Speakers in Middle East Debate Also Call for More Assertive Role on Syria Crisis
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had entered a “dangerous” phase amid a fresh wave of violence in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, the Deputy Secretary-General told the Security Council today as he pressed leaders from both sides to publicly take a stand against extremism and incitement, as failure to do so left the door open to promote destructive extremist agendas.
Jan Eliasson, updating the Council ahead of an open debate on the Middle East, said that 47 Palestinians and 7 Israelis had been killed, and more than 5,000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis had been injured since the beginning of October. The Secretary-General’s visit to Israel, Palestine and Jordan had one goal: to support collective efforts to stop the violence and begin to draw a political horizon that would lead to lasting peace. “Let us be clear, there is no justification whatsoever for murder,” he said.
The crisis would not have erupted, he said, if Palestinians had had hope about a viable State of their own, an economy that offered jobs, and the ability to emerge from a “stifling and humiliating” occupation. They saw instead the growth of illegal settlements and emergence of a de facto settler community with better infrastructure, services and security than in Palestinian populated areas.
Likewise, he said, the situation had sharpened a sense of fear among Israelis who felt that their personal security had been threatened and saw signs of growing anti-Semitism around the world and attempts that they believed aimed to delegitimize their country. Taken together, the failed peace initiatives and leaders’ reluctance to make progress had created a “highly combustible reality” in a region plagued by violent religious extremism. The vitriolic nature of the public discourse was alarming, Mr. Eliasson said, calling on all stakeholders, including the Palestinian leadership, to condemn the violence.
Following those remarks, Riad Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, said Palestinians were under lockdown and assault by Israel. The Council could not justify remaining on the sidelines while the violence risked spiralling into a religious conflict fomented by the “extremist” Israeli Government. A practical step would be to reaffirm the basis for justly resolving the conflict: the occupation was illegal and must end.
In addition, he said, a time frame must be set to end the occupation and options considered for the protection of Palestinians. Equally urgent was the dangerous situation in occupied East Jerusalem and ensuring that Israel complied with its obligation to preserve the status quo. “We cannot progress in any way towards a peace based on the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders while Israel continues to actively and illegally alter the demographic and physical situation on the ground and entrench the occupation,” he asserted.
Danny Danon (Israel) said the streets of his country had been swept by a “savage” tide of terror: unprovoked attacks against Israelis for no reason other than that they were “Jews living in their historic homeland”. Israel, like any country, was obliged to defend its citizens.
He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had repeatedly accused Israel of trying to change the status quo. “This inflammatory allegation is false, and President Abbas knows it,” he said, stressing that Palestinians were trying to score easy victories without having to negotiate or recognize the Jewish State. The best way to reduce tensions was to urge President Abbas to accept the Israeli Prime Minister’s call to meet with him.
For its part, the United Nations must end its usual practice of calling on both sides to show restraint and state clearly: there was one side that had been instigating a wave of terror. “Stop making excuses for the Palestinians, and start holding them accountable,” he said.
Throughout the day, speakers condemned the violence, urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to stop incitement, reduce tensions and restore calm. Some expressed hope that the Secretary-General’s visit, and the upcoming meeting of the Middle East Quartet in Vienna, would attenuate the situation. While prospects for a two-State solution appeared to be diminishing, many advocated it as the only path to peace. In that context, Egypt’s delegate pressed the Council to ensure that Israel did not continue to “devour” Palestinian territories.
Taking a broad view, Nabil Elaraby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said Palestine and Syria had become a breeding ground for terrorism, a situation that required a review of all Council mechanisms and resolutions in which the Palestinian question was the central issue. The protection of Palestinians by the United Nations could be easily ensured through the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).
The crisis in Syria was another major focus of the day, with several speakers urging the Council play a more assertive role in facilitating a political solution. France’s delegate pressed the 15-member body to tackle the root causes by fighting terrorism more effectively, implementing a political transition and responding to the horrors suffered by the Syrian population. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, supported by outside forces, terrorized and killed civilians.
The representative of the Russian Federation said chaos stemming from foreign interference had been exploited by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS). His Government, at Syria’s request, had initiated air and missile strikes on terrorist formations. Collective approaches were needed to eliminate that threat. He urged all to join work on a Russian draft resolution on Syria that proposed “closing ranks” to fight terrorism and launch a political process on the basis of the Geneva communiqué, a call also put forward by the representative of Saudi Arabia.
On that point, the United States representative said Russian firepower had focused not on ISIL — its stated target — but rather on those opposed to Mr. Assad’s rule, with 80 per cent of the targets hit outside ISIL-controlled areas.
Syria’s delegate said “genetically engineered” moderate terrorists had hindered any peaceful settlement and used the Syrian diaspora as a way to force the Government to change its independent political choices.
Outlining a way forward, the United Kingdom’s delegate said that with France, his Government would advance proposals to end the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs. The Russian Federation would need to defend its actions to the Council, as well as to Sunni communities worldwide, and use its influence to urge the Assad regime to stop its abuses.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Spain, Jordan, New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola, Lithuania, Chad, Nigeria, Chile, China, Norway, Qatar, Sweden, Maldives, Guatemala, Lebanon, Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Japan, India, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey, Pakistan, Algeria, Tunisia, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Iceland, Botswana, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Cuba and Zimbabwe, and the European Union, as well as an observer of the Holy See.
The Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also spoke.
The representative of Israel took the floor a second time.
The meeting began at 10:13 a.m. and ended at 7:02 p.m.
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General JAN ELIASSON said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had entered a dangerous phase, with the eruption of violence gripping the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as Israel and Gaza. Since the beginning of October, 47 Palestinians and seven Israelis had been killed; more than 5,000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis injured. “We condemn in the strongest terms, all attacks against Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he said. The wave of knife attacks and shootings was particularly appalling.
He said the Secretary-General, while in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, had met with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, and King Abdullah II of Jordan, and had condemned the recent upsurge in violence. His visit had a clear goal: to support collective efforts to stop the violence and begin to draw a political horizon that would lead to lasting peace. President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had assured him they were working to curb the violence, notably through security coordination.
“Let us be clear, there is no justification whatsoever for murder,” he said, stressing the crisis would not have erupted if Palestinians had had hope about a viable Palestinian State, an economy that offered jobs, control over their security, legal and administrative processes, and if they did not live under a “stifling and humiliating” occupation. They saw instead the growth of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, and emergence of a de facto settler community with better infrastructure, services and security than in Palestinian populated areas.
The situation also, understandably, had sharpened a sense of fear among Israelis, he said, who felt their personal security was threatened by the violence and signs of growing anti-Semitism around the world. They had seen more attempts at what they believed were aimed at “delegitimization” of their country and rightly expected their authorities to enforce security.
Taken together, the failed peace initiatives and reluctance of leaders on both sides to make progress had created a “highly combustible reality”, he said, in which Israel’s security concerns had been unmet and the Palestinian national struggle risked taking on an ever more violent dimension — all in a region already plagued by violent religious extremism. Tensions at holy sites in Jerusalem had been a dangerous driver of the current violence. Extremists on all sides had sought to disturb the historic status quo.
The Prime Minister’s assurance that Israel had no intention of changing that status quo at Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount would only resonate, he said, if swift action was taken to show that public commitment. Welcoming the decision to ban ministers and Knesset members from visiting holy sites, he encouraged Israel and Jordan, as custodian of the holy sites, to coordinate the necessary steps, in line with their previous understandings to preserve the status quo.
Citing events that reflected Palestinians’ sense of injustice, he said it was imperative that Israel took action to empower Palestinian institutions to protect vulnerable communities and “vigorously” address the perceived impunity for settler violence. The Secretary-General had reminded Israeli authorities that live fire should be used only as a last resort, and that they were obliged to ensure prompt, independent investigation into events where use of force had led to death or serious injury. He was also concerned that Israeli authorities had resumed punitive demolitions.
Incitement also had fuelled the situation, he said, stressing: “The vitriolic nature of the public discourse is alarming.” Contrary to the shameful boasts by Hamas members, there was nothing “heroic” about killing an innocent man and injuring his wife and child as they walked through Jerusalem. He called on all stakeholders, including the Palestinian leadership, to condemn such violence and stand up publicly to extremism and incitement. Failure to do so, on both sides, left the door open for extremists to promote destructive agendas.
RIAD MALKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, said “I come before the Security Council at a time when the Palestinian people are under lockdown and assault by Israel, the occupying Power, which has intensified its violations and collective punishment (…) throughout occupied Palestine, especially in occupied East Jerusalem.” Yet, even in the face of threats to their human security, dignity and existence, the Palestinian people remained resilient and determined to continue their just struggle for freedom. The Council could not in any way justify remaining on the sidelines while the conflict threatened to spiral out of control, including into a religious conflict which was being fomented by the current “extremist” Israeli Government and its Prime Minister. The Council, however, had proven unable and unwilling to bear its obligations and was in dereliction of its duties.
He said today’s discussion must focus on the main source of the current violence, which was the continued Israeli foreign occupation and its illegal regime of settlements, its blockade and its oppression. The Council must act now to de-escalate the crisis. A practical step would be for the 15-member body to reaffirm the basis for justly resolving the conflict: the occupation was illegal and must end. A time frame must be set for an end to the occupation. Options for protection of the Palestinian people must be considered in accordance with international law and he called on the Council to undertake that important step. Equally urgent, the Council must address the dangerous situation in occupied East Jerusalem and ensure that Israel, the occupying Power, complied with its obligation to preserve the status quo in Jerusalem, especially regarding Haram al-Sharif which housed the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Israel’s “inhumane disregard” for Palestinian life and all other illegal actions, in particular settlement activities, must stop immediately, he said. “We cannot progress in any way towards a peace based on the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders while Israel continues to actively and illegally alter the demographic and physical situation on the ground and entrench the occupation,” he stated. That must be preceded by an end to the open, racist calls by Israeli ministers to use deadly force against Palestinians. Commending initiatives to refocus efforts on ending the conflict, particularly the ongoing efforts of France, he said that Israel, the occupying Power, must be compelled to cease its illegal policies and practices in occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, and commit to the path of peace, based on the international consensus in that regard. Palestine was committed to pursuing a peaceful, diplomatic and legal path to a just peace that would fulfil the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to live in freedom and dignity in their State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as a just solution for the Palestinian refugees.
DANNY DANON (Israel) said that “tragically, since the establishment of the State of Israel, every Israeli in every generation has been touched by war and by terror.” Over the past six weeks, the streets of his country had been swept by a “savage” tide of terror. He was disappointed that all he heard were calls to end the cycle of violence. That was not a cycle of violence; those were unprovoked attacks against Israelis for no reason other than the fact that they were “Jews living in their historic homeland”. Israel, like any other country, had the right and obligation to defend its citizens, and that was exactly what his State was doing. Any country whose people were being attacked in the streets on a daily basis would act in exact the same way.
He said that since Rosh Hashanah, Israelis had endured a season of sorrow. Men, women and children had been maimed and killed on the streets of Israeli cities. Mothers and fathers worried their children could be knifed to death when they left home, and children worried their parents wouldn’t make it home. “This is the true meaning of terror,” he said. When someone left their home holding a kitchen knife with the intention of killing another person, that stemmed from a deep hatred. When that someone was a 13‑year old boy who stabbed an Israeli boy 15 times, that stemmed from a culture of hate. Palestinian children had received lessons in hatred from their leaders, in school and on children’s television programmes. Many seemed to be confused about the cause of the current escalation. It was no wonder that at least nine of the attackers had been Palestinians under the age of 18. “When the youth are shown images of violence instead of a vision for peace, then they too were victims,” he said.
The spree of stabbings, shooting and stonings began with lies about the Temple Mount. President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership had repeatedly and systematically accused Israel of trying to change the status quo. “This inflammatory allegation is false, and President Abbas knows it is false,” he said. The Palestinians were trying to score easy victories without having to negotiate, or to recognize the Jewish State. They used the violence they had incited and instigated in order to manipulate the international community. Rather than penalizing the Palestinians, the international community rewarded them. Israel would not agree to an international presence on the Temple Mount. No nation represented in the Council would accept the presence of international forces on their sovereign territory. The best way to reduce tensions in the region was to urge President Abbas to accept Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call to meet with him. The United Nations must end its usual practice of calling on both sides to show restraint and state clearly: there was one side that had been instigating a wave of terror. “Stop making excuses for the Palestinians, and start holding them accountable,” he said.
JOSÉ MANUEL GARCÍA-MARGALLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, said the viability of the two-State solution was in serious danger. The Madrid Peace Conference, convened in 1991, had marked a turning point. Yet today, peace was far from being reached, amid a progressive loss of confidence in the two-State solution and upsurge in violence. He urged renewing confidence in the two-State solution, noting that France’s draft presidential statement to keep the status quo on the esplanade of the holy sites was a basis from which to work. Inter-religious dialogue that condemned religious violence must be facilitated. Settlements threatened the two-State solution. Unity among Palestinian political forces was also needed.
It was urgent to renew hope among Palestinians to build a State of their own, he said, as well as help Israel exist peacefully with its neighbours. Measures to foster confidence should include compliance with the commitments of the Oslo Accords. Efforts also must focus on establishing an architecture for a political horizon that involved regional countries, including an update of the Arab Peace Initiative. Further, the Council needed to adopt an agreed political framework which included a closed calendar for negotiations, and efforts must culminate in a new international peace conference. On Syria, efforts must be more ambitious. He called for unity in the fight against Da’esh [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant], noting that Spain was working with France and the United Kingdom to end indiscriminate attacks against civilians, including in the use of barrel bombs. He stressed the importance of territorial integrity and a secular nature of a regime, urging support for neighbouring countries: Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt in particular. On Yemen, he urged collective action in the search for an inclusive solution, with the United Nations playing a leadership role.
NASSER JUDEH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and Expatriates Affairs of Jordan, said the tension and upheaval in the Middle East posed a threat to international peace and security. Israel had been violating a number of Council resolutions, among them that all measures taken by the occupying Power were null and void and that East Jerusalem was part of the occupied territories. His country had been working to put an end to the occupation and creating an independent Palestinian State based on pre-1967 borders. Peace could not be based on attacks against Muslim holy sites. The Israeli settlement policy and collective punishment against Palestinian, the blockade, seizure of lands and homes would not lead to peace. The violations of the holy sites were ongoing and growing and had led to an escalation of the situation, threatening an explosion. The historical status quo must be restored.
He said the situation in Syria had been deteriorating and that situation affected its immediate neighbours. Jordan had welcomed 1.5 million Syrian refugees; that created a burden on its budget while the country faced huge economic challenges. The country’s capacity to help the refugees was at an end, and the international community must assist Jordan to face up to the heavy burden. A comprehensive, diplomatic solution was the only solution to the crisis, based on the Geneva communiqué decision. A political transition must be achieved to put an end to terrorism and restore stability and security in Syria. He supported efforts to put an end to terrorism in Iraq as well, and work should continue towards a political solution in Libya. As for Yemen, he said his country supported a political solution that stressed the legality of the Government.
MURRAY MCCULLY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, said that while no one could excuse the violence that had taken place, the international community should understand that it resulted, at least in part, from a failure of the diplomatic or political process. The Security Council must call for a cessation of the violence, restate its commitment to a two-State solution and be clear that a sustainable solution would be achieved through direct talks between the parties. If they were not ready, and the conditions were not right today for direct talks, the Council should mandate a course of action by which the parties would get themselves ready, and by which conditions would be made right for talks to commence. New Zealand would, over the coming days, share with other delegations the text of a draft resolution giving effect to those steps, he said, reiterating that it was the Council’s duty to find ways to stem the violence and find a framework that would create space for the diplomacy and political engagement that was so long overdue.
DELCY RODRÍGUEZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, associated herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, and noted that the recent violence in the Occupied Territories had left more than 53 people dead. “This cannot be interpreted in isolation,” she said, citing the occupation. For seven decades, Palestinians had faced massacres of their people and denial of their human rights. She said she was astonished by the violence against Palestinians, recalling their request that the Council shoulder its responsibilities. Israel had denied Palestinians their right of self-determination, creating the conditions for violence and making it impossible for negotiations to succeed. It had generated cycles of violence to justify its permanent control over Palestinians, she said, pointing out that people in Gaza required medicines as well as agricultural and school supplies, yet the occupying Power refused to loosen its control. Venezuela called upon the Council to demand that Israel end the new cycle of violence and place Palestinians under protection, in line with the Fourth Geneva Convention. She went on to reject use of the veto when addressing the Palestinian tragedy.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States) condemned terrorist attacks and other recent violence, urging both parties to exercise restraint. That prospects for a two-State solution appeared to be diminishing was no excuse for stabbing innocent people. She said that while her delegation supported Israel’s right to defend its citizens, it was concerned about Palestinian deaths under live fire by the Israeli Defence Forces, as well as settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. The United States supported steps to stabilize the situation and make progress towards a two-State solution. Significant policy advances, especially in Area C, would increase the Palestinian Authority’s ability to address economic and institutional challenges, to be pursued while respecting Israel’s security needs.
She went on to recall that during Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, a number of proposals had been made, including what Israel could do to maintain the status quo. Both sides had agreed stop incitement, reduce tensions and restore calm, messages that Mr. Kerry would carry to Jordan. On Syria, she said the use of barrel bombs and extremist violence had contributed to 250,000 deaths, not including the tens of thousands of missing persons. The Russian Federation’s military offensive had worsened a dire situation, with its air strikes providing cover for Bashar al-Assad’s forces. It had forced 50,000 Syrians from their homes in Homs and 35,000 in Hama. Its firepower had concentrated not on ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] — its stated target — but rather, on those opposed to Mr. Assad’s rule, with 80 per cent of the targets hit outside ISIL-controlled areas. Since the start of the offensive, the Syrian map had shifted in ISIL’s favour, she noted, adding: “This conflict will not end until Syria is free from Assad.”
REEZAL MERICAN BIN NAINA MERICAN (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, said his delegation was increasingly sceptical that direct bilateral negotiations were the best way to achieve a two-State solution. Every time violence erupted in Occupied Palestine, he noted, the approach of the international community was to scramble to patch up the ruins of the peace process, “dangle whatever we can muster in front of the Palestinians as bait to pacify them”, and once the situation returned to calm, forget about the occupation again. While Malaysia supported all peaceful initiatives to resolve the long-standing conflict, it also stressed the need to set a reasonable timeframe within which to realize a two-State solution. If the Council continued to remain paralysed, the international community must look beyond it for a solution, he said.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that in the face of the prevailing situation, the international community, particularly the Council had proven itself unable to contribute to a real solution to the conflict. Recent events in Jerusalem, with escalating tensions around the holy sites, could the potentially have far-reaching consequences, and Angola strongly urged the Israeli authorities to uphold the status quo around the Al-Aqsa mosque, he said, warning that religious wars were difficult to stop and very costly in human lives. The periodic waves of agitation might be a strategy by Israeli extremists to undermine a two-State solution. Additionally, settlement expansion continued in the West Bank, endorsed by Israel. The worrisome consequence of the current outbreaks of violence was that both Israelis and Palestinian had abandoned all hope for negotiations, he said, emphasizing that the failure of the peace process was a collective failure of the international community. Angola strongly supported calls for international protection of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said the Security Council was meeting at a critical time where any spark of unilateral action could lead to an explosion of violence. Illegal settlements, evictions, terrorist acts against civilians and a disproportionate response by security forces had led to an increase in casualties on both sides. Lithuania strongly condemned all acts of violence and called on Palestinian and Israeli political, community and religious leaders to firmly denounce such acts. The Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount was a sacred place for both Muslims and Jews and it was vital to ensure that its status quo was respected. Lithuania welcomed repeated assurances from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to that effect and encouraged further concrete steps to reaffirm the status quo. On the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, there was a need for an immediate and unconditional lifting of its closure, and a free flow of people and goods for effective humanitarian relief and recovery.
VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) expressed hope that the Secretary-General’s efforts, and the Quartet’s upcoming meeting in Vienna, would attenuate the Palestinian-Israeli situation. The Russian initiative for the Council to visit the region remained timely. Radical change would not happen unless political prospects were reopened to start negotiations on final status issues and on the two-State solution. He cited the Arab Peace Initiative, among other efforts, in that regard. The main task was to resume negotiations and resolve final status issues. He rejected ongoing settlement activity, urging that Palestinian unity be restored on the platform of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Only international efforts would allow for stabilizing the situation, which required effective decisions.
He said that chaos resulting from foreign interference in regional affairs had been exploited by ISIL, whose actions in Iraq and Syria were manifesting in other places. The Russian Federation, requested by Syria for assistance, on 30 September had initiated air and missile strikes on terrorist formations in that country. Collective approaches were needed to eliminate that threat and he stressed laying aside “non-essential political differences”. He urged all to join work on a Russian draft resolution on Syria that proposed closing ranks to fight terrorism and launching a political process on the basis of the 2012 Geneva communiqué. The lack of alternatives to a political settlement had been confirmed in 23 October meetings between the Russian Prime Minister and Syrian President. His Government was ready to combat terrorism and promote a political process that led to the peaceful cohabitation of religious groups. In Yemen, his country supported the Secretary-General’s efforts and launch of an inter-Yemeni dialogue. The situation in Libya was being exploited by ISIL, with waves of instability traveling towards the Sahara and Sahel, as well as Europe. He called for the formation of a unity Government.
MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) said the renewed violence indicated that the status quo could no longer be upheld. The main reasons for the impasse in the political process were, among others, the expansion of settlements, the demolition of houses, and arbitrary detentions. The indiscriminate repression of civilians did nothing more than “add oil to the fire” and entrench the most radical of positions. It was in the interest of the international community, including Israel, to find a rapid and lasting solution to the Palestinian question, he emphasized. The Council was expected to take concrete actions to protect civilians and put an end to the occupation. Chad supported placing the holy sites under international protection, and all violations should be investigated to ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice. If the Council failed to implement a two-State solution, it could not continue to deny Palestine full-fledged membership of the United Nations, he stressed, asking why that had been possible for Israel in 1947, but not for Palestine in 2015.
U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said the surge in violence was deeply troubling. Fears had been expressed that unless the situation was contained, the rise of a third intifada might not be far-fetched. Condemning the recent killings, she emphasized that extremists on both sides must not be allowed to hijack the political agenda. Provocative action and hostile rhetoric must be avoided by both sides. A crucial element was maintaining the status quo around the holy sites. Noting that the underlying problem was the lack of progress in the peace process, she called upon Palestinian and Israeli leaders to return to the negotiating table. A two-State solution could end the conflict and settlement expansion undermined its prospects, she said, calling for an immediate cessation of settlement construction in the Occupied Territory.
FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France) said that, in the face of an escalation of tensions in the Middle East, France condemned all violence regardless of perpetrators. The current situation was a result of the impasse in the peace process, brought on in particular by settlement expansion. There was a need for collective mobilization to find a solution to the conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should remain an international priority. Failure to settle it remained a recruiting argument for terrorists, he said, calling upon the parties to refrain from any acts or words that could incite violence. Maintaining the status quo at the holy sites was imperative, he added.
Regarding Syria, he expressed hope that the Council would finally tackle the root causes by fighting terrorism more effectively, implementing a political transition and responding to the horrors suffered by the Syrian population. Backing Assad in his fight against terrorists was a false solution and a “strategic mistake”, he said, emphasizing that a political transition was required. Syria was the theatre of the worst tragedy of the twenty-first century, and the regime, supported by outside forces, terrorized and killed civilians, including by the use of barrel bombs. The Council must put an end to their use, he stressed.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), condemning recent violence, cited several events including the fire at Joseph’s Tomb, all of which marked a turning point in the crisis. Home demolitions and punitive measures that violated minimal procedural norms and the right to fair treatment were not the solution. He expressed particular concern about Palestinian youth, who out of frustration and a lack of opportunity stemming from the occupation, were using violence to make their demands heard. The political horizon leading to a two-State solution must be restored, and parties should commit to that solution, notably by dismantling settlements and rejecting inflammatory rhetoric. He called on leaders from both sides to prevent extremist positions from influencing the political agenda. For its part, the Council should work to restart dialogue, he said, noting that conditions that established trust must include Palestinians’ right to self-determination and Israel’s security. In that context, he noted the letter sent by the Secretary-General to the Council President on the request by the Palestinian President for protection for his people.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the Council must send a clear message that frustration could not justify attacks and hate crimes. He condemned all acts of violence and incitement, stressing that parties must agree on the status quo at Haram al-Sharif, tackle incitement and do their utmost to end the violence. “If it doesn’t stop, it will only drag parties further away from what we all want,” he said, pressing the Council to advance the political progress. Gazans must be able to secure jobs, which implied the free movement of people and goods, and measures by Israel to develop water infrastructure and efforts by Palestinians to advance reconciliation.
Progress was needed in the West Bank, he said, and the transfer of Area C to the Palestinian Authority was critical to a two-State solution, unlocking huge economic benefits. Settlement expansion and Palestinian home demolition were illegal and must stop. In Syria, ISIL threatened the region, which required tackling the root cause: the brutality of the Assad regime, marked by its use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons. With France, his Government would advance proposals to end the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs. The Russian military intervention assisted armed groups, some of which the Special Envoy had invited to join his talks. The Russian Federation would need to defend its actions to the Council, as well as to Sunni communities worldwide, and use influence to urge the Assad regime to stop its abuses.
LIU JIEYI (China) regretted the lack of prospects for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, amid deteriorating security and increasing civilian casualties. The international community should urge the sides to exercise restraint and end all rhetoric. He welcomed the Palestinian leader’s pledge to investigate crimes committed during the clashes, urging Israel to avoid the excessive use of force, honour its commitment to maintain the status quo and stop violating the rights of Palestinians. The establishment of a Palestinian State was the “correct” way to solve the issue. The reasonable security concerns of countries in the region should also be addressed and the Council should react reasonably to requests by Palestinians and Arab countries. He hoped the 15-member body would study the Secretary-General’s report on the request for Palestinian protection. He urged the further tapping of existing mechanisms, including the Quartet, regional countries and major international partners. Efforts to improve the humanitarian situation were also needed and Israel must lift its blockade against Gaza. China had always supported the aspiration of Palestinians to restore their rights, he said, citing his country’s four-point proposal in that regard.
BØRGE BRENDE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, welcomed commitments to maintain the status quo around the holy sites, adding that it was imperative to continue security coordination between Israelis and Palestinians. Calling for a return to a credible political process, he said Israel should stop building new settlements on occupied land, and Palestine musts reform and strengthen its political institutions and governance structures. Recalling that he had chaired the meeting of the Donors Group of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee last month, he emphasized that no donor support could substitute or compensate for inadequate measures by the Palestinian Authority or by Israel themselves. Achieving the full potential of a Palestinian State with well-functioning political and governmental institutions, including a sustainable economy, required a political resolution of the conflict.
KHALID BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYAH, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Qatar called on the Council to focus on the grave situation resulting from the escalation of force by Israeli forces against the Palestinian people. The Occupation continued violate the rights of Palestinians, who were subjected to humiliation on a daily basis. That was a burden on the shoulders of all Arab people. All democratic forces around the world should rally for the Palestinian cause. Negotiations had lost their value and it had become normal for Israelis to annex land and wage war against anyone who tried to resist them. Pointing out that the Holy Shrine was at risk of becoming a divisive force, he said that the Palestinian people did not seek mercy as they took to the streets. They took to the streets well aware that they were to be executed without cause. They were rejecting international indifference that allowed the current apartheid to continue. He called for a just solution on the basis of the pre-1967 borders and a two-State solution.
He also questioned why the Council had not tried to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people. The Syrian regime continued to test the international community by using chemical bombs. There was no satisfactory answer from the Council as to why it had not moved to protect the Syrian people. The United Nations had pledged to fight terrorism and yet it allowed State terrorism to run rampant. The Syrian regime was a criminal, he said, calling on the implementation the Geneva Communiqué, which would lead to the establishment of a transition of power while maintaining Syria’s sovereignty and respecting the aspirations of the Syrian people. Syrians had become refugees in their own land and all over the world. “We are simply satisfied bearing witness to the tragedy that would remain entrenched forever in human memory,” he said. Had the international community moved courageously the Syrian people would have been spared insurmountable suffering.
MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, noting her country had decided to recognize the State of Palestine one year ago, said the action was aimed at making the parties to the conflict less unequal. The absence of hope was among the greatest challenges facing the prospect of peace and the vision of the two-State solution. That, along with an end to the occupation — where both Palestine and Israel could live peacefully side by side — was the real goal. On the situation in Syria, she said that Sweden was shouldering its responsibility, receiving 3,000 of that country’s refugees each week, and called upon all others present today in the Chamber to step up their engagement. Lebanon, which was one of the countries most affected by the conflict in Syria, needed and deserved more international support.
ALI NASEER MOHAMED, Foreign Secretary of Maldives, said Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine epitomised a deep malaise in the international system. For decades the international community had sought the realization of a two-State solution. Those efforts had failed a people, a nation, a region, and the entire international community. That the Old City in Jerusalem had been shut down to Palestinians was a clear illustration of the gravity of the moment. The sanctity of Haram al-Sharif must be restored. Israel must stop altering the Islamic and Arabic character of the city. Each year, thousands of Israeli settlers moved into the occupied territories illegally. The combination of increasingly belligerent political rhetoric and enforced physical and demographic changes to the occupied Territories reduced the chances for peace.
“In the absence of hope and in the face of oppression, there is only violence and hatred,” he stated. Such hatred had bred extremism, fostered radicalism, and had consumed the entire region. Calling for the full recognition of the State of Palestine, independent within its pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, he underscored the importance of greater involvement by the international community, particularly the Council, in the settlement of a negotiated peace. He also urged the Council to take firm measures necessary to end Israel’s illegal occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people. The United Nations must take the lead in steering the peace process from passive rhetoric to pragmatic action.
ANA CRISTINA RODRIGUEZ (Guatemala) said the current situation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, Israel and especially Jerusalem, undermined the possibility of a political horizon that met the legitimate needs of both peoples. The walls, checkpoints, violent responses by the security forces, and the demolition of homes, as well as attacks by individuals or groups and rocket fire were not actions that promoted the solution of the conflict. It was necessary for political, community and religious Palestinian and Israeli leaders to stand firm against terrorism, violence and incitement. She joined the calls to seek mechanisms that would allow the relaunch of the political process. Recognizing the value of the principle of shared responsibility, she said the active participation of the extended Quartet could generate new momentum for peace. The parties themselves, however, must reach a mutually satisfactory solution and must enhance their commitment to the option of peace and co-existence of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), stated that every three days between 2000 and 2013, one Palestinian child was killed by the Israeli occupying forces, making it self-evident why Palestinians living inside Israeli occupation needed international protection. Recalling the two Palestinian children “who were recently burned to death by extremist Israeli settlers”, he added that Benjamin Netanyahu had “dared to claim” in his speech at the General Assembly that Israel was civilization’s frontline in the battle against barbarism. Victim blaming functioned as an ideology to divert responsibility and to justify racism. The Council could unlock the path to a just and durable peace if it resolved to act on the basis of the principles of international law. Further, pending the end of Israeli occupation, the Council must move to provide international protection to the Palestinian people.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that after decades of suffering and hope to establish a Palestinian state, the Palestinian people now found themselves faced with a painful situation and short-sighted security policies of the longest occupation in history. Emphasizing that the Holy Shrine was extremely important to more than one billion Muslims worldwide, he warned against changing its status quo and character, saying to do so was extremely dangerous and would kill the hope of any settlement. He condemned the violence by the Israeli side and their use of oppressive means to deal with the situation, especially with women and children. Those actions would only feed feelings of hatred. The Security Council was responsible to uphold its responsibilities in accordance with the United Nations Charter. Safeguarding credibility required the Council to apply the necessary resolutions and settle the Palestinian question without trying to reinvent the wheel. The Council must ensure that Israel does not take more time to continue to “devour” Palestinian territories. He also expressed support to Jordan’s efforts in the context of the holy sites and called upon the Israeli Government to take the sites’ historical context into account. The question of Palestine was the most important to the “Arab nation” and time had come to deal with it.
G. ALI KHOSHROO (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned all acts of violence by Israeli occupying forces at the holy sites of Occupied East Jerusalem, including at Haram Al-Sharif, and called for respect for the rights of Muslim worshippers to pray at that site in peace. Israel’s illegal settlement campaign, which was at the core of its 48‑year foreign occupation, remained the major obstacle to peace, undermining all efforts to resume a credible peace process. Such actions cast serious doubts on its alleged commitment to achieve the two-State solution on the basis of pre-1967 borders and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.
The Council, he added, could not remain on the side-lines in the quest to find a just and peaceful solution to the question of Palestine and must act in accordance with its Charter duties, resolutions and the applicable provisions of international law. He also stressed the important role to be played by Non-Aligned Movement Caucus members of the Council in that regard. In addition, Lebanon continued to suffer from consecutive Israeli violations of its borders and airspace. He condemned all measures taken by Israel to alter the legal, physical and demographic status of the occupied Syrian Golan.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said his country was deeply concerned by the “severe upsurge” in violence between Palestinians and Israelis. The tragic deterioration of the situation in the region was to be expected as many delegations, including Brazil, had called for an end to “illegal and provocative” actions such as the expansion of Israeli settlements. Given the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian question to the Middle East’s stability, the United Nations membership at large should discuss alternative approaches to engage the parties in negotiations. Peace could be achieved by the establishment of a Palestinian State that was “sovereign, economically viable and territorially contiguous”, living side by side with Israel within internationally recognized borders based on the 1967 lines. Turning to Syria, he said there was a growing disjunction between the priority of achieving a political solution and the level of hostilities and military engagement on the ground. A genuine, inclusive dialogue based on respect for human rights, independence and the territorial integrity of Syria was urgently needed. Brazil had issued over 8,000 entry visas to Syrian residents affected by the crisis. Lebanon had borne the brunt of the dramatic spill-over of the Syrian war into its territory and its peace and stability must be upheld by the international community. In that regard, the instrumental role played by United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) should be commended.
NABIL ELARABY, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, said the Middle East was facing serious challenges and threats at all levels. Terrorists had made Palestine and Syria a breeding ground for terrorism. The situation required a review of all Council mechanisms and resolutions in which the Palestinian question was the central issue. The serious violations against the Palestinian people and against the holy sites of Islam and Christianity in Al-Quds, as well as the massacres and collective punishment of the Palestinian people, in violation of international law, were all the responsibility of Israel. The Arab League had adopted a resolution on 13 October, asking for protection of the Palestinian people and the holy sites in East Jerusalem. The Council’s lack of effectiveness had heightened the negative impact on the situation.
International protection of civilians had now become urgent, he stated. International protection by the Organization could be easily established, for instance through the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) established in 1949. Resolution 904 (1994) aimed at guaranteeing the security of all Palestinian and stipulated an international presence. The Geneva Agreements in article 1 stipulated a legal commitment of all States, and all States had the obligation to guarantee implementation of those agreements. The Red Cross could be involved. However, as long as occupation continued, Israeli violations would continue. The Council must put an end to the conflict by putting an end to the Israeli occupation. He asked the Council to adopt the Quartet mechanism as a Council mechanism in order to achieve a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders.
IOANNIS VRAILAS of the European Union Delegation urged Palestinian and Israeli leaders to promote calm. The best way to halt the violence was an immediate return to a credible political process, and the immediate priority was to agree on steps for improving the ground situation and building a path back to final status negotiations. A negotiated two-State solution, which ended the occupation and fulfilled the aspirations of both sides, was the only way to achieve peace and security. He urged avoiding actions that “called into question” such a commitment, citing Israeli settlement building and demolitions, and called on the Palestinian factions to work together, and on the Palestinian Authority to assume its government functions in Gaza. The Union would work with all sides to foster Palestinian socioeconomic development and empower institutions to prepare for Statehood.
On Syria, he said only a Syrian-led political process involving a peaceful, inclusive transition, based on the Geneva communiqué, would bring about stability. The international community must unite around a political track that aimed to end the civil war by addressing its root causes, and a security track focused on the fight against Da’esh. He called on all parties to participate in the working groups proposed by the Special Envoy. The Union would engage with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and others to build conditions for a peaceful transition. As the Syrian regime was responsible for mass displacements and the flourishing of terrorist groups in the country, the Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. He called on the Russian Federation to focus on the common goal of working towards a political end to the conflict, reducing violence and fostering implementation of confidence-building measures by the Syrian regime.
MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO, Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the situation in Jerusalem had reached a point of conflagration, with despairing Palestinian youth driven to acts of violence as the only way they felt they would be heard, and Israeli communities acting out of fear and engendering a mob mentality. Cementing the borders of illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem would only exacerbate the conflict, she said, emphasizing that the only sustainable solution was an end to the Israeli occupation in all its facets and the emergence of a sovereign and independent State of Palestine with borders based on the 1967 line and with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Committee welcomed efforts by the enlarged Middle East Quartet and urged Israel to consider seriously the Arab Peace Initiative. Further, as an immediate priority, the Council should act to ensure that the status quo around Jerusalem’s holy sites was maintained. The proposal to station international observers held promise as a first step towards easing tensions, she said.
SAAD ABDULLAH N. AL SAAD (Saudi Arabia) said as Palestinian youth were being killed by Israeli occupation forces, bleeding continued at Haram al-Sharif. Terrorist settlers killed, destroyed and burned. The violence had started when settlers and soldiers stormed al-Sharif and Israel had tried to impose new access restrictions. Israel had failed to protect Islamic holy sites, demolished the gates of Haram al-Sharif and turned it into a prayer place for Jews. Israeli extremists had set fire to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. “Who can blame Palestinians if they do not believe the intentions of Israelis and its Government,” he asked, urging the international community to reject Israeli occupation and hold Israel responsible for its war crimes against Palestinians. The Council must intervene, reacting in a manner that was commensurate with such events, rather than issuing repeated statements. It must grant Palestinians the right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital and based on the 1967 borders. He expressed concern at the Syrian Government’s use of barrel bombs and chemical gas, and called on all parties to implement the Geneva communiqué.
ABDULAZIZ S M A ALJARALLAH (Kuwait), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), stated that Israeli provocations and attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque were an unprecedented assault against the inalienable religious rights of Muslims all over the world. If such attacks did not cease, that would further feed extremism, violence and racism. The recent escalation could not be decontextualized from the extension of decades of occupation, oppression and denial of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. The OIC reiterated the historic and present Hashemite custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, including Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Calling on the Council to shoulder its responsibility and take measures to stop the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation, he said there was no doubt that Israel considered the silence of the international community as encouragement to proceed with State terrorism. While OIC renewed its support to achieving peace based on the two-State solution pursuant to international legitimacy and the Arab Peace initiative, it was no longer morally acceptable for the global community to remain silent. The Council must immediately provide international protection for the Palestinian people and take a decision that established a political path to preserve the two-State solution and to set a well-defined time frame for ending the Israeli occupation.
MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) reiterated the importance of security cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian authorities being maintained, in light of the daily onslaught of violence. The current situation did not arise in a vacuum. Grim economic prospects, social marginalization, illegal settlements and the stagnation of the peace process had all served as “fodder for discontent,” he said. Too often the international community, including the Security Council, had remained silent. Turning to Syria, he condemned acts of terrorism which had taken countless lives, including Japanese victims, and noted that the situation had taken on a new dimension with Russia’s military. Underscoring there could be no military solution to the situation in Yemen, he said the increasing volatility in the Middle East called for a concerted effort by the international community to facilitate the return of peace and stability to the region.
KAMLESH PASWAN (India) said the situation in the Middle East was “fragile and unpredictable” and urged the Council to step up its efforts to resolve it. His country supported a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable State of Palestine, living side by side with Israel, as endorsed by the Quartet road map and relevant Council resolutions. The recent visit by India’s President to the Occupied Palestinian Territory reinforced his country’s strong commitment to the Palestinian cause. The President had also extended technical and financial assistance to the Territory, including by inaugurating the India-Palestine Centre for Excellence in information and communications technology and donating $5 million to the Palestinian Authority. India also contributed $1 million annually to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and had pledged $4 million to the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza. The country remained concerned by the worsening political and security situation in Yemen, urging all parties to resolve their differences and hoped that United Nations mediation efforts could assist in finding a consensus-based solution. On Syria, India called for a Syrian-led, peaceful resolution to the crisis in alignment with 2012 Geneva communiqué.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said he strongly supported the creation of an independent State of Palestine, peacefully coexisting with Israel, within the 1967 borders as well as Palestine’s full-fledged membership in the United Nations. The two-State solution was the only viable option for lasting peace, he said, calling on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to demonstrate political accountability and goodwill to reach a historic peace agreement. The situation in Syria was of great concern. He supported efforts by the international community and the Syrian Government and opposition, aimed at determining the political future of the country through dialogue and reconciliation, within the framework of the Geneva process.
The current United Nations mechanisms to counter terrorism should be made legally binding through Council resolutions, he said, calling for the speedy adoption of a comprehensive document on international terrorism. Growing speculation over issues between two major denominations of Islam had little in common with reality, but there was concern about spreading extremist ideology. As such, he proposed the establishment of an international forum entitled “Islam against Terrorism”, with the aim of demonstrating religious unity against the destructive nature of terrorism and violent extremism.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the Security Council could not continue to sit idly by, and retire to its routine activities of convening briefings and debates. He called upon the Council to assert its Charter mandate and act, as a matter of urgency, to bring an end to Israeli occupation. Turning to the situation in Syria, he expressed his “outright discontentment” at the lack of unity among Security Council members to end the violence and address the humanitarian crisis, which had spread beyond the region. The absence of political will of the Council to even debate the Syrian issue demonstrated its dysfunctional nature.
BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said extremists were seeking to eradicate religions, ethnic groups and cultures that had been in the Middle East for millennia. He was deeply concerned at the plight of Christians and other groups in ISIL-controlled territories, and highlighted the “wanton” destruction of the priceless cultural patrimony of humanity. It was regrettable that the Middle East — the birthplace of the three main monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, was immersed in a situation that combined every form of conflict: State and non-State combatants, ethnic and cultural groups, fundamentalist terrorism and organized crime, religious and ethnic hatred, and regional and international geopolitical rivalries. Flooding the region with more destructive weapons would not end the conflicts. He called on the international community to assist countries in the region to maintain political stability and provide the necessary economic resources to deal with the massive dislocations of populations.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) asked how the world could celebrate 70 years of the United Nations, when Palestinians continued to suffer, and when the United States continued to invade countries, kill their leaders and turn those nations into failed States that became breeding grounds for terrorism. He questioned how the Organization could celebrate half a century of occupation, which turned Palestine into a mass prison, and the escalation of settler barbarism under Israeli protection. The United Nations had failed to take any action that would make Israel implement its resolutions, especially resolution 497 (1981).
Displaced Syrians in the occupied Golan questioned the United Nations’ credibility, especially as the “Syrian Mandela” had spent 27 years in an Israeli prison for exposing Israel’s support to terrorists, he went on to say. He denounced the desperate attempts of certain delegations in defending Israel with especially misleading statements that aimed to distract from Israel’s crimes. For that reason, he would not respond to empty claims made against his country. “Genetically engineered” moderate terrorists had hindered any peaceful settlement and had used the Syrian diaspora as way to force the Government to change its independent political choices.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) expressed concern at the increased Israeli-Palestinian violence, urging parties to resume negotiations on key issues, based on previously agreed obligations. It was imperative to end the conflict in Syria and seek a rapid political solution, especially for the humanitarian crisis. The conflict had intensified after the Russian intervention. For its part, the Council was called on to diversify the conversations and dialogues that had taken place in recent weeks. He also welcomed the Yemen Government’s willingness to participate in peace talks and decried the terrorist attacks in Ankara, Turkey, stressing that the United Nations should assume its responsibility for peace and security, and take human rights into account when managing its efforts to prevent conflict.
ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh) said that the people in the occupied territories continued to suffer due to Israeli blockades and confiscation of land. The illegal separation wall divided and isolated communities and prevented access to jobs, schools and hospitals. Gaza closures were tantamount to strangulation of an entire population in the form of collective punishment. Israel’s periodic escalation of violence was purposeful and meant to generate fear, fury and distress among Palestinians. He deplored Israeli policy that had forced Palestinian people off their land, detained people for long periods without a charge, and restricted freedom of movement and property. The Government had continued its settlement campaign in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with particularly aggressive settlement expansion in East Jerusalem. He urged Israel to fulfil its legal obligation and stop land confiscations and the destruction of homes, and allow for the free movement of goods. He called for a resolution on the basis of a two-State solution based on pre-1967 borders.
MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) said the Palestinian question was experiencing unprecedented deterioration, and the international community had the responsibility to find a solution. Palestine and East Jerusalem, including the Islamic holy sites, had experienced brazen violations of international law by Israel. The feelings of Muslims around the world had been hurt. Israel was attempting to change facts of the ground, which could lead to a religious war. The Israeli policies disregarded international law and attempted to alter the status quo through massacres of innocents. He said the King of Morocco had stressed the need to put an end the annexation of East Jerusalem and settlements. Jerusalem was the very essence of the Palestinian question and there could be no peace without clarifying the status of Al-Quds as capital of a Palestinian State. Any harm brought against the Al-Aqsa mosque would heighten tensions. The only solution to the Palestinian question lay in diplomacy, and negotiations were needed to forge two States living together within the borders of 1967.
MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, repeated in the strongest terms his condemnation of violence in all its forms, regardless who was responsible. He called upon the authorities in Israel and Palestine to respond to recent developments with restraint. The parties needed to be pushed toward re-establishing direct talks. Statements and debates in the Council over the past several years had been ineffective to address the deteriorating situation in Palestine. The Council must also urgently respond to the situation in Israel. “Unified and impartial action by the Council is long overdue,” he stressed, adding that the Council should create the opportunity for the parties to meet. It also should adopt measures for the cessation of collective punishment and settlement activities, which were illegal, as well as lifting the blockade against Gaza. Urgent measures were required to alleviate suffering on the ground. Only then could a time-line be set for the resumption of the peace process.
HALIT CEVIK (Turkey) said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a core challenge that undermined the prospects for lasting regional peace. Jerusalem, a city sacred to Islam, Judaism and Christianity, should be treated with the utmost respect. The expansion of illegal settlements, violations targeting holy sites and all other provocative activities undermining the status and sanctity of Haram al-Sharif must immediately stop. The Jordanian role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem was crucial for the preservation of Haram al-Sharif as an Islamic sanctuary. The international community must intensify efforts to adopt a Council resolution setting a timeframe and parameters for peace negotiations based on a two-State solution that established a sovereign, independent Palestinian State within the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
He went on to say that Syria remained a major factor of instability in the entire region. Turkey continued to assume more than its fair share of the burden of the ongoing devastation, he said, adding that he was extremely concerned by the humanitarian and security impacts of the crisis. The tragedy in Syria could not end until its people had a legitimate Government that enjoyed their full consent. “Meaningful burden and responsibility sharing” and the creation safe areas in Syria were necessary to respond to the needs of millions of Syrians. The international community should work on a solution that ensured a transition to real political change based on the Geneva communique.
NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) said the whole of the Middle East was in turmoil and the international community was sitting on a powder keg. “If this is not threatening international peace and security, we don’t know what is,” he added. Expressing appreciation for the Secretary-General’s visit to the region, he noted that Pakistan supported the Palestinian demand for international protection. The international community could not allow wanton disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law. The Council could help with both protection and final status issues. Setting timelines and parameters to make the two-State solution a reality was urgent and critical. That would provide the hope that Palestinian youth yearned for, and only that could bring the region back from the precipice.
SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said the outrage in his country was immense over the media images, injustice and arrogance of those thinking that there were no limits regarding sacred places for Haram al-Sharif. The prospects of a peaceful settlement were increasingly out of sight, and the core of the issue was the illegal occupation of Arab territories. As long as a solution was not envisioned to end the illegal occupation, with recognition of Palestinians’ legitimate rights and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of a Palestinian State, there must be protection for Palestinians. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s document outlining historic examples which were of utmost relevance and could provide a model for such protection. The international community, individual States, the Quartet and the Council were obliged to take operational measures in response to the escalation and set criteria for what constituted breaking the status quo.
MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) condemned Israel’s actions against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, where it continued its colonialist expansion and efforts to change the status quo. Israel continued its illegal, immoral actions, and gave free reign to settlers to attack citizens and holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa mosque. Such actions reflected its intention to change the status quo. He condemned all such attacks, a flagrant violation of Muslim holy places and called for a “counter-effect”. The Council must change the way it approached the Palestinian question so that a just solution could be found. He also urged an end to the occupation and settlement policy. He said that Tunisia would support Mr. Abbas’ request to provide international protection to Palestinians, in line with international law.
OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said the recent cycle of violence, particularly in Jerusalem, showed that mutual provocations and unilateral actions would not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. He urged all parties to end violent and inflammatory behaviour and return to the negotiating table. Preserving the historic status quo for holy sites in Jerusalem and stopping settlement expansion would be a first step. He appreciated the timely efforts by the Secretary-General and looked forward to revitalized mediation efforts by the Quartet. Deeply concerned about the heavy toll of war on Syria’s civilian population, he said it was time for the key stakeholders to come together to find a common denominator. All relevant parties must make the utmost effort to prevent and minimize civilian casualties and humanitarian crises. He opposed any actions that hindered delivery of humanitarian assistance. The use of barrel bombs was an explicit violation of Council resolution 2139 (2014). He welcomed the Yemeni Government’s statement of 18 October in which it expressed willingness to participate in peace talks with the Houthi rebels. He called on all parties to forge a sustainable peace and defend the territory of Yemen from the terrorist threat of ISIL.
EDUARD FESKO (Ukraine) said that his country was deeply concerned about the worsening situation around the Al-Aqsa mosque. It was important for both parties to find the courage to respect holy places in accordance with the principles specified in the fundamental international documents, particularly those of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the agreements that regulated the status of the Temple Mount complex. His delegation condemned the ongoing violence and systematic human rights violations in Syria. Sustainable peace and stability in that region could be achieved only through a political process aimed at establishing a Syrian national unity Government.
NIKULÁS HANNIGAN (Iceland) said that collective punishment of the Palestinian population was not only a breach of international law, it was also demonstrably counter-productive. While incitement existed, it was facilitated and given credibility by the wider context, which was of loss of political perspective and growing despair among the Palestinian population and fear among the Israeli population. In looking at ways to assist in creating mutual confidence between the parties, the international community should not forget the huge potential, mostly untapped, that existed in involving women on all sides.
NKOLOI NKOLOI (Botswana) said his country was deeply concerned that Israel, the occupying Power, continued to deny the Palestinian people their inalienable right to self-determination and independence. There was no alternative to a two-State solution. Botswana deplored the human rights violations in the Middle East, especially between Israelis and Palestinians. The living conditions of the Palestinian people continued to be “appalling and dehumanizing”. The parties to the conflict must return to the negotiating table and resume the long overdue talks with a “spirit of mutual compromise and respect” with a view to achieving a “just, lasting and mutually acceptable” solution.
ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, called for a just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine and an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people. The ongoing settlement activities were illegal under international law and the blockade of the Gaza Strip was yet another obstacle to peace. More than one year after the widespread destruction in Gaza, thousands of families continued to live in their damaged homes with winter approaching, he noted. As of August 2015, only one-third of the $4 billion pledged had been disbursed and up to 100,000 Palestinians remained displaced and living in precarious conditions. They were struggling for access to electricity, water and health care. He expressed support for the work of United Nations agencies in serving Palestinians, and warned that indiscriminate attacks against civilians would only enhance feelings of desperation and insecurity.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said today’s meeting was held at a time when the region was witnessing grave developments all under the shadow of the occupying Power and the killing of many innocents. The crisis would continue to exacerbate unless Israel abided by the Geneva Convention, he said, condemning its continued and flagrant violations of humanitarian and moral norms, which hindered any peace settlement. Israel’s violations would not lead to building peaceful societies. He urged the international community to avoid any setbacks and create the environment necessary to resume negotiations in accordance with any relevant Security Council resolutions. Underscoring that his country’s position was based on fundamental pillars, including the implementing of relevant resolutions and the Arab Peace Plan, he called for the establishment a Palestinian State based on pre-1967 borders. Furthermore, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State would require a return of Palestinian refugees to their towns and villages, he stressed.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned movement, said that, despite the periodic open debate on the issue, the Council had not adopted any resolution that required Israel to immediately remove itself from Palestinian territories. Nor did any resolution call for an end to the blockade of the Gaza strip or accountability for war crimes committed by Israel. He reiterated his firm condemnation of Israel’s colonization and settlements and all measures, policies, and practices, including construction and expansion of illegal settlements and the seizure of land and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. He also urged an end to the incitement of hatred and arbitrary detentions. The international community must fulfil commitments made last year to rebuild Gaza. On Syria, he said peace would only be possible if there was respect for the Syrian people to decide their future through a political solution. Those who fuelled the conflict in order to affect regime change were responsible for the thousands of civilian victims. Fighting extremist elements could not serve as a pretext for foreign intervention. “We have no right to sacrifice current and future generations,” he said.
VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about violence around holy sites and attempts to change the status quo in East Jerusalem. Access to the Temple Mount and other holy sites must be preserved under the status quo arrangements. Recent events were a stark reminder of Palestinians being systematically denied of their inalienable right to self-determination. The Council must take appropriate measures to ensure their protection. The two-State solution offered the best prospects for peace and the Council must bring a halt to violations of international law. Indeed, it shared the blame for the continued occupation, as no measures had been taken to stop the aggression. He looked forward to the Secretary-General’s report on ways to fulfil the request by President Abbas.
Taking the floor a second time, Israel’s delegate, addressing several “inflammatory” allegations against her country, said she was amazed to hear Arab countries insisting that the Palestinian conflict was at the core of problems in the Middle East, especially while thousands were being slaughtered by ISIS. To remarks by her counterpart from Lebanon, she pointed out that he was from a country that had not elected a President, yet had criticized a Prime Minister of a democratic nation. It also hosted a group operating against Israel.
Comments by the representative of Saudi Arabia, she said, had come from a country that had carried out public beheading. It “attacked anything that moved”, having killed 70 people when it bombed a wedding party in Yemen. Venezuela’s delegate had accused Israel of abusing human rights, yet it deprived its own citizens of their human rights.
She said the Palestinian delegation had repeated false accusations and had not answered why their leadership refused to negotiate. Lies had been answered, including in her delegation’s speech this morning, and an offer was made for President Abbas to discuss peace. She called on Palestinians to join Israel on the path for peace and reconciliation. “We aspire to peace and we are committed to the status quo,” she asserted.