Calling on the Security Council to view the recent violence along the Gaza border as part of a larger picture — in which political stagnation, frustration and disillusionment were mounting across the wider Palestinian diaspora — the senior United Nations official in Jerusalem today urged all parties to the conflict to rein in provocations, address urgent humanitarian needs and support the resumption of peace talks aimed at ending the long-entrenched conflict.
Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, speaking via videoconference from Jerusalem, reminded the 15-member Council that he had last briefed them on 15 May, the day after protests at the Gaza border turned deadly and at least 60 Palestinians were killed.
“It was a reminder that Gaza is on the verge of collapse,” he stressed, adding that its people — who had lived for more than a decade under Hamas control and with crippling Israeli closures and diminishing hopes — were growing increasingly desperate. “We must act urgently to avoid another war, to alleviate the suffering of the people and to empower the Palestinian Government to take up its responsibilities in Gaza.”
Reiterating his call on Council members to join him in condemning in the strongest terms the actions that had led to so much death and injury, he said Israel bore a responsibility to calibrate its use of force and to refrain from employing lethal force except as a last resort under imminent threat of death or serious injury. While that State had the right to protect its citizens, it must do so only in a proportional manner, and should investigate every incident that led to a loss of human life.
Meanwhile, Hamas must not use protests as cover to attempt to place bombs at the Gaza fence and create provocations, he underscored. Its operatives must not hide among the demonstrators and risk the lives of civilians, he stressed, emphasizing that the Palestinians had the right to protest peacefully. As demonstrations were likely to continue into June, he again called on all sides to exercise restraint.
Recalling Council members’ many statements about preventing war, as well as the Secretary-General’s call for preventative diplomacy, Mr. Mladenov underscored that “it is time for our words to be tested in Gaza”. Failure to implement assistance projects would guarantee an amplified humanitarian crisis with fewer means to address it effectively. In that regard, projects agreed by the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee should be prioritized and fast-tracked; cooperation should be strengthened with the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt to overcome political, administrative and legislative blockages; and all parties must firmly adhere to the 2014 ceasefire agreement. “If we act quickly, we will reduce the chances of military confrontation and another devastating conflict,” he stressed.
Apart from the immediate situation in Gaza, he said the confluence of conflicts in the Middle East was escalating tensions on multiple fronts, including Syria and Yemen. Frustration and disillusionment were mounting among the Palestinian diaspora, he warned, noting events in Gaza were being closely watched across the region. Confined to squalid refugee camps, devastated by war and impacted by the funding crisis in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Palestinian refugees were increasingly facing an untenable situation and risking further instability.
Calling for a unified approach to break the cycle of violence, he urged the Council not to ignore the fragile situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and to work together to bring an end to the long-standing Israeli occupation through a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution.
Galymzhan Koishybayev, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, voiced his support for a two-State solution and the prompt resumption of negotiations. Palestine and Israel must respect each other’s right to exist in Jerusalem and avoid actions that would escalate the situation. Expressing concern about the relocation of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem and the violence in Gaza, he also emphasized that Israel should use lethal force only as a last resort while exercising its right to security. Meanwhile, investments in building strong institutions, promoting security sector reform and new legislation would ensure the rule of law and good governance.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 10:31 a.m.