26 April 2018
8244th Meeting (AM)

Amid Rising Tensions, Potentially Explosive Miscalculations, Everyone in Middle East Must ‘Step Away from the Brink’, Regional Coordinator Tells Security Council

Speakers Voice Concern about Deadly Incidents at Gaza-Israel Border, Urge Both Parties to Stop Violence, Resume Peace Talks, in Day-long Debate

Amid escalating tensions, outside interference and growing risks of potentially explosive miscalculations, from Gaza to Syria to Yemen, everyone in the region must “step away from the brink”, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today.

“What happens in the Middle East today has immediate implications for the rest of the world,” said Nickolay Mladenov, cautioning that a general lack of progress should worry everyone.  “The fires of the Middle East continue to expand and shift, and the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict remains a perpetual source of oxygen for militants and radicals across the Middle East.”

With such rapidly shifting dynamics, he said, the United Nations was tirelessly working to prevent further deterioration while supporting national processes across the region and particularly in Gaza.  “I firmly believe there is a way out,” he said.  “These challenges are political, man‑made and, thus, resolvable if all sides firmly commit to supporting practical solutions in Gaza that can be implemented quickly, effectively and sustainably.  But, Gaza is only part of the story.  We must also step up our efforts to support parties in advancing a sustainable Israeli‑Palestinian peace on the basis of the two‑State solution.”

Following the briefing, both sides delivered statements reflecting their delegations’ perspectives on the stalled peace process at a time when tensions were flaring over demonstrations for Palestinians’ right to self‑determination and deadly violence along the security fence separating Israel from Gaza.

“There is nothing peaceful about terrorists firing over the fence at our positions,” said Israel’s representative, stressing that the protests were not nonviolent nor the product of grass‑roots efforts.  Instead, Hamas’ goal was to infiltrate Israel’s territory and harm as many innocent people as possible, he said, underlining his country’s right to protect its citizens.

“The truth, however, is that Israel does not want peace,” said the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, recounting recent deaths of innocent protesters at the border fence in an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing against non‑Jews.  The protesters had only been demanding their rights, including to return to their land, he said, stressing that Palestinians were living through the longest military occupation and the most protracted refugee crisis in modern history.

During the day‑long debate, delegates overwhelmingly urged both parties to stop the violence, return to peace talks, hammer out an agreement and move the two‑State solution from paper to reality.  Peru’s delegate echoed a common call for an independent investigation of deadly incidents at the Gaza‑Israel border fence to hold perpetrators accountable.

Many representatives urged Israel to end construction on occupied lands, with Bolivia’s delegate asking that the Council be provided with up‑to‑date maps of settlement activities.  Others asked Israel to employ calibrated responses and the Palestinian Authority to assert control over Gaza.

Deploring the growing humanitarian crisis, delegates pledged support for continued assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), including Japan’s representative, who announced a $10 million contribution.  Many voiced approval of the Secretary‑General’s Personal Representative and his going efforts to calm tensions.

But, new developments threatened to add fuel to the fire, some said.  Several representatives, including those from Kuwait, Russian Federation and South Africa, pointed at the decision of Guatemala and the United States to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Agreeing, María Rubiales de Chamorro, Vice‑Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said such unilateral decisions contravened relevant United Nations resolutions, irreversibly setting back prospects for peace and derailing the viability of the two‑State solution.  Current peace process issues included the joint establishment of Jerusalem‑Al‑Quds (East Jerusalem) as the respective capitals of Israel and the State of Palestine.  Against that backdrop, she welcomed and supported President Mahmoud Abbas’ peace initiative, as presented to the Council on 20 February, noting the international consensus regarding a peaceful and just solution to the question of Palestine.

Delegates also voiced other concerns about pressing issues in the region.  Syria’s delegate said the Special Coordinator had failed to mention Israel’s violations in the Golan.  Meanwhile, the United States’ representative expressed alarm at the widespread use of human shields in conflicts across the region, including by Hamas, Hizbullah, Houthi militants and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

Spotlighting concerns about air strikes in war‑torn Yemen that had recently targeted and killed 50 guests at a wedding party, Côte d’Ivoire’s representative said that despite the international community’s concerted efforts, the humanitarian situation across the country would continue to deteriorate in the absence of an inter‑Yemeni political dialogue.  He also, like other delegates, expressed strong support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.

On the situation in Syria, the representative of the European Union condemned the repeated use of chemical weapons, with a recent attack in Douma breaching international law.  He also highlighted the pledging conference in Brussels on earlier in the week that had mobilized $4.4 billion to address humanitarian needs in Syria.  Qatar’s representative noted her Government had committed $100 million to that effort.

Also delivering statements were representatives of the United Kingdom, China, France, Poland, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Sweden, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia (for the Arab Group), Brazil, South Africa, Iran, Norway, Liechtenstein, Venezuela (for the Non‑Aligned Movement), Turkey, Namibia, Pakistan, Morocco, Botswana, Indonesia, Cuba, Maldives, Malta, Nigeria, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Egypt, Iceland, Iraq (for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Jordan, Bahrain and Bangladesh, as well as the Holy See and the League of Arab States.

The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and ended at 4:48 p.m.


NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary‑General, briefed the Council on recent developments in the Middle East, warning of escalating tensions, outside interference and growing risks of miscalculations, from Gaza to Syria to Yemen.  “What happens in the Middle East today has immediate implications for the rest of the world,” he said.  “Everyone in the Middle East needs to step back from the brink.”

Amid rapidly shifting dynamics, he said, the United Nations was tirelessly working to prevent further deterioration while supporting national processes region‑wide.  Underlining the need for consistent support for multilateralism in promoting security, stability and development, he said prevention must be at the centre of efforts, a much‑needed approach when dealing with the Palestinian‑Israeli conflict, which remained a central part of the regional quagmire.  Until occupation ended and a two‑State solution was achieved, the conflict would remain among the key drivers of the extremism threatening regional stability.

Raising grave concerns, he said Gaza was “coming apart as we speak”.  Another conflict between Hamas and Israel would have devastating consequences for Palestinians in Gaza.  Amid a month of demonstrations leading up to 15 May in the context of the “Great March of Return”, Israeli defence forces had killed 35 Palestinians and injured many more along the Gaza border, where incidents of planting improvised explosive devices had also been reported.  Israel must calibrate its response and Hamas must keep protesters away from the border fence and prevent violence and provocations, he said, echoing the Secretary‑General’s repeated calls for restraint and a full investigation of all incidents.  The rights of all civilians, including children, must be respected.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Gaza was also worsening, he continued.  Salary freezes and cuts for civil servants persisted and faltering public services would soon move further towards a total collapse.  He called on the Palestinian Government to resume public sector payments and on Israel to relax movement and access restrictions to enable economic recovery.  The United Nations was working with partners to prioritize energy and water initiatives, he said, urging all stakeholders to support the $540 million humanitarian appeal for 2018 to meet pressing needs.  He also urged all Palestinian factors to engage with Egypt and redouble efforts to enable the legitimate Palestinian Authority to be fully empowered in Gaza.

Gaza was a “powder keg”, he said.  “We must do everything possible to prevent another war in Gaza.”  To address those concerns, he called on the international community and the Council to support United Nations efforts and key stakeholders.  Raising concerns about the situation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he said pledges of $100 million would only ensure the continuation of operations until the summer months.  In Gaza alone, UNRWA served as a lifeline for more than 1 million people.

On other matters, he raised concerns about continued settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and vandalism against property.  Turning to Lebanon, he underlined the importance of the upcoming elections, noting that the United Nations was working to ensure inclusivity and credibility and that the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon remained engaged with regional stakeholders.  In southern Lebanon, the Blue Line zone remained calm, but tense, after Israeli construction continued amid Lebanese demonstrations, with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) liaising closely with parties to prevent misunderstanding or miscalculations.

Warning of the broader, regional consequences of escalating crises in Gaza, he said what was happening today in Gaza was an injustice that no man, woman or child should have to endure — the deplorable living conditions, the consequences of the continued, suffocating closures and control by Hamas and the mounting risk that Gaza could trigger a new conflict.  “People should not be destined to spend their lives surrounded by borders they are forbidden to cross or waters they are forbidden to navigate,” he said.

“I firmly believe there is a way out,” he said.  “These challenges are political, man‑made and, thus, resolvable if all sides firmly commit to supporting practical solutions in Gaza that can be implemented quickly, effectively and sustainably.  But, Gaza is only part of the story.  We must also step up our efforts to support parties in advancing a sustainable Israeli‑Palestinian peace on the basis of the two‑State solution.”

With tensions mounting across the region, he said the lack of progress should worry everyone.  “The fires of the Middle East continue to expand and shift, and the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict remains a perpetual source of oxygen for militants and radicals across the Middle East,” he said.  “Establishing a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the conflict would eliminate a chronic source of instability and violence from the region.  The United Nations will continue to expend every effort in pursuit of that objective.”


RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said Mr. Mladenov’s statement must be viewed in the context of the constant harassment and intimidation to which the United Nations and its representatives were exposed each time they risked taking a public, principled stand on the question of Palestine.  Israel, the occupying Power, continued to bully States into artificial, “balanced” positions, despite the absolute lack of symmetry in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Noting that the situation was exemplified by the dire situation in the Gaza Strip — where 2 million Palestinians, mostly refugees, had long been subjected to an illegal Israeli blockade that only compounded their misery — he said Gaza’s residents and Palestinians elsewhere had been “beyond patient”.  They had long endured upheavals, crises, assaults and deep deprivation.  Contrary to Israeli propaganda, their recent protests on the occasion of Land Day, on 30 March, had been carried out peacefully and by unarmed civilians.

Emphasizing that the protesters had been demanding their rights — including return to their land and to self‑determination — he said they were also calling for an end to the Israeli blockade that had long served as a collective punishment.  “Exercising their right to peaceful assembly, these men, women and youth are protesting an oppression that cannot be endured any longer, pleading for their voices to be heard,” he said, emphasizing that the Palestinians were living through the longest military occupation and the most protracted refugee crisis in modern history.  Against such a backdrop, “restraint should be seen as extraordinary” and protests must be viewed as a natural response to the illegal, cruel Israeli occupation.  Israeli officials should not have been surprised to see civilians stand up for their dignity and freedom, he said, noting that the protesters — including children — had been targeted with live ammunition in a blatant “shoot to kill and maim” pattern.  At least 41 Palestinians had been killed since the protests began and more than 5,000 injured.

“The international community must demand answers from Israel,” he said, adding that the Council’s failure to address the situation was itself unjustifiable.  Urging its members to condemn Israel’s crimes with one voice, demand their cessation, protect civilians and demand an investigation into recent incidents, he welcomed calls by the Secretary‑General to launch in independent, transparent investigation through an international mechanism.  “The truth, however, is that Israel does not want peace,” he said.  Israel must not continue to receive support from — and even be rewarded by — the Council, a body it had never respected and even mocked and undermined.  Recounting the tragic deaths of several Palestinian protesters — including a 15‑year‑old boy — he said thousands of other Palestinians before them had also been murdered in Israel’s ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing against non‑Jews.  All those crimes were being committed in a deliberate breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Charter.

Recalling that President Mahmoud Abbas had come before the Council on 20 February to present a new peace plan, centred on established international terms of reference and parameters for a peaceful resolution, he said that proposal was a serious attempt to bring the situation back from the brink.  However, no compromise efforts would be successful if, at every juncture, Israel continued to respond with aggression and contempt.  Indeed, no plan that disregarded the fundamental principles of respect for international law and the right to self‑determination would ever succeed.  That was why the United States decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital, in violation of Council resolutions, had so negatively impacted the chances for resuming peace talks.  Voicing regret that several States had further emboldened Israel — including Guatemala, through its recent decision mirroring that of the United States — he called on the international community to remain resolute in rejecting Israel’s illegal policies and practices, support UNRWA during its unprecedented funding crisis and work to de‑escalate the dangerous situation on the ground.

DANNY DANON (Israel) said that, for the past few weeks, Hamas had orchestrated a series of provocations and confrontations along the security fence between Israel and Gaza.  “There is nothing peaceful about terrorists firing over the fence at our positions,” he added.  Hamas continued to use innocent Palestinian women and children as human shields, while they cowered behind in safety.  Israel had an obligation to protect its citizens and do so while minimizing civilian casualties.  Like any law‑abiding country, Israel had always ensured that, when necessary, incidents would be investigated by proper authorities.  In the same vein, however, he said:  “Israel will never apologize for defending our country.”

Israel cared deeply about innocent lives but Palestinian leaders continued to exploit every innocent death for their shameless public relations campaign, he said.  “And it is Hamas that is fully responsible for every Palestinian injury and death,” he said.  Just two weeks ago, Israel’s security forces uncovered the longest and deepest Hamas terror tunnel discovered to date, he continued, adding that some members of the Security Council had criticized Israel’s response.

Urging Member States to ask themselves a simple question, Mr. Danon wondered: How would you react if armed terrorists were marching on the border of Kuwait?  What would you do to protect the people of Sweden, or Bolivia, if a violent mob threatened to infiltrate?  The answer, he said, was simple:  “You would defend yourselves.  We will do the same.”  He reiterated that the protests were not peaceful nor the product of grass‑roots efforts.  Hamas’ goal was to infiltrate Israel’s territory and harm as many innocent people as possible.  Palestinian leadership must be held accountable for that, he emphasized, urging Member States to pressure Palestinian leaders to “end their charade”.

Iran was the common thread behind Hamas, Hizbullah, and the Assad regime in Syria, he said, noting the 80,000 Shia militants in Syria under Iranian control.  The Iran threat could be stopped but only if the international community acted together.  In two and a half weeks, the United States would announce its decision regarding the fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  “The [Iranian] regime proudly parades its missiles in city centres.  Written on the sides of these missiles are calls to destroy Israel,” he said.  United States President Donald Trump was focused on important changes to the current situation, “because he knows it will make the world safer”.

Mr. Danon stressed the need to increase monitoring and oversight of Iran’s finances, which had grown significantly since the lifting of sanctions.  Iran continued to send money directly to Hizbullah.  It had also used the money to build weapons factories and terror bases in Syria and Lebanon.  “All the signatories to the agreement must now make a choice,” he stressed, adding:  “You have one opportunity to right the wrongs of this deal.”  Israel would not allow regimes that sought its destruction to acquire nuclear weapons. “Period.”

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said the Council’s monthly debate on the Middle East should shed light on the many different conflicts in the region.  On the use of women, children and men as human shields, she recalled that the European Union had recently condemned Hamas for that practice.  The use of human shields was present in conflicts across the region, including by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Hizbullah and Houthi militants.  Iran was the patron of many groups using human shields, which was part of its overarching efforts to destabilize the region.  Humanity itself was lost when the barbaric practice of using human shields continued, she said, calling on the Council to rise up to address that grave concern.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), emphasizing that all actors must abide by their obligations to international law, said an immediate concern was to prevent further violence.  Those having influence over Hamas were making that perfectly clear and Israel must exercise restraint.  Meanwhile, border crossing restrictions must be lifted.  The international community had an important role to play, including lending support to UNRWA.  The situation in Gaza would be vastly improved with the restoration of the Palestinian Authority, she said, pledging her delegation’s commitment to support the Secretary‑General’s Personal Representative in his ongoing efforts.

ZHAOXU MA (China) said the conflict must be fully resolved before the violence would end.  Yet, settlement construction continued and the number of casualties grew, he said, urging the international community to boost efforts to support the peace process, with the two‑State solution being the only way forward.  Relevant Council resolutions must also be swiftly implemented and all parties must meet each other halfway to create the necessary atmosphere for resuming dialogue.  China supported the peace process with a view to establishing an independent Palestinian State.  To do so, efforts must also be strengthened to promote peace through development.  Turning to the complex issue of Jerusalem, he said all parties must implement international consensus for achieving a peaceful co‑existence.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), raising concerns about recent violence in Gaza, said investigations must identify perpetrators and all parties must respect international humanitarian law and human rights.  Israel was a democracy and must uphold the rules of engagement and stop using lethal weapons against civilians.  Hamas must stop using ongoing protests in Gaza as a means to threaten Israel’s security.  The Council must speak with a strong, united voice to preclude an escalation of tensions.  Associating the recent violence with the deteriorating humanitarian situation, he said worsening conditions were fuelling protests by young people who felt they had “nothing left to lose”.  The Palestinian Authority must regain control over Gaza and Israeli restrictions on border crossings must end to ease humanitarian suffering, he said, calling on the United States to return its support to UNRWA.  Going forward, negotiations towards peace must align with agreed frameworks, with the Council respecting those parameters.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, called for a return to meaningful bilateral negotiations based on relevant United Nations resolutions and international law, the creation of a political horizon, and continued efforts to achieve a two‑State solution.  Noting that the work of the Middle East Quartet — and especially the participation of the United States — would be helpful to reactivate the Middle East Peace Process, she also called for more active involvement by some regional countries.  Echoing Mr. Mladenov’s concerns about the possible spillover effects of the conflict, especially when the Middle East already faced so many other challenges, she urged Israel to respect the Palestinians’ fundamental right to peaceful protest and to exercise proportionality in the use of force against unarmed protesters, even as it defended its legitimate security interests.  She also called for a thorough and objective investigation of the incidents that had taken place at the Israeli‑Gaza border since 30 March and urged all sides to act with utmost restraint and responsibility.  Poland endorsed the common European Union position to the effect that Jerusalem should assume mutual recognition of historical relations and national rights of both parties, and in support of resolution 478 (1980) on the location of diplomatic missions until the city’s final status was resolved.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), expressing concern that fighting in Syria continued unabated despite ISIL’s military defeats, said the issues underpinning that conflict, as well as the one unfolding in Yemen, were even bigger than they appeared.  Political solutions remained out of reach and humanitarian needs on the ground were huge.  Meanwhile, the use of chemical weapons — “even if we are still not definitive about attributing blame” — was becoming a serious challenge that undermined international norms.  Expressing concern over the recent escalation in Gaza, he called on all sides to exercise maximum restraint.  Turning to Gaza’s critical humanitarian situation, he called for efforts to enable the Palestinian Authority to exercise full control over the territory — as stipulated in the Cairo Agreement — which would improve the economic and humanitarian situation while also advancing Palestinian unity and providing an impetus for the peace process.  Ethiopia had always supported Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as well as the Palestinians’ inalienable right to self‑determination and to a free and independent State.  Cautioning against actions that could detract from efforts to achieve a two‑State solution, he said the recent tragedy in Gaza demonstrated that “the demand for justice will never disappear as long as there are objective reasons on the ground that call for it”.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed grave concern about Middle East conflicts ranging from Syria to Gaza to Yemen and beyond, which had led to tragic loss of life on a great scale.  Far from seeing signs of resolution, those situations were worsening, as was the case between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.  Peace in the region could hardly be sought without resolving the latter, he stressed, calling on parties to refrain from unilateral actions that could hinder dialogue.  Frank, direct negotiations without preconditions were critical, and the final status of Jerusalem must be one of the outcomes of those talks.  Calling on all parties to respect international law and act in line with relevant Council resolutions, he said there was no other possible solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict other than a negotiated two‑State solution.  The international community must redouble its diplomatic and mediation efforts, but it must respect the fact that Israelis and Palestinians bore the primary responsibility to reach a peaceful agreement.  Equatorial Guinea had always supported Israel’s right to exist as well as the Palestinians’ right to self‑determination, he said, condemning the clashes that had led to the loss of innocent Palestinian life during the recent protests in Gaza and called for a thorough and independent investigation into the incident.

THÉODORE DAH (Côte d’Ivoire), echoing expressions of alarm over the three weeks of clashes on the Gaza border, called on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from unilateral actions that could only exacerbate the situation.  His delegation supported a two‑State solution leading to Israel and Palestine as free States living side by side in peace and security.  Voicing concern over UNRWA’s financial shortfall, and calling on States to support the Agency, he said the Middle East continued to face other critical challenges including a regrettable failure to implement the ceasefire in Syria as unanimously demanded in resolution 2401 (2018).  He urged the parties to adhere to that text, and to work to defuse the conflict through inclusive political dialogue in line with the Geneva peace process and resolution 2254 (2015).  Despite concerted efforts by the international community, Yemen’s humanitarian situation would continue to deteriorate in the absence of an inter‑Yemeni political dialogue.  He condemned air strikes that had targeted a wedding ceremony in that country earlier in April, killing some 50 people — as well as similar strikes against Saudi Arabia — and expressed Côte d’Ivoire’s strong support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.

VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said the Middle East’s continued chaos was a direct result of foreign geopolitical experiments.  The Israeli‑Palestinian issue remained central to the region’s stability — despite attempts by some States to sideline it — with destructive trends becoming all the more evident.  Expressing concern over the recent protests on the Gaza border, he condemned terrorist acts as well as the indiscriminate use of force against civilians, and called on the parties to refrain from actions that would further deteriorate the situation.  In that vein, he expressed grave concern about the United States decision to hold a ceremony on 14 May marking the transfer of its embassy to Jerusalem, which risked escalating tensions across the region to dangerous levels.  The Russian Federation supported efforts to achieve a two‑State solution through a political process based on well‑established international legal bases.  Reiterating the Russian Federation’s offer to host peace talks between the parties, he described cuts to UNRWA’s funding as unacceptable and warned that they risked radicalizing the Palestinian ranks.  All initiatives proposed by the Russian Federation in the past — including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s proposal to initiate a comprehensive review of the conflicts plaguing the Middle East — remained on the table, he said, underscoring the need to rebuild trust between Iran and the Arab world and safeguard the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) touched on several issues, beginning with Syria, urging all parties there to exercise restraint, ensure the safety of civilians and allow their safe evacuation.  On Lebanon, he welcomed the formation of a new Government and said it was essential to help it consolidate its constitution and democratic process, which remained contingent on developments in neighbouring Syria.  Turning to Iraq, he supported the position of preserving the country’s unity, which should be based on equal rights and justice for all citizens.  Iraq’s authorities must abide by international law, he said, expressing concern for the Turkish woman sentenced to death on charges of supporting ISIL.  He also expressed support for prioritizing the development agenda in Libya and urged all parties in Yemen to commit to establishing a cessation of hostilities.  Regarding the Middle East peace process, he expressed support for a two‑State solution and called for the early resumption of negotiations.

KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that after four weeks of protests, more than 30 people had been killed, which included 4 minors, and thousands had been injured.  He called on Israel to ensure that its responses to the protests were proportionate and necessary at all times and in line with its obligations under international law.  However, the high number of victims, including paramedics, as well as the death of journalist Yasser Murtaja, raised serious questions about Israel’s response.  He also called on the de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority to ensure that protests remained peaceful, reiterating the need for an independent and transparent investigation into the matter.  Turning to developments in Lebanon, he noted that the country would hold parliamentary elections on 6 May.  If properly executed, the elections would reinvigorate public trust in Lebanon’s democratic institutions and represented an opportunity to reinforce the positive momentum of the Rome, Paris and Brussels conferences.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said Israel was violating Council resolutions, including attacks that had been launched against peaceful demonstrators in Gaza.  However, the Council had, to date, failed to respond to those attacks by calling for a full investigation and had been impotent in getting Israel to abide by provisions of Council resolutions.  As the occupying Power was routinely flouting international legitimacy, it clearly lacked all credibility in running for Security Council membership.  Noting that the relocation of certain diplomatic missions to Jerusalem also violated international agreements, he said East Jerusalem was the capital of Palestine and called on all Member States to recognize it as such.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said recent reports on ongoing violence had shown that Israel was violating international law and an investigation must identify perpetrators who had fired live bullets on Palestinian protesters.  He warned that current tensions would again flare as the date neared for the transfer of the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem.  Condemning the continuation of Israeli construction on occupied lands, he called for the release of up‑to‑date maps on settlements.  Turning to UNRWA, he said more support for the Agency was needed.  Expressing support for the work of the Quartet, he said a two-State solution remained the only solution.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) condemned the killings of 34 Palestinians, noting that Israeli security forces had used live ammunition, including when shooting at children.  The incidents raised serious concerns and must be swiftly and fully investigated.  Moreover, all actors, including demonstration organizers, must place the protection of children first, neither putting them at risk for nor encouraging them to participate in violence.  Noting the upcoming “historically charged” period in mid‑May, he said that “the birth of one State, while being a joy to many, brought suffering for others”.  The commemoration of those events would coincide with the planned move of the United States embassy to Jerusalem.  Sweden’s position on the status of Jerusalem as a final status issue and a future capital of both States, including the location of diplomatic representations, was clear and would remain unchanged.  Multilateral efforts to advance peace must be drastically increased, and in that regard, it was worth exploring President Abbas’ plans for an international conference with a view to establishing a multilateral mechanism for peace.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, saying there was a need for a transparent, independent investigation of recent violence in Gaza.  Welcoming generous contributions with a view to supporting the work of UNRWA, he said it was equally urgent that Palestinian and Israeli parties resumed negotiations towards peace.  Expressing concern about ongoing violence and breaches of Council resolutions, he said such actions undermined the chances of reaching a two‑State solution.  He encouraged political, social and religious leaders on both sides to work towards re‑establishing a constructive dialogue to end the cycle of violence and humanitarian crises.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said support for the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights were a central tenet of the Arab consensus, as reaffirmed at the Dharan Arab Summit in Saudi Arabia earlier in April.  Jerusalem had taken centre stage at that meeting, with Arab leaders unanimously condemning and rejecting the United States decision, he said, also condemning the killing of dozens of innocent civilian protesters in Gaza.  Citing consensus over the disassociation policy towards the conflict in Syria, he said there were over 1.2 million displaced persons in Lebanon and joined others in calling for a political solution to that conflict.  Despite support from partners to help Lebanon host those displaced Syrians, his country still faced serious challenges and threats to its security and stability, especially from daily Israeli violations of its sovereignty by air, land and sea.  Israel also continued to insist on building a wall on occupied Lebanese territory and in disputed areas.  Urging Israel to respect Council resolutions that called for its full withdrawal from the occupied Lebanese territory, he said nowhere were the United Nations recent discussions about sustaining peace and addressing the root causes of conflict more relevant than in the Middle East.  Ending the Israeli occupation and withdrawing Israeli troops from Arab and Lebanese territories would go a long way towards bringing peace and stability to the region, he said.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said his delegation respected both Palestinians’ right to peaceful demonstrations and Israelis’ right to security.  Violence could never be justified and would solve nothing, he said, calling on both parties to exercise maximum restraint.  Citing a tangible risk of escalation that could lead to further casualties in mid‑May, he echoed the Secretary‑General’s calls for a swift, independent and transparent investigation in order to prevent further escalation and casualties.  “Behind the current situation, there is a lack of hope for the Palestinian people,” he said, citing the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, continued settlement activities in the West Bank in violation of international law and cuts to UNRWA’s funding that had increased Palestinians’ anxiety.  “These hopeless conditions are feeding radicalism and do not benefit either party,” he stressed, announcing Japan’s decision to provide an additional $10 million to UNRWA.  Describing a range of other development projects through which Japan aimed to support the Palestinian people, he said they alone could not achieve peace, and called on the parties to take concrete steps to resume negotiations.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said the United States provided protection as Israel continued to violate hundreds of Council resolutions, encouraging it to commit heinous crimes and killings.  Syria continued to support Palestinians in their right to return home, he said, condemning the “deliberate ignorance” of the Special Coordinator for not touching on Israel’s serious violations in the Golan.  “Derailing from his mandates makes him incapable of doing what he was tasked with,” he added, stressing that the Golan was an occupied Syrian territory.  He asked why Member States had not rejected Israel’s stealing of natural resources such as water and energy.  Israel continued to support terrorist groups.  Syria had a sovereign, non‑negotiable right to the Golan, he reiterated, urging Israeli settlers to leave the territory and end the overall occupation of Arab land.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) underscored Palestinians’ right to life, return to land and self‑determination.  He called for the establishment of an international investigation committee to shed light on the events of 13 March and on all incidents in which unarmed civilians had been killed by Israel.  He reiterated the Arab identity of Jerusalem and the right of Palestinians to control their land.  Israel must withdraw from all occupied territories including the Golan, he said, calling for the creation of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Turning to Iran, he said that country funded Hizbullah and fuelled war in Syria and Yemen.  One third of the missiles fired into Saudi Arabia from Yemen had been manufactured by Iran, he emphasized, citing United Nations findings.  Iran acted in clear violation of Council resolutions, he said, urging the Council to not tolerate Iran’s aggressions.  On Syria, he condemned the chemical attack by the Syrian regime, which called for a serious response by the international community.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that Israeli violations had affected many generations of Palestinians in flagrant violation of international norms and United Nations resolutions.  In light of the aggression by the Israeli authorities, a unified international position rejecting the status quo and supporting Charter principles was needed.  He also emphasized the need for lasting peace in the Middle East as embedded in the Arab peace process, stressing the centrality of the Palestinian cause and the Arab identity of occupied East Jerusalem, which would remain the capital of Arab Palestine.  The recognition by States of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would result in repercussions for the region at large.  Moreover, negotiations had to be time‑bound to bring the conflict to an end on the basis of the two-State solution.  He rejected Israel’s unilateral steps to undermine that solution, noting that resolution 2334 (2016) condemned the settlement and confiscation of Palestinian lands.

He went on to condemn recent aggressions against Palestinian protestors, calling for an open, transparent and independent investigation into the incidents related to the “Great March of Return”.  Calling for pressure on Israel to exercise self‑restraint, he said that country should refrain from using live ammunition against Palestinian protestors who were commemorating the seventieth anniversary of Al‑Nakba.  Such violations had the effect of rendering the humanitarian situation on the ground, particularly in Gaza and the camps, more dire.  Also, basic services were threatened because of UNRWA’s budget issues.  He called on the international community to bridge that financial gap.  Finally, he expressed support for all serious efforts to revive the peace process on the basis of the two‑State solution.

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, European Union, said that its objective remained to restore a political horizon and an appropriate framework for political progress, together with regional and international partners, starting with the Middle East Quartet.  It was important to avoid any steps eroding the viability of the two‑State solution, in particular continued Israeli settlement activity.  A negotiated two‑State solution was the only realistic way to bring about lasting peace and security, and all final status issues should be resolved on the basis of international law.  Regarding recent protests and violence at the Gaza border fence, he said it raised serious questions about the proportionate use of force.  Taking note of the fact‑finding assessment mechanism established by the Israel Defence Forces, he said facts must also be established regarding reports about violent attacks against Israel under the guise of protests.

He went on to say that the European Union had made important efforts in recent months to improve the situation in Gaza and support the return of the legitimate Palestinian Authority to the enclave.  It had convened an extraordinary ministerial‑level session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on 31 January, and a regular meeting of that body on 20 March.  In Brussels, it had co‑chaired a donor conference for the Gaza desalination plant, receiving pledges of €456 million, €77 million of which had come from the Union.  Turning to the conflict in Syria, he strongly condemned the repeated use of chemical weapons, noting that the latest attack on Douma was a grave breach of international law.  The European Union regretted the multiple vetoes by the Russian Federation of the Joint Investigative Mechanism mandate renewal in November, urging the Council to rapidly re‑establish an independent attribution mechanism ensuring accountability for such attacks.  At the second Brussels conference on April 25 on the future of Syria, $4.4 billion had been mobilized for 2018 to support operations to address the humanitarian situation inside Syria and the needs of refugees and their hosts across the region.  Multi‑year pledges of $3.4 billion had also been made for 2019‑2020.

FREDERICO SALOMÃO DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) said the final status of Jerusalem must be decided between Israel and Palestine, in accordance with relevant Council resolutions.  He expressed concern over the situation in Gaza, reiterating that civilians must be able to demonstrate peacefully.  “The recent escalation has resulted in many deaths, including of young people,” he said.  In Syria, he called for an exhaustive independent investigation into the recent chemical weapons attack, stressing that all parties must fully respect international law.  The Syria conflict could only be resolved through a political solution and he expressed full support for the Special Envoy.  In Yemen, where humanitarian catastrophe continued to unfold, the only way to end that conflict and respond to people’s needs was through a negotiated solution.  He urged respect for resolution 2216 (2015), regarding Yemen’s arms embargo, and support for stabilizing a volatile environment in Lebanon.

AZIZ PAHAD (South Africa) said that recent events in the Gaza Strip could be seen as symptomatic of the lack of will and commitment to a political process for resolving the conflict there.  “New generations of Israelis and Palestinians grow up knowing nothing but the conflict between themselves,” he noted, expressing concern about Israel’s use of force on a frustrated population in the enclave.  While the voices of that population continued to be ignored, “the parameters of what we have come to accept as a two‑State solution begin to dwindle,” he said.  South Africa supported all initiatives towards a negotiated solution, including the recent proposal by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to convene an international summit.  Unilateral action, particularly on final status issues, undermined the revival of the peace process.  Such actions included building illegal settlements and the recognition by some Member States of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  On the dire financial situation faced by UNRWA, he said South Africa would continue to support the Agency through its financial contributions.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Israeli regime worked “day and night to negate any right for Palestinians”.  Israel was a rogue State but not to those who believed in illegal occupation, illegal settlements, apartheid, the theft of resources, collective punishment and mass murder.  Despite such actions, Israel proclaimed itself the only democracy in the Middle East.  However, the latest mass murder by the Israel Defense Forces had begun at the start of Passover.  As a result, dozens of unarmed Palestinians had died and thousands had been wounded.  There was “no doubt” that those attacks had been planned.  The unlawful announcement on Al‑Quds Al‑Sharif and the imminent transfer of the United States Embassy to that city only exacerbated the problem.  He reaffirmed Iran’s support for Palestinians’ legitimate and inalienable rights.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), expressing deep concern over violent clashes on the Gaza‑Israel border, urged all parties to use restraint.  Lethal force against unarmed protesters was unacceptable.  While Israel had a right to protect its borders, its use of force must be proportionate.  He outlined priorities to improve the situation in Gaza, notably increasing water access and energy distribution.  Norway was in talks with Egypt on how best to help the 2 million Gazans, he said, urging an end to all policies that obstructed civilian needs.  He called for the Palestinian Authority to reinstate its full authority in Gaza and for the Cairo Agreement to be fully implemented.  On the heels of the chemical attacks in Syria, he underscored the need for Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors to continue their investigations.  While the Brussels conference for Syria had yielded $4 billion in pledges, those funds were still less than half the estimated need.  He expressed full support for the Iran nuclear deal, calling it a milestone for international peace and security.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) expressed concern over the Council’s paralysis on the situation in Syria, recalling that no fewer than 12 vetoes had been cast on proposals to address that conflict.  Moreover, its rare decisions — including the ceasefire mandated under resolution 2401 (2018) — had been ineffective, and blatantly disregarded by the parties.  Warning that the conflict had turned from a civil war into a threat to the stability of the region and beyond, he expressed Liechtenstein’s continued support for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism on international crimes committed in Syria, emphasizing that accountability must be an integral part of the country’s peace process.  The long‑stalled Middle East peace process was now further threatened by recent developments in Gaza, he said, expressing concern over reports of excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings and support for the establishment of an independent, transparent investigation.  Reminding the Council that the situation was under preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court, he also urged its members to live up to their responsibility to protect civilians in Yemen from such serious international crimes as their deliberate targeting and the blocking of humanitarian aid deliveries.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled the commemoration of several anniversaries in 2017, noting that 2018 would mark the seventieth anniversary of Al‑Nakba, by which the Palestinian people had lost their homeland in 1948.  He called for the exertion and intensification of all necessary efforts to bring that injustice to an end and advance a peaceful and just solution.  Moreover, he emphasized that all measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel, the occupying Power, were null and void and had no legal effect.  In that regard, he demanded that Israel abide by resolution 497 (1981) and withdraw fully from the occupied Syrian Golan to the 4 June 1967 lines.  The Movement welcomed President Mahmoud Abbas’ peace proposal presented to the Council on 20 February, extending its support to his call for an international peace conference.  Resolution 2334 (2016) provided the most viable path to peace, setting forth essential requirements and parameters for a just solution, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid Guiding Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet road map.

He went on to recall the recent tragic events which had left more than 30 Palestinians dead and more than 3,600 injured in less than a month’s time.  In that regard, the Movement condemned Israel’s excessive and disproportionate use of force against Palestinian civilians engaging in the “Great March of Return”, a peaceful civilian protest against Israel’s illegal occupation.  International action, particularly by the Council, must ensure accountability for and a cessation of violations committed by the occupying Power.  The international community must also ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and across the Occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, in order to prevent further loss of life.  In that context, the bloc’s members expressed grave concern about the lack of accountability for Israel’s violations, which fostered impunity and further destabilized the situation on the ground.  It would be alarming for a country with such a background to become a non‑permanent member of the Council, he pointed out.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) strongly condemned the disproportionate use of force by Israeli forces on Palestinians participating in peaceful demonstrations.  In order to achieve peace, Israel must show political will and refrain from provocative actions, he emphasized, adding that Palestinians must also act in unity and work for national reconciliation.  Turning to UNRWA’s financial crisis, he recalled that his country had announced an additional $10 million for the Agency’s programme budget and had increased its in‑kind donation as well.  Turkey had also pledged €11 million to the Gaza desalination plant project.  Regarding the conflict in Syria, he said his Government had been actively contributing to counter‑terrorism and stabilization efforts, clearing more than 4,000 square kilometres from terrorists.  Local residents had begun to return to towns in Afrin, and 160,000 Syrians had voluntarily returned so far to the Euphrates Shield area.  His Government was also working on new United Nations cross‑border humanitarian assistance shipments to Afrin, with the first shipment delivered in early April.  The Astana forum was an important international initiative to reduce violence there and adopt confidence-building measures.  The Astana guarantor States, in a joint statement in November, had underlined that a political solution to the conflict should be achieved through a Syrian‑owned, Syrian‑led process, leading to a constitution and free and fair elections under United Nations supervision.  On 28 April, the foreign ministers of those States would continue their efforts and elaborate on the next steps.

SIMON KASSAS, Observer of the Holy See, appealed for political and military leaders in Syria to choose the path of negotiations, and for the international community to give more attention to the conflict in Yemen.  Reiterating the Holy See’s strong support for the two‑State solution, he said all nations had an obligation to respect the historical status quo of Jerusalem.  He went on to emphasize that the Security Council remained a key actor in ensuring that peace efforts would be guided by international law.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s statement urging Israel to exercise caution with the use of force.  He also pressed the Council to find a lasting solution to bring peace to Syria.  Any unilateral action in that regard was incompatible with the Charter, he pointed out, urging Council members to remain united in pursuit of justice and peace based on the principles of multilateralism.  Urging Israel to stop building settlements and destroying Palestinian homes and infrastructure, he also called for Israel’s unconditional withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said there was consensus among the Council and wider international community that achieving peace in the Middle East would contribute to tackling the many other challenges facing the region.  In that regard, it was essential to abandon violations of international law, she stressed, condemning Israel’s acts against unarmed civilians and urging the Council to uphold civilians’ right to protest.  Israelis and Palestinians could live side by side with a two‑State solution in accordance with relevant Council resolutions.  Israel must end its illegal occupation of all Palestinian land, including the Golan, and restore the rights of the Palestinian people.  Turning to Syria, she condemned the chemical weapons attack and expressed support to the military action taken by the United States, United Kingdom and France.  The Syrian people wanted peace and stability, she emphasized, noting her Government’s $100 million contribution to Syrian relief made yesterday in Brussels.  She warned that the continued almost two‑year blockade against Qatar was having negative implications in the region.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) recalled that, in the Gaza Strip, 35 Palestinians, including children as young as 14, had died while “this Council could not even agree on a call for an independent and transparent investigation into the incidents”.  Peace in the Middle East could only be built on the foundations of a two‑State solution, she said, warning that a one‑State “illusion” would provide neither peace nor security.  Regarding the situation in Syria, the use of chemical weapons by anyone was abhorrent, she said, welcoming the deployment of the OPCW fact‑finding mission.  The situation in Yemen remained precarious, with 22 million people in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.  Pakistan would extend its full support to diplomatic efforts aimed at finding an inclusive political solution there, including efforts under the aegis of the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) said the “Judaization” policy being implemented by the occupying Israeli forces was aggravating tensions in the region and preventing a resumption of the peace process.  Moreover, using force against unarmed civilians was deplorable and perpetrated the cycle of violence, he pointed out.  Settlements were continuing to be built in contravention of United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolution 2334 (2016).  Jerusalem held a privileged status for the believers of the three monotheistic religions, and therefore occupied a special legal status and must not be threatened in any way.  He recalled that the King of Morocco had recently visited Palestine and had been received by President Abbas.  The goal of the visit was to reaffirm his country’s unchanging goals and support the Palestinian leaders and people.  The visit was also a chance for consultations in terms of rejecting attempts to take Jerusalem from Arabs and Muslims.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, said that the Security Council remained unable to play its crucial role in maintaining international peace and security due to paralysis in its decision‑making mechanisms.  Some Council Members continued to threaten the use the veto and to provide protection to one party at the expense of another.  The Council had been unable to act without double standards when dealing with different Arab issues, undermining its own credibility.  He urged the Council to affirm the principle of a two‑State solution without preference to one party over the other.  The establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital was more urgent than ever before.

He called on the Council to conduct an investigation of Israel’s attacks on protestors without being distracted by claims that Palestinians use children as shields.  Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories and settlement expansion were serious threats to international as well as regional peace and security.  He also added that the League did not see Israel as illegible to become a non‑permanent member of the Council for 2019‑2020.  Israel continued to violate international law and explicitly disrespect the United Nations and its Member States.

LORATO MOTSUMI (Botswana), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that, even after 70 years, her country would not tire from expressing its position on the question of Palestine.  Calling for intensified efforts towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace, she said Botswana was deeply concerned by growing tension between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Botswana supported the President Abbas’ proposals, made before the Council in February; encouraged all parties to respect all relevant United Nations resolutions; and supported the two‑State solution.  She went on to reaffirm solidarity with the Palestinian people and support for the ongoing efforts of the Council, the Secretary‑General, the Special Coordinator and UNRWA.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, pressed the Council to “wake up from its very dangerous inertia” on the question of Palestine.  Indeed, 2018 marked not only the seventieth anniversary of Al‑Nakba — the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians from their lands — but nearly three quarters of a century that the world had waited for a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict.  Citing increased violence in the last month, he declared:  “The killing of unarmed civilians violates every known provision of international law and human decency.  It must end.”  The international community must reaffirm and preserve efforts towards a negotiated two‑State solution on the basis of pre‑1967 borders, within a defined timetable in accordance with internationally recognized terms of reference, including the Arab Peace Initiative.  Appealing to States to avoid provocative actions or pronouncements that contradicted United Nations resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, he warned that “we have already seen their implications”.  Turning to Syria, he called on parties to respect international law and United Nations resolutions, adding that a credible political solution to that conflict must fully respect Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, echoed concerns over the heightened tensions in the Middle East as well as Israel’s criminal aggression in the Gaza Strip.  That brutal, disproportionate act was a grave violation of international law, risked further escalating the conflict and threatened the two‑State solution.  Moreover, it was deplorable that the Council was blocked by some of its members from even condemning those actions.  Calling on the body to rise to its responsibilities, including by demanding that Israel put an immediate end to its occupation, she voiced support for the right of Palestinians to a free, sovereign and independent State and for the right of return for refugees.  She further condemned the United States recent decision on Jerusalem, a flagrant violation of international law, which was intended to undermine the legitimate interests of Palestinian people and Arab nations.  Also condemning the 13 April air strikes by the United States and several allies — which had used as their pretext unverified allegations of the Syrian Government’s use of chemical weapons — she said such unilateral acts, including measures aimed at changing the legal, physical and demographic status of the occupied Syrian Golan, were serious violations of the United Nations Charter and international law.

FARZANA ZAHIR (Maldives) said, with regard to the Palestinian question, that the impunity with which violence was perpetrated, as well as the ongoing violation of international norms, set a dangerous precedent with far‑reaching consequences for international peace and security.  She welcomed the Palestinian proposal for an international peace conference, urged Member States to address the $446 million UNRWA funding gap and reiterated the Maldives’ call for a two‑State solution.  On Syria, she said the humanitarian situation must be urgently addressed, adding that State failure had the potential to derail any peace process.

CARMELO INGUANEZ (Malta), associating himself with the European Union, called for the de‑escalation of all conflicts in the Middle East and warned that prospects for a two‑State solution to the question of Palestine were currently in danger.  “The international community is duty‑bound to ensure that this is safeguarded,” he said, expressing opposition to further Israeli settlement activity and support for the view that Jerusalem should remain a final status issue.  Condemning all acts of violence by both sides – especially against civilians and minors – he urged the parties to end incitement and provocations that only served to widen the gap between them.  Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly should be fully respected by all, he stressed, underlining his delegation’s support for Palestinian reconciliation and efforts to end the closure of Gaza while also addressing Israel’s security concerns.

SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that international efforts must remain focused on paving the way for Israel and the State of Palestine to return to meaningful negotiations.  His delegation encouraged Israel to take concrete measures to freeze all settlement‑related activities.  Also, Palestinian leaders must signal their readiness to return to the negotiating table by, inter alia, making enhanced efforts to forge unity, deal with militancy and other internal security challenges.  Violence and unilateral actions would not resolve the long conflict, he emphasized, reaffirming Nigeria’s unwavering support for the two‑State solution, with Israel and Palestine existing side by side.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO, Vice‑Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, condemned the attack on the Palestinian Prime Minister’s convoy in the Gaza Strip on 13 March, which was detrimental to intra‑Palestinian reconciliation.  She also noted the commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the 1948 war, inviting Member States to participate in the Committee’s upcoming forum titled “70 Years After 1948 — Lessons to Achieve a Sustainable Peace”, held in New York from 17‑18 May.  She expressed regret that Israel had decided to advance settlement plans contravening its obligations as an occupying Power under international law and indicating a blatant disregard for the Security Council’s authority.

She went on to encourage Member States to follow the example set by Denmark’s Parliament and the European Commission in their decisions to distinguish between the State of Israel’s territory and the territories occupied since 1967, as called for by resolution 2334 (2016).  Moreover, the unilateral decisions of some Member States to relocate their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in contravention of the relevant United Nations resolutions were irreversibly setting back prospects for peace and derailing the viability of the two‑State solution.  Against that backdrop, she welcomed and supported President Mahmoud Abbas’ peace initiative, as presented to the Council on 20 February, noting the international consensus with regard to a peaceful and just solution to the question of Palestine.

KENNEDY MAYONG ONON (Malaysia), condemning Israel’s excessive use of force against peaceful protestors, urged that country’s leaders to fully comply with relevant Council resolutions.  He reiterated deep concern over the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to relocate its Embassy from Tel Aviv to that city, a decision which undermined efforts towards a comprehensive, just and durable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  It had also caused “dismay and frustration” to a majority of Member States.  Malaysia would continue to provide relief to Palestinians, he emphasized. A two-State solution based on pre‑1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine was the only viable solution.  On Syria, he expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation and urged all parties to adhere to international law.  Condemning the use of chemical weapons by any parties under any circumstances, he urged cooperation with OPCW inspectors as they investigated the Douma incident.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said negative developments in the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict had imperiled the prospect for a two‑State solution and put regional security at stake while having an adverse impact on world peace.  De‑escalating tension was a prerequisite for any future negotiation and dialogue, she said, calling also on Israel to halt settlement development, lift its blockade on Gaza and improve living conditions for Palestinians.  Stressing the need for all parties to respect international human rights and humanitarian law, she reaffirmed Viet Nam’s support for UNRWA and for the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people.

MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) said the Middle East had continued to face challenges since the occupation of Arab lands beginning in 1967, with every settlement built and every Palestinian suffering from its consequences.  Palestinians had a right to self‑determination under international law.  The issue at hand was occupation and a peaceful conclusion of the matter must heed Council resolutions.  Arbitrary action would only lead to grim consequences, jeopardizing the two‑State solution.  Underlining that equality and human rights were the basis for peace, he urged the two parties to realize that both peoples would continue to exist on the land and to reject rhetoric that incited hatred and violence.

EINAR GUNNARSSON (Iceland) said that Syria’s chemical weapons use had been well documented and constituted a serious violation of international law.  The latest reports from Douma had not yet been fully investigated, but Syria’s Government had already demonstrated the will and ability to use such weapons against civilians.  The General Assembly again must look for alternatives to action by the Security Council, which had not fulfilled its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security.  He applauded commitments made in Brussels earlier in the week to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Syria and its neighbours.  In that context, Iceland had increased its funding with a multi‑year contribution and would contribute nearly $9 million over the period 2017‑2020.  He also welcomed the appointment of Martin Griffiths as the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy on Yemen, adding that the search for a political settlement must be inclusive, including women.  “Outside actors must not sabotage talks in the mistaken hope of achieving military advantage,” he stressed.

MOHAMMED SAHIB MEJID MARZOOQ (Iraq), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the brutal Israeli assault on Palestinian protestors and urged the Council to take responsible and prompt action to stop the deliberate killings.  The ongoing abuses and atrocities in the Gaza Strip were taking place against the backdrop of continued hostile and repressive Israeli practices in the rest of occupied Palestine.  Racist legislation imposed by Israel only inflamed the situation, causing more suffering to Palestinians.  He warned that illegal Israeli actions threatened to further aggravate the cycle of violence and provoke a religious dimension to the conflict.

Urging the Council to take action, he said that the Israel’s decades‑long military occupation of Palestinian land remained a core challenge to the will of the international community.  It was a litmus test for international collective resolve, he added, emphasizing that millions of Palestinians had waited for over seven decades for their right to justice, freedom and peace.  The status quo along with ongoing Israeli settlement policies was neither acceptable nor viable, he stressed, calling on the Council to act for peace, hope and justice and maintain the viability of a two‑State solution.  The suffering of millions of Palestine refugees reflected the cruel reality of the absence of justice.

SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan), emphasizing that the region was witnessing among the most difficult and complicated phases, said efforts were sorely needed to overcome them.  Unfortunately, a divided Council and its inability to calm tensions in the Middle East exacerbated progress.  Peace and stability in the region were linked to a just settlement of the Palestinian question, and fragmented solutions were no longer acceptable.  A lasting peace would only emerge when the Israeli occupation ended through a two‑State solution.  Council resolutions must also be implemented, she said, condemning illegal attacks against Palestinians.  Jerusalem was the key to peace, representing the centre of the world’s major monotheistic religions.  Condemning the unjustified violence against civilians in Gaza, she said such actions contravened Council resolutions and international law, supporting the Secretary‑General’s call for an independent investigation.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain), noting the ongoing suffering in Gaza, underlined the importance of upholding the legitimate rights of the Palestinian peoples to self‑determination and of implementing the two‑State solution.  East Jerusalem was occupied land, and negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis must guide the way forward.  Turning to Yemen, he expressed hope that a peaceful solution would resolve that conflict.  Noting the United Nations diplomatic efforts, he condemned the Iran‑supported militias’ attacks against Saudi Arabia launched from Yemen.  On Syria, he said the worsening situation required the international community to take swift action to find a political solution to end the war.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed support for the peace plan presented to the Council by the State of Palestine on 20 February 2018 and urged all concerned parties to give it due consideration.  Echoing expressions of concern over recent tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem, he urged the Council to send a firm and unequivocal message against the unlawful killing and injury of Palestinian civilians.  Calling for investigations into those incidents, he said Israel, the occupying Power, must comply with its obligations under international law as well as relevant United Nations resolutions.  The recent provocative policies related to Occupied East Jerusalem and the Al‑Aqsa Mosque must be reversed in line with those resolutions as well as international public opinion, he stressed, also urging the Council to prevail upon Israel to lift its illegal blockade of Gaza and halt its illegal settlements.  He also voiced concern over the humanitarian situation endured by millions of Palestinians and, in that vein, called on Member States to provide the funding needed for UNRWA to fulfil its mandate.

The representative of Iran, taking the floor a second time, cited several “Iranophobic” statements made throughout today’s debate.  Those words were uttered by the representatives of countries that were badly in need of excuses to sell their “beautiful weapons”, he said, adding that no political theatre — repeated by the delegate of the Israeli regime — could cover up those expansionist policies and the threats they represented to the region.  Iran was in Syria to help fight, and ultimately eliminate, terrorist groups, including Da’esh, and to restore the unity of the country.  Rejecting the baseless allegations made by the Israeli delegate as “pure fiction”, he said it was ironic that a regime with a long history of occupation and of stockpiling illegal weapons should accuse others of doing the same.

Responding to the statement delivered by the representative of Saudi Arabia, he said those baseless allegations were aimed at distracting the international community from that country’s own widespread crimes and support for terrorism underpinned by its Wahabi ideology.  The true aggressors and accomplices in the Middle East were trying to cover up their war crimes by accusing others, but the truth was that the United States was responsible for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, while the Saudi‑led coalition’s indiscriminate attacks had resulted in mass casualties, displaced millions and exacerbated already fragile conditions on the ground.  Inhumane blockades and the threat of starvation as a instrument of war were tantamount to crimes against humanity that must be thoroughly investigated, he said.

The representative of Israel, also taking the floor for a second time, said the Palestinian representative had declared the protests had been peaceful, but facts had clearly demonstrated that was not the case.  Bolivia’s representative had delivered a “simply incorrect” statement, she said, noting that not once in that country’s membership on the Council had the delegation approached hers for any type of discussions.  Turning to other concerns, she said Hizbullah was indeed a recognized terrorist group and its master, Iran, was a leading State sponsor of terror.  Iran’s activities violated multiple Council resolutions and its rhetoric continued to threaten to destroy Israel while undermining international peace and security.

For information media. Not an official record.