Speakers Say Quartet Report Tries to ‘Draw Equivalencies’ between Suffering on Each Side of Key Middle East Conflict
The failure of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to advance peace had created a vacuum that extremists were stepping in to fill, Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon told the Security Council today, urging both sides immediately to begin discussions with the Middle East Quartet and to coordinate with regional stakeholders in efforts to break the entrenched political impasse.
Opening the Council’s quarterly debate on the Middle East, Secretary-General Ban called attention to the “irrefutable” message contained in the Quartet’s recent report on the situation: the more persistent the current negative trends, the more distant would prospects for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grow. The report’s 10 recommendations offered a practical approach to ending the political stalemate, resuming the transition to greater Palestinian authority in the West Bank, and charting a course towards negotiations to resolve all final status issues.
In such efforts, both sides would need to make compromises, and the international community would need to exercise influence to encourage them, he continued. “We must take a hard look at where this conflict stands,” he said, asking how much longer the world could accept the current political paralysis. He urged the Council to support the Quartet in working with the parties, the region and other interested stakeholders to advance peace.
Remarking on the Quartet’s 1 July report, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said it failed to deal appropriately with Israel’s criminal actions, illegal measures and constant provocations. It contained inappropriate attempts to draw symmetry between the occupying Power and the occupied people, seeking to manage the conflict rather than affirming the principles and parameters for a final and just solution and defining the means for reaching that objective. The failure to hold Israel accountable and to take bold measures for peace — as opposed to piecemeal confidence-building measures — was a futile approach that would only be met with further Israeli contempt, he said.
Israel’s representative, citing comments by Fatah officials, drew a direct line between incitement to hatred, spread by the Palestinian Authority, and terrorist attacks taking place in his country. The only way to achieve peace was by building a strong foundation to end terrorism and incitement, ending the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the nation of the Jewish people, and the Palestinians being willing to negotiate directly with Israel. Describing as “fiction” the report’s assertion that construction in Judea and Samaria obstructed peace, he pressed the Council to demand that Lebanon remove Hizbullah terrorists from the southern part of its territory.
In the ensuing debate, speakers called on both sides immediately to halt the violence and incitement to hatred. New approaches were needed to revive the peace process, they said, with some welcoming the Quartet report as a consensus-based document that offered a basis for dialogue and concerted action by the Council. The European Union’s representative urged both sides and other relevant stakeholders to implement the Quartet’s recommendations in full.
Egypt’s representative pointed out that his country had enjoyed a lasting peace with Israel, saying it was possible for Israelis and Palestinians to achieve the same. Egypt wished to see an independent Palestine, and its Minister for Foreign Affairs had recently made two visits to Israel and Palestine. It was listening to both sides and hoped that efforts to resume negotiations would succeed.
Lebanon’s representative welcomed the joint communiqué from the 3 June meeting held in Paris, which reaffirmed the need to end the Israeli occupation as well as the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative. Lebanon was encouraged by its mention of prospects for an international conference before the end of 2016, he said, emphasizing that the participation of all directly concerned parties and their full engagement in the preparations would be critical to its success.
Other speakers said the report attempted to “draw equivalencies” between violent Palestinian actions and disproportionate responses by the Israeli authorities. Venezuela’s representative said it should have been more balanced in describing the suffering inflicted on Palestinians and in acknowledging Israeli violence as its root cause. He pressed the Council to establish an international protection system for Palestinians in the occupied territories, in line with the Geneva Conventions.
Regarding the illegality of Israel’s construction activities under international law, Brazil’s representative said the report should have highlighted that aspect of Israel’s actions. Malaysia’s representative also expressed regret that the report sidestepped that question, declaring: “We must not stay silent” on that crucial issue. In addition, the question of ending Israel’s occupation was conspicuously missing from its recommendations, he noted.
With some speakers warning that the two-State vision risked devolving into a “one-State reality”, Angola’s representative said the international community was losing faith in a two-State solution, noting that Israel’s decision to advance settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem disregarded the Council’s decisions. The Council should push for practical steps that both sides could take to de-escalate tensions and start rebuilding trust, he stressed, noting: “None of us can convince them to trust each other.”
Still, Senegal’s representative said the Quartet report could contribute to the peace process as long as its powerful recommendations on halting some of the negative trends were implemented. The Russian Federation’s representative said the report reflected the international desire to maintain prospects for a two-State solution, since it stressed the need for intra-Palestinian unity and underscored the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
More broadly, speakers underlined the need to defeat extremist ideologies throughout the region, with several emphasizing that a Syria-led and Syria-owned political transition was needed to restore lasting peace in that country and defeat Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Pakistan’s representative said that in order to defeat ISIL, States bordering Syria and Iraq, as well as external Powers, must reconcile their divergent priorities.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, Uruguay, China, United Kingdom, Ukraine, France, Spain, New Zealand, Japan, Guatemala, Kuwait (for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Syria, Norway, Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), India, Kazakhstan, Ecuador, South Africa, Morocco, Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, Iceland, Turkey, Tunisia, Jordan, Maldives, Cuba and Indonesia, as well as the Permanent Observer of the Holy See and a representative of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 3:55 p.m.
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, described his eleventh visit to Israel and Palestine last month, during which he had carried a clear message to the leaders of both: “Time is running out.” That fact was also at the heart of the report of the Middle East Quartet, which had been criticized by some on both sides. However, its message was also irrefutable: as negative trends grew more frequent, the prospects for a two-State solution grew more distant. The report’s 10 recommendations offered a practical approach to ending the political stalemate, resuming the transition to greater Palestinian authority in the West Bank and charting a course towards negotiations to resolve all final status issues. Urging both sides immediately to begin discussions with the Quartet, he emphasized that they would both need to make compromises for peace, while the international community would need to exercise influence to encourage them.
“The failure of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to advance peace has created a vacuum,” he said, noting that extremist voices had filled that space. Those responsible for recent terror attacks must be held accountable. At the same time, closures, such as in Hebron, as well as punitive demolitions and the blanket revocation of permits, had penalized thousands of innocent Palestinians, which amounted to collective punishment. Days after the Quartet had called on Israel to stop building settlements, its Government had announced plans to build 560 housing units in the West Bank and 240 more in occupied East Jerusalem, he said, noting that those actions contradicted Israel’s official support for a negotiated, two-State solution. Israel should cease and reverse those plans, he said, stressing that they would not make the country more secure. Every brick added to the edifice of occupation was another taken from Israel’s foundation as a Jewish-majority and democratic State.
Similarly, Palestinians who encouraged attacks against innocents were not serving peace and their actions must be universally condemned, he continued, recalling that during his visit to the Gaza Strip, militant activities had continued to undermine the fragile ceasefire. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people remained displaced as a result of the 2014 conflict, and families were forced to live without electricity for 12 to 18 hours a day. Furthermore, the volatile situation in the Golan continued to undermine the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria, he noted, asking how much longer the parties — and the international community — could accept political paralysis. He urged the Council to support the Quartet in working with all parties, the region and other interested stakeholders in advancing peace. The children of Israel and Palestine deserved nothing less, he stressed.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said that the Quartet’s report of 1 July did not meet expectations and failed to deal appropriately with Israel’s ongoing criminal actions, illegal measures and constant provocations. It contained inappropriate attempts to draw symmetry between the occupying Power and the occupied people. It sought to manage the conflict, rather than affirm the principles and parameters for a final and just solution and define the means for reaching that objective within a set time frame, with international support and guarantees. The report’s characterization of nearly every Israeli action as a response to Palestinian actions was unacceptable and offensive, he emphasized, noting that its inability to describe the conduct of extremist Israeli settlers — including the burning to death of a young family asleep in their home — as terrorism was telling. The Palestinian people were suffering inflammatory and racist rhetoric and incitement, he said, calling the Council’s attention to recent statements by several Israeli leaders.
Noting the Quartet’s recognition of the destructive nature of settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and its designation of occupied Palestinian land for exclusive Israeli use, he said it was part and parcel of an illegal settlement campaign. “Israel is entrenching its occupation daily, hammering one nail after another into the coffin of the two-State solution,” he said, pointing out that the report failed to affirm that Israel was in grave violation of international law. The failure to hold Israel accountable and to take bold measures for peace — as opposed to piecemeal confidence-building measures — was a mistaken and futile approach that would only be met with further Israeli arrogance and contempt, he said, stressing also that the regrettable political divide in Gaza could not be used as an excuse to imprison nearly 2 million people and force them to live in the ruins of war and deprivation.
He went on to read excerpts from a letter to the international community from the father of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy killed when Israeli soldiers shot at the car in which he and friends had been returning from a swimming pool. The Israeli forces claimed to have been responding to stone-throwers, according to the letter, but the boys had not been throwing stones and had posed no threat to anyone. Time and again, Palestinian civilians had been killed by Israeli fire in situations in which the use of lethal force was unjustified. “An extremist climate prevails in today’s Israel and never has the value of Palestinian life been so cheap,” he said, citing the letter. So many parents had lost children to Israeli bullets fired in order to preserve an unjust military occupation. The international community, which was allowing Israeli to sustain its brutal occupation, could help to ensure that the teenager would be among the last of the lives taken, he said, adding that it should demand accountability and stand with calls for freedom, justice and peace.
DANNY DANON (Israel) recalled that, in recent weeks, Israelis had been massacred while having dinner; a girl had been stabbed to death in her bed and her father had been buried by his children after having been shot while driving home. Those acts had been the direct results of Palestinian incitement, he said, pointing out that the Quartet’s report noted the renaming of streets after Palestinians who had committed terrorist acts, and that Fatah officials had referred to them as heroes. “There is a direct line between the incitement to hatred, spread by the Palestinian Authority, and terrorist acts taking place in Israel,” he said. There would be no progress unless Palestinians put an end to terror and incitement and agreed to direct negotiations.
It was no surprise the Palestinian President had refused to meet with the President of Israel in Brussels last month, he said, noting that his refusal to negotiate was incentivized by some in the international community. Initiatives seeking to impose a solution on the two sides sent the wrong message that Palestinians could achieve all their goals while encouraging terror and refusing to talk. The only way to achieve peace in the region was by building a strong foundation to end terrorism and incitement; ending the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the nation of the Jewish people; and the Palestinians being willing to negotiate directly with Israel.
Describing as “fiction” the report’s assertion that Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria obstructed peace, he noted that the previous freeze on construction in those areas had not led to peace. When it had uprooted Jewish towns in Gaza, it had got war. Citing Council resolution 1701 (2006), he said Lebanon had never stopped Hizbullah, and instead, Hizbullah had transformed villages in southern Lebanon into terror outposts. Displaying an aerial photograph, he said it showed that one out of every three buildings in Shaqra had been turned into such military positions. Israel would forcefully defend its citizens if Hizbullah, Iran’s proxy, miscalculated as it had in 2006, he emphasized, adding that he expected the Council to demand that Lebanon implement resolution 1701 (2006) and remove Hizbullah terrorists away from the southern part of its territory.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States), noting that trends across the Middle East were moving in the wrong direction, said she shared the Secretary-General’s serious concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Condemning the fatal stabbing of a 13-year-old Israeli girl, she emphasized that there was no justification for terrorism. Describing Israel’s announcement of more settlement units as the latest step in a systematic process that fundamentally undermined prospects for a two-State solution, she expressed her delegation’s concern that continuing on the same course would result in a one-State situation. Turning to Gaza, she said the international community must speed up reconstruction and assistance. In Lebanon, politicians must show leadership and elect a President, she said, noting that two years of stalemate had hobbled the Government at a time of security risks. In Syria, the Assad regime was attacking civilians, besieging cities and hampering humanitarian aid, she noted, urging the Russian Federation to use its influence to help stop attacks.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said his country had a deep friendship with both Israel and the Palestinians, and had not given up hope, emphasizing the need for the international community to encourage the parties to resume negotiations. Describing the situation in Syria as “an affront to human dignity”, he urged all sides to respect the cessation of hostilities and condemned the use of hunger as a tactic of war. Turning to Yemen, he expressed his delegation’s concern over the removal of one country named on a list contained in a report of the Secretary-General concerning children in armed conflict. Pointing out that weapons being used in the Middle East could not have been manufactured by the warring parties, he said Member States from where they had originated shared responsibility for their use against powerless civilians, emphasizing that sooner or later, all those responsible would be held to account.
WU HAITAO (China) expressed his delegation’s support for the creation of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital and sovereignty as an inalienable right. Emphasizing that only the early resumption of peace talks would lead to regional peace and stability, he said the Land-for-Peace and Arab Peace Initiatives as well as the relevant United Nations resolutions would take the process forward. The two sides should exercise restraint and refrain from unilateral actions and use of force against civilians. Israel should stop building settlements, abide by international law and lift its blockade against the Palestinians, especially in Gaza. At same time, its legitimate security concerns must be respected, he stressed. Urging the international community to draw lessons from other hot spots in the region and explore broader efforts to promote peace on the basis of the Quartet, he said new initiatives must be encouraged. If negotiations took place, they should identify incentives in light of actions taken by both sides. China had always supported the restoration of legitimate Palestinian rights, he said, welcoming all efforts to ease tensions and achieve a two-State solution.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that his Government had hoped for a more balanced report from the Middle East Quartet, describing the suffering inflicted on Palestinians and acknowledging that Israeli violence was the root cause of that suffering. Israel’s refusal to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and its blockade of Gaza were the main causes of the rupture in Israelis-Palestinian relations. Venezuela had repeatedly stated its concern about the deteriorating situation of the Palestinian people. It rejected the extremist violence inflicted by the occupying Power, he said, recalling that more than 1,300 children had been wounded since during the last quarter of 2015 as a result of Israel’s actions. It was outrageous that its actions had not been condemned, he said. Urging a firm stance against settlement building, he pointed out that 60 per cent of Area C land was in the hands of Israeli settlers, adding that the colonization of Palestinian territory had also led to violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians. He called on the Council to help end the conflict, establish an international protection system for Palestinians in the occupied territories, in line with the Geneva Conventions, assume its own responsibility and call for an end to Israel’s occupation. The Quartet’s report should have taken a broader perspective of the conflict, rather than diluting Israeli responsibility, he said, underlining that one could not “draw equivalencies” between violent Palestinian actions and disproportionate responses by the Israeli authorities. Venezuela urged the promotion, within the Arab Peace Initiative, of a process towards a two-State solution, with a Palestinian State within internationally recognized borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said.
VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) described the Quartet’s report as a very important step, saying it reflected the international community’s desire to maintain prospects for a two-State solution, putting forward concrete recommendations that could lead to direct Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. The report stressed the need for intra-Palestinian unity, underscored the humanitarian situation in Gaza and welcomed the initiative by the President of Egypt, which could produce results. The important priority for the international community was resolving the conflict in Syria, he said, adding that his delegation expected a more positive attitude from its United States partners. That country must set propaganda statements aside and learn to assess the situation objectively, he emphasized. Turning to Yemen, he urged all sides to refrain from aggressive rhetoric. Noting that Libya had still not yet recovered from efforts to undermine State control resulting from outside interference, he said efforts to restore unity there were moving forward very slowly. Overall, negative trends in the region called for collective efforts from by entire international community, he concluded.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said new approaches and ways were required to revive the peace process. The international community must focus on the root causes of the situation as well as on the consequences of decades of occupation. Emphasizing that Palestinians had a right to freedom and hope for their lives, he said he would not dwell on the occupying Power’s determination to continue its settlement policy, or on how a new generation of Palestinians would only know life behind segregation walls, or on the lack of respect for holy sites. With the Middle East at a critical juncture, today was an opportunity to address the issue that could not be missed. Recalling that Egypt and Israel had enjoyed a solid and lasting peace, he said it was possible for Israelis and Palestinians to achieve the same. Egypt wished to see an independent Palestine, in accordance with international resolutions, and its Minister for Foreign Affairs had recently made two visits to Israel and Palestine. It was listening to both sides and hoped that efforts to resume negotiations would succeed, bringing a positive impact to the region. The situation remained fragile, but there was an opportunity to bring peace about, he said, stressing that ending the occupation would be the key to that endeavour.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said the international community was losing faith in the two-State solution, noting that Israel’s decision to advance settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem disregarded the Council’s decisions. Calling upon Israel to reconsider the implications of that strategy, he said the “moving” narratives by both Israeli and Palestinian representatives should encourage the Council to move away from a business-as-usual approach to the question. “The cost of this is too high,” he emphasized. After failed attempts to broker negotiations, it was clear that the adoption of a resolution was not realistic, as it had no influence on people who faced the grim daily reality. The Council should push for practical steps that both sides could take to de-escalate tensions and start rebuilding trust, he stressed, noting: “None of us can convince them to trust each other.” The international community must avoid taking decisions that would allow the violation of obligations, especially on Israel’s part, he said, adding that if leaders were sceptical of a two-State solution, Israel should engage in measures to build confidence in efforts to resume negotiations.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) warned that if the trends highlighted in the Quartet’s report continued, they would lead to a one-State reality of perpetual occupation and conflict, without security or statehood. There must be progress towards saving the two-State solution. Hopefully three messages could be agreed, the first being that the violence must stop, with leaders doing more to clamp down on inflammatory rhetoric and incitement. Secondly, policies such as settlement expansion into the West Bank, the legalization of outposts, and the re-designation of territory as Israeli State land were eroding the viability of the two-State solution, he said, citing a community near Nabulus that had faced three waves of demolitions and destruction of its only school, and asking what hope such actions held for a two-State solution. Finally, the dire situation of Gazans must be addressed, he emphasized, while calling on Hamas to commit to ending rocket fire against Israel. In turn, he called on Israel to lift restrictions and allow the Gazan economy to grow, while stressing that Palestinian leaders must reunify Gaza and the West Bank. Turning to Syria, he expressed alarm that regime forces were advancing into Dariyah in breach of the cessation of hostilities. The regime had also had cut the last supply route into east Aleppo city, he noted, calling upon States with influence to ensure a halt to such offensives.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union delegation, said the lack of direct dialogue and “snail-paced” political process taking place in the Middle East created an extremely unpredictable and explosive situation, threatening prospects for peace and a two-State solution. Calling on political leaders from all sides to work together and take visible actions to de-escalate the situation, he cited the warning contained in the Quartet’s report: “We are on a very dangerous track towards a one-State reality.” Turning to the Syrian crisis, he emphasized that sustainable peace would only be possible after an internationally recognized political transition, based on the principles of the Geneva Communiqué. The only way forward was a results-oriented discussion on the establishment of a credible, inclusive, non-sectarian governing transitional body, followed by a new constitution and elections. However, Ukraine was concerned about the behaviour of the Syrian authorities, who seemed to lack the willingness to engage in genuine discussions, he noted. Expressing support for the intra-Yemen peace talks hosted by Kuwait, he warned that the parties should not interpret the absence of a final agreement so far as a pretext for attempts to change the front line, stressing that the ceasefire must be upheld and strengthened.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) warned that, without action, the two-State solution could disappear and there could be a general flare-up in the region. While the parties shared responsibility for resolving the conflict, it was undeniable that Israeli settlements undermined efforts to achieve that solution. The 3 June meeting in Paris had been the first stage in international efforts to salvage the two-State solution, he said, noting that the meeting had sought to reaffirm collective support for that goal. Among other things, it had aimed to create a climate that was conducive to dialogue. It represented the beginning of a process that would require further efforts, such as the creation of a package of incentives for the conflict parties that would build upon other ongoing efforts, including the recommendations of the Quartet report and the Arab Peace Initiative. Another goal was to pursue dialogue in support of an international conference that would bring the parties together before the end of 2016, he said.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, expressed support for the French initiative seeking to galvanize international support and re-create the political horizon for a two-State solution. While the Quartet’s report was timely, Malaysia regretted that it sidestepped the question of the illegality of Israeli settlements. “We must not stay silent” on that crucial issue, which fed despair and tensions across the region, he emphasized, warning that such a silence would shield actions that eroded prospects for a two-State solution. In addition, the issue of ending the Israeli occupation was conspicuously missing from the report’s recommendations, he noted. While Malaysia did not condone violence, there was a need to address the root causes of tensions, he said, expressing support for legal and legitimate platforms for Palestinian protest. Sadly, when Palestinians went to Israeli courts to seek redress for injustice, 94 per cent of their cases were closed without prosecution, he said, pointing out that Palestinian efforts to bring their concerns to the United Nations and other international forums were similarly rebuffed.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said that land seizures, settlement expansion and the blockade of Gaza had exacerbated the decades-long conflict. While Senegal welcomed the Quartet’s report as a consensus-based document aiming to build bridges and focus on security and humanitarian issues, it regretted the trend of having Palestine and Israel “put in the same basket”, since Israel’s occupation was the main cause of the conflict. Nonetheless, the report could contribute to the peace process as long as it was implemented, especially its powerful recommendations that could halt some of the trends, he said, recalling that over the years, more than 500,000 Israelis had settled in Area C, which was to be the main part of a future Palestinian territory. That undermined Israel’s commitment to a two-State solution, as did its announcement, just two days before publication of the Quartet’s report, that it would continue building. He urged Israel to end its settlement expansion and enter negotiations to meet legitimate Palestinian aspirations for a State within the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Turning to Gaza, he said the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation there should force the Council to take action. The idea of an expanded Quartet also deserved serious consideration, he said, pressing for greater Council engagement in seeking a solution.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) welcomed the Quartet’s report, which noted that a two-State would not be viable if the status quo persisted. It offered recommendations for the two sides and recognized the role of the international community. Rejecting violence and terrorism, as well as incitement to violence, he emphasized that the Quartet’s success would hinge on its ability to revitalize the peace process. Spain advocated respect for international legal frameworks, including United Nations resolutions, and Israel must stop demolitions and land seizures, he said, noting that it controlled 60 per cent of Area C. Expressing support for the 3 June joint communiqué agreed at the Paris conference, he said Spain had proposed a meeting of religious leaders who could deliver a message of tolerance and dialogue. It was also ready to engage in efforts for intra-Palestinian reconciliation, he said, noting that the Palestinian Authority’s return to Gaza would be a key factor in overcoming the current impasse.
GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said the Quartet’s report had found that Israel had appropriated much of the West Bank, thereby eroding the viability of a two-State solution. That was not to justify the violence and incitement, he emphasized, describing terror tactics as “reprehensible”. While the report did not go as far as New Zealand would have liked, it provided a useful analysis of the most significant threats to the peace process. Furthermore, it was significant that four key Quartet stakeholders — the United States, Russian Federation, European Union and the United Nations — had agreed on a common diagnosis of the situation. The parties must demonstrate the political will to negotiate and make difficult compromises for peace, with the Council playing an important role in that regard, he said, describing as “constructive” a proposal by the United States that the Council issue a presidential statement in response to the report.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity, saying that most of the challenges facing the Middle East — including conflicts and the spread of violent extremism — had been initiated or exacerbated by the weakening of governance. In Syria, the Council bore the primary responsibility to facilitate a political transition to a credible, inclusive and non-sectarian Government, as laid out in resolution 2254 (2015), he said. Operations to counter Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) were under way in Iraq, but much remained to be done to stabilize the freed areas and achieve national reconciliation. Emphasizing the importance of inclusiveness and coexistence, he described three focus areas of Japan’s contributions in the region: assistance on social stability, humanitarian assistance and human capital development in such areas as public-sector reform, job creation through industrial development and improving education opportunities.
CARLOS RAÚL MORALES MOSCOSO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, associated himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressing deep concern over recent terrorist attacks in the Middle East. Welcoming efforts by the International Syria Support Group, he echoed concerns about the situation in Aleppo, in particular the fact that some 300,000 people were trapped in the eastern part of that city due to continuing clashes. Air strikes and bombings had resulted in many deaths and injuries, and were hampering humanitarian access, in clear violation of international law. Condemning the deplorable killings of a 13-year-old Israeli girl and a 48-year-old rabbi, he also warned that some statements by Israeli representatives were not conducive to peace. While the international community should not lose hope of negotiating a two-State solution, more political will was needed, he emphasized.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), citing home demolitions in the West Bank and inflammatory rhetoric by Israeli officials, described the situation on the ground as “gloomy”. Welcoming the 3 June Paris meeting and its joint communiqué reaffirming the need to end the Israeli occupation and highlighting the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, he said he was also encouraged by its mention of the possible convening of an international conference before the end of 2016. Critical to its success would be the participation of all directly concerned parties and their full engagement in preparations. Recalling that Israel had launched a 33-day war against his country 10 years ago, he said 1,109 Lebanese had died, the vast majority of them civilians, adding that Israel had used cluster bombs during that conflict. While claiming to abide by resolution 1701 (2006), Israel had committed 11,856 violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and occupied the northern part of Ghajjar, he said, adding that his Government had sought the Secretary-General’s good offices for the delineation of the disputed maritime border and exclusive economic zone between the two countries and looked forward to the Special Coordinator’s role in that respect. He pressed the Council to ensure that Israel compensated Lebanon for damage related to the oil spill caused during its 2006 bombardment of the Jiyyeh power plant.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) emphasized that the basic prerequisite for a just solution in the Middle East was the creation of an independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, based on pre-1967 borders and with Al-Quds al Sharif as its capital. Unfortunately, that appeared to be a more distant prospect than at any other recent time, she said, warning that the continuing construction of illegal Israeli settlement was the most serious impediment to such a solution. In addition, the Israeli Government had obfuscated on the revival of the peace process and its oppressive occupation continued. Gaza remained a “virtual prison”, while conditions in the West Bank continued to become more chaotic and violent. To defeat ISIL, States bordering Syria and Iraq, as well as external Powers, must reconcile their divergent objectives and priorities and evolve agreed measures to overcome the political, religious and ethnic divisions in those countries. In Yemen, the restoration of peace through political reconciliation and respect for international law was vital, she stressed.
ABDULAZIZ S M A ALJARALLAH (Kuwait), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the present meeting was taking place against the backdrop of a serious deterioration in the situation on the ground, which was a result of Israel’s continuing hostile actions. The conflict could only be resolved by ending the occupation, he said, emphasizing the Council’s responsibility to deal seriously and urgently with the prolonged conflict. Noting that the occupying Power continued its extrajudicial killings of Palestinians and that “gangs of terrorist settlers” continued to attack Palestinian civilians, with Israel’s full consent, he stressed that those actions constituted crimes against humanity with no statute of limitations. He called on the Council to add the leaders of extremist Israeli factions to the list of terrorists wanted under international law, and expressed deep concern about Israeli measures that rose to the level of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. The Council must intervene to prevent Israeli attacks, which only fed into extremism and racism while creating a religious conflict in the holy land.
JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, Head of the European Union delegation, emphasized that a Syria-led and Syria-owned political transition, in accordance with Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva Communiqué, was necessary to bring lasting peace to that country, defeat ISIL and all terrorist organizations, and enable Syrians to return to their homes in safe conditions while contributing to their country’s reconstruction. There was urgent need to create the conditions for serious direct talks aimed at agreeing on a broad, inclusive, non-sectarian transitional governing body with full executive powers, and, among other things, all parties must respect the cessation of hostilities. Condemning all violations of international humanitarian law, attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, as well as the excessive and disproportionate attacks committed by the Syrian regime against its own people, he said the European Union would step up its support for the Syrian opposition and encourage unity among opposition groups.
The surge of terrorist attacks witnessed recently in Iraq was a sign that ISIL was losing ground on the military front, he continued. However, every attack was a breeding ground for further sectarian tension in the country and a region that required cohesion and unity in the face of a complex crisis. In that regard, the European Union supported Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi’s efforts to build an inclusive Government, as well as his programme of reforms and efforts to provide safety, services and opportunities for the country’s citizens. Turning to the Middle East peace process, he said there was no alternative to a negotiated two-State solution that would meet both Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty. Concerned, however, that a two-State solution “could be slipping beyond reach”, he urged both parties and other relevant stakeholders to implement the Quartet’s recommendations in full. Warning that Israel’s continuing settlement policy, illegal under international law, constituted an obstacle to peace and threatened to make a two-State solution impossible, he also called on Palestinian leaders to consistently and clearly condemn specific terrorist attacks and step up efforts against incitement to violence.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), noting the scores of resolutions adopted over the years on the question of Palestine, asked when Palestinians would enjoy life and dignity in their long-hoped-for independent State. He then asked when Israel would withdraw from Lebanese territory and from the Syrian Golan. Was it not time for powerful forces to find a formula for implementing United Nations resolutions? Saying he wished to pose that question to Governments keen on international law and the credibility of the United Nations, he noted that Israel was ignoring all relevant United Nations resolutions concerning the Syrian Golan, including Council resolution 497 (1981). The occupation authorities were systematically violating human rights, continuing settlement activity and stealing resources there. Under the so-called “farms policy”, 750 new farms were being established in the Syrian Golan and soon, some 750 families would be settling them. That situation left Syria with no other option than to oppose the occupation by all legal means, he said, adding that he would not respond to “improper” comments about his country by representatives of the United States and the European Union, which were a distraction from the agenda item at hand.
HALVOR SÆTRE (Norway) said the key message from both the Quartet’s report and the Paris Conference was the urgent need for decisive action to save the two-State solution. Nevertheless, he warned, the situation on the ground pointed to a “one-State reality”, and the parties should demonstrate their serious commitment to showing leadership in reversing such disturbing trends as settlement expansion and the continuation of violence. While the international community could not take over the responsibility of the parties to resolve the conflict, it must play an active role in developing a credible framework, based on existing agreements and United Nations resolutions, for resolving all final status issues, he emphasized. Through its chairmanship of the international donor group for Palestine, Norway was actively engaged in preparing Palestinian institutions for statehood and sustaining the Palestinian economy on a path towards greater self-reliance and independence. As for Syria, he stressed that the need to find a political solution there was more urgent than ever, and all sides bore a heavy responsibility to turn the talks into a credible negotiating process that could lead to a genuine political transition, in line with Council resolution 2254 (2015).
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, asked how the Council could remain silent as Israel continued its repression of the Palestinian people. The destructive impact of Israeli violations was immense, he said, emphasizing that any justification for such criminality must be rejected. It was past due time to act on the question of Palestine, in line with United Nations resolutions, international law “and our moral responsibilities”. The Non-Aligned Movement urged the international community — particularly the Security Council — to end the occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands, thereby paving the way for the fulfilment of the rights and independence of the Palestinian people. “The status quo is unsustainable forever,” he said, reaffirming the Non-Aligned Movement’s longstanding solidarity with the Palestinian people. Concerning the situation in Lebanon, he said that country continued to suffer Israeli violations of its borders and airspace, in blatant violation of its sovereignty and Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), which should be implemented in such a way as to guarantee the consolidation of Lebanon’s stability and security. Regarding the occupied Syrian Golan, he said the Non-Aligned Movement condemned all measures by Israel, the occupying Power, to alter its legal, physical and demographic status. It demanded that Israel abide by resolution 497 (1981) and withdraw fully from the Syrian Golan, as per resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), emphasizing that the war in Syria must be solved through a Syria-led and Syria-owned political process, expressed concern over the lack of progress in the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. Condemning all war crimes, crimes against humanity and terrorist acts committed in Syria, he stressed the need for accountability and urged all parties — and their supporters — to ensure compliance with their obligations under international humanitarian law. Describing the inquiry into the Iraq as a reminder of the perils of military intervention without a Security Council mandate, he also condemned the 3 July terrorist attacks that had killed 200 people in that country. Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said the Quartet’s report should have highlighted the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Brazil expected developments such as the ministerial meeting in Paris to inspire the Council to lead international efforts for the creation of a free, independent sovereign viable State for Palestinians, within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. As for Libya, he urged parties there to ensure compliance with the Libyan Political Agreement, while encouraging those in Yemen, and their supporters, to join efforts to restore peace, which would lead to a draft constitution, electoral reform and general elections.
TANMAYA LAL (India) emphasized the need for courageous steps to ensure a negotiated two-State solution, which was the only viable option for sustainable peace in the Middle East. It was the responsibility of both sides to ensure that they moved closer to a solution, rather than farther away, and the international community — led by the Council — must be firm in its resolve to assist the people on both sides wherever required. Stressing his country’s long record of solidarity with the Palestinian people, support for the Palestinian cause and assistance to Palestinian nation-building, human-resource development and capacity-building efforts, he said a just solution to the conflict must result in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognized borders side-by-side in peace with Israel. Welcoming the announcement of an agreement on the guiding principles for peace talks in Yemen, he also underscored the need for a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned inclusive political transition, while expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in that country.
BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said his country’s Government fully endorsed the longstanding proposal to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East as an important step towards regional and global security. Calling upon all parties concerned to exercise understanding and trust so as to overcome the hurdles that had prevented the establishment of such a zone thus far, he said that, given current trends, the world, and the Middle East in particular, faced risks that could not be underestimated. A world free of conflict would require addressing injustices created by global policies, which were the root cause of tensions and impeded development. The principles of international law must be reaffirmed and respected by all countries, and accompanied by decisive steps towards demilitarization, he emphasized.
HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador) said that establishing an independent State of Palestine should be a fundamental priority task for the United Nations, expressing concern about the lack of effective action within the Security Council. Nevertheless, France’s proposal to hold talks on bringing lasting peace to the Middle East provided some elements of optimism. Had the international community taken advantage of earlier opportunities to resolve the question, the world would have been saved a great deal of human suffering and avoided the many reprehensible terrorist actions adversely affecting global peace, he noted. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict would require a political solution, even if grave violations of international law and human rights had taken place, he said.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, expressed support for a two-State solution, emphasizing that lasting peace would remain a distant dream unless Israel and Palestine agreed to exist side by side. Regarding the situation in Syria, he expressed regret over the worsening situation as Syrians were killed and forced to live under bombardment. In that regard, he called upon the Council to pay closer attention to the continuing persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minorities in that country, also asking the international community to stop the illegal supply of arms to non-State actors responsible for crimes against humanity and other forms of mass atrocities. Among other things, religious faiths and believers must put an end to any form of mutual hatred that could lend credence to the notion of a “clash of civilizations”, he stressed.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) welcomed the French initiative, endorsed by the international community in Paris in June, describing it as an attempt to revive the peace process and prevent the prospects for a two-State solution from slipping away. The conference had been like a drop of rain after a long drought, he said, quoting his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. Noting that the Palestinian reaction to the Quartet’s report indicated some level of disenchantment with that entity, he said that in of that document, the international community must assert its moral and legal weight by insisting that the peace process unfold in line with international legal frameworks, with the United Nations acting as a neutral arbiter. The fact that Israel could announce plans to build more West Bank housing units, immediately after the Quartet’s call for a halt to such activities, undermined the Quartet’s effectiveness, he pointed out, emphasizing that the Security Council must dissuade unilateral measures that might impede realization of a two-State solution.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said the international community was distracted by other developments, but the question of Palestine remained the pivotal topic in the Middle East. Morocco supported the French initiative as well as the proposal to convene an international conference to revive the peace process. Noting the recent Quartet report, he called on that entity to work with both sides to push the peace process forward. The Arab Peace Initiative, which called for an independent Palestinian State within the pre-1967 borders, was the only way forward, he said, urging the international community to reinvigorate the peace process with a clear time frame based on Council resolutions.
HAHN CHOONGHEE (Republic of Korea) welcomed the efforts taken by the international community to facilitate the resumption of the peace process, including the Paris Conference. It was unfortunate that reactions to the Quartet report were raising questions about whether the concerned parties had genuine intentions. Expressing great concern over the Government of Israel’s recent decision to build more settlements, he stressed the need for confidence-building mechanisms. On Syria, he noted that the recent agreement on a nationwide ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday and improvement in humanitarian access were commendable steps. However, the situation on the ground, “stop-and-go” humanitarian access and the ongoing use of besiegement tactics were worrisome.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said the world expected the Council to act in a determined, visible and sustained manner to find a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question. The continued occupation of Palestinian territories, systematic human rights violations, indiscriminate attacks against civilians and expansion of illegal settlements by Israel constituted an affront to the values and principles of the United Nations. In the absence of any international accountability or sanctions, the occupying Power continued to kill Palestinian citizens and imprison Palestinians. That would only serve to indefinitely postpone the Middle East peace process, thus destabilizing the prospects for a two-State solution, he stressed. For its part, the Council had a moral obligation to prevail upon Israel to halt its illegal settlement construction, lift the blockade in the Gaza Strip and end all forms of occupation, he said, adding that immediate priority must be given to ensuring international protection for the Palestinian people who had been suffering for decades from Israel’s policy of collective punishment.
EINAR GUNNARSSON (Iceland) welcomed the Quartet report, saying it described the threats to a negotiated two-State solution. Violence and incitement to violence, on both sides, had received due attention, and the report also cited the detrimental effects of settlement expansion, land designations for exclusive Israeli use, denial of Palestinian development and demolition of Palestinian structures. Urging Israel to implement significant policy shifts, including the transfer of powers and responsibilities in Area C, he said that would provide a basis for action by the parties to the conflict, first and foremost, and also by the Council, which would have the opportunity to back up the report’s recommendations with instructions to the parties. It was time for the Council to throw its weight behind the Quartet’s conclusions with a resolution, he emphasized.
WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia), Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted that the Government of France had recently brought key stakeholders to Paris for talks, which had helped improve the prospects for peace. Further, the Quartet had published its long-awaited report containing recommendations for resolving the conflict. The Committee underscored the need for strong and determined steps to reverse the negative trends that had put the prospects for peace at risk. The international community was unanimous in its view that the only way to find enduring peace was through a political solution. The Committee supported efforts through multiple forums, including by hosting a recent international conference in Geneva that had brought together experienced negotiators and experts to discuss lessons learned and potential future initiatives. Leadership that provided a political horizon and immediate changes on the ground would be essential for peace.
GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey), drawing attention to the deteriorating situation on the ground, said the expansion of illegal settlements, land confiscations, displacement of communities and the denial of Palestinians’ rights to use natural resources had eroded the viability of the two-State solution. With the total area allocated to settlements doubling since the Oslo Agreements, he said the historical injustice against the Palestinian people was fuelling resentment, alienation and radicalization in the region. The only way out of that impasse was to convince the Palestinians that their future would be better than today, he said, adding that the recognition of the State of Palestine by 137 countries would raise hopes. For its part, Turkey had allocated $200 million for the period of 2014 to 2017. Regarding Syria, he stressed that his country continued to shoulder a big part of the burden stemming for the conflict. Stressing that humanitarian and security repercussions of the crisis constituted a direct security threat to Turkey, he said the chaos in the northern part of Syria had only played into the hands of terrorists.
ANOUAR MISSAOUI (Tunisia), expressing concern about the illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and land confiscations, said such practices undermined the implementation of the two-State solution and raised the question about Israel’s commitment to the peace process. The international community must step up its efforts to put an end to the illegal and illegitimate settlements, he said, emphasizing that hopelessness and resentment had continued to worsen the situation on the ground. In conclusion, he said the “time has come to address the question of Palestine in the Security Council.”
AMJAD MOHAMMAD SALEH AL-MOUMANI (Jordan) said that, as a Council member, Jordan sought to give momentum to resolving the Middle East conflict. The main issue was still the Palestinian question, which was restricting all efforts to achieve peace in the region. With Israeli violations taking place on a daily basis, the Council must to live up to its responsibilities. What Israel did on the ground contradicted its public declarations and erected obstacles to renewed negotiations. The King of Jordan was using all his contacts to stand up to Israel’s attacks on sanctuaries. The influx of Syrian refugees into neighbouring countries and Europe demonstrated the size of Syria’s humanitarian crisis. Jordan was fulfilling its moral obligation to them, but it was taking a toll on its limited resources and the international community needed to provide more support in line with the promises made in London in June. It was a matter of deep concern that terrorist groups controlled parts of Syria, Iraq and Libya while perpetrating attacks elsewhere. The war against deviant factions, particularly ISIL, which had deformed the image of Islam, was a potential “World War Three” that required coordination among all nations.
MARIYAM MIDHFA NAEEM (Maldives) said it was evident in practice that Israel had not recognized the right of a sovereign Palestinian State to exist. “We are witnessing a complete and total delegitimization of the grievances and aspirations of the Palestinian people,” she said, adding that the denial of the right to development in Palestine contradicted the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda. She called on the Council to devise a practical, immediate and sustainable solution to the conflict and to take immediate action. The solution was not to have circular debates in the Council about what was not working, but to find a new approach that would reap practical results. She also condemned Israeli violations of the territorial and sovereign rights of Lebanon and the occupied Syrian Golan.
ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) said despite repeated open debates on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the Security Council had been unable to adopt a resolution that would put an end to illegal settlements. As such practices undermined the viability of the two-State solution, she stressed that the Council must fulfil its responsibility in maintaining international peace and security. Turning to the situation in Syria, she warned Member States against the promotion of an interventionist agenda as it would undermine the principles of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of States. Acknowledging the efforts made by the Syrian Government, she stressed that the delivery of humanitarian assistance must be observed closely.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said resolving prolonged conflicts and ending foreign occupation remained the greatest challenges confronting the United Nations, particularly the Council, which had the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. So far, the 15-member body had adopted 89 resolutions on the Palestine-Israeli conflict, yet none of them had been respected, he stressed. While taking note of the Quartet, he said that it had failed to capture the reason behind the conflict, which was the Israeli occupation. “For over sixty years, the Palestinian people have been left without a homeland,” he said. “They have been robbed of their dignity and forced to live in subjugation.” In that regard, if the international community were to restart a credible peace process, the grief, anger and sense of despair of Palestinians must be acknowledged, he said, noting that the longer the occupation continued, the more violence the world was likely to see.
A representative of Israel said that by falsely attacking her country, some speakers today had shown that they would not let the facts confuse them. Their remarks either showed a clear lack of knowledge or perpetuated a biased approach against Israel, she said, rejecting the drawing of moral equivalence between settlement construction and terrorism. Responding to Iran’s representative, she described his country as a leading sponsor of terrorism which had made no secret of wishing for the destruction of another Member State. Israel also rejected the comparison of her country to Da’esh by the speaker representing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. To Lebanon’s delegation, she cautioned that those who lived in glass houses should not throw stones, and nor should those harbouring terrorist organizations within their Governments criticize a democratic State. She told her Palestinian colleagues that the only way to address outstanding problems was to join Israel in direct negotiations, emphasizing that while her country wanted and prayed for peace, there could be no progress without an end to terror and incitement.