Speakers Decry Israel’s Unilateral Actions to Legitimize Presence on Occupied Arab Lands, as Security Council Concludes Middle East Debate

SC/14086
22 January 2020
8706th Meeting (Resumed) (AM)

Speakers Decry Israel’s Unilateral Actions to Legitimize Presence on Occupied Arab Lands, as Security Council Concludes Middle East Debate

Speakers in the Security Council today roundly denounced unilateral moves by Israel to legitimize its presence on occupied Arab lands, with several rejecting such actions — and United States recognition of them — as a blatant trampling of sovereignty and glaring violation of international law.

The representative of Bangladesh, speaking for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was among those challenging Israel’s de-facto annexation of Palestinian lands.  Its recent illegal decision to set up so-called nature reserves in the West Bank must be prevented, she said, likewise calling for full withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan to pre-1967 borders and welcoming the International Criminal Court decision to open an investigation into Israel’s crimes.

Indeed, Palestinian hopes for resuming negotiations have waned as Israel plans to transform large swaths of Area C into nature reserves, said the Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States.  Its illegal decisions, recognized by the United States, undermine a two-State solution in attempting to name Al Quds as the capital of Israel and validate its sovereignty over illegal settlements.  She pressed the Court to open its investigations, as conditions were met to launch such an inquiry.

In 2019 alone, Israel demolished 617 Palestinian structures and evicted 889 people in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, added Sudan’s representative on behalf of the Arab Group.  He called on Israel to withdraw from the Syrian Golan, in line with Council resolution 338 (1973), and halt actions aimed at changing the demographic character of various territories.

These actions “slam the door shut” to any settlement, warned Saudi Arabia’s delegate, insisting that Israel withdraw from Lebanon’s territory and the Syrian Golan, and rejecting any statement aimed at legitimizing Israeli settlements — a point echoed by Azerbaijan’s representative on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, who condemned the United States President’s 21 March 2019 statement “recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel”.  The international community must not remain on the sidelines, said Malaysia’s delegate, stressing that his country will open an embassy accredited to Palestine in Amman and is working with the Government of Jordan in this regard.

Lebanon’s delegate similarly said that the new Government is counting in the support of friends amid Israel’s breaches of Lebanese sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly air violations.  She pressed the Council to implement its resolutions — whether on Palestine, Lebanon or other parts of the region — if the Middle East is to know justice and peace.

More broadly, speakers expressed serious concern about heightened tensions in the Gulf, with several calling for diplomacy and dialogue over aggressive posturing.  Japan’s delegate noted that his country’s Prime Minister recently returned from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman, while Pakistan’s delegate pointed to visits by his country’s Foreign Minister to Riyadh and Washington, D.C.  The positive reactions received could constitute a first step towards broader regional engagement, he said, observing that competing external interests have lent a sectarian hue to regional rivalries.

On that point, Iran’s delegate accused the United States of engaging in destabilizing acts in the Middle East, most recently assassinating Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad — “a clear manifestation of State terrorism”.  Washington, D.C., is well aware that Mr. Soleimani played a decisive role in fighting Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Iraq and Syria, and worked to stabilize the region.  The most effective way to ensure regional peace is for the United States to withdraw its forces from the region.  Qatar’s delegate meanwhile condemned the “campaign of accusation and slander” by those imposing a blockade against her country, blaming it as a source of instability.

In Syria, several delegates decried the protracted suffering of civilians in the north-west.  Portugal’s representative, on behalf of 27 member States of the European Union, said that the presence of United Nations-listed terrorist groups must be collectively addressed, without violating international humanitarian law.  Turkey’s delegate underscored the need for sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access, while the speaker for Ireland said the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

To many of these points, Israel’s delegate recalled Iran’s missile exports and open calls for the destruction of his country as evidence of its subversive intensions.

Speaking to a tacit sense of deflation, Costa Rica’s representative called for a reflection on the kind of United Nations its members want.  The Council has spent decades discussing the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.  “This sad state of affairs is, without a doubt, one of the greatest failures of this house,” he said.  It is high time to find lasting definitive solutions, he said, calling for resumed negotiations leading to a two-State solution.

The Vice‑Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also spoke today.

Also making statements were representatives of Brazil, Liechtenstein, Kuwait, Egypt, Nigeria, Cuba, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Morocco, Ecuador, Canada, Bahrain and Sri Lanka, as well as an observer for the Holy See.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 1:29 p.m.

Statements

DATO'SYED MOHD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, given the enormous hardship inflicted on the Palestinian people with impunity, the international community must not remain on the side-lines and must take action to change the trajectory.  For its part, Malaysia will open an embassy accredited to Palestine in Amman and is working with the Government of Jordan in this regard.  A legitimate political process is the only way forward to end the occupation and establish a State of Palestine.  Credible conditions must be created to revive the peace process, with the Security Council striving towards a two-State solution.

FREDERICO SALOMÃO DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) raised a range of concerns about the region, calling first on parties in Iraq to work towards a peaceful solution and avert further escalation at all costs to prevent potentially devastating consequences.  His delegation supported the negotiation of a peaceful and creative solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially in light of the fragile situation in Gaza.  Urging parties in Syria to ensure safe access for aid deliveries, he regretted to note that the recent Council decision failed to renew operations at two border crossings.  Concerned about the crisis in Yemen, he encouraged the parties to the conflict to find common ground and take steps towards fully implementing the Stockholm Agreement.  Condemning the recent military escalation in Libya, he called on the parties to protect civilians and comply with the Geneva Conventions.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) expressed concern that recent developments in the Middle East undermine fundamental tenets of international law and that the right of self-defence is increasingly being put forward, without appropriate justification, as the legal basis for military action.  Excessively expansive and unchecked interpretations of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations undermine the international rules-based order and stand in the way of the Organization’s mandate to maintain international peace and security.  On the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue, he said that resolution 2231 (2015) remains in force and is still binding on all States, with Council members bearing a special responsibility.  He said that the two-State solution remains the only pathway to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, adding that political attacks against the International Criminal Court, whose Prosecutor has been examining the situation in Palestine, can only weaken the rule of law and strengthen the rule of might.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Arab Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Israel’s illegal policies undermine prospects for a two-State solution.  Its aggressive practices and policies are unacceptable.  The Council has failed to hold Israel accountable for disrespecting Council resolutions and for its illegal practices against Palestinians and their property.  It is unacceptable that the Oslo Accords were concluded 25 years ago, and that, today, a just peace has not been advanced between Israelis and Palestinians.  Settlement‑building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the coercive displacement of Palestinians, violates resolution 2334 (2016).  The occupation authorities must be held responsible for their flagrant violation of international law and the 1949 fourth Geneva Convention, he said, citing the tightened Gaza blockade, the withholding of Palestinian tax revenues and non-renewal of the temporary international presence in Hebron, along with actions aimed at changing the demographic character of Al Quds.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that strategic rivalry in the region has assumed a sectarian hue, with competing overlapping interests of external Powers.  Civilians have become the primary victims of protracted violence.  Pakistan has sought to defuse these tensions between the United States and Iran.  His country’s Foreign Minister recently visited Riyadh and Washington, D.C., underscoring the need for mutual restraint, including recourse to dialogue.  The positive reaction from all sides is encouraging — and perhaps comprises a first step towards broad regional engagement.  The Council’s recent adoption of resolution 2505 (2020) renewing the United Nations Mission in Support of the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) is a signal of the international commitment to resolve the crisis in Yemen, the full implementation of which is necessary.  In Syria, establishment of the Constitutional Committee has raised hopes for an inclusive political settlement and it must be genuinely supported by Syrian parties and international stakeholders.  The Berlin conference on Libya must be followed by fulfilment of the pledge by international Powers to enable space for political reconciliation among various factions.  The tragedy of Palestine, at the heart of the turmoil, shows no signs of ending amid Israel’s settlement‑expansion.  The principle of land for peace and implementation of resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the Madrid Terms of Reference and the Arab Peace Initiative are well‑known elements for advancement.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said that Israel continues to uphold the status quo, amid plans for new settlements and annexation of territory in the West Bank.  “This slams the door shut to any resolution to the situation,” he said, also citing its promulgation of anti-Palestinian legislation and policies that seek to legitimize settlement‑building.  He called on the international community to compel Israel to respect resolutions, underscoring Saudi Arabia’s unchanged position that the Palestinian cause is “the key cause”, which his country will defend until Palestinians’ inalienable rights prevail and they can create a State with Al Quds al Sharif as its capital, in line with the Arab Peace Initiative.  Israel must end its occupation of Lebanon’s territory and the Syrian Golan, he said, rejecting any statement intended to give legitimacy to Israel’s settlements in Palestinian territory.  Such actions are against international legitimacy and obstruct a two-State solution.  He likewise rejected foreign meddling in the Libya conflict, which has only exacerbated the conflict, and expressed full support for Libyans’ right to decide their own future.  He called on all Libyan parties to exercise restraint and uphold the sovereignty of their country.

Condemning the assault by Syrian authorities on civilians in Idlib and advocating dialogue in the Constitutional Committee, he called for the withdrawal of all foreign armed militia in Syria.  Violation of Iraq’s sovereignty is a serious development that carries “nefarious” consequences and he condemned recent attacks.  Pressing the international community to also end Iran’s provocative operations, he said that Saudi Arabia has demonstrated maximum restraint in response to attacks on its oil facilities.  While Houthi militia admitted responsibility, the United Nations has made clear the attacks were not carried out from Yemen territory, but, rather, from the north.  There have nonetheless been advances, with the Riyadh Agreement paving the way for peace in Yemen.  Yet, the Houthis, backed by Iran, continue their practices, which are out of step with Council resolution 2446 (2018).  He pressed the Council to foster de-escalation in the region “before this tinder box explodes”.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said that, despite calls by the international community, Israeli violations of international law are increasing at an alarming rate.  Israel must halt settlement activities, which only deepen the sense of injustice and breed desperation among the Palestinian people.  Recalling the immense challenges facing humanitarian organizations in Gaza, including grave health‑care needs, he said that the international community must provide assistance and efforts must also be made to ensure predictable and sustainable funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  Turning to the situation in Syria, he said that targeting civilians and related infrastructure by the regime continues in Idlib, compounding already dire conditions.  Sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access is vital.  Regretting to note the Constitutional Committee’s stalled discussions, he said that the international community should work towards implementing Council resolution 2254 (2015) and support the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria.

KIMIHIRO ISHIKANE (Japan) expressed serious concern about heightened regional tensions amid new conflict in the Gulf, which could have disastrous consequences.  “We must continue to encourage all concerned to find a solution through negotiations,” he said, urging the parties to make maximum diplomatic efforts.  Noting that his country’s Prime Minister recently returned from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman, he said Japan will continue its diplomatic efforts.  More broadly, he deeply deplored settlement activities and demolition of Palestinian-owned structures, strongly urging Israel to cease all such actions.  He expressed Japan’s commitment to a two-State solution, with the final status of Jerusalem resolved through negotiations based on Council resolutions and known parameters.  Every three months “we repeat similar depressing statements in this chamber”, he said, expressing hope that general elections in Palestine will be held in the coming months.

ADELA RAZ (Afghanistan), speaking in her capacity as Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that leaving the Palestinian question unresolved would be a serious negligence of the international community’s duties under the Charter and a threat to peace and security in the Middle East and beyond.  The ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and worsening situation on the ground cannot be ignored as business as usual.  Claims that Israeli settlements are not illegal or might even advance Israeli-Palestinian peace are unfounded and offensive.  She called on all Member States to provide UNRWA with reliable and sustainable financing.  She also welcomed the General Assembly’s adoption, by overwhelming majorities, of all resolutions on the question of Palestine before it, as well as the decision by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.  She went on to convey the Committee’s full support for elections in the State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, with a view to reuniting the Palestinian people under a single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian national government.

MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and OIC, said that prospects for a durable solution to the Israel‑-Palestinian conflict have declined, due to Israel’s actions.  Over the last year, the situation in Palestinian territories has deteriorated, with Israel confiscating land, expelling Palestinians, demolishing their homes and building settlements in the West Bank — all of which contravene actions to achieve peace.  “For how long do the Palestinian people have to wait for a solution?”, he asked.  It is no longer helpful to review the situation on the ground without taking any steps to reach a solution.  Describing the Palestinian question as “the key” to stability in the Middle East, he said that security will remain elusive unless the rights of Palestinians are guaranteed, and the territory seized in 1967 is liberated.  The crises in the Middle East should not distract from acknowledging that regional actors are interfering in others’ affairs, pursuing national interests without regard for the Charter.  Some international actors have resorted to force, targeting civilian objects.  Pressing the Council to take immediate steps to prevent further escalation, he likewise urged all parties to comply with international law, and to refrain from the use of force, intervention in internal State affairs and support for terrorists or illegitimate militia groups.  He expressed grave concern about the deteriorating situation in Libya, including violation of the arms embargo and foreign interference, which especially threatens stability in the Sahel.  Welcoming the outcome of the Berlin conference and supporting efforts to create the conditions for a resumed political process based on the 2015 agreement, he said that the solution must be Libyan-led and owned.

FRANCISCO ANTÓNIO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal), speaking on behalf of 27 member States of the European Union, said it envisions Israel and a sovereign State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security.  He expressed concern about Israel’s settlement‑building, including the approval of almost 2,000 additional units and retroactive approval of other units, some of which will be built on Palestinian land — moves that follow other actions in East Jerusalem and Hebron.  Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and obstruct peace.  The European Union will not recognize any changes to pre‑1967 borders other than those respected by the parties.  Israel must meet its obligations as an occupying Power and cease its settlement‑expansion.  Annexation also would be a serious violation of international law.  He opposed the demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned structures across the occupied West Bank, notably in East Jerusalem, including humanitarian projects funded by the European Union.

Building accountable Palestinian institutions, based on respect for the rule of law and human rights, is necessary, as is establishing a functioning Palestinian Government, he said.  A date must be set for elections and he called all Palestinian factions to commit to democratic principles prior to those polls.  All must take steps in line with resolution 2334 (2016) leading to changes in Gaza, including full opening of crossing points, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.  Until a just, fair, agreed and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue is found, the work of UNRWA is crucial.  More broadly, he expressed concern about violence in north-west Syria, stressing that the presence of United Nations-listed terrorist groups is a common threat that must be addressed, without violating international humanitarian law.  Syria must permanently cease indiscriminate air strikes.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the Movement’s abiding solidarity with the Palestinian people and its commitment to a just, lasting and peaceful solution.  That solution is well-known and must be in line with international law, relevant United Nations resolutions and the Charter.  Immediate action is needed to hold Israel, the occupying Power, accountable for violating Council resolutions, he said, calling for full and effective implementation of resolution 2334 (2016).  He underscored the Movement’s condemnation of a statement by the President of the United States on 21 March 2019 regarding the occupied Syrian Golan and called on the Council to clearly condemn the President’s provocative proclamation “recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel”.  He went on to express deep appreciation for the work of UNRWA and welcomed the extension of its mandate to 30 June 2023.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), associating herself with the European Union, said that a negotiated two-State solution would greatly benefit both Palestinians and Israelis while also making a significant contribution to regional stability.  Though the conflict has long endured, Ireland believes that the international community has a responsibility to keep hoping and working for a solution.  The Council has a particularly important role to play, and as an aspiring member, Ireland will work to ensure that it meets its responsibilities.  Turning to Syria, she called for the situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court and welcomed the General Assembly’s decision to fund the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 from the United Nations’ regular budget.

FREDERIK HANSEN, observer for the Holy See, quoted Pope Francis as saying that the deteriorating situation in the Middle East is “setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert”.  Steadfast and effective engagement is needed to counteract the pall of silence that risks falling over the war in Syria, he said, adding that silence and indifference also risk worsening the conflict in Yemen.  He emphasized Jerusalem’s vocation as a city of peace and echoed calls by the United Nations and others for the status quo of its holy sites to be maintained.  The international community must also reconfirm its commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he added.

RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of OIC, said that the expansion of Israel’s illegal settlement policy and de‑facto annexation of Palestinian lands cannot go unchallenged.  The international community must take concrete action to compel Israel to respect and comply with Council resolutions, particular resolution 2334 (2016).  Israel’s recent illegal decision to set up so‑called nature reserves in the West Bank must be condemned and prevented, she added.  She welcomed the International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigation into Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people and called on all States to abide by their obligations to uphold international law, including the fourth Geneva Convention.  She also called for Israel’s full withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan to pre-1967 borders and reiterated OIC’s support for a political solution to the Syrian crisis in line with resolution 2254 (2015).

Speaking in her national capacity, she said that aggression by Israel, the occupying Power, has become the new normal in the Palestinian territory.  The number of Palestinian casualties, the flagrant violation of Palestinians’ human rights, severe restrictions on their movements and the closure of the Gaza Strip speaks to the dismal situation on the ground.  The international community must turn around the culture of inaction and compel Israel to end its occupation, she said, adding that Bangladesh looks upon the Council to enforce relevant resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016).  With the United Nations approaching its seventy-fifth anniversary, the resolution of the Palestinian crisis will remain a litmus test for retaining people’s trust in the Organization and multilateralism.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, said that Israel’s settlements have relentlessly increased.  With its plans to build 2,000 units and transform large swaths of Area C into nature reserves, hopes for resuming credible peace negotiations on the five final status issues have waned.  Palestinians have given up hope for an Israeli partner — and in the integrity of those responsible for the peace process.  Israel’s illegal decisions, recognized by the United States, undermine the two-State solution in attempting to name Al Quds as the capital of Israel, recognize its sovereignty over illegal settlements and impose a new reality on the ground — all in contravention of international humanitarian law.  The Palestinian Authority meanwhile forges ahead, launching preparations for presidential elections and intensifying efforts, with the help of the League, to increase recognition of the State of Palestine.  The Palestinian Authority is also promoting the eligibility of the State of Palestine as a member of the United Nations.  The Council must take a decisive position.

He called for ceasing all settlement activities and related displacement and demolitions, pressing the International Criminal Court to open investigations into international humanitarian law and human rights law violations, as conditions were met to launch such an inquiry.  Elsewhere, he reaffirmed support for the political process in Libya and pledged to work with parties to settle the conflict.  He welcomed the Council’s renewal of the cross-border mechanism in Syria, rejecting the aggression on the northern part of the country.  He also supported efforts to restore calm in Yemen, similarly reiterating the League’s full solidarity with Lebanon.  He called on the Council and the Secretary-General to make relentless efforts to alleviate tensions in the Middle East.

CATHERINE IMAJI UDIDA (Nigeria), raising grave concerns about the alarming situation in many parts of the region, said that all parties must make genuine and concerted efforts to find peaceful solutions and cooperate with the United Nations and its agencies to achieve the shared objective of a two-State solution for the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.  A just and lasting solution is imperative for attaining peace and stability in the Middle East, she said, encouraging Israel to freeze all settlement activities in occupied territory and Palestinian leaders to signal their readiness to return to the negotiating table.  At the same time, the Security Council must not fail in its duty and responsibility to the Palestinian people.

JUAN MIGUEL GONZÁLEZ PEÑA (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Council remains mute as Israel consolidates its policy of illegal settlements and threatens to annex more Palestinian lands.  Due to the obstruction of the United States, the Council has not even been able to condemn the escalation of violence, he said, adding that the situation facing UNRWA was triggered by that country’s decision to withhold funding.  He emphasized Cuba’s irrevocable solidarity with the Palestinian people and its support for Palestine becoming a full member of the United Nations.  He went on to condemn the “deal of the century”, saying it fails to make room for a Palestinian State, thus scorning a two-State solution.  He added that the United States’ aggressive, unilateral and unjustified actions — including its bombardment of an Iraqi airport and targeted assassination using missiles — represent a major escalation of tension in a powder keg region of the world where a major conflict can break out at any time.

AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) said that, with the onset of a new decade, it is possible to reverse negative trends and achieve de-escalation through a commitment to international law, the Charter of the United Nations and Council resolutions.  It is worrying to see Israel continue its illegal practices against the Palestinian people, including through its settlement activities, she said, emphasizing that, more than ever, the region needs to see international law bolstered and consolidated.  She cited the recent Berlin conference as an example of international efforts to address crises, adding that the United Arab Emirates hopes that a political process under United Nations auspices will unfold in Libya.  Noting that her country is among the biggest contributors to UNRWA, she called on the international community to redouble its efforts to implement a two-State solution and to step up humanitarian assistance.

FARZANA ZAHIR (Maldives) said that, while challenges to achieve peace seem insurmountable, her delegation remains steadfast in its support and advocacy for finding a lasting solution to problems in the region and particularly to uphold the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine.  Meanwhile, the Council can and must do more to address these prolonged conflicts, she said, calling on Israel to implement relevant decisions and resolutions and to respect its legal obligations under the United Nations Charter.  The crisis in Syria is among the world’s gravest tragedies, and the Council must do more to reinvigorate talks to find a peaceful solution.  Encouraged by the momentum to reach a political settlement in Yemen, she said that efforts must be strengthened and supported to end the war.  The Security Council is the most vital body of the United Nations, with a responsibility to ensure global peace, so its authority and legitimacy must not be compromised.  The Council must step up efforts to ensure that its decisions are respected by everyone, she said, adding that:  “If we fail to uphold our obligations, we cannot ensure the peaceful resolution of these conflicts and wars.”  As a new decade begins, she called “on all to give peace a chance and a home for the people of Palestine”.

HOSNI MUSTAFA (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, pointed to the lack of respect for resolutions related to the Palestinian question.  The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories has deteriorated in the last year alone, with 2,490 Palestinians killed in the West Bank and 1,046 injured.  In 2019, the occupying Power demolished 617 Palestinian structures, evicting 889 Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  He reaffirmed solidarity with Palestinians and their right to self-determination, expressing the Group’s commitment to seek a just, durable and peaceful solution based on international law, Council resolutions and the Charter.  Acknowledging a two-State solution as the only viable pathway, he expressed grave concern that the Council has failed to uphold its duties and urged it to compel Israel to implement its resolutions.  Israel must be held accountable all violations against the Arab and Palestinian people.  He called for lifting the Gaza blockade and allowing aid to reach the besieged people there.  Israel must refrain immediately from pursuing policies aimed at changing the demographic character of various territories, and respect the status of Al Aqsa mosque.  He supported Jordan’s role in preserving Christian and Islamic holy sites, including Al Aqsa mosque, calling on Israel to respect resolution 297 (1981) and withdraw from the Syrian Golan, in line with resolution 338 (1973).  He also welcomed the extension of UNRWA’s mandate until June 2023.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) rejected Israel’s illegal settlement policies and oppression of Palestinians, stressing that Arab land must be returned to the Palestinians.  The Gaza blockade must end and refugees must be allowed to return.  Israel also must cease practices that threaten a two-State solution.  Peace must be achieved through serious dialogue, guided by the Charter and the Arab Peace Initiative, with the international community doing its utmost to end the suffering.  For its part, Qatar contributes to the Palestinian Authority’s budget, and supports projects in Gaza.  In Syria, serious violations of international humanitarian law persist, she said, stressing that Syrians should be able to enjoy sovereignty and independence.  The only way forward is through a political settlement, in line with the Geneva communiqué.  On Libya, she condemned militia attacks on the legitimate and internationally recognized Government, urging parties to end the violence.  On Yemen, she advocated prioritizing dialogue, paving the way for national reconciliation in line with resolution 2216 (2015), and called on all involved to facilitate aid access.  In Iraq, she called for “wisdom, reason and logic”, dialogue to peacefully resolve disputes and respect for international law, stressing that Qatar will work through diplomatic channels to reduce tensions.  In addition, the blockade against Qatar violates international law, destabilizes the region and threatens international peace and security, she said, denouncing the “campaign of accusation and slander” by those imposing the blockade and emphasizing that Qatar is committed to mediation.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said a new year has come, but the Palestinian people are still suffering from the occupation and the violation of their just rights, undermining prospects for a just peace.  He reiterated Morocco’s solidarity with the Palestinians and its support for the two-State solution and called for settlement activity to cease.  Morocco also rejects unilateral measures concerning Jerusalem that are inconsistent with Council resolutions, he said, recalling that King Mohammed IV and Pope Francis agreed last year to promote Al Quds’ special character as a multi-faith city and the common heritage of mankind.  He urged the international community to take things into its own hands and bring the two sides to the negotiating table with a view to achieving a two-State solution.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) asked why the Council has failed to end the occupation, protect the rights of millions of Palestinians and confront an occupying regime that has committed all four core international crimes — several times.  “The answer is clear,” he insisted, pointing to the United States violation of international law, “crossing all principles of humanity and morality” and shielding the Israeli regime.  The United States has engaged in other destabilizing acts in the Middle East.  It continues its military adventurism, most recently assassinating Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad — “a clear manifestation of State terrorism”.  He rejected all United States fabrications to justify its heinous crime, underscoring that Washington, D.C., is well aware that Mr. Soleimani played a decisive role in fighting Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Iraq and Syria and worked to stabilize the region.  The participation of millions of people in Tehran in his funeral procession — the second largest in the region’s history — demonstrated how beloved he was in the region.  The most effective way to ensure regional peace is for the United States to withdraw its forces from the region.  The Council must prevent all unlawful United States and Israeli policies against the region, forbidding it to abuse its open debates to play victim.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) expressed deep concern about the number of Palestinian and Israeli causalities and rejected any expression of violence.  Both parties should act in line with international law, including international humanitarian law, and act with restraint.  Steps must be taken to launch credible negotiations and to bolster international and regional efforts towards a just and lasting peace that is based on a two-State solution, she said.

RODRIGO ALBERTO CARAZO ZELEDÓN (Costa Rica) said that this is a moment to reflect on what kind of United Nations its members want.  Given the unremitting and multiple flashpoints in the Middle East, it is clear that specific measures must be taken that will culminate in a lasting political solution between Israel and the State of Palestine.  The Council has spent decades discussing the situation, but the lack of consensus only adds to the tangled nature of the conflict.  “This sad state of affairs is, without a doubt, one of the greatest failures of this house,” he said.  It is high time to find lasting definitive solutions, he said, urging Israel and the State of Palestine to resume negotiations leading to a two-State solution.

MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada), recalling the tragedy of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752, which killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians, said “all of Canada is mourning the loss of these bright individuals”.  The country will not rest until the families receive closure, accountability, transparency and justice from Iran.  While Iran has taken responsibility, “we will continue to judge Iran by its actions”, he assured.  Acutely aware of “dangerous new flashpoints” in the region, Canada supports all efforts to promote de-escalation.  Since the start of the crisis, Canada has advocated diplomacy and called on all parties to honour their obligations.  Citing Canada’s involvement in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), he said that the country also works with Iraq, where the Government seeks to consolidate the territorial defeat of ISIL/Da’esh.  He expressed support for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, condemning unequivocally rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad — terror groups that control a vulnerable population.  Recalling the critical situation in Gaza, he urged the international community to work to avoid another humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

HATEM ABDULHAMEED MOHAMED SHARIF HATEM (Bahrain) called for the creation of conditions to ensure the success of political settlements and refraining from interference in internal State affairs, with conflict-affected States able to restore their sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He expressed support for Palestinians’ right to build an independent State along June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, based on a two‑State solution and relevant international instruments.  Peace will only be possible only if Palestinians are granted all their rights, he insisted, pressing the international community to do its utmost to resolve the question of Palestine.  More broadly, he said terrorist acts by Houthi militias aim to obstruct efforts towards a political solution in Yemen that fulfils people’s aspirations for security and prosperity.  He condemned their attack against a mosque in Mahrib Governorate, which killed dozens.  Welcoming the final communique of the Berlin conference, and the agreement on a comprehensive plan to resolve the crisis in Libya, he likewise expressed support for the 2015 Skhirat Agreement signed in Morocco.

SATYA RODRIGO (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that peace in the Middle East will remain elusive until a just and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on a two-State solution, is reached.  She expressed deep concern about ground conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories, stressing that all Israeli illegal settlement activities there must cease.  Israel must comply with its international legal obligations and halt policies aimed at changing the demographic character, identity and legal status of the occupied territories.  She likewise expressed concern about the critical situation in Gaza, where the blockade has created deplorable socioeconomic conditions for 1.8 million people, half of whom are under age 15.  It must be lifted.  Reiterating support for resolutions 242 (1967), 497 (1981) and 2334 (2016), she called for mutual confidence building measures in efforts to resume dialogue.  For its part, Sri Lanka reaffirms its support for Palestinians and their inalienable rights, she said, calling for redoubled collective efforts to forge a durable settlement.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said that the situation regarding the Palestinian issue is leading to despair and a loss of faith in the international community and in peace.  There is an urgent need for a different path, a different construct and a new page, she said, adding that “the status quo is not tenable anymore”.  On recent developments in her country, she said its new Government is counting on the support of all friends of Lebanon, whose stability is important for the region.  While the situation in the south is calm, Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly air violations, have continued, she added.  The Council must implement its resolutions — whether on Palestine, Lebanon or other parts of the region — if the Middle East is to know justice and peace.

BEN BOURGEL (Israel), noting the concern of some speakers about the focus of his country’s statement (see Press Release SC/14085), said that each delegation is free to choose the subjects it wishes to address when participating in the Council’s debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.  Doing so contributes to the richness of exchanges.  He went on to recall Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region as it exports missiles, advances its devastating ideology and openly calls for Israel’s destruction.  The Council must condemn Iran’s violations of its resolutions and take steps to end them.

For information media. Not an official record.