would be a recipe for disaster, increasing radicalization and creating the conditions in which extremists could thrive, he warned.  It was therefore imperative that the two sides resume direct and meaningful negotiations to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that, with the two-State solution increasingly in jeopardy, resolution 2334 (2016) had demonstrated the Council’s clear commitment to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.  “The resolution must be taken as a whole,” he stressed, emphasizing that the cessation of Israel’s settlement activities would not bring about peace on its own and that all other efforts must also contribute to the re-launch of political dialogue.  Little recent progress had been seen and future prospects remained dim, he said in that regard, rejecting all acts, incitement and glorification of violence and urging unity among Palestinians.  For its part, Japan was taking a three-part approach:  political dialogue, confidence-building and economic assistance to the Palestinians.  Describing some of those efforts, he also welcomed the joint communiqué issued at the Paris Conference on 15 January and stressed that peace could only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) condemned the recent attack on Israeli soldiers, saying there was no justification, and that such brutal attacks must not deter peace initiatives.  Resolution 2334 (2016) condemned such actions, she pointed out, calling for the commitment of both sides to advancing peace efforts.  Emphasizing that all incitement to violence must stop, and that her delegation’s position on settlements remained unchanged, she said current trends must be reversed.  Citing the principles outlined at the Paris Conference, she emphasized that no one except Israelis and Palestinians could make decisions on final-status issues.  As for Syria, she said that, even though the Council routinely called for investigations of chemical weapons use in that country, and for steps to halt the violence, Syrians remained in a precarious situation.

She went on to state that the United States expected support for efforts by the Russian Federation and Turkey to advance peace talks, as well as the setting of parameters for the negotiations, including a ceasefire and guaranteed humanitarian access.  Turning to Lebanon, she welcomed the formation of a Cabinet that would address the people’s needs and the challenges facing the country.  On Iraq, she said part of the city of Mosul had been liberated.  The United States had partnered with Iraq and others to support delivery of humanitarian assistance.  Yet, the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) would not mark an end to the ongoing process, which would have to include political reconciliation, she stressed.

LUI JIEYI (China) said the question of Palestine was at the centre of the current regional challenges because peace talks languished as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intensified.  The two-State solution must be pursued, he said, emphasizing that Israel and Palestine should take the opportunity presented in resolution 2334 (2016) to advance peace talks.  The security concerns of countries in the region must be respected, and the parties must ensure that the United Nations could continue its work on the ground.  Peace talks must address the concerns of neighbouring States, among other things.  Economic reconstruction in Palestine must also be supported, he said, calling on Israel to lift the Gaza blockade.  China would continue to assist Palestine’s pursuit of socioeconomic development, and continue its push for an early solution for the sake of peace and stability in the Middle East.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said recent attacks and wide-spread violence encapsulated the tense situation on the ground.  Emphasizing that both sides must refrain from using force, he said diplomatic efforts must be redoubled to quell the wave of violence and foster peace talks.  Efforts such as the recent Paris Conference were important in giving peace a chance, he said, adding that negotiations must be founded on existing resolutions.  Turning to Syria, he voiced hope that the Geneva talks scheduled for February would advance peace, but noted that Damascus was using force.  Despite the adoption of resolution 2336 (2016), not enough progress had been seen on the ground, he said, stressing that a credible multi-party monitoring team was a key requirement for a successful ceasefire.  As for Yemen, he emphasized the need to declare a ceasefire and hold peace talks.  Noting that a rapidly evolving global threat of extremism continued to destabilize the Middle East, he said that, pending the complete defeat of ISIL, there was an urgent need to adopt a “day-after” strategy to further address and contain it.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan), expressing concern over the humanitarian situation, economic backwardness and the continued settlement expansion, said that violence would not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The peaceful coexistence of two States was the only viable option, he said, calling for the early resumption of bilateral negotiations and for both parties to demonstrate wisdom, responsibility and political will to reach a historic peace agreement.  Turning to the devastating situation in Syria, Kazakhstan supported international measures to bring the Government of Syria and the opposition forces together for dialogue and reconciliation.  In that regard, the upcoming meeting in Astana would be an important part of the Syrian-led political process and a significant step ahead of the resumption of negotiations.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said there was no justification for the terrorism perpetrated on 8 January and pressed Hamas and others to end violence against Israel.  At the root of the violence was a cycle of “poisonous rhetoric” that eroded chances for a two-State solution, he said, condemning all racist and anti-Semitic language.  The Palestinian leadership must implement the Quartet report’s recommendations, strengthen its institutions and develop a sustainable economy, he emphasized.  While committed to Israel as the Jewish homeland, the United Kingdom had voted in favour of resolution 2334 (2016), having long viewed settlements as illegal and undermining the vision of “two States for two peoples”, he said.  Concerning Syria, he said it was time to implement resolution 2336 (2016), with the ceasefire achieved by the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran remaining fragile and requiring monitoring.  The framework for dialogue could not exist on paper alone as the perpetrators of crimes continued to escape justice, he said, emphasizing that the United Kingdom and France would table a draft resolution aimed at ensuring that regime members faced consequences for the chemical weapons situation in Syria.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said the peace process had not seen such stalling since the adoption of the Oslo Accords, recalling that his delegation had warned against perpetuating of such delays.  “The situation in the Middle East cannot afford any escalation on the question of Palestine,” he said, stressing that frustration and despair played into the hands of extremist groups.  Given its connection with both sides, its experience in bringing them to the negotiation table — accumulated over the years — and its historic support for both Palestinian rights and peace for Israel, Egypt would spare no effort in seeking a comprehensive and just peace, based on a two-State solution and in cooperation with like-minded countries, he said.  Emphasizing that negotiations must address all final-status issues, he said that resolving the Palestinian question would promote cooperation among countries in the region and push them to resolve other crises.  The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative must be translated into concrete steps, he said, vowing that Egypt would redouble its efforts to ensure the relaunch of peace negotiations.  Both sides must demonstrate a commitment to taking difficult positions for peace.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) condemned the recent violence and attacks, emphasizing his delegation’s commitment to peace.  Thanking France for having hosted the Paris Conference, he emphasized that a two-State solution was the only way forward.  General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 made reference to the future Government of Palestine, and dozens of resolutions since then reflected widespread global support for the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, he noted.  Condemning violations of those resolutions, he pointed out that Israel’s representative had said during a previous Council meeting that they could simply “collect dust” at Headquarters because they remained unimplemented.  Stressing that the two sides to the conflict were not on equal footing, he pointed out that one was the occupying Power, which had built an illegal wall and settlements, displaced people by force and imposed an economically damaging blockade.  If nothing was done to address those violations, it would be the United Nations Charter collecting dust, he warned.  Welcoming fresh international support for peace talks, including from the Pope and the new Secretary-General, he expressed hope that the Council would do its part to guarantee a complete end to the occupation and the realization of a two-State solution.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity, saying the two-State solution was becoming more distant by the day.  A move towards a one-State reality and perpetual occupation must be avoided.  Emphasizing the important role of the international community, he said the parties to the conflict must be encouraged to implement the provisions of resolution 2334 (2016).  Consultations with civil society during the Paris Conference made it clear that many people in the post-Oslo generation, on both sides, had lost hope in attaining a two-State solution.  Young men and women needed to be shown that there was an alternative to violence and a depressing status quo.  He recognized the outgoing United States Administration’s efforts on the issue, including Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks on 28 December 2016, and looked forward to continued United States engagement in support of a two-State solution.  Turning to Syria, he said it was time for the Security Council to take its responsibility vis-à-vis accountability for international crimes committed in that country.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), recalling that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza had entered its fiftieth year, said the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) must be welcomed.  Regrettably, there had been Israeli inflammatory rhetoric and hatred towards the United Nations and the international community.  There was no “bias” when United Nations resolutions recalled Israel’s lack of compliance with its Charter obligations.  Resolution 2334 (2016) reaffirmed the consensus that Israeli settlements had no legal basis and constituted a major impediment to the two-State solution, he said, welcoming the Joint Declaration of the Paris Conference.

He went on to say that ending the crisis in Syria could only be realized through a political solution based on Council resolutions that met Syrian aspirations for a sovereign, unified country, welcoming efforts by the Russian Federation, Turkey and Kazakhstan in that regard.  In Lebanon, the normal functioning of State institutions was a clear sign of the country’s resilience.  At the core of the Government’s Ministerial Declaration was the safeguarding of national sovereignty and stability.  He recalled that Israel had bombarded the Jiyyeh power plant, creating an oil spill on Lebanese shores deemed by the Secretary-General to have caused $856 million in damages.

GEIR O. PEDERSEN (Norway) said there was a strong international consensus on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved.  Recalling that Norway was Chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on development assistance to the Palestinian people, he said donors should reconsider their Palestinian Authority budget support commitments and disburse their pledges made in Cairo in 2014.  Palestinian State-building was critical to the viability of the two-State solution, he said, adding that was also critical to deliver basic public services — such as water and energy — to the Palestinian people.  With regards to Syria, he said all sides should grasp this year as an opportunity to find a way out of a destructive cycle of escalation and counter-escalation.  He said Norway was pleased that the ceasefire was holding, as it was important for confidence-building and for resuming United Nations-led negotiations in Geneva on 8 February.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), welcoming the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) as a small step in the right direction, said Israel’s actions had flouted international law and had been encouraged by impunity.  Current rapid settlement expansions demonstrated that Israel had never had an interest in peace with Palestinians.  Indeed, the situation in Palestine required urgent international attention and action, as the brutal occupation continued and actions, such as the Gaza blockade, were causing massive deprivation and hopelessness alongside a grave humanitarian crisis.  Other crises in the region, including those in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, shared common elements of being stoked by invasion, illegal foreign intervention, terror, extremism and violence.  Those problems had persisted and deepened due to the international community’s inaction in dealing with the root causes.  Meanwhile, Lebanon continued to suffer under Israeli occupation.  Further, the occupation of the Syrian Golan continued to demonstrate another aspect of Israeli aggressiveness, including attempts to alter the legal, physical and demographic status of the occupied territory, which had intensified after the outbreak of the Syrian crisis.  That constituted a grave breach of international law, he said, noting that Israel had violated relevant resolutions while the Council had routinely failed to take action.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that the two-State solution continued to be severely threatened by unrelenting developments on the ground, including the decade-long blockade of Gaza, the construction and expansion of settlements, and demolition of homes.  Such actions, along with other provocations, raised tensions and fuelled resentment and violence.  Yet, there were reasons for hope, he said, noting that Council resolution 2334 (2016) had reconfirmed support for a solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, and reiterated that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were illegal.  Breaking its silence of nearly seven years on that issue, the Council had generated a unique momentum for peace in a very difficult environment.  That momentum must be maintained at all costs, and the international community must secure the full implementation of resolutions on the issue.  In that regard, he welcomed the Joint Declaration issued at the Paris Conference, while urging all interested parties to ensure the two-State solution remained a realistic possibility.  Among other things, he stressed that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained dire, calling upon Israelis and Palestinians to show leadership and make the difficult decisions required for peace.

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba), noting that the Palestinian people continued to suffer from severe violations of international law, stressed that the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) was not enough.  “The time has come to break the silence and end the stalemate,” he said.  Until the Council took up its responsibility to implement not only that resolution but also “additional, specific actions” contributing to the end of the Israeli occupation, that country would continue to prevent a fair and peaceful resolution to the conflict.  Calling on the international community to take a firm, principled position in defence of the two-State solution “before it is too late”, he also expressed support for Palestine’s entry into the United Nations as a full member.  He went on to condemn the ongoing politicization of the Syrian conflict, double standards and attempts at regime change, as well as references to unproven crimes in that country.  Those who had fed and fuelled the conflict in Syria by providing weapons and financing to terrorists were responsible for the crisis, he said, rejecting the interventionist approach espoused by some States as well as continued violations of Syria’s sovereignty. 

GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) said Council resolution 2334 (2016) and the Paris Conference were steps in the right direction that reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to the two-State solution.  Israel should respond by ceasing all settlement activities immediately.  Palestinians should be able to negotiate with equal standing to Israel as the State of Palestine, he said, adding that wider recognition of that entity and its full integration in international forums were vital.  Last year’s normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel would enable more Turkish assistance to Gaza and the West Bank, with a focus on such urgent needs as electricity and water shortages.  Turning to Syria, he recalled that Turkey was a guarantor of the current country-wide ceasefire.  With its Russian counterparts, it had been able to contain violations by the regime and foreign militia elements.  However, the process remained fragile, he said, emphasizing that a political solution would depend on maintaining the ceasefire.  The upcoming Astana meeting would complement and support the United Nations-led political process while helping to build confidence ahead of the 8 February meeting in Geneva.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria), condemning ongoing Israeli actions, said that the international community’s measures had not put an end to Israel’s systematic violation of international law.  Council resolutions on the matter, in particular resolution 2334 (2016), must be implemented to achieve the two-State solution.  He pointed to the increase in the number of Israeli settlements and that recently 400 additional housing units had been built.  Further, Israel refused to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan and continued to violate international human rights law there in a systematic manner.  Millions of Syrians had been deprived of learning their own language at schools and Israel continued its arrest and coercion policy.  “Israeli settlers will need to leave Syrian territories sooner or later,” he concluded.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, called the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) long overdue.  Of particular relevance was its emphasis on the illegal nature of Israel’s settlement building, land confiscation, demolition of property and displacement of Palestinians.  Israel was obliged under the Charter’s Article 25 to comply with Council decisions.  “The reality is that illegal Israeli settlements continue unabated and have led to a fragmentation of the West Bank,” he said, continuing to threaten the viability of a contiguous Palestinian State.  Negotiations were the only way to find a lasting solution, the guidelines for which had been established in international legal frameworks.  Aligning South Africa with the Paris Conference’s Joint Declaration, he said his country had viewed that summit as a vehicle to relaunch peace talks leading to the creation of an independent Palestinian State existing alongside Israel based on 1967 borders.

SITI HAJJAR ADNIN (Malaysia) expressed regret that Israeli settlements had multiplied in recent months and undermined the viability of the two-State solution.  She called for an end to settler violence, Israel’s discriminatory policies and its use of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and urged the international community to remain firm in implementing relevant Council resolutions.  She welcomed the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) and looked forward to the Secretary-General’s written progress report on its implementation.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) underscored the need to resume bilateral negotiations to achieve peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine.  The two-State solution was the only way forward.  Council resolution 2334 (2016) called for halting illegal settlements and resuming peace negotiations.  Turning to the situation in Syria, he said that a lasting solution could be achieved only through diplomatic channels and ending the sufferings of civilians.

INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia) expressed her delegation’s support for the Joint Declaration adopted at the Paris Conference as well as resolution 2334 (2016).  “While the letter of this resolution is mighty indeed, it is the spirit that is mightier,” she said, adding that the text implied a “change of heart” that many delegations, including hers, had urged for years.  That change of heart affirmed clearly and strongly that that change would not come to the Middle East as long as Israel’s settlement construction continued.  Echoing calls for “implementation, implementation, implementation”, she stressed that the Council must now demonstrate the mettle of which it was made.  It must come down on the side of right over wrong, justice over injustice, she said, warning that the entity’s inability to implement resolution 2334 (2016) would be proof positive of its paralysis and the fact that “even when its words are strong, its muscles and sinews are not”. 

TANMAYA LAL (India) said international efforts had proven largely insufficient and ineffective in addressing multiple challenges to peace and security in the Middle East.  However, some recent developments offered hope, he added.  Concerning the Palestinian question, only a negotiated two-State solution could bring sustainable peace and lasting security, he said, emphasizing the need for restraint and moderation on all sides.  On Syria, he said it was encouraging to see a process committed to that country’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, adding that meaningful United Nations involvement was essential.  Turning to Lebanon, he said that country’s example of resolving complex sectarian issues through institutional means and political processes carried valuable lessons for other situations in the region.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), condemning all acts of terrorism, said resolution 2334 (2016) had drawn the attention of the international community to the terrible situation that Israel’s “arrogant and cruel” actions had caused in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  While that occupying Power continued to defy the international community, promising yet more settlements and threatening countries that backed the two-State solution, he expressed hope that the Council would nevertheless support the resolution’s implementation and take measures to protect the Palestinians.  Venezuela had participated in the Paris Conference, at which there had been full agreement on the Joint Declaration and resolution 2334 (2016).  “Israel must stop turning its back on international law” and heed calls to resume frank and open negotiations towards a two-State solution, he stressed, calling on Member States to remained focused on the issue and to pay special attention to the “defence of the weakest”, the Palestinian people.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said there was every reason for Member States collectively to question and re-examine the “untenable status quo” in the occupied Palestinian Territory.  Describing the Paris Conference as a testament to the international community’s sense of urgency, he said there was near unanimity that the expansion of Israeli settlements was a blatant manifestation of the injustice committed against the Palestinian people as well as a serious impediment to the resumption of the peace process.  Bangladesh would continue to add its voice to those calling for implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), he said, adding that the measure represented the moment of truth for peace, justice and the international rule of law.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that for 50 years, Israel had persisted in its occupation of the West Bank in defiance of the Charter’s central tenet that territories could not be acquired through the use of force and aggression.  Enduring peace in the Middle East was inconceivable without a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.  Establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine was the only sustainable guarantee for peace.  The Paris Conference was a welcome step in the right direction.  With over 70 States in attendance, it had reaffirmed the primacy of the two-State solution.  “There must be consequences for those who continue to defy the force of international consensus,” she stressed.  Turning to Israel, she declared:  “We have collectively missed many opportunities to end this tragic conflict over this period.”  However, another opportunity beckoned.  With the Russian Federation-Turkey brokered ceasefire, Syrians had started believing again.

MOHAMED ALI ALHAKIM (Iraq) said that Council resolution 2334 (2016) condemned Israel’s rapid settlement expansion, providing significant support to the realization of the two-State solution.  Settler violence, the demolition of homes and the use of natural resources by the occupying force undermined the international community’s efforts to ensure peace.  The Security Council, for its part, must ensure that Israel complied with its obligations and end horrendous violence against civilians.  Welcoming all initiatives that supported the peace process, he said that the speakers at the Paris Conference reaffirmed the Palestinians’ right to Statehood.  Among other things, he expressed concern over the negative impact of the Israeli occupation, stressing that land confiscations had worsened the situation.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) said 2016 had been characterized by events in the Middle East overshadowing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the situation nonetheless continued to deteriorate.  Indeed, little progress had been made despite successive international calls in support of a two-State solution, and relevant efforts by the Middle East Quartet, Arab States and others.  Israeli settlements still undermined all efforts for peace and “the road is still too long and too hard”, he said, emphasizing that the Palestinian question remained the central issue in the region.  Going forward, international efforts must aim to implement a two-State solution, he said, expressing support for all efforts to give new impetus to the negotiation process.  Morocco supported the Paris Conference, the Arab Peace Initiative and other relevant international efforts, he said.

SONIA ISHAQ AHMAD SUGHAYAR (Jordan) expressed hope that the new Secretary-General would work directly in pursuit of peace and stability in the Middle East.  Expressing support for the French peace initiative and for resolution 2334 (2016), she said the latter’s adoption had highlighted several important principles, in particular the Council’s rejection of any changes to the 1967 borders and the illegal nature of Israel’s settlements.  Both sides must take bold actions to reduce tensions and end violence, she said, calling in particular for an end to the occupation and for the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian State.  “International efforts are not against Israel, but for a two-State solution,” she emphasized, pointing out that resolving the conflict would, in fact, reduce tensions and bolster Israel’s security.  Concerning Syria, she called for a resolution of the situation there based on Security Council resolutions, the Geneva Communiqué and statements of the International Syria Support Group.  Jordan encouraged the two sides to build confidence and work towards a political solution, she said.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) supported a solution that met both Israel’s security needs and the Palestinians’ right to Statehood and sovereignty, and appealed to both sides to refrain from acts that might push the parties further away from the negotiating table and the two-State solution.  Council resolution 2334 (2016) and the Paris Conference would contribute to meaningful negotiations.  Turning to Syria, he said that the recently announced nationwide ceasefire was a much-needed measure of hope in efforts to reach a political solution.  He urged all parties to respect the ceasefire and to engage in constructive dialogue in Astana and Geneva.  He reiterated Brazil’s long-term commitment to the development and stability of Lebanon, underlining that the strategic review of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) must take into consideration UNIFIL’s operative and financial needs.

MATEO ESTREME (Argentina) emphasized that a comprehensive and lasting peace could be achieved if both sides accepted peaceful coexistence.  As things stood now, Israel’s continued building and expansion of settlements had weakened the prospects of the peace process, he said, adding that the settlement activities promoted an unsustainable status quo.  It was also critical that Hamas put an end to incitement and rocket attacks, he stressed.  Turning to Syria, he expressed concern about the humanitarian situation there, and condemned all violence.  Voicing support for the ceasefire initiative by the Russian Federation and Turkey, he emphasized: “Peace in the Middle East is possible only through dialogue.”

MUZAFFARBEK MADRAKHIMOV (Uzbekistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged the Council to exert follow-up efforts to ensure compliance with resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Tangible progress would depend on ending the occupation, he said.  The Paris Conference had reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to a two-State solution.  He went on to point to systematic human rights violations, a decade of Israeli-imposed economic siege, and arbitrary detention of civilians and human right activists, emphasizing that such policies damaged the viability of Palestinian statehood.

AHMED SAREER (Maldives) welcomed resolution 2334 (2016), which had been a “significant step forward” by the Council and demonstrated international support in addressing the predicament of the Palestinian people.  “It is a clear message to the Israeli Government that their policies and laws aimed at perpetuating and further extending their illegal occupation, in blatant violation of international law, will not be accepted by this Council and the rest of the world,” he said, pointing with deep concern to that Government’s punitive actions against Council members who had voted in favour of the resolution.  It was now critical to build on the momentum generated by the resolution and to take concrete measures to bring an end to the occupation, he said.  Also welcoming resolutions 2328 (2016), 2332 (2016) and 2336 (2016), which had addressed the escalating humanitarian crisis in Syria, and calling for unobstructed humanitarian aid into the country, he stressed that the Council must not falter in its duty to address that crisis, “one of the gravest tragedies of our time”.

KIM IN RYONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said no significant progress had been made on the Palestinian question due to Israel’s anti-peace stand and the prejudicial Middle East policies of certain forces.  The Security Council had turned its face away from Israel’s atrocities and failed to take appropriate measures.  That was because the Council played into the hands of the United States, he said, adding that the latter applied double standards and took sides with Israel.  The United States had systematically abused the United Nations for having internationalized its hostile policy towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The Security Council should take much stronger measures towards a fair solution in the Middle East, he said, condemning Israel’s illegal settlement expansion and demanding that it immediately stop undermining regional peace and security.  On Syria, he said the conflict should be resolved peacefully through dialogue, without foreign intervention.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed support for the Council’s “remarkable” adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) and encouraged the entity to move from resolutions to practical steps towards their implementation.  The Council must continue to push for an internationally recognized solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and should avoid being stalled in the face of Israel’s continued intransigence.  The international community must not lose sight of the reality on the ground, he stressed, adding that “peace cannot be achieved in the absence of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian State.”

Speaking in his national capacity, he said Saudi Arabia would continue to participate in all international efforts towards achieving a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis.  In that regard, he expressed support for Council resolution 2336 (2016), which had called for a peaceful transition in that country, as well as several General Assembly resolutions, including one which had called for the establishment of a mechanism to gather and document evidence and hold to account those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity.  The oppression by the Syrian regime, with the support of the Russian Federation, Iran, Hizbullah and other community militias, must come to an end, and the people of Syria must be able to determine their own political future.

The representative of Israel took the floor a second time, noting that Iran’s delegate openly supported terrorism throughout the Middle East and continued to spread lies.  As for Bolivia, she said that country had only recently joined the Council, yet it had not made any effort to understand the complexity of the issue.  Bolivia seemed like its predecessor, Venezuela, she said, emphasizing that its attacks on Israel damaged the Council’s credibility.

For information media. Not an official record.