PRESS BRIEFING BY BRENDEN VARMA, SPOKESPERSON FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT VOLKAN BOZKIR
PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CEASEFIRE IN GAZA AS MINISTERS GATHER TO DEBATE SITUATION IN MIDDLE EAST
- This morning the President convened a formal plenary meeting on Palestine and the Middle East in the General Assembly Hall. The meeting is still in progress, and the expected end time is 8:00 p.m.
- It is a debate under the agenda items on “The situation in the Middle East” and “Question of Palestine”.
- The President’s convening of this meeting follows a written request received from the Permanent Representatives of Niger and Algeria, in their respective capacities as Chairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Arab Group.
- In opening remarks, the President said the “Question of Palestine” is the longest standing issue on the UN peace and security agenda. And the latest escalation did not happen in a vacuum. It is not an isolated occurrence and cannot be divorced from the broader context. He said, “The occupation, compounded by political impasse and lack of negotiations, is the main underlying source of instability and perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
- He added that the Security Council must shoulder its responsibilities and overcome yet again its paralysis on this item. He said inaction hinders the Council’s and the UN’s abilities on other pressing peace and security matters. He called for a unified voice from the Security Council on this important and urgent subject.
- Calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and a stop to the violence and incitement in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, he said Palestinians should not live under perpetual fear of eviction from their homes because of expanding settler colonialism.
- Before concluding, he said, “When it comes to Israel and Palestine, we are clearly failing. Our failure undermines the credibility of the multilateral system and the United Nations.”
- For today’s meeting, according to the latest list, 103 speakers are inscribed – from Member States, Observer States and other observers. The list includes 12 individuals at the Ministerial level. All speakers are participating in person. There are no video messages.
- This is the first time since the pandemic began that Ministers are participating in person at a General Assembly debate in New York.
- A media stakeout has been set up on the 2nd floor, just outside the Trusteeship Council Chamber, for any high-level participants who wish to speak to the press. At this stage, I can tell you that the Palestinian Foreign Minister is expected to be at the stakeout at approximately 2:45 p.m. The Pakistani Foreign Minister was there earlier today.
- In response to a question about initiatives by the Middle East Quartet and the current lack of negotiations, the Spokesperson said the President’s main role was to provide a forum and create a platform for Member States to come together and discuss these very important issues on the international agenda. That is what he had done today, following a request from Member States.
- Replying to a related question, the Spokesperson said that, although no written outcome was expected from today’s meeting, the fact that Ministers had come in person – for the first time since the pandemic had hit – showed how important this issue was to the international community. The President placed value on the fact that high-level representatives were discussing, exchanging views and keeping this matter on the world’s agenda.
- Asked if the President was placing more blame on Israel, and whether he thought Hamas was also responsible for the escalation, the Spokesperson noted that the President had today acknowledged attacks also on civilians in Israel and referred to reports of Israeli fatalities and injuries.
- Asked if the President had received any confirmations in his bilateral meetings that a ceasefire was pending, the Spokesperson said he had nothing to add to the readouts and no confirmations to share.
PRESIDENT MEETS WITH VISITING MINISTERS
- In connection with this meeting, the President has been receiving requests for bilateral meetings from high-level participants. Our office will issue readouts of those meetings.
- This morning the President held separate bilateral meetings with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, H.E. Mr. Riad Al-Malki, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi.
- The President and the Palestinian Foreign Minister discussed the current situation in Palestine and today’s General Assembly debate.
- The President expressed his deep concern over the ongoing violence and loss of innocent civilian lives, including children, in the occupied Palestinian territory and Gaza. He stressed the need for the United Nations system with all its principal organs to work in harmony in the face of attacks against civilians and places of worship and violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
- He also said that the General Assembly would always remain open for discussions on the plight of the Palestinian people. He noted that he remained ready to convene formal meetings on this topic when requested to do so by Member States.
- In the President’s meeting with the Pakistani Foreign Minister, the two discussed the situation in Palestine, including the need for UN engagement and international reactions to recent developments on the ground. The President stressed that today’s debate sent a clear political signal that the international community was resolved to work together towards achieving a ceasefire. Other topics of discussion included arrangements for the General Assembly’s high-level period in September; the President’s upcoming trip to Pakistan; and regional issues, including Kashmir.
- This afternoon the President will meet separately with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs of the State of Kuwait, H.E. Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, H.E. Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
- The President will also meet with all visiting Ministers together at 2:15 p.m.
PRESIDENT MARKS WORLD BEE DAY
- Today is World Bee Day. In a video message, the President described the impact that bees have on agriculture, food systems, forest conservation and agri-tourism. Bees and their pollinating efforts affect industries from fashion to food to pharmaceuticals.
- In that regard, he said there is a clear and increasingly urgent need to address biodiversity loss.
DESERTIFICATION DIALOGUE POSTPONED UNTIL JUNE
- Today the President was supposed to convene the High-level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought.
- However, in light of today’s meeting on Palestine and the Middle East, the High-level Dialogue has been postponed. It will now take place on 14 June.
HIGH-LEVEL CULTURE EVENT TO BE HELD TOMORROW
- Tomorrow, the President, in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), will convene a High-level Event on Culture and Sustainable Development.
- It will consist of three panel discussions and a plenary session. It will highlight the transformative role of culture as an accelerator of the Sustainable Development Goals. And it will raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities facing the cultural and creative sector post-COVID-19.
- Speakers will include award-winning filmmakers Richard Curtis and Deeyah Khan; the Director of the Tate Modern Art Gallery; the Mayors and municipal leaders of Brazzaville, Changsha, Dubai, Lyon, Montreal and Rome; and the Ministers of Culture of Bangladesh, Croatia, Italy, Jamaica, Panama and Sweden.