Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine
Report of the Secretary-General
On 8 January 2013, the following reply to the letter of the Secretary-General dated 1 July 2012 (see A/67/364-S/2012/701, para. 2) was received from the Security Council:
“The goal of achieving a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine remains one of the major challenges facing the international community, including the Security Council.
“The Security Council considers the situation in Palestine each month in connection with the item entitled ‘The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question’. During most months, a briefing was given either by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs or by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process in a public meeting, followed by consultations among the Council members. During the months of October 2011 and January, April and July 2012, the monthly meeting was held in the form of an open debate.
“On 27 September 2011, the President of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon, Najib Mikati, presided over the meeting, and Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe briefed the Council. Mr. Pascoe stated that it was not easy to chart a way forward, since the Palestinian and Israeli positions remained far apart. He added that the efforts of the Quartet and the expected proposals of the parties could help to resume negotiations. Mr. Pascoe summarized the Quartet statement of 23 September, explaining that the goals would be to make substantial progress within six months, to convene an international conference in Moscow at the appropriate time, and to reach an agreement no later than the end of 2012. He reaffirmed that settlements were illegal and contrary to the road map commitments of Israel and condemned the rocket attacks fired into Israel from Gaza. The Under-Secretary-General referred to the Palestinian application for membership in the United Nations. He noted that the matter was before the Council and underlined the institutional readiness of the Palestinian Authority to run a State. In the consultations that followed, Council members called upon the Palestinian and Israeli sides to refrain from taking unilateral actions that might jeopardize the peace process. Some Council members supported the application of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations and stressed the need to stop all settlement activities and resume negotiations. Some members voiced their opposition to the application of Palestine and stressed that the two-State solution could be achieved only through direct negotiations.
“On 24 October 2011, the Security Council held an open debate on the situation in the Middle East, at which it heard a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe. He said that the recent exchange of prisoners between the Israelis and the Palestinians marked a significant humanitarian breakthrough. He encouraged the parties to display equal determination in the search for a lasting solution to the Middle East problem. Noting the Quartet statement of 23 September 2011, Mr. Pascoe urged the parties to refrain from provocations and to be ready to offer serious proposals on borders and security for negotiation in order to avoid the deepening of the impasse. Statements were made by the Permanent Representative of Israel and the Permanent Observer of Palestine. Council and non-Council members called upon the parties to seize the momentum and work towards early resumption of direct negotiations within the framework of the Quartet statement of 23 September 2011. In addition, they were encouraged to forge consensus on all permanent status issues. Several Member States expressed views on the Palestinian application for admission to United Nations membership, under consideration by the Council.
“On 21 November 2011, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. Concerning the Middle East peace process, he considered that provocations continue to damage confidence and make resuming negotiations very difficult. He stressed the need to find a meaningful diplomatic way forward, including in the framework of the Quartet statement of 23 September. Both parties would have to show flexibility and responsibility. Direct engagement should be facilitated by a conducive environment and therefore the situation must ‘de-escalate’. To that end, Israel should act on its settlement obligations and immediately unfreeze transfers to the Palestinian Authority. It should also be mindful of the continuing appeal of the Palestinian Authority for prisoners to be released, some dating back to before the signing of the Oslo Accords. For its part, the Palestinian Authority should find ways to contribute to the de-escalation of the situation and improve the prevailing divisive climate, including in the international arena. The Special Coordinator also referred to the situation in Gaza and southern Israel, which had once again witnessed dangerous violence after rocket fire by militants and Israeli strikes. He mentioned in this regard that preserving calm in Gaza and southern Israel continues to be crucial for improvements there and for the overall political atmosphere. He said that the United Nations condemned the indiscriminate rocket attacks and called upon Israel to exercise maximum restraint and minimize the risk to civilians, and reiterated the call of the Secretary-General for all to fully respect international humanitarian law. In consultations of the whole, Council members expressed both their support for the efforts of the Quartet and their concern about the lack of progress in negotiations and the troubling developments on the ground, in particular Israel’s continued settlement activity and decision to hold payments of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority. They supported the Special Coordinator’s appeal for a de-escalation of the situation and reiterated the need for all parties to abstain from provocative actions and to resume meaningful direct negotiations. Some delegations reaffirmed their support for Palestine’s admission to the United Nations, while others recalled the lack of unanimity on the issue and proposed an intermediate step by upgrading the status of Palestine in the General Assembly to that of an observer State. Some members stated that there are no alternatives to direct negotiations between the parties.