Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
6030th Meeting (PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL, MEETING AT LIBYA’S REQUEST, HEARS DIFFERING ACCOUNTS OF VESSEL
REFUSED AT GAZA PORT; DELEGATE INVITES VERIFICATION OF ITS HUMANITARIAN AIMS
No Member State Would Allow Shipment from Hostile Nation into Its Territory,
Israel Says; Others Stress Need to Resolve Broader Question of Humanitarian Access
Conflicting views were expressed in the Security Council this evening as it met at Libya’s request to discuss what was described as Israel’s refusal to allow a Libyan vessel carrying humanitarian supplies to reach the port of Gaza.
A letter before the Council from the Libyan delegation, dated 2 December, states that, on Monday, the Navy of “the Zionist entity” had intercepted the Al-Marwa, which was delivering humanitarian supplies for children and the sick suffering under the blockade of Gaza. Insisting that the ship should be allowed to deliver its cargo, Libya’s representative said that the United Nations and humanitarian organizations like the International Red Cross and Red Crescent could inspect the ship to verify that it only carried food and medicines.
This evening, the speaker asserted that the actions by the Israeli authorities were an act of piracy as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Council, during recent months, had adopted a series of resolutions aimed to suppress that phenomenon. Consistent with that trend, he called upon the Council to condemn the Israeli actions and ensure Israel’s compliance with international law. The Council should hold Israel accountable for its deliberate violation of the freedom of navigation on the high seas, he said.
The Permanent Observer of Palestine said that Libya’s goodwill intentions had been necessitated by unusual, unacceptable and deplorable circumstances. It was imperative that Israel be compelled to immediately lift its siege of the Gaza Strip to allow for movement of persons and goods. The Palestinian Authority reiterated its readiness to assume responsibility for the Palestinian side of Gaza’s border crossings in line with the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.
The international community must act, he insisted. It was high time that the international community, including the Council, undertook its collective duty to exert serious efforts to redress the illegal situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and bring an end to Israel’s illegal practices and policies.
Israel’s representative countered that it was a “sad day” for the Council, which had been outrageously compelled to promote the particular agenda of one of its member States. That State had intentionally chosen to abuse the Council’s procedures to distract it from addressing the dire problems facing the international community. Libya did not understand its role in the Council, its obligations and its responsibilities.
She said that, if Libya was genuinely interested in supporting peace and security in the Middle East, it would have condemned Hamas’ brutal coup against the moderate Palestinian Authority and subsequent control of Gaza, as well as the constant barrage of rockets and mortars on Israeli towns by terrorists. Like any other State, Israel had the right – even the duty – to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks. No United Nations Member State would allow a shipment originating from a hostile State to reach a territory that served as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against its citizens.
The representatives of the United States and United Kingdom disagreed that Israel’s actions constituted piracy under the law of the sea and insisted on the need to follow proper humanitarian channels for the delivery of aid.
The representative of the United States also pointed out that the Council was confronted by a “most unusual” situation, having been asked by one of its members to meet on an issue of that country’s own making. The way Libya had proceeded was “dangerous and irresponsible”. If that country’s objective had been to provide humanitarian assistance, a number of ways existed that did not amount to provocation. The manner that Libya had chosen for delivering such assistance seemed almost designed to guarantee that it did not get through.
Several speakers emphasized, however, that the current situation was part of a highly complex set of issues, originating in the larger question of humanitarian access. The representative of France said in that regard that his country was prepared to work on a reaction by the Council to deal with all aspects of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. If such a reaction was not possible today, the Quartet’s next meeting would be held later this month, and the Council’s next debate on the Middle East was scheduled for 18 December. Both occasions should be used for further discussion of those issues.
Pointing out that the port of Gaza was an integral part of Palestine, South Africa’s representative said the whole situation could be described as a humanitarian disaster, where innocent civilians were denied much-needed assistance. With little progress achieved on the ground following the agreements reached in Annapolis 12 months ago, it was time for the parties, the international community and the Council to act. The international community could not sit back and allow the situation to deteriorate, ending all hopes for a negotiated solution.
He added that Israel’s security could be assured only once a solution to the Palestinian question was found, but Israel’s security should not be used as a justification for denying access of humanitarian assistance. He called on Israel to allow the delivery of much-needed support to Palestine through all crossings, including the port of Gaza. He hoped that the Council would find it possible to pronounce itself on the humanitarian situation in Palestine. It could not continue to avoid confronting such an obvious situation.
China’s representative also stressed the gravity of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, saying that no issue could justify collective punishment. Israel was under an obligation to ensure that the normal humanitarian needs of the population of Gaza were met, and he urged it to lift a siege and accord humanitarian assistance to the population.
Statements were also made by the representatives of the Russian Federation, Belgium, Cost Rica, Panama, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Italy and Croatia.
The meeting was called to order at 5:05 p.m. and adjourned at 6:40 p.m.
The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, in response to a letter dated 2 December from the Permanent Representative of Libya to the Council President (to be issued as document S/2008/754). The Council also had before it a letter of the same date from the Permanent Representative of Libya (document S/2008/753) stating that, on Monday, 1 December, two gunboats belonging to “the Zionist entity” intercepted the Libyan ship Al-Marwa, which was headed to the port of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid destined for children and the sick suffering under the blockade of Gaza. The letter emphasized that the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent could inspect the Libyan ship to verify that its mission was of a humanitarian nature and that it only carried foodstuffs and medicines. On instruments from his Government, the Libyan representative asked the Security Council to take urgent action to allow the ship to enter the port of Gaza and unload its cargo.
GIADALLA A. ETTALHI (Libya) said he had asked the Council to convene following Monday’s interception by the Israeli Navy of the Libyan ship Al-Marwa, which was loaded with humanitarian supplies for the benefit of the Gaza population, under almost complete siege by the Israeli authorities. The ship was explicitly threatened with destruction in case it failed to follow orders by Israeli authorities, which prevented even the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from delivering supplies to Gaza. The ship should be allowed to enter Gaza and deliver its cargo. Libya would accept inspection of the ship by any humanitarian organization or the United Nations to verify that it had nothing but food, medicine and its crew on board.
He said that the ship, faced with the threat of the use of arms, had had no option but to head for international waters away from the Palestinian coast, but the Israeli gunboats had followed the ship, forcing the crew, under the threat of arms, to sail in a specific direction. At times, there had also been overflights by Israeli aircraft. The actions by the Israeli authorities, which had often claimed to have withdrawn from Gaza, were an act of piracy as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Libyan ship had been over 200 nautical miles away from the Gaza coast on Tuesday at 5:55 Tripoli time, when Israeli boats were still forcing it to head in a specific direction under the threat of arms.
States were obligated under international law to extend cooperation in suppressing piracy on the high seas, he said. The Council, during recent months, had dealt with the growing phenomenon of piracy and adopted a series of important resolutions aimed at suppressing it. Consistent with that trend and in conformity with responsibilities under international law, he called upon the Council to condemn the actions of the Israeli authorities regarding the Libyan humanitarian assistance ship and take action to ensure Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law and law of the sea, and hold Israel accountable for its deliberate violation of the freedom of navigation on the high seas.
Today, he wanted to remind the Council that Israeli authorities in the eighth decade of the last century had shot down a Libyan airliner above Sinai, although it was a civilian plane carrying children. That grave precedent prompted him to expect that Israel would not stop short of perpetrating the same crime with Libya’s ship, if the Council remained silent on the matter. He hoped the Council would assume its responsibilities vis-à-vis what was happening. He hoped the ship would be able to discharge its cargo at the Gaza port and that all humanitarian assistance would be able to be delivered to that port. His delegation had prepared a draft press communiqué, on which he hoped the Council would be able to achieve consensus.
GABRIELLA SHALEV (Israel) said it was a “sad day” for the Security Council, which had been outrageously compelled to promote the particular agenda of one of its member States. That member State had intentionally chosen to abuse the Council’s procedures to distract it from addressing the dire problems facing the international community. Serving on the Council bore a serious and solemn responsibility, and the United Nations Charter had established clear demands of the Council’s non-permanent members to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. But Libya bore no such responsibility. When Israeli students were murdered last March by a Palestinian terrorist, Libya had opposed the unanimous will of the Council’s members to condemn the attack. In fact, since its election to the Council, Libya had prevented any initiative on Middle East issues that contradicted its narrow political agenda, even refusing to participate in briefings by the Israeli Mission. Those actions clearly demonstrated that Libya did not understand its role in the Council, its obligations and its responsibilities.
She stressed that the current meeting had nothing to do with threats to international peace and security. It was nothing more than a provocative abuse of procedure. If Libya was genuinely interested in supporting peace and security in the Middle East, it would have condemned Hamas’ brutal coup against the moderate Palestinian Authority and subsequent control of Gaza. It would also have condemned the constant barrage of thousands of rockets and mortars on Israeli towns by terrorists, as well as the ongoing transfer of sophisticated weapons and financial resources to terrorist groups.
Peace and security in the Middle East would only be achieved by supporting the region’s moderates and denouncing extremists, she said. But Libya did the opposite. Moreover, it did not recognize the State of Israel, using rhetoric and terminology that reflected a world view rooted in the past. By serially using the term “Zionist entity”, Libya joined other extremist elements that denied Israel’s existence, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, Iran and Sudan. The international community should ask itself if it was a coincidence that Libya’s current provocation was launched in close proximity to the Council’s meeting on Darfur.
Like any other State, Israel had the right – even the duty – to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks, she said. No United Nations Member State would allow a shipment originating from a hostile State to reach a territory that served as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against its citizens. Addressing Libya’s representative, she said that, if Libya truly desired to provide humanitarian assistance to Gazans, there were ways and means to do so. Many States, including those without diplomatic relations with Israel, and international organizations, used those mechanisms, which were coordinated with the international community. They were well known and did not necessitate media events and provocations like the current one.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said that he wished to specifically address the crisis in the Gaza Strip, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians were facing miserable conditions, a dire humanitarian crisis and virtual collapse of their society and all coping mechanisms, as a result of Israel’s total’s siege and closure of the area. He regretted that the Libyan ship Al-Marwa, which was attempting to deliver desperately needed humanitarian supplies to the population, had been prevented from doing so by the occupying Power. That effort had been undertaken following a recent call by the League of Arab States Council of Ministers for the Arab countries to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people under occupation, particularly in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority expressed its appreciation for that Libyan effort and the goodwill intentions to provide aid to his people by such extraordinary means necessitated by the unusual, unacceptable and, indeed deplorable, circumstances in which they found themselves.
Continuing, he said he had come to the Council on several occasions to draw attention to the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip resulting from Israel’s illegal, punitive measures. He had also repeatedly called on the Council to shoulder its responsibilities under the Charter and act to bring an end to that inhumane siege and compel Israel to comply with its obligations under international law. Assessed under any pretext and in any context, Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip constituted a grave violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibited the occupying Power from punishing protected persons for an offence he or she had not personally committed. It also prohibited the imposition of collective penalties and all measures of intimidation and terrorism.
The crisis had unfolded before the eyes of the international community, he said. The 17-month Israeli siege had transformed the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison, with the area not only totally separated from the rest of the Palestinian Territory, but also completely isolated from the rest of the world. Israel had continued to impose that most severe, inhumane form of “closure”, even after the calm that had largely prevailed since June, following the ceasefire agreement reached through Egyptian mediation efforts. The occupying Power continued to close all of the Gaza crossings, allowing only infrequent openings under many restrictions — on the import of foods, medicines, fuel, building materials and other essential supplies. Even purely humanitarian aid was obstructed, as recently witnessed. Palestinian exports were also completely prohibited by the occupying Power, which was destroying thousands of livelihoods. Israel also continued to obstruct the movement of persons, including patients requiring emergency medical treatment. Many had died waiting for the right to travel outside of Gaza. Israel also continued to hamper the access of humanitarian personnel to Gaza, including United Nations agencies such as UNRWA.
Every sector of life in the Gaza Strip had been disrupted by that criminal, punitive siege, he said. Poverty, hunger, disease and unemployment had risen to alarming levels, and he wished for the members of the Council to take pause to consider the harsh realities that the Palestinian people were forced to endure as a result of deliberate, unlawful policies by the occupying Power, intended to punish the population and sink them into desperation. Today, 80 per cent of civilians in Gaza, most of them refugees and 50 per cent of them children, lived below the poverty line; 80 per cent of the population was also dependent on food aid for survival. The negative repercussions of the crisis on the Palestinian people and their institutions, public services and infrastructure were vast and would be catastrophic if the situation continued. Without redress, tensions, insecurity and despair in the Gaza Strip would continue to rise and would further destabilize the entire situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Palestinian leadership was engaged in a peace process and committed to achieving a just, lasting and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine in all its aspects, he said. However, the peace process could not be used as a cover or distraction by the occupying Power, as it continued pursuit of illegal policies and practices that were destroying the Palestinian society, land and chances of achieving an end to the occupation and conflict. There was indeed no legal, political, moral or human justification for the inhumane, barbaric policies Israel was carrying out against the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza.
He said it was imperative that Israel be compelled first and foremost, immediately and completely, to lift its siege of the Gaza Strip to allow for movement of persons and goods. The Palestinian Authority reiterated its readiness to assume responsibility for the Palestinian side of Gaza’s border crossings in line with the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. Israel should be called upon to abide by its commitments and legal obligations in that regard, including vis-à-vis the Palestinian civilian population under its occupation in the Gaza Strip, in respect of the Fourth Geneva Convention, by which it was bound as the occupying Power. The international community must act. It could not remain on the sidelines as Israel continued to flagrantly and blatantly breach international law and United Nations resolutions. It was high time that the international community, including the Council, undertake its collective duty to exert the necessary, serious efforts to redress the illegal situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and bring an end to Israel’s illegal practices and policies.
ALEJANDRO D. WOLFF (United States) said the Council was confronted by a “most unusual” situation. It had been asked by one of its members to meet on an issue of that country’s own making. Libya had taken the step of sending a ship to Gaza. Asking what country would not have reacted as the Israeli Navy had in this case, he said the way Libya had proceeded was “dangerous and irresponsible”. To his knowledge, the United Nations Charter had no measures to deal with the folly of States. If Libya’s objective had been to provide humanitarian assistance, a number of ways existed that did not amount to provocation. But the manner that Libya had chosen for delivering such assistance seemed almost designed to guarantee that the assistance did not get through.
Saying that other means of providing assistance would have States approach Israel to coordinate aid delivery, he noted that the Arab League had recently sent a representative to do just that. Further, Jordanian assistance had been successfully transferred on 22 November according to established and coordinated procedures. United Nations institutions, such as UNRWA and the World Food Programme (WFP), also had mechanisms by which to provide aid. Given that, the real lesson in this case was the need to avoid the repetition of such irresponsible actions in how such assistance was delivered. With the terrorist group Hamas in control of Gaza, it was fortunate that the situation had not escalated.
He said that, according to reports from Tripoli, the ship, after being turned back once, had attempted to enter the port again. Under the law of the sea, Israel’s subsequent actions did not constitute piracy. Indeed, the Israeli Navy had flagged the ship. It had not fired shots and had not insisted on boarding the Libyan vessel.
Again underlining that mechanisms already existed for delivering humanitarian aid which should be used, he said that direct delivery by sea was, under the circumstances, neither acceptable nor practical. He also noted the appeal for more funding by the United Nations for humanitarian initiatives in Gaza. He underscored the circumstances surrounding the illegal usurpation of Gaza by Hamas and its attacks on crossing points between Israel and Gaza, as well as the number of illegal tunnels it had constructed. Once the situation created by Hamas was brought to an end, the United States was confident that the resulting humanitarian suffering would also cease.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said that the Council had heard the Libyan account and had before it that country’s letter, but it had also heard a rather different account. She herself had no information to share, but it would be difficult for the Council to agree on any sort of statement if it could not establish a satisfactory account of events.
She said it was important to have free passage of humanitarian supplies into Gaza, and she hoped Israel would abide by the requirements of international law in ensuring that vital humanitarian supplies reached Gaza. It was also important to consider that particular and special circumstances applied to the situation around Gaza. As a matter of practicality, aid and humanitarian deliveries should include using humanitarian channels and third countries to ensure that aid could enter Gaza safely and in coordination with all that needed to be involved. As a matter of practicality, those channels should be used.
The United Kingdom had answered the call to give aid to the people of Gaza and recognized the importance of relieving the humanitarian situation there, she said. As for the allegation of piracy, according to the technical definition in the Law of the Sea Convention, it did not apply to an Israeli naval vessel. Everybody hoped the situation concerning humanitarian relief for Gaza could be regularized. She hoped the improvement of the situation on the ground would allow that. That improvement would also require a curbing of terrorist and other attacks on Israel. That critically included Israel’s security and its right to self-defence.
KONSTANTIN K. DOLGOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation was convinced that the current tension that had resulted from the decision by Israeli authorities to deny entry of Libyan aid to Gaza was due to the larger issue of Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. While the recent truce between Israel and Hamas had calmed the situation somewhat, lasting stability in the Strip would only result from the resumption of work at the border crossings and the transfer there of humanitarian aid and foodstuffs.
In giving substantial material assistance to the Palestinian Territory, Russia was demonstrating its commitment to establishing a healthy living environment there, he said. Of course, it also recognized the importance of Israel’s security needs and, to that end, believed that the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza should cease. At the same time, ensuring Israel’s security should not be undertaken in ways that short-changed the needs of the Palestinian people.
JAN GRAULS (Belgium) said it was clear that, in light of the current discussion, respect for humanitarian law was needed. Yet, turning to the nautical incident itself, he noted that diverging accounts existed that were not clear enough for a definitive opinion to be reached. But for the good of the people of Gaza, the polarization that existed was counterproductive.
Against the backdrop of the current humanitarian situation in Gaza and as partner of the European Union and the Quartet, Belgium had constantly appealed to Israel to reopen the border crossings, for both humanitarian and economic purposes, he said. He again called on Israel today to lift those restrictions, which also affected diplomatic representatives and the media. Belgium also condemned the continuing rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. He welcomed the calm that had ensued after the Egyptian-brokered truce. But calm was not an end in itself; it also had to yield humanitarian, political and economic assistance. If Hamas wanted to be taken seriously as a political party, it was urgent for it to translate into action its sense of responsibility for the Palestinian people, beginning with the return of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority.
DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said he regretted that humanitarian aid destined to relieve the suffering people of Gaza had been prevented from reaching the port of Gaza, which was an integral part of Palestine. The whole situation could be described as a humanitarian disaster, where innocent civilians continued to suffer the consequences of elusive peace. They were suffering from an illegal blockade that denied them much-needed assistance. Among other things, illegal settlement activities in the Occupied Territory sought to change the facts on the ground and were an obstacle to the peace process. Israel should immediately stop the freeze and dismantle outposts erected since March 2001 in order not to change facts on the ground. Until peace was firmly established between Palestine and Israel, the international community and neighbouring States had a moral responsibility to assist innocent victims.
He recalled that, 12 months ago in Annapolis, Palestine and Israel had agreed on a joint declaration expressing their determination to end their conflict and work towards a peaceful settlement. They had also agreed to make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008. Despite assurances that negotiations were continuing, the situation on the ground had not improved considerably since then. The time for the parties, the international community and the Council to act was now. The international community could not sit back and allow the situation to deteriorate, ending all hopes for a negotiated solution. The security of Israel could be assured only once a solution to the Palestinian question was found, but Israel’s security of Israel should not be used as a justification for denying access of humanitarian assistance. He called on Israel to allow the delivery of much-needed support to Palestine through all crossings, including the port of Gaza. He hoped that the Council would find it possible to pronounce itself on the humanitarian situation in Palestine, particularly in Gaza. It could not continue to avoid confronting such an obvious situation.
JORGE URBINA (Costa Rica) recalled that progressive deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza was constantly mentioned by the Secretary-General and his team. Its consideration deserved the Council’s attention. The channels for delivery of humanitarian assistance were proving insufficient. The border crossings between Israel and Palestine remained closed. As described by programmes and agencies, the limited conditions in which they worked and deterioration of the situation in Gaza were unprecedented and persistent. His delegation believed that Israeli practices affected the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the population of Gaza and contributed to the deterioration of the situation. Under those circumstances, it should be no surprise that some friends of Palestine had taken measures to deliver assistance. Perhaps those acts were also a response to the Council’s inaction. All that did not exempt anyone from the need to use appropriate channels for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
He said Costa Rica understood the concerns of Israel over its security, but it was equally concerned that the restrictions it imposed affected not only actions of countries like Libya but the whole international community, including international agencies. He called for an end to attacks by rockets and mortars on the south of Israel. He also called on Hamas to place the well-being of Palestinian people at the top of its agenda, and urged the Government of Israel to take measures to normalize the situation.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX (France) said the request for a Council meeting following the interception of a Libyan boat posed the more general question of access – particularly humanitarian access – to Gaza. He recalled the position contained in the 14 November declaration by the European UnionPresidency, which had condemned the resumption of rocket fire directed towards Israel and called for their immediate cessation. Yet, the European Union had also stated that the closing of Gaza border crossings in response to that rocket fire had been disproportionate and had urged the reopening of those crossings. The European Unionhad again drafted this year a consensual resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people, and his delegation defended the principle of free access for humanitarian assistance in all cases in which it was requested. He hoped the consensus would become the rule. The Presidency of the European Union had also deplored that access to Gaza had been denied to France’s representative in Jerusalem to evaluate the economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza.
He said his country believed that the Council had a role regarding the Israeli-Palestinian question. France was also prepared to work at any time for a reaction by the Council to deal with all aspects of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The question of access by the Libyan ship should be addressed in that larger context. If such a reaction was not possible today, he noted that a new meeting of the Quartet would be held later this month. A debate on the situation in the Middle East would also be held in the Council on 18 December. Both occasions should be used for further discussion of those issues.
ALFREDO SUESCUM (Panama) said his country was aware that the current questions were part of highly complex and nuanced issues with many different elements that affected one another. Panama would take advantage of the forthcoming Council debate on 18 December with respect to the Middle East situation to elaborate its position on the matter. But noting that today’s issue touched on the repeated appeals for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza by Israel, he urged Israel to lift that illegal blockade immediately.
LA YIFAN (China) said his delegation was deeply concerned over the developments surrounding the Libyan ship and regretted that the provision of humanitarian aid for Palestine had once again been blocked. The humanitarian situation was grave and the population of Gaza was suffering. No issue could justify collective punishment. Israel was under an obligation to ensure that the normal humanitarian needs of the population of Gaza were met, and he urged it to lift the siege and accord humanitarian assistance to the population.
BUI THE GIANG (Viet Nam) expressed deep concern over the deterioration of the situation in Gaza, where 1.5 million people continued to suffer. The case of the Al-Marwa ship had unfolded against that backdrop. While underlining the responsibility of both parties under the Road Map and relevant resolutions to refrain from any acts that would exacerbate the situation, he urged Israel to scrupulously abide by international law, open border crossings and ensure provision of humanitarian assistance and aid to the Gaza population. He also called for strengthened dialogue and cooperation in the search for an acceptable solution that would meet the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people. He supported the efforts of the Quartet and the international community at large to resolve the situation in Gaza. He also appreciated the role of the League of Arab States to alleviate it.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said his delegation had taken careful note of the recent incident as reported by Libya’s representative and was reminded of the continuing and difficult humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. The humanitarian suffering of Gazans, due to Israel’s ongoing blockade and closing of the border crossings, was well documented and unacceptable. While Israel had at times allowed for the crossing of humanitarian aid, Indonesia believed that humanitarian access should be continuous and permanent, as the many humanitarian agencies relied on Israeli authorities for access to provide assistance to more than 1 million people living in Gaza. The movement of persons and goods should immediately be normalized to facilitate economic activity and to meet the humanitarian needs of the people living in Gaza. He commended the work of United Nations agencies, such as UNRWA, in alleviating the suffering in the area.
At the same time, he said, his delegation was not oblivious to the overall picture of the Middle East issue. Finding a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was necessary. The Council had to redouble its efforts to achieve meaningful and results-oriented outcomes. It should call on all sides to avoid any statements and actions that could hamper the peace process. In short, the Council should pronounce itself with one voice to encourage early improvements in the situation on the ground, thereby building confidence among the parties and creating an atmosphere conducive to negotiations.
MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said the urgent convening of the meeting showed the importance of the Middle East, which was at the heart of the Council’s deliberations. The situation of the ship being denied access, once again, raised the question of the Gaza blockade. Burkina Faso, along with other Security Council members, had always deplored the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza. He urged the Israeli authorities to lift their siege of Gaza.
He said that, above all, the incident was a reminder that the role of the Council was to bring the two parties together – that is, the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, to implement the agreements to which they had signed on. Despite this incident, he expressed satisfaction that the situation seemed to be relatively calm. That calm should be used to maintain the spirit of the Annapolis Conference, and he urged all parties to show further restraint.
ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy) said that the first priority was to improve the living conditions in Gaza and respond to the basic needs of the people there. All who provided humanitarian assistance should be encouraged. He shared the motivations of the Libyan authorities. At the same time, because priority should be to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian assistance, it was necessary to channel it correctly and effectively. He could not agree with the modalities chosen by the Al-Marwa ship; there were established procedures for those willing to contribute humanitarian assistance to Gaza, including through agencies and third countries. Delivery of humanitarian aid did not need any obstacle by the Israeli authorities.
Speaking in his national capacity, Council President NEVEN JURICA (Croatia) shared the concern over the serious humanitarian situation in Gaza, saying that the delivery of assistance was a matter of urgency. However, there were established channels and procedures which should be followed in the interest of all beneficiaries. Foreign Ministers of the Arab League had said they would coordinate with Egypt and Jordan to ensure that supplies reached Gaza. Israel’s security concerns should not be disregarded. Furthermore, the humanitarian situation in Gaza could not be seen in isolation of its background and underlying causes, which included Hamas’ usurping the legitimate Palestinian Authority leadership in Gaza. He hoped for an improvement in the situation. Renewed attacks on Israel from Gaza called into question the sincerity of Palestinian groups. Croatia believed that only a political settlement could alter the situation for the Palestinian population and guarantee security for Israel. It was important to preserve the dynamics of the peace process.
Mr. ETTALHI (Libya) said he would not answer the accusations levelled at his country by one of the speakers, because that delegation had gotten accustomed to levelling accusations rather than focusing on the substance of the issues, and he would not promote the same tactic. He hoped he had misunderstood the representative of the United States when he had said that the United Nations Charter did not protect the folly of States. If the extension of humanitarian aid to a people subjected to an unjust siege was folly, what could be said of defending illegal activities undertaken by Israeli authorities? It was regrettable that the distinguished United States representative ignored the situation on the ground as if the Israeli authorities had not closed all crossings and prevented even the United Nations from delivering assistance to Gaza. He had asked the meeting to be convened due to a specific fact, and in the belief that the Council should respond to that particular situation. A vessel had been subjected to a threat of arms and had been forced to take a particular direction on the high seas by gunboats. Was that not a grave action? Was the Council not concerned with such situations?
Mr. WOLFF (United States) said he was not in the habit of taking the floor a second time, but he felt the need to respond to those questions. The folly was not the intention to provide humanitarian assistance – although, while he did not have specific statistics in front of him, he thought that was the first time since 2006 that Libya had attempted to provide humanitarian assistance to Gaza. The folly lay in the fact that, if the provision of humanitarian assistance was the intent, it was hard to see how the means of its delivery could have ensured the desired results. There was known hostility between the two entities, and the expectation that delivering assistance off the waters of Gaza without coordination with Israel in this day and age would go unchallenged seemed groundless. Therein lay the folly, and not in the act of trying to provide humanitarian assistance.
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For information media • not an official record
Document Type: French text, Press Release, Statement, Video, Webcast
Document Sources: Department of Public Information (DPI), Security Council
Subject: Access and movement, Closures/Curfews/Blockades, Gaza Strip, Humanitarian relief, Negotiations and agreements
Publication Date: 03/12/2008