Grave Situation in Gaza Demands Decisive Action, Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process Tells Security Council, Urging End of Occupation

SC/13544
18 October 2018
8375th Meeting* (AM & PM)

Grave Situation in Gaza Demands Decisive Action, Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process Tells Security Council, Urging End of Occupation

Gravely concerned over escalation of violence on the Gaza border and settlement activity in the West Bank, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today that the international community could no longer allow prospects for a two‑State solution to slip away.

“It is our shared responsibility to restore that prospect, to facilitate negotiations, to help the weaker party, to insulate the process from radicals and extremists and to show results,” Nickolay Mladenov said ahead of the quarterly open debate on the issue.  He was joined as briefer by Hagai El‑Ad, the Executive Director of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.

“Gaza is imploding”, Mr. Mladenov stated.  “This is not alarmism.  It is reality.”  He said that the economy is in free‑fall, massive demonstrations on the border continue to draw deadly Israeli responses as incendiary devices are launched into Israel and a rocket from Gaza hit a house in Be’er Sheva, drawing Israeli air strikes.  He warned of another imminent conflict.

“The gravity of the situation compels us to take decisive action”, he stressed, appealing to all Council Members and other influential actors to join the United Nations in calling on all sides to step back from the brink.  For lasting peace, however, in addition to the unification of all Palestinians under a single, democratic national authority, the occupation must be ended through the two‑State solution, he reiterated.

In his briefing, Mr. El‑Ad spoke of outrage, indignity and pain of Palestinians who he said have been denied their human rights for more than half a century, condemning current Israeli policies as being calculated to slowly split up an entire people, fragmenting their land and disrupting their lives.  He accused Israel’s High Court of Justice with complicity in crimes that included displacement of communities such as the Bedouin village of Khan al‑Ahmar and turning Gaza into an open‑air prison.  He urged Member States to let Israel know that they will no longer stand idly by.  “The rules‑based international order will not defend itself,” he stated.

Speaking next, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said that his people continue in the main to choose non‑violent and peaceful forms of protest, as Israel, the occupying Power, chooses violence and brutalizes Palestinian civilians.  He maintained that those practices are now made worse by recent United States decisions to withdraw humanitarian aid including for more than 5.4 million Palestine refugees.  Warning that this will not bring a peace deal closer but in fact only deepen mistrust and prolong the conflict, he said that Palestinians are being punished for continuing to insist on realizing their right to self‑determination.

Israel’s representative said that Mr. El‑Ad’s presentation gave a circus‑like quality to today’s meeting, as he is an Israeli funded by foreign countries, but it also showed the strength of Israel’s democracy.  He dared them to find a Bolivian or Palestinian who would be able to criticize his country on the international stage.

Describing destruction caused by Hamas incitement in Gaza, the Israeli representative maintained that the suffering and violence there was in great part due to President Mahmoud Abbas’ withholding of funds purposely to worsen tensions and remain in power.  Similarly, he reported that 7 per cent of the budget of the Palestinian Authority is devoted to rewarding those who killed Jews.  Donors to the Palestinian Authority are complicit in those deaths, he warned.  Given President Abbas’ priority over promoting hate over the well‑being of his people, he added, only his removal will improve prospects for peace.

Following those statements, most speakers in the open debate seconded Mr. Mladenov’s concern over rising tensions in Gaza, calling on all to avoid any actions that will escalate them.  Most also echoed his call for an end to Israeli settlement activity and displacement of Palestinians, particularly a halt to the demolition of Khan al‑Ahmar, which they said would further threaten the possibility of contiguity in a future Palestinian State.

Most speakers also urged the Council to intensify efforts to get the parties back to the negotiating table in order to bring about the two‑State solution and a just and lasting peace.  Many speakers regretted the loss of funding by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Palestinian Authority from its main donors.

The representative of the United States, calling Mr. El‑Ad’s briefing an example of the many distorted and one‑sided statements that are too often provided at the United Nations, did not address the issue but instead spoke of the recruitment of child soldiers by Iran.

Surveying all the conflicts in the Middle East region, the representative of Equatorial Guinea pleaded for Council unity in helping bring about political solutions to all of them, including the Israeli‑Palestinian issue.  She also urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to perform a moral and political accounting that would lead them to the realization that they must act with determination to bring about the two‑State solution and a lasting peace.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Kazakhstan, China, Ethiopia, Peru, Kuwait, Russian Federation, Sweden, France, United Kingdom, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire, Netherlands, Bolivia, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Namibia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Japan, Jordan, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, Bangladesh (on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), Venezuela (on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement), Morocco, Cuba, Qatar, Norway, Iran, Maldives, Uruguay, Ecuador, Iraq, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Oman and Costa Rica.

The representatives of Israel and Iran took the floor again in response to statements by other delegations.

The representative of the European Union also made a statement, as did the Observers of the Holy See and the League of Arab States and the Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m., suspended at 1:18 p.m., resumed at 3:08 p.m. and ended at 6:23 p.m.

Briefings

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, speaking by teleconference from Jerusalem, recalled that, each month he briefs on settlements, violence and other factors that he said undermine the foundations of a prospect of a Palestinian State, appealing for leaders on both sides to return to the negotiating table, while the prospect for a two-State solution continues to slide away.  “It is our shared responsibility to restore that prospect, to facilitate negotiations, to help the weaker party, to insulate the process from radicals and extremists and to show results,” he said.

Reporting on the current situation on the ground, he said that violence is on the rise in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli authorities have demolished or confiscated 39 Palestinian-owned structures.  Among those in Area C are five installed in solidarity with the Bedouin community Khan al-Ahmar, which is still in imminent risk of displacement, advancing the build-up of new settlement construction that will, he stated, further undermine the contiguity of a future Palestinian State.  He once again called on Israel to cease demolitions and other measures that are illegal under international law, including settlement construction, noting that 13,000 demolition orders are pending in the West Bank, with financing for 31 housing units now reportedly approved in Hebron, which will be the first new construction there in 16 years.

Condemning violence of the past months in the West Bank, he reported that two Israelis were shot dead by a Palestinian man in the Barkan industrial area, while a Palestinian woman was killed by stones allegedly thrown by Israeli assailants, and there were 23 settler attacks on Palestinians, resulting in one death, as well as 12 injuries and property damage, including more olive trees.  He called on authorities to ensure protection and smooth access of Palestinian farmers to their land as the olive harvest neared.

In recent weeks, he said, protests at the Gaza fence have expanded to include night demonstrations, with Hamas and other militants continuing to send incendiary kites and balloons across the border causing fires, with a peak of intensity reached on 12 October with the participation of some 20,000 Palestinians.  Israeli forces have responded with riot‑dispersal means and live fire, leaving 33 Palestinians dead during demonstrations and other incidents.  During the reporting period, militants also fired two rockets that landed in Israel, including one on 17 October that hit a house in Be’er Sheva, injuring three Israelis.  Israel responded with a series of air strikes.  On 11 October, Israel announced it had destroyed another tunnel extending into the country from Gaza, and had reduced the fishing zone in response to violence at the fence.

“Gaza is imploding,” he said.  “This is not alarmism.  It is reality.”  The economy is in free-fall, he added, warning of another imminent conflict.  “The gravity of the situation compels us to take decisive action,” he stressed, calling for very clear actions form all sides to de-escalate the situation.  Praising contributions and proposals to alleviate the humanitarian situation, he said they will give space for Egyptian-led efforts to return the legitimate Palestinian Government to Gaza.  He appealed to all Council Members and other influential actors to join the United Nations in calling on all sides to step back from the brink.  Continued commitment to the 2014 ceasefire in all its elements is crucial in that context, he said, including delivery of critical supplies and the end to all violence at the fence and other areas.  For lasting peace, in addition to the unification of all Palestinians under a single, democratic national authority, the occupation must be ended through the two-State solution.

Turning to Lebanon, he said consultations continued for an agreement on a national unity Government.  He called on all political stakeholders to overcome their differences.  The situation along the Blue Line remains calm although threatened by rhetoric.  Reiterating the call for full implementation of Security Concil resolution 1701 (2006), he called on Lebanese authorities to complete the investigation into the 4 August attack on a patrol of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  In the Golan, he noted that he visited facilities of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and is encouraged by the progress made in the return of forces to the Bravo side, as well as the 15 October re-opening of the Quneitra crossing.

In closing, he said that the endless cycle of emergency responses and stop‑gap measures must be broken, with the Palestinian people accorded a sustainable and just solution that allows them to be masters of their own fate living in peace and security with Israel, without walls of occupation.

HAGAI EL‑AD, Executive Director, B’Tselem, said it is difficult to convey the outrage, indignity and pain of a people denied their human rights for more than half a century.  Emphasizing the hardship of trying to live and raise a family under such conditions day in and day out, he said 317 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces since he last spoke before the Council two years ago.  Israel has demolished 294 Palestinian homes since that time, and continues to make arrests on a daily basis.  “All of this is often referred to as the ‘status quo’,” he said.  However, there is nothing static about that reality, which is in fact a calculated and deliberate process of slowly splitting up an entire people, fragmenting their land and disrupting their lives.

Noting that all those activities are policy‑driven, he said the two most recent and conspicuous examples are Israel’s conduct in the protests at the Gaza border and its plans to raze the entire Palestinian shepherding community of Khan al‑Ahmar.  Noting the Government’s claims that it will generously relocate the people of Khan al‑Ahmar, he said those offers are actually only distortions carefully considered by attorneys.  While Israel claims the community was built illegally, the truth is that it remains all but impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from the Israeli Government.  The proposed relocation sites — one beside a garbage dump, and another next to a wastewater treatment facility — are also often not mentioned.

Emphasizing that Israel’s High Court of Justice’s approval of those proposed actions makes it complicit in the war crime of forcibly transferring a protected people in an occupied territory, he went on to describe the transformation of the Gaza Strip into, essentially, “an open‑air prison”.  As with the case of Khan al‑Ahmar, Israel’s High Court has found the policies on Gaza to be legal and even authorizes them, including by approving the rules of engagement that allow Israeli snipers to continue firing — from a distance — at demonstrators inside Gaza.  Asking how Israel can continue to be viewed as a democracy when it continues to oppress millions of people, he stressed that none of the activities he mentioned today have anything to do with Israel’s security, as is sometimes said.

“If one looks beyond the blinders of the peace process, it is clear to see how its supposedly yet‑to‑be-negotiated outcome is in reality being dictated, day in and day out, by unilateral Israeli actions,” he said.  Drawing historical parallels to such situations as the southern United States Jim Crow period and South Africa’s apartheid regime, he referred to himself and other Israelis who speak out against the Government’s actions, declaring:  “I am not a traitor, nor am I a hero.”  The true heroes, he said, are the Palestinians who endure the occupation with courage and perseverance.  Stressing that assertive international action can make the possibility of Palestinian freedom a reality, he urged Member States to let Israel know that they will no longer stand idly by.  “The rules‑based international order will not defend itself,” he stressed.

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said many regrettable incidents — including escalating punitive measures against his people and their leadership — have taken place since the Council’s last debate.  “Standing up for yourself and your rights should never be equated with disrespect for anyone or misconstrued as a provocation,” he stressed, emphasizing that the right to self‑determination is enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  Noting that the inalienable right of Palestinians to realize that principle has been endorsed by a vast majority of countries and peoples worldwide, he noted that many people have fought for freedom over the course of history, asking:  “Why would the Palestinian people be expected to be any different?”

Indeed, he said, the right to self‑determination — including for Palestinians — has been reaffirmed year after year in the halls of the United Nations.  The Palestinian people continue, more often than not, to choose non‑violent and peaceful forms of protest, even in the face of their extreme human rights crisis.  Meanwhile, Israel, the occupying Power, chooses violence and brutalizes Palestinian civilians.  Those actions are now supplemented by recent United States decisions to politicize desperately‑needed humanitarian aid including for more than 5.4 million Palestine refugees.  Warning that such policies will not bring a “peace deal” closer but in fact only deepen mistrust and prolong the conflict, he rejected all such rhetoric and policies — “despite the enormous cost of speaking out”.

“We cannot accept continued lip service to ‘the peace process’”, he continued, pointing to Israel’s empty negotiation commitments and its entrenched occupation.  The occupying Power must not be permitted to thwart credible negotiations to find just solutions for the final status issues, including the question of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, security, water and prisoners.  All calls for negotiations must be based on the longstanding parameters and terms of reference set out in United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative, he stressed.  Rejecting attempts to discredit the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as well as pretexts used to deny Palestinians their human rights, he also urged Member States never to condone or excuse the savage killing of innocent civilians, illegal and inhumane economic blockades or the fomenting of religious extremism and hatred.

DANNY BEN YOSEF DANON (Israel) said that today’s debate had a circus‑like nature, as B'Tselem is an organization that was funded by foreign countries, but it also showed the strength of Israel’s democracy.  He dared them to find a Bolivian or Palestinian who could criticize his country in the Security Council.  Citing a Palestinian textbook that praised terrorists as heroes and was approved by the Palestinian Authority, he said that President Mahmoud Abbas has done nothing but inspire hate and is leading his people down a path of self‑destruction.  Turning to Hamas in Gaza, he said 300 rockets had been fired into Israel in 2018, 15 of their tunnels had been destroyed and 8,000 acres of Israeli farmland had been destroyed by incendiary devices.  It was Abbas, however, who was pushing Gaza towards war.  He has been holding back payments from the Authority for many months and has greatly exacerbated the economic situation there.  He has refused aid that will improve life in Gaza, from Israel, the United States and other nations, exploiting the situation in order to stay in power.

Abbas is also guilty of continuing the “pay for slay” policy in which terrorists are rewarded for killing Israelis, he said.  The most recent budget of the Authority includes $355 million for such killers, 7 per cent of the total budget of the Palestinian Authority and 45 per cent of foreign aid given to it.  He described in detail the recent killings he said were inspired by such a policy, in an industrial park in which Palestinians and Israelis work together and which benefits both communities.  That killer will receive over $3 million.  If donors do not withdraw their funding from the Authority, they are complicit in such terrorism.  He maintained that if there was a Palestinian leader that really cared about his people and did not foment hate, the Palestinians would have made progress.  Only if Abbas is removed will peace be possible, he stressed.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) described Mr. El-Ad’s briefing as one of the many distorted and one‑sided statements that are too often provided at the United Nations.  Noting that Iran will soon celebrate what it calls “Student Besiege Day” — celebrating the day when a small boy perpetrated a suicide attack during the Iran‑Iraq War of the 1980s — she said some in the international community still believe that Tehran cares more about its people than about the spread of its ideology.  However, the truth is that the regime continues to use the memory of its past barbarism to promote more barbarism.  While nearly all countries reject the use of child soldiers, Iran continues to celebrate it.  Still today, Iran recruits and arms children to fight in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al‑Assad’s regime.  Among its most recent sanctions, she said, the United States enacted strong measures to cut off funding for networks fuelling such activities.  Those included banks and large companies in the mining, steel production and other sectors.  Decrying such “crony terrorism”, she said the Iranian people are rightly protesting against those activities, but continue to be silenced by the regime.  Warning that anyone engaging with the listed entities — or with the larger network financing them — could be subject to the United States, she said the sanctions are aimed at reversing a major “human rights crisis in the Middle East”.

YERZHAN ASHIKBAYEV (Kazakhstan) said his Government supports a two‑State solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict and called for the early resumption of negotiations.  Kazakhstan supports the right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination and the creation of a free, sovereign and independent Palestinian State.  He voiced alarm over the situation in Gaza, reiterating that “Israeli security forces must calibrate the use of force” and that Palestinians must “avoid provocations”.  He called for investigations into all events in Gaza since March and for all sides to refrain from actions that could lead to more casualties.  Turning to Syria, he said the Astana Process has great potential of directing inter‑Syrian talks towards long‑term peace.  He expressed hope that recent elections in Lebanon and Iraq will lead to the formation of new Governments and called for inclusive national dialogue in Yemen as a means to end hostilities there.

MA ZHAOXU (China), affirming that the Israeli‑Palestinian situation remains tense and volatile, said that mistrust has increased between the parties.  To improve the situation, he stressed that the Gaza blockade must be lifted, and the cycle of violence ended.  Restraint must be exercised by all parties and Palestinian civilians protected.  The Council and all actors that have influence in the region must intensify efforts to implement the two‑State solution based on previous agreements.  On the other hand, all measures that weaken the prospects for such a solution, including settlement building and violence, must end.  It is critical to settle the status of Jerusalem through negotiations that satisfy the interests of all parties.  He reiterated support for establishment of a Palestinian State based on 1967 borders and appealed for more funding for UNRWA, noting the increase in funding provided by his country in 2018.

TAYE ATSKESELASSIE AMDE (Ethiopia) said that the Middle East is already on the edge and that every effort must be made to avoid further escalation.  Meeting the critical needs of Palestinians living in Gaza remains a daunting challenge.  “This needs much greater attention and mobilization by the international community,” he added.  The Palestinian Authority must reinstate its governance in Gaza to reunite Palestine under one authority.  Egyptian‑led reconciliation is indeed the key to progress, he continued, urging Palestinian parties to cooperate for the sake of their own people.  While Ethiopia supports Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, it also supports the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self‑determination and the right of Palestine to exist as a free State.  A two‑State solution is in the best interest of both Israel and Palestine.  It is essential that the international community reinvigorates efforts to achieve a lasting and just solution to this dispute.

GUSTAVO MEZA‑CUADRA (Peru) expressed concern over the continued violence between Israelis and Palestinians and deplored the escalating deaths and injuries in the Middle East.  Condemning the excessive use of force by Israel, he also emphasized the need to reject incitement to violence and terrorism as well as anti‑Semitism.  He called on the Israeli authorities to promptly halt the planned demolition of the Khan al‑Ahmar community, in line with international law, and work to reduce poverty and injustice in Gaza — which risks becoming a breeding ground for extremism.  Urging Member States to support UNRWA during its critical funding crisis, and deploring reports about the possible closure of its office in Jerusalem, he went on to call on both parties to renew negotiations with the aim of achieving the two‑State solution.  The Council, for its part, must work to protect civilians and remain engaged in the situation.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) recalled that the Palestinian people received support from a vast majority of delegations during the General Assembly’s recently concluded annual high‑level debate.  World leaders reaffirmed their commitment to human rights and the dignity of all peoples, he said, noting that such principles regrettably remain a dream for the Palestinians.  Other meetings also took place on the margins of the debate, where country representatives worked to promote support for UNRWA and its critical work, which is currently under threat.  Noting that Kuwait recently announced its decision to allocate an additional $42 million to the Agency, he expressed concern over escalating violence at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces.  Just last week, he said, seven Palestinians were killed over the course of a single day.  Describing the circumstances surrounding one of those heinous crimes — the murder of a Palestinian mother — he demanded that the perpetrators be immediately held accountable.  Rejecting Israel’s aggressive demolition policies, the forcible transfer of civilians and the illegal annexation of Palestinian lands — aimed at fragmenting the West Bank and establishing the foundation of a “racist separation regime” — he described such actions as flagrant violations of international law and demanded Israel’s full and immediate withdrawal from all Palestinian land.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) expressed concern about the recent “aggressive re‑examination” of agreements previously reached on the Israel‑Palestine issue, including those enshrined in various Council resolutions.  Meanwhile, the situation on the ground has continued to deteriorate, with age‑old problems still unresolved, mistrust deepening and rhetoric escalating.  Condemning all forms of terrorism as well as overly aggressive Government policies, he voiced support for efforts to restore Palestinian unity and underscored the important stabilizing role played by UNRWA.  Unilateral steps will never achieve a just and lasting peace, he stressed, renewing Moscow’s offer to host a summit between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership in an effort to overcome the political impasse.  Also expressing support for the work of the Middle East Quartet, he said peace will only be achieved through broad cooperation and strict adherence to international law.  In case of Syria, the Astana guarantor countries recently demonstrated that — despite differing positions — it is still possible to prevent bloodshed.  Warning against interference in the internal affairs of Middle Eastern countries, he said international partners should instead work to support the establishment of conditions conducive to peace in the region.

CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden), associating himself with the European Union, said his Government bases its position on the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict on principles of international law.  “The situation is increasingly urgent, as new generations grow up in a reality stained by conflict,” he said, adding that the shared vision of the international community is of an Israeli State and a Palestinian State living side‑by‑side in peace and security.  He called for a return to a meaningful peace process and for an end to occupation.  Sweden remains deeply concerned over continued settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and over the demolition of homes.  He said the shrinking space for civil society on both sides is alarming and that youth must be shown an alternative to conflict.  “Gaza is on the verge of collapse,” he noted, adding that all parties must avoid a humanitarian disaster.  He called for “predictable and sustainable” funding for UNRWA.  He closed by saying it is not too late to solve the Israeli‑Palestinian crisis.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), affirming that the status quo covered up deterioration of conditions for peace in the Middle East, noted that now barely half of Israelis and Palestinians have any hope for a two‑State solution.  It is critical, he said, to open up a democratic space in both societies to allow trust to be rebuilt.  He urged all parties to exercise restraint in relation to Gaza, condemning rocket fire, tunnel‑building and incendiary devices.  The Council must speak out strongly to prevent escalation that will be disastrous for the people of the Strip, who are suffering from a humanitarian crisis that fuelled demonstrations.  He cautioned against disproportionate use of force by Israel and attacks across the border by Palestinians.  All actors must work to alleviate the humanitarian situation through lifting of the blockade and support to UNRWA, he added, noting his country’s increase in such support.  As only a just and lasting peace will end the crisis, he urged inter‑Palestinian reconciliation and the end to settlement activity by Israel in the West Bank.  In that context, he called on Israeli authorities to halt the demolition of the village of Khan al‑Ahmar.  Resolution of the status of Jerusalem must be based on international parameters in order to achieve the two‑State solution, for which his country will continue to spare no effort to achieve.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said that everything heard today shows how cruel and unsustainable the situation in the Middle East is, and how great the need is for a negotiated two‑State solution.   She expressed full respect for the need for Israel’s security, and at the same time humanitarian improvement for the Palestinians is critical.  In Gaza, she insisted, all parties must implement recent agreements.  She called for legitimate Palestinian authorities to return to Gaza and for all sides to work to defuse the situation and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.  She also appealed for Israeli authorities not to proceed with the demolition of Khan al‑Ahmar.  Pledging to continue assistance to UNRWA, she also noted the need for reform in the organization.

AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea), expressing extreme concern over the continuous violence in the Middle East as a whole, said that the international community must find a sustainable solution to all conflicts there, none of which have a military solution.  Expressing condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, she regretted that the Gaza Strip is dominated by fear and ruin.  Palestinian and Israeli leaders must do a moral and political accounting and come to the realization that they must act to bring about the two‑State solution.  Such a result required unity among Security Council members in the effort to support the parties.  In addition, the Palestinian Authority must be brought back to Gaza, as the current situation exacerbated suffering and insecurity in the area.  Recent reconciliation agreements must be implemented and UNRWA must receive adequate support.  She reiterated her country’s view that the Palestinian cause is just as well as its support for the two‑State solution.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, called on all sides to act with utmost restraint to avoid further casualties.  Israel should respect the principle of proportionality in its use of force.  Protests at the Gaza border fence, fueled by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, have led to violence which has affected civilians on both sides of the conflict.  Recurring rocket attacks from Gaza towards Israel must stop, she stressed, condemning all acts of violence and calling for a thorough investigation to bring those responsible to justice.   The humanitarian situation of 2 million people in the Gaza Strip is alarming.  Limited access to basic services, including health care, chronic energy crises and lack of fuel can easily lead to escalation of social tensions.  She expressed support for a two‑State solution under which the national aspirations of both parties are met.  “Unfortunately, the two‑State solution seems to be at risk of fading away,” she added.  Urging all Palestinian factions to work together, she called on the Palestinian Authority to resume its responsibilities in Gaza.

GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), expressing concern over the recent break in what had been a relatively calm period in Israeli‑Palestinian relations, urged both parties to exercise restraint and avoid any unilateral actions.  Equatorial Guinea supports both efforts to ensure the Israel’s security and the Palestinian goal of establishing an independent State, he said.  Voicing concern about the unprecedented humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip, he called on Israeli authorities to lift its blockage while also noting that the Palestinian Authority’s return to Gaza would also go a long way to achieving that goal.  He went on to express deep concern about the current financial state of UNRWA, urging Member States to increase their support to the Agency.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) reiterated strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions, including demolitions and confiscations of European Union‑funded projects, evictions and forced transfers.  He expressed concern over the recent decision taken by Israel to advance plans of settlement expansion in Hebron.  Settlements are illegal under international law and threaten a two‑State solution, he stressed.  Recent violent attacks in the West Bank illustrate the need for a permanent solution that provides peace and security for Israel and prevents the resurgence of terrorism — a solution that provides security for Palestinians, respects their rights and demonstrates that the occupation is over.  People in and around Gaza live a daily reality that no one should have to endure.  Closing border crossings and reducing the fishing zone is not the answer to tensions and violence.  It will only further deteriorate the humanitarian despair.  He also called on Palestinian parties to ensure that protests remain peaceful.  For its part, Israel must finalize its own investigations and provide full transparency on its findings.

VERÓNICA CORDOVA SORIA (Bolivia), Council President for October, spoke in her national capacity, stressing that she will not respond to accusations levelled by the Israeli delegate against her country’s human right record because the matter on the agenda today is, in fact, the human rights violations committed against Palestinians.  Rejecting the illegal actions of the Israeli Government — including its continued settlement activities, which constitute a major obstacle to peace — she categorically rejected all attempts to alter the demographic character of Jerusalem in violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Also rejecting Israel’s long history of occupation and its violations of international law, she expressed support for the Quartet road map, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Madrid principles, along with other concrete plans aimed at achieving a peaceful resolution to the situation.  Meanwhile, Member States should continue to provide support to UNRWA, whose current funding crisis will only result in the further deterioration of the living conditions of Palestine refugees.  The only possible way forward is the two‑State solution and the establishment of a free and independent Palestinian State, she concluded.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon), noting concerns being expressed over the weakening of multilateralism, said that the need for that approach is particularly seen in the Palestinian‑Israeli conflict.  Her country has always supported the two‑State solution as the only way to a sustainable peace.  Domestically, she added, her country is working hard to organize a Government and implement the recommendations resulting from the many support conferences held around the world.  The country’s problems have been exacerbated by its hosting Syrian refugees, as well as by Israel’s violation of its sovereignty on a near‑daily basis.  Reaffirming her country’s commitment to resolution 1701 (2006), she said it is cooperating with UNIFIL and building its armed forces for that purpose.  She called on the Council to prevent Israel from using any pretext for attacking any facilities in her country, as was threatened recently.

TAREK FATHI MOHAMED MOHAMED TAYEL (Egypt) said that members of the Council are well aware of the decades long suffering of the Palestinians, and that the organ’s resolutions are clear on the solution.  What is missing, however, he stressed, is a capacity and political will to implement those resolutions.  The Gaza crisis must be dealt with in that context.  His country is assisting its brothers in Gaza by opening crossings into it.  He called for the end of the occupation and for the implementation of Palestinian reconciliation agreements facilitated by his country.  A peace is needed, he stressed, that meets the aspiration of the Palestinian people.  It is, he underlined, key for the stability of the entire region.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), noting that the Syrian Golan also remains an occupied territory, said the Council must ask itself how many decades Israel’s policies will be permitted and how many lives must be lost before it finally takes action.  Voicing his full support for the plight of the Palestinian people, he drew attention to Israel’s continued occupation of Syrian territory, its policies of aggression there, its support for terrorist organizations and its airstrikes against Syria committed in contravention of the 1974 Disengagement Agreement.

Recalling that the Council demanded that Israel withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan in a resolution more than 37 years ago, he also rejected the organization of so‑called local councils in the Golan.  Moreover, recent statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make clear that he has no intention of ever respecting the United Nations Charter or its resolutions.  Special Coordinator Mladenov, meanwhile, omitted those developments from both his report and his statement earlier today.  Emphasizing that the Israeli occupation remains the main driver of conflict in the Middle East, he also rejected all proxy wars in the region, including in his country.

LINDA ANNE SCOTT (Namibia), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the ongoing violence and tension along the Gaza‑Israel border fence has further compounded the situation in Gaza which remains on the brink of collapse.  The humanitarian situation there been exacerbated by the recent decision taken by the United States to terminate its funding to UNRWA.  Other decisions taken by the United States have also represented impediments to peace, including the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the subsequent move of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.   Namibia, having tirelessly fought for its own independence, will always support Palestinians in their fight for self‑determination.  She also called on Israel to end all construction of settlements and destruction of Palestinian homes.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said the fundamental tenets of the two‑State solution are being systematically dismantled in plain sight of the international community.  Longstanding Council resolutions on Israeli settlement expansion continue to be flouted and that Government’s decision to dismantle the Bedouin community of Khan al‑Ahmar once again revealed its policy of forcibly displacing Palestinians from their land.  Meanwhile, the decision by a major donor to end all financial support to UNRWA cast a deep shadow of uncertainty over the sustainability of many of the Agency’s critical activities, which have long served as a vehicle for stability and social cohesion.  “The humanitarian needs of the Palestine refugees should not be mortgaged to political expediency and narrow interests,” she stressed, urging the international community to work together to support those 5.4 million refugees.  Turning to the Syrian conflict, she hailed outgoing Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s work over the last four years.  Pakistan will continue to support political solutions in the region — including in the context of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis - while continuing its calls on the world community to act decisively against injustice and oppression.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), condemning settler violence such as stone throwing that caused the death of a Palestinian woman recently, as well as all Israeli violations in Palestinian territory and the Golan, stressed that the occupation of those lands must end.  He rejected any annexation of land by Israel and emphasized that the Muslim character of Jerusalem must be recognized.  He also reiterated the need for political progress in Syria and denounced occupation of islands that he said belonged to the United Arab Emirates.  He condemned a variety of the practices of Iran, particularly those that threaten the free flow of navigation in the gulf region.  Iranian vessels, he said, are also circulating in the Red Sea with illicit armaments, and there is much evidence of Iran’s support for terrorism as well as its intervention in the domestic affairs of other States, including Syria and Yemen.  He added that his country is working to restore peace in Yemen.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said the hopes for a lasting resolution between Israel and Palestine have never been lower.  There is increasing pressure on the daily lives of Palestinians and a systematic effort to undermine their inalienable rights, he said, calling those phenomena deliberate steps to destroy hopes for a two‑State solution.  According to international law and United Nations resolutions, Palestinians have the right to return home and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal, he continued, also emphasizing the vital importance of UNRWA and the services it provides to the Palestinian people.  Turkey increased its annual contribution to the Agency and urges all other countries to do the same, he said.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said the most realistic solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict is two sovereign States living side‑by‑side along secure and recognized borders.  However, presently there is little trust between the parties and there is no momentum towards renewed, direct negotiations.  Progress requires leadership, he noted, calling for increased work to maintain people’s faith in the possibility of a political settlement.  The economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza must be addressed and he called on Israel and Palestine to allow assistance to reach the people of the region.  Continued settlement activities and the demolition of Palestinian‑owned structures undermine the validity of a two‑State solution, he warned the Council.  Greater investment in the next generation, including through the work of UNRWA, remains important.  Turning to Syria, he said the provisional ceasefire on Idlib must be made permanent.  Furthermore, advancement of the political process is essential.

SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) voiced concern that the Palestinian people’s suffering under the Israeli occupation continues unabated, leading to further poverty and their denial of human rights.  Underlining the need to find a just, lasting solution to the conflict, she said the Arab Peace Initiate and the two‑State solution are the only ways forward.  Noting that Jordan holds the Hashemite custodianship of Jerusalem’s holy sites, she condemned actions by Israel at the Al‑Aqsa Mosque and other locations which violated the right of all people to worship there.  Turning to the precarious financial situation of UNRWA, she said two choices currently exist:  abandoning a whole generation of Palestinians to despair and extremism, or finding ways to plug the Agency’s $64 million remaining shortfall, allowing it to continue its critical work.  The crisis in Syria, now moving into its eighth year, can only be ended through a political solution that satisfies the aspirations of that country’s people.  Welcoming recent progress achieved by the Syria “Small Group” countries and in other diplomatic channels, she also welcomed the successful convening of elections in Iraq and pledged to continue to stand in solidarity with its people.

JOANNE ADAMSON, of the European Union, noting that Gaza is home to 2 million people who struggle to access basic services, sufficient water and electric supply, said that the ongoing protests and violence at the Gaza border fence, fueled by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have intensified, worsening the already volatile situation in and around the Strip.  “We expect the de facto authorities in Gaza to do their utmost to prevent further escalation,” she said, urging all actors concerned to act with utmost restraint.  Recalling Israel’s right to self‑defence, she added that the Israeli authorities must respect the principle of necessity and proportionality in its use of force.

“Indispensable humanitarian assistance must overtake political divisions,” she stressed, adding that stopping the important activities of UNRWA could cause instability and create a vacuum that will only serve extremists.  That is why the Union and its Member States are collectively the largest contributors of the Agency’s budget.  Turning to the conflict in Syria, she added that millions of people have been forced to find refuge in other countries or have faced starvation, sieges and armed offensives inside Syria along with blatant violations of human rights.  The Union will be ready to assist in the reconstruction of Syria only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, negotiated by the Syrian parties in the conflict, based on Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the 2012 Geneva Communique, is firmly under way.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) emphasized the need to establish a fully sovereign, economically viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The establishment of Israeli settlements and incitement and inflammatory rhetoric on both sides continues to hinder achieving a lasting peace in the region.  Moreover, the final status of Jerusalem should be defined in negotiations between Israel and Palestine based on relevant Security Council resolutions.  Expressing deep concern over the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, he said it underscores the urgent need for a political solution.  Also worrying is the critical financial situation of UNRWA and the effect that recurrent underfunding of the Agency has on its ability to address refugee needs.  He also highlighted the situation in Syria, welcoming the agreement reached to create a demilitarized zone between opposition and Government forces in the Idlib governorate.  Turning to Yemen, he expressed support to Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, urging all parties to fully engage in efforts towards a negotiated solution to the conflict.

TOMASZ GRYSA, observer of the Holy See, said the two‑State solution “is the only viable way of fulfilling the aspirations for peaceful coexistence among Israelis and Palestinians”.  The situation on the ground is gravely concerning, he noted, calling on decision makers on both sides not to lead their people deeper into conflict.  The international community must “facilitate and sustain the peace process”, he said.  The Holy See reaffirms the historic status quo of Jerusalem and believes that the city must be a place of “convergence and peace” and become truly a “City of Peace”.  He noted the dire humanitarian situation faced by Palestinian refugees, adding that a fully functional UNRWA is the best means to prevent the situation from worsening.  He said organizations of the Catholic Church also provide education, health care and social services to Palestinian refugees.

INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia) said that regrettably the quarterly debate on the Middle East is becoming merely a showcasing on illegal activities by the occupying Power and the accompanying tragedies, without any ability to stop them.  Maintaining that the occupation of Palestine has lasted for far too long and the responsibility falls on the Council to end it, she objected to attempts to divert attention from the issue at this critical time.  The Council is, after all, meant to be a safeguard against injustice and impunity anywhere in the world, not just to stand for the principle of peace.  She condemned recent deaths of Palestinians, including those at the Gaza protests, and called for the deployment of an international protection force.  She called on both parties to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.  On Syria, she welcomed the creation of a buffer zone in Idlib and called for political progress.

CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, appealed to the Security Council to act and redress the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  The ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements is an encroachment on the basic rights of the Palestinian people, he said, adding that the unilateral actions of some Governments are gravely jeopardizing consensus on the two‑State solution.  “The occupying power also persists with its attempts to forcibly displace Palestinian civilians and seize Palestinian land to facilitate its illegal activities,” he warned.  Reiterating his call on Israel to lift the illegal 11‑year‑old blockade on Gaza, he added that Member States must provide sufficient and predictable funds to UNRWA.

“The stalled peace process has only exacerbated the current situation,” he continued, noting that the number of Palestinian civilian casualties is on the rise.  He called for the creation of an expanded multilateral framework for negotiations to revive the peace process.  The impunity with which the occupying Power violates United Nations resolutions is a threat to the Organization’s credibility and he encouraged Member States that recognize an Israeli State to also recognize a Palestinian State.  Doing so will demonstrate commitment to international legitimacy and the two‑State solution.  As testament of the support and recognition it enjoys throughout the world, the State of Palestine has been elected to chair the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, he noted.

THABO MICHAEL MOLEFE (South Africa), stressing that peace negotiations are delicate and nuanced processes, said that the expansion of Israeli settlements and continued military belligerence by that country’s Defense Force does nothing to create the trust needed to move the process forward.  Recognizing the important work done by UNRWA in providing socioeconomic assistance to Palestinian refugees, he added that by reducing funding to the Agency, “it is almost as if we are insinuating that people chose to live in conditions such as these”.  Highlighting the importance of including women in the peace process, he recalled that the activism of women and their leadership accelerated the initial peace efforts.  Initiatives such as women’s non‑violent activism for peace in both societies could help create the much‑needed good will.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the Palestinian cause is today facing unprecedented and existential challenges due, in part, to the Council’s continued lack of action.  “The absence of serious accountability […] has deepened the political impasse, exacerbated the humanitarian suffering of the Palestinian people and created an unsustainable and highly volatile situation,” he said.  Warning that the current political stalemate is neither acceptable nor viable, he said the Council must not remain an observer as the situation continues to deteriorate.  Describing Israel’s destructive policies and violations of rights — some of which may constitute war crimes — he called for multilateral engagement by the international community aimed at salvaging the two‑State solution.  Drawing attention to Israel’s colonial policies in occupied East Jerusalem — which continue to illegally alter the city’s character, status and demographic composition — he cautioned that such actions risk turning Jerusalem into “the capital of hatred, fanaticism and violence” instead of tolerance, coexistence and peace.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Security Council has a clear responsibility to defend its own resolutions which are legally binding for all Member States.  He called for the undertaking of every effort on the regional level to put an end to the injustice in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Noting the profound financing crisis faced by UNRWA, he called for sustainable, predictable and uninterrupted support for the Agency.  This is especially necessary after the punitive decision of the United States to put an end to its financial support.  The situation in the Gaza Strip continues to be of great concern, he said, calling for a total lifting of the Israeli blockade of the enclave.  That blockade continues to impose unspeakable suffering on more than 2 million people.

He went on to say that Israel has abdicated its responsibility as an administering Power.  In that context, he called on the international community to ensure the protection of Palestinians and prevent the loss of more lives.  Expressing concern about the lack of accountability for Israel, he said it erodes the prospects for peace and he called for international action, especially in the Security Council.  However, the Security Council has been unable to comply with its obligations because of the use of the veto by certain permanent members.  Regarding the Syrian Golan, he called for Israel to comply with Security Council resolution 497 (1981) and fully withdraw from that territory.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco), noting that the State of Palestine was appointed to chair the Group of 77 and China, expressing hope that this represented a positive sign for its future status.  The situation in the Territories is deteriorating because of the occupying Power’s Judaization policies, creating obstacles to a relaunching of the peace process.  Moreover, undermining the legal and historic status of Jerusalem will only push the Palestinian cause into the labyrinth of religious conflict.  The city has an inviolable status that cannot be modified, he said, reiterating the importance of safeguarding the status of Jerusalem.  That city is part of the final status decisions and the international community must encourage parties to return to the negotiation table based on the two‑State solution.  His delegation’s support for the Palestinian cause is unconditional and absolute, he stressed.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed sadness at the lack of progress on this topic since the last open debate.  Also noting the arbitrary decision to withdraw financial support to UNRWA, she said it is deplorable that the Council, due to repeated obstruction by one of its members, had not even condemned the escalating violence in Gaza.  The disproportionate use of force by Israel and the illegal building and expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are a breach of the fourth Geneva Convention and erode the viability of a two‑State solution.  The Council must fulfil its responsibility and demand that Israel put an end to the occupation immediately, she stressed.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL‑THANI (Qatar), pointing out that the Palestinian question has been on the Council’s agenda for decades, and called for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace based on international law.  That would require serious negotiations between the two Parties.  In addition to ending Israel’s occupation, it is also necessary to guarantee the return of refugees and acknowledge the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Noting that UNRWA celebrated the beginning of the school year recently, she said that her country contributed $50 million to the Agency’s educational programme.  Turning to Syria, she called for political transition and implementation of the International Independent Mechanism.  Though the illegal blockade against her country has undermined the Gulf Cooperation Council, her State was able to deal with that crisis wisely, she said.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, said that all agreed‑upon principles in the Palestinian‑Israeli peace process are under attack by unilateral moves by Israel to change facts on the ground, as well as by the United States in moving its embassy to Jerusalem and cutting funding to Palestinians.  This has exacerbated the damage done by Israel though its illegal actions in Gaza and the West Bank.  Principals of international law, including the right to peacefully demonstrate against occupation, must urgently be applied.  Effective mechanisms that can provide physical, legal, cultural and territorial protection to the Palestinians must urgently be put in place.  For a just and lasting two‑State solution all previous agreements must be respected and a reinvigorated process put in motion, as repeatedly supported by the Arab League.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), condemning rocket fire into Israel from Gaza and expressing concern over the recent military escalation on the border between the two, urged all parties to show restraint and avoid provocations.  Recalling that Norway chaired a ministerial‑level meeting of the international donor group for Palestine on 27 September — where participants welcomed a United Nations humanitarian package for Gaza — he called for its urgent implementation as Gaza stands on the brink of economic, humanitarian and social collapse.  It is crucial that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) cooperate with the international community, he stressed, adding that Hamas bears a major share of the responsibility for Gaza’s dire condition.  That organization must stop its provocations and politicking, while the Palestinian Authority should reinstate its governance in Gaza and reunite Palestine under one authority.  In the meantime, however, “it is counterproductive to stop supporting Gaza financially” and further impoverish its population.  Israel must restart fuel supplies, expand the fishing zone and lift the extensive restrictions currently imposed on the people and goods moving into and out of Gaza.  Warning of a potential financial breakdown in the Palestinian economy, he called for concerted action to address fiscal issues and asked donors to increase their contributions.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that Palestinians are protesting because of the systematic violation of their inherent rights for 70 years; the occupation of their land; the decade‑long inhumane siege of Gaza; and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by the United States.  They want to return to their ancestral lands and establish their own State with Al‑Quds Al‑Sharif as its capital.  “But why does Israel kill them?” he asked, adding that in Israel’s view, Palestinians have no rights to assembly, expression, protest, return, establish their own State, even to their own life.  The United States unconditionally shields Israel, rendering the Council ineffective, he said, calling on Palestinians to remain resolute and be certain that “these days will pass”.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) recalled that the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected in September a petition to prevent the demolition of a village in the West Bank, which will result in the displacement of hundreds of people.  “This will not only leave them homeless but without a livelihood, without a school for their children and without access to basic health care,” he said.  If the international community continues to express only sentiments rather than holding those who violate international law to account, it will continue to mask its failures and abandon its responsibility.  Turning to Syria, he said that all actors involved in the conflict should prioritize the fundamental human rights of the people affected.  “We must tackle the enabling factors of terrorism through international cooperation, sharing of information and through strategies that focus on combating violent extremism,” he said.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) stressed that there is no plan B to replace the two‑State solution.  Negotiations must continue, though they might take time, and efforts must be made to improve the situation on the ground.  Both Israel and Palestine have the right to live in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders, free from threats.  The parties must immediately cease launching rockets from the Gaza Strip.  Repression against protestors on the Gaza border must end, as should all orders to demolish Palestinian homes.  Calling for the pursuit of reconciliation agreements between Fatah and Hamas in order to encourage Palestinian unity, he said international and regional partners must help develop the region’s economic challenges.  “The time has come to overcome hatred, frustration and discouragement,” he emphasized.  On Syria, he expressed support for the tireless work of outgoing Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, calling for the establishment of a balanced, inclusive Constitutional Committee to help drive forward the country’s ultimate political resolution.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) described the question of Palestine as “unfinished business for the international community”.  Four months ago, Council members expressed deep concern over recent escalations at the Gaza border; many also voiced strong continued support for the two‑State solution.  Calling for tangible progress on those fronts, she said an increasing number of peaceful Palestinian demonstrators have been targeted by live munitions in recent months.  Deaths and injuries continue, including among children, perpetrated by the Israeli Defense Forces.  Expressing hope that the Human Rights Council’s investigation into those events will be prompt and thorough, she said each meeting of the Security Council in New York sees a further deterioration of the situation on the ground.  Israel’s adoption of new, discriminatory and exclusionary laws continues to put the region’s peace and security under threat.  The continued expansion of Israeli territory also risks jeopardizing the two‑State solution as a whole.  Urging that country to comply with all international laws and relevant Council resolutions, she also underscored the need to address the root causes of conflicts in the region.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), associating himself with the League of Arab States and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said peace and stability in the Middle East require a comprehensive policy to address their multiple driving factors — including economic, social and humanitarian.  Iraq has always supported the just struggle of the Palestinian people, as well as the establishment of a free and independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  On 20 February, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on international actors to establish an international, multilateral mechanism under the United Nations umbrella aimed at sponsoring the peace process, as well as for the convening of a conference to relaunch a time‑bound peace negotiation process.  Welcoming the General Assembly’s recent adoption of a resolution that called for international protection for Palestinian civilians, he said all Member States should work together to implement it.  They should also step up efforts to support UNRWA during its current financial crisis, he said.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, voiced concern over protracted conflicts between Israel and Palestine as well as in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Cycles of negative developments have again been hindering hopes for the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the region.  While tireless efforts are under way on the part of the international community, much more remains to be done.  He expressed particular support for the work of the Middle East Quartet, the United Nations and the League of Arab States, as well as regional countries pushing forward the peace process with a view to finally end the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.  Such a resolution must be just, comprehensive and lasting in nature and ensure that the legitimate interests of all parties are addressed.  Reaffirming Viet Nam’s unwavering support for the Palestinian people’s legitimate struggle to exercise their rights — including the right to self‑determination and the establishment of a sovereign State — he called on all parties to comply strictly with international laws, refrain from violence and foster an environment favourable for dialogue.

MOHD AINI ATAN (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concern over the dire situation in Palestine.  Warning that the situation in Gaza could lead to greater chaos in the region, he called on all concerned to exercise restraint and work to de‑escalate tensions.  He also called on all delegations present, as well as the international community at large, to demand that Israel stop all violations and illegal activities and fully comply with all its obligations under Security Council resolutions.  With determined effort, members of the United Nations could make significant contributions in breaking the impasse in the peace process toward the two‑State solution, the only viable option for lasting peace.  Reaffirming Malaysia’s unwavering support and solidarity with Palestinians in realizing self‑determination, freedom and independence, he pledged continuation of assistance to Palestinians within his country’s means.

HAMOOD SALIM ABDULLAH AL TOWAIYA (Oman) recalled that the Arab Peace Initiative — endorsed at the 2002 Beirut Summit — called for Israel’s complete withdrawal from all Palestinian land.  It further called for two sovereign States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace.  To date, however, Israel remains evasive and even continues its rapid settlement expansion.  The international community must remain committed to those original goals, he stressed, calling in particular on diplomatic efforts currently under way in Egypt to help drive the process forward.  All States should avoid recognizing any unilateral measures that risk undermining the two‑State solution, including with regard to the composition of the holy city of Jerusalem.  They should abstain from setting up diplomatic missions in Jerusalem, in line with United Nations resolutions, and respect the question of that city — as well as the question of Palestine refugees — as final status issues.  Finally, Member States should support the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  “We must assist Palestinians and save them from despair,” he stressed, also calling on donors to step up their financial support to UNRWA.

RODRIGO ALBERTO CARAZO ZELEDÓN (Costa Rica), deeply deploring the heightened conflicts that cause suffering in the Middle East region, said that it is urgent to ameliorate the humanitarian tragedy which is an affront to humanity.  He called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities in all those conflicts.  In the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, implementation of Council resolutions leading to a two‑State solution is critical.  He condemned any escalation of tensions, violence and deaths.  He stressed that provocation and violence on both sides must stop and trust must be restored in order to work for peace.  Appropriation of buildings and displacement of population in the West Bank, and establishment of new settlements, must also stop.  Expressing concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the funding crisis of UNRWA, he applauded the ministerial meeting that mobilized support for the Agency and called for redoubled efforts by the international community to foster a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.

The representative of Israel, replying to the statement by the representative of Iran, said that Tehran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and destabilization, which has set a timetable for the destruction of Israel.  Replying to Syria, he said his comments would not distract from the horrors in his country.  In reply to Lebanon, he described the thousands of weapons allowed by that country to be installed and pointed at Israel by the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The representative of Iran, in reply to the statement made by the representative of the United States, said that that country has once again abused the Council’s agenda by focusing on Iranian children.  By doing so they try to cover up their illegal acts against Palestinians, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he stated.  They also try to distract from Israel’s crimes that include brutally killing Palestinian children.  Regarding Iran’s children, hundreds were killed by Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons, some of which were supplied by the United States.  Many others were killed by United States‑supported terrorists and hostile actions, and all were harmed by sanctions.  Concerning Saudi Arabia’s statement about Iran’s islands in the Persian Gulf, he stated that that country has no standing to discuss the issue.  Instead they should stop exporting terrorism and stop killing Yemeni children.

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* The 8374th Meeting was closed.

For information media. Not an official record.