He Urges Lebanon’s Parliament to Fill Vacant Presidency, Warns of Tensions in Occupied Golan Rising Even Higher as Fighting Expands
The Israeli-Palestinian-Israeli conflict had reached a pivotal point, and with no signs of an end to the violence that erupted in October, the onus was on both sides to shape their future before the opponents of peace decided their fate for them, the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today.
Briefing the Council via video teleconference from Jerusalem on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, Nickolay Mladenov said that security measures were not enough on their own to halt a spiral of violence that had claimed at least 137 Palestinian and 19 Israeli lives to date. “Against the backdrop of radicalization, terror, sectarian violence, war and tectonic geopolitical shifts in the Middle East, peace and security for Palestine and Israel is imperative, now more than ever,” he emphasized.
Stressing the Middle East Quartet’s efforts over the past year to preserve the prospects for a two-State solution, create conditions for meaningful negotiations to resolve final-status issues and end the occupation, he told Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as international stakeholders, that there were “clear avenues” out of the political morass, but it would take unity of effort and bold, creative action to move forward. “The conflict has arrived at a pivotal point,” he said. “Israelis and Palestinians must now actively shape their future, with the dedicated support of the international community, before the opponents of peace decide their fate for them.”
He reiterated his strong condemnation of all acts of terror and violence, including, most recently, a 31 January incident in which a Palestinian security officer opened fire at a checkpoint near Ramallah, injuring three Israeli soldiers, and another on 3 February at the Damascus Gate, in which an Israeli border policewoman was killed by three assailants. The attackers, who had also been killed, had been carrying semi-automatic weapons, pipe bombs and knives.
The planning and construction of Israeli settlements remained an impediment to peace, he continued, noting the demolition of 29 Palestinian-owned structures per week on average so far in 2016 — three times the average for 2015. “These actions run directly counter to the idea of peace,” he said, adding that Palestinians also bore a responsibility to create an environment conducive to peace. He underscored that forming a national unity Government and holding long-overdue elections would be vital for laying the foundation of a Palestinian State, but glorifying violence and terror on the part of some Palestinian factions was a matter of particular concern.
Touching upon the situation in the Gaza Strip, he said that Hamas continued to threaten Israel’s security directly, as indicated by the collapse of five tunnels so far in 2016 and continuing rocket fire into Israel. Gaza’s population was being squeezed “from all sides” and tensions were on the rise. Cautioning that it would not be enough to rebuild houses, he underlined the need for jobs, clean water, sufficient energy, free movement for people and goods, and integration with the West Bank under a single democratic and legitimate Palestinian Authority.
He went on to express deep concern about the deteriorating condition of Mohammed al-Qiq, a Palestinian journalist who had begun a hunger strike more than 85 days ago to protest his administrative detention, and joined the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in calling for all those in administrative detention to be charged or released immediately.
Turning briefly to the situation in Lebanon, he expressed deep concern about that country’s ability to tackle its many challenges as long as the presidency remained vacant. On behalf of the Secretary-General, he called upon members of parliament to convene urgently and elect a new Head of State. Regarding the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), he reported that Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace had continued “on an almost daily basis”.
In the occupied Golan, meanwhile, fighting between the Syrian military and armed groups, as well as between different factions, could potentially raise tensions even higher, he warned.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 3:17 p.m.