Delegates welcomed the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and urged stakeholders to use the agreement as an opportunity to reopen dialogue and address the root causes of the conflict, as the General Assembly wrapped up its special debate on the situation in the Middle East this morning.
Croatia’s representative said the ceasefire should create an atmosphere conducive to resuming the political process. While endorsing the Secretary‑General’s call for a robust support package for reconstruction and recovery, he said the focus should be on addressing the underlying causes of the conflict in the longer term.
The Gambia’s speaker echoed that point, noting that, while the ceasefire is an encouraging sign, “we have had too many ceasefires over the last few decades”. Peace and security in Palestine mean peace and security in the Middle East, and all over the world, he said, calling on the Organization to renew efforts to bring both parties to the negotiating table and appealing to the Middle East Quartet and all concerned parties to revive a two-State solution.
The representative of Nigeria said that the occupation is at the heart of the conflict in the Middle East. Its long‑standing nature has led to hopelessness and resignation, he noted, adding that the United Nations must counter the popular perception that nothing can be done.
To ensure renewed commitment towards a two-State solution that meets Israelis’ and Palestinians’ security needs, all acts of provocation, incitement, violence and destruction must end, stressed Portugal’s delegate. It is also vital to uphold and respect the status quo of the holy sites and to stop all illegal policies of settlement‑construction and ‑expansion, like forced evictions and demolitions, he said. In a similar vein, the representative of Poland said that, without addressing issues like forced evictions, lasting peace would be impossible.
Oman’s delegate recalled that, despite more than 700 General Assembly and over 80 Security Council resolutions, none have been implemented by Israel. As such, a mechanism to implement resolutions must be established, he said, stressing: “As long as there is occupation, there will be a resistance.”
Reconciling the issues is not easy, acknowledged Sri Lanka’s delegate, encouraging both parties to make “a political and diplomatic leap of faith”. Underscoring the need for ordinary people to be given the opportunity to come together and build relationships at the grass‑roots level, she called on everyone to “open our hearts and let a little empathy flow into the veins”.
Palestine should not be an exception to the universal aspiration for freedom and prosperity, enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals, the representative of Nicaragua said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Norway, Brunei Darussalam, Philippines, Honduras, Switzerland, Paraguay, Portugal, Colombia, Romania, Namibia, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Ghana.
Observers from the Holy See and Organization of the Islamic Conference also made statements.
The representative of Turkey spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 26 May, to take action on a draft resolution relating to countering the use of information and communications technology for criminal purposes.
MONA JUUL (Norway), welcoming the ceasefire in the fighting between Israel and Palestine, also commended Egypt, in partnership with the United Nations, for facilitating that agreement. The crisis was a stark reminder of the absence of any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she said, noting that the fighting did not help tackle any underlying issues. The parties must avoid further fighting and must build on the significant gains of the past decade, she said, adding that it is especially important to strengthen the foundation of a future Palestinian State. Calling on the leadership of Israel and Palestine, as well as all other stakeholders to work towards finding a just and peaceful solution to the crisis, she reiterated that only a political solution could bring peace.
NOOR QAMAR SULAIMAN (Brunei Darussalam), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the Joint Leaders Statement issued by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam on 16 May reflects their collective voices on the dire situation in Palestine and the need for urgent action. Expressing grave concern over the violence, she said the occupation, forced displacement and illegal expansion of settlements have not only hindered the Palestinians’ aspiration for statehood, but also deprived them of their basic human rights. The international community, particularly the Security Council, has a responsibility to call for an end to all violence. Advocating for a comprehensive and lasting peace on the basis of a two-State solution along the pre-1967 borders, she said a United Nations that truly leaves no one behind must ensure that all nations can enjoy their fundamental rights to peace, freedom, justice and self-determination. The United Nations has a moral and legal obligation to ensure that Member States uphold international law and exercise accountability for actions that contravene it, she added.
ENRIQUE AUSTRIA MANALO (Philippines) expressed serious concern over the recent violence and underlined the need to maintain the ceasefire established last week between Israel and Hamas and avoid further killings and destruction. He reaffirmed support for a two-State solution and commended the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to respond to the Palestinian population, both refugee and non‑refugee, under extraordinary circumstances. There must be more intense focus on building trust and confidence and demonstrating resolve to achieve a just and lasting peace, he said. All stakeholders, including the Middle East Quartet, must redouble efforts to find the best diplomatic outcome in the region.
IRMA ALEJANDRINA ROSA SUAZO (Honduras) condemned Hamas attacks on Israeli civilian populations and reiterated her country’s commitment to combat international terrorism, stressing that humanity cannot ignore the constant warnings of growing terrorist groups across the world. She went on to welcome a ceasefire and emphasized that all people have the right to live in peace and dignity.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), welcoming the ceasefire that had brought 11 days of fighting to an end, commended Egypt for working in coordination with the United Nations for restoring calm. Stressing the importance of humanitarian access to Gaza, she said that Palestinian and Israeli civilians have suffered far too much. This tragedy must not be repeated and all parties must use the momentum to recommit to a peace process that is in line with their obligations and Security Council resolutions. Also noting the continuing violence and the related wave of arrests, she called on leaders to refrain from provocative rhetoric and action. The rights of both Israelis and Palestinians must be based on equality. Preservation of the historical status quo on Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and the peaceful coexistence of all residents of Jerusalem must be guaranteed, in accordance with international law.
JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said that the escalation of violence in Jerusalem and Gaza has aggravated the already precarious civilian population. It has also set off a spiral of persistent hatred that stands in the way of all endeavors to find a dialogue. All the principal actors should continue to make efforts to resume the peace process. The Council has a responsibility to take immediate action. Joining the international community in welcoming the ceasefire, he recognized the important role played by Egypt and Qatar in facilitating that and advocated for humanitarian aid to be delivered with guarantees of safety for the personnel involved. Calling COVID-19 “the enemy that does not accept a truce”, he emphasized the importance of humanitarian aid during the pandemic.
NUNO MATHIAS (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union, said all parties must respect and fully implement the ceasefire. He joined other speakers in stressing the immediate need for humanitarian assistance for the civilian population in Gaza and supporting the Secretary-General’s call for a robust package of support for a swift, sustainable reconstruction and recovery. The last cycle of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories confirms that the international community cannot afford to return to the status quo. There is an urgent need to address the root causes that fueled the recent situation and renew commitment towards a two-State solution that meets Israeli and Palestinians security needs. That means all acts of provocation, incitement, violence and destruction must end. It is also vital to uphold and respect the status quo of the holy sites and to stop all illegal policies of settlement‑construction and ‑expansion, like forced evictions and demolitions, he said.
ANDREJ DOGAN (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, said that what the world witnessed last week in the Middle East was deeply disturbing and worrying. Croatia welcomes the ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt and expects all sides to work towards its consolidation and sustainability. “It is important to protect civilians and prevent further deepening of the crisis,” he said. The ceasefire should also help create an atmosphere conducive to resuming the political process. Croatia supports the Secretary-General’s call for a robust package of support for a swift, sustainable reconstruction and recovery, but in the longer term, the focus should be on addressing the root causes of the conflict, he said.
GUILLERMO ROQUE FERNANDEZ DE SOTO VALDERRAMA (Colombia) welcomed the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel and underscored the importance of restoring security guarantees. Colombia continues to support a resolution to the conflict based on a two-State solution. He went on to reaffirm support for Israel to live in peace within secure, internationally established borders, as well as for the Palestinians to establish their own independent State.
ION JINGA (Romania) expressed support for the ceasefire agreement to end violence and allow for the free flow of international aid. Civilian lives on all sides should be protected under international humanitarian law, he stressed. Ending the most recent violence should present new opportunities to address the root causes of the conflict, he went on, expressing support for confidence‑building measures including the resumption of Middle East Quartet meetings.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating himself with the statement delivered by the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep frustration over the painful escalation of violence affecting the Palestinians and Israelis. Extending solidarity to the Palestinian desire for self-determination, he added that, unfortunately, the Organization has been incapable of finding a solution to this long-lasting conflict, which, in turn, has led to social, economic and human rights deterioration in the Middle East situation. Stressing the importance of a two-State solution, he said both States should coexist on an equal footing. Palestine should not be an exception to the universal aspiration for freedom and prosperity, enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, voicing support for the resumption of negotiations and hoping that the current ceasefire will spell the end of the cycle of destruction.
HELENA NDAPEWA KUZEE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, decried the Security Council’s failure to act expeditiously against Israel’s blatant violations of international law. Paralysed since the nakba in 1948, the Council’s deplorable inability to express itself on what could only be described as full‑scale war in East Jerusalem has the potential to undermine the trust that “we the peoples of the United Nations”, including the people of Palestine, have placed in that 15-member organ. He called for more decisive Council action and for the international community to implement all relevant resolutions. A two-State solution is the only path to lasting peace, he said, reiterating the call for Member States who have not yet done so to recognize the State of Palestine as a means of making tangible progress towards that goal. Condemning the current violence, he said all children, including those in Palestine, must be able to live in peace. “Our actions here can either make them fulfil their dreams and aspirations, or postpone them further,” he said, emphasizing the need for the Assembly to continue to do all it can to yield a sustainable outcome for the Palestinian people.
LANG YABOU (Gambia), aligning himself with the statements delivered by the African Group, Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, called for an end to the violence against Palestinians and the lifting of the blockade in Gaza. While noting that the ceasefire is an encouraging sign, he said, “We have had too many ceasefires over the last few decades.” It is time for the international community to address the root causes of the conflict. Peace and security in Palestine means peace and security in the Middle East, and all over the world, he said, calling on the Organization to renew efforts to bring both parties to the negotiating table. “We are traumatized by the treatment of innocent children,” he said, appealing to the Middle East Quartet and all concerned parties to revive a two-State solution.
LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), associating herself with the European Union, called for the swift implementation of the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. The recent escalating violence which resulted in the loss of civilian lives is unacceptable and should never happen again. She went on to condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and said Israel must exercise its right to self-defense in line with international humanitarian law. Relief for the civilian population continues to be of utmost importance and the priority should be the granting of humanitarian access to those most in need in Gaza, she said.
MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland) associating himself with the European Union, expressed concern over the recent spate of violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. While Israel has the right to defend itself, its response must be proportionate and in line with international law, he stressed. The recent conflict only exacerbates the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza with the destruction of civilian infrastructure there. The violence also affects the situation in the West Bank and undermines general regional stability. As such, constructive dialogue must be resumed to resolve the situation based on a two‑State solution and in line with internationally agreed‑upon borders. In that context, it is essential to address the root causes of the conflict including forced evictions, without which, lasting peace will be impossible, he emphasized.
DUSHKO UZUNOVSKI (North Macedonia), associating himself with the European Union, underscored the conflict’s “unpredictable regional repercussions” and called on Israeli and Palestinian armed groups to take immediate steps to de‑escalate the situation. Indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas on civilian targets in Israel must cease immediately, while Israel must exercise its right to self-defence with the utmost restraint. In addition, all parties must comply with international humanitarian law and the historic status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites. He went on to urge all parties to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access to those in need.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, voiced concern about the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the alarming increase of violence in recent weeks, including attacks on places of worship and indiscriminate rocket attacks. This has led to the highest number of Palestinian casualties recorded in a single day since the United Nations started tabulating casualties, she noted. Both Israelis and Palestinians have a legitimate right to safety, and both need to step back from the cycle of violence. Conflicts of this nature appear immutable, she said, but the international community must continue to aim for peace. Reconciling the issues is not easy, she acknowledged, encouraging both parties to make “a political and diplomatic leap of faith”. Stressing the need for ordinary people to be given the opportunity to come together and build relationships at the grass‑roots level, she called on everyone to “open our hearts and let a little empathy flow into the veins”.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria) aligning himself with the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, welcomed the ceasefire, commended the role of all parties involved in brokering that agreement, and also praised both parties to the conflict for their compliance thus far. Voicing support for a two-State solution based on 1967 borders and other agreements, he said that the occupation is at the root cause of this conflict. Its long‑standing nature has led to hopelessness and resignation, he noted, adding that the United Nations must counter the popular perception that nothing can be done. Stressing that the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are part of the same family, he called on the practitioners of these religions to work towards peace and trust. The current “Black Lives Matter” movement is an auspicious moment for renewing efforts to solve this crisis, he said, adding that there should be no colonialism anywhere, because peace cannot exist without democracy.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana), associating herself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the recent escalation violence, the loss of civilian lives and destruction of livelihoods is heart-breaking. She went on to encourage leaders of both sides to maintain the ceasefire agreement and stressed that a two‑State solution, anchored in mutual recognition, remains the best chance for peace in the region. In that context, she called for international cooperation and the active involvement of a unified Security Council on the matter.
AHMED DAWOOD ALI AL ZADJALI (Oman) said the Palestinian territories are considered occupied under international law and stressed that the most recent escalation of violence there is the result of unjustified Israeli provocations. Despite more than 700 General Assembly and over 80 Security Council resolutions, none of have been implemented by Israel. As such, a mechanism to implement resolutions must be established, he said, stressing: “As long as there is occupation there will be a resistance.” Palestinian determination will not waver until their rights are fulfilled, he said. Arab States have reiterated their willingness to find peace through dialogue and negotiation that preserves the rights of both sides, he went on, calling on all parties to take concrete and tangible steps to reach a two‑State solution.
GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, quoted Pope Francis as saying that the violence between the Gaza Strip and Israel is “degenerating into a spiral of death and destruction” that has left many innocent people, including children, dead. The Vatican welcomes the announcement of the ceasefire and considers it as an important step to halt aggressive and senseless hostilities, even if this can only be seen as a first step in the right direction. Confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank are a serious wound to peaceful coexistence that will prove difficult to heal. The only way to achieve the long‑awaited two-State solution is through persistent, genuine and mutually respectful political dialogue, he said, adding that peacemaking requires much greater courage and perseverance than resorting to weapons of war and mutual destruction.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV, Permanent Observer for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the Palestine question has been brought before the Assembly time and again over the past seven decades, with hundreds of resolutions affirming the rights of the Palestinian people. Israel’s racist and colonialist practices have recently been exacerbated by settler violence, repeated attacks against the Aqsa Mosque compound and evictions of Palestinians from their homes. Such actions undermine a two‑State solution, he said, recalling that his organization recently held an extraordinary meeting to demand a complete halt to the military onslaught against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Underscoring that East Jerusalem is an integral part of Palestinian territory, he said its occupation by Israel violates international law. Expressing regret about the Council’s failure to speak unanimously against Israel’s violations, he stressed that there cannot be any lasting peaceful solution without ending Israel’s illegal occupation.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Turkey rejected the accusations of anti-Semitism levelled by the representative of Israel against her country. Adding that Turkey has been a safe haven for Jewish communities since the Inquisition, she recalled how Turkish diplomats helped rescue countless Jews during the Holocaust. Jewish citizens have been living in Turkey for centuries without fear of persecution, she said, adding that the President of Turkey and other high-level officials have repeatedly condemned anti‑Semitism. Criticizing the policies of Israel’s Government cannot be labelled as anti-Semitism, she said, noting that those policies have also been condemned by many of Israel’s own Jewish citizens.