Civil Society Speakers Paint Grim Picture of Deepening Crisis in Occupied Palestinian Territory, as Security Council Takes Up Middle East Situation – Press Release (SC/13794)



Civil society leaders briefing the Security Council today described a deepening crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory characterized by political mistrust, economic challenges and environmental degradation while calling upon authorities in the Middle East to harness new green technologies as a tool for peace.

Speaking at the outset, Nada Majdalani, Palestinian Co-Director of EcoPeace Middle East, said 97 per cent of ground water in the Gaza Strip is not suitable for human consumption, adding that wastewater facilities cannot operate with an average daily power supply of just four hours.  After more than 12 years of the blockade imposed by Israel, several wars and loss of life — as well as the failure of internal Palestinian reconciliation efforts — Gaza is now suffering a humanitarian catastrophe, she said, emphasizing that although politicians speak of disengagement, it is not possible to disengage from a shared environment.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Co-Director of EcoPeace Middle East, agreed, declaring:  “Good water, and not necessarily good fences, make good neighbours.”  Describing the group’s “Good Water Neighbours” programme — designed to raise awareness of the River Jordan’s pollution among civilians — he said everyday people from Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory all pushed their mayors to cooperate and rehabilitate the waterway.  While Israelis and Palestinians used to fight for every drop of water, today desalination — fuelled by solar power — has eased such constraints, he said, adding that cooperation on new technologies is a “potential geopolitical game-changer”.  He added: “Let us set water free to give life and hope to our region.”

Also briefing members, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs warned that the prospects for peace are dwindling under the pressure of violence, settlement expansion, unilateral measures, intra-Palestinian division and deepening mistrust.  In Gaza, 70 per cent of women are unemployed, increasing their chances of suffering poverty and violence.  Although the United Nations is making progress on urgent humanitarian and economic interventions to stabilize the situation, prevent further escalation, lift closures and support Egypt-led reconciliation efforts tensions are nevertheless escalating because of the prolonged absence of a political solution and because Israel’s settlement construction continues unabated, among other factors.

Following the briefings, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine warned that the situation has declined even further since the recent Israeli elections, which further entrenched “the extreme right that has come to rule Israel as a racist, apartheid State” under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Emphasizing that the absolute support given to Israel by a permanent member of the Council has only emboldened its flouting of the law, he stressed the need to end all illegal settlements, home demolitions, evictions and forced transfers.  Meanwhile, no proposed initiative detached from international law and relevant United Nations resolutions – including a pending “peace plan” by the United States – can be considered viable or just.

Israel’s representative outlined the biblical, historical and legal pillars providing the evidence of Jewish ownership of the land of Israel.  Emphasizing that Israel’s right to exist is a critical component of international peace and security, he said Arabs through the decades have repeatedly rejected opportunities for peace.  “There should be no reward for rejectionism,” he stressed, adding that the Council’s mandate is weakened when it continues to blame the side that offers solutions.  Real peace will only be possible when the Palestinian people accept the Jewish State and end their campaign of incitement, he said, underlining that Israel will never do or agree to anything that compromises its security.

As Council members and others took the floor, many speakers welcomed EcoPeace’s grassroots advocacy as well as the crucial dynamism of civil society more broadly.  Noting that environmental innovations stand to benefit everyone in the region, many speakers nevertheless expressed concern that no cooperation on green technology will be possible until restrictive economic policies are reversed.  Others focused on the region’s political realities — including the ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria — or stressed that the time has come to set a timetable for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State.

The Dominican Republic’s representative was among the speakers who described water — a crucial cross-border resource — as an important component of the region’s various peace negotiations.  Welcoming Israel’s recent election as an opportunity to reinvigorate stalled peace talks, he said the security and well-being of civilians in the region should override all political considerations and obstacles.  With water shortages compounding an already severe humanitarian situation and jeopardizing the region’s attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said over-cropping, urbanization and the long conflict have all contributed to the current alarming situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The representative of the United States agreed with the EcoPeace directors that the road to peace in the Middle East will be paved with many forms of cooperation, including on crucial water and energy resources.  The sustainability of such projects demonstrates that Palestinians and Israelis cooperate on a daily basis, he said, noting that although Israel is often blamed for the difficult situation on the ground, the real culprit is Hamas, which places its own interests above those of the Palestinian people.  Indeed, the latter’s humanitarian situation cannot improve until Hamas “is no longer in the picture” or commits to peace, he added.

Japan’s representative, calling for the resumption of direct dialogue between the parties, welcomed the continued engagement of the United States, expressing hope that its proposed peace plan will serve as a constructive basis for negotiations.  He urged the Government of Israel to freeze its settlement activities — including the construction plan approved in April — saying they are undermining the viability of a two‑State solution.

Turkey’s representative, meanwhile, joined others in expressing concern over the Council’s own efforts — or lack thereof — on the question of Palestine.  “Inaction in the face of persistent non‑compliance with international law and United Nations resolutions further encourages Israel,” he said, stressing that the organ cannot turn a blind eye.  Calling for a time frame within which to realize a two‑State solution, including an independent State of Palestine, he said that until that goal is realized, the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) — currently undergoing a serious funding shortfall — remains vital to the refugees, the region and beyond.

Namibia’s representative echoed concerns that the prospect of a two‑State solution is increasingly drifting further away as new hurdles arise.  He also welcomed the delivery of assistance to Gaza, while warning about increased settler‑related violence as Israel continues to expand its settlement activity.  If carried out, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent pledge to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank would represent the gravest threat to the two‑State solution, he added.

The Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States echoed other speakers in expressing support for a two-State solution as the only viable way to resolve the conflict, emphasizing the need to respect the international consensus on the matter.  Concerning the recognition by the United States of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan, he insisted that such a decision does not alter that territory’s legal status under international law.

Reinforcing that point, Syria’s representative condemned the decision on the Golan Heights as illegitimate, unethical and a blatant violation of international law.  It reveals the truth behind a criminal scheme to promote occupation as well as a violation by the United States of its commitment as a member of the Security Council, he stressed, adding that the country has chosen to become an enemy to the nations of the world.

At the meeting’s outset, the Council observed a moment of silence in honour of the victims of recent attacks against a church in Burkina Faso and a synagogue in the United States.

Also speaking were representatives of Kuwait, Belgium, China, Equatorial Guinea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Poland, France, South Africa, Peru, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, Lebanon, Jordan, Norway, Pakistan, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Qatar, Venezuela (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Uruguay, United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation), Liechtenstein, Finland (on behalf of like-minded States), Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Maldives, Iran, Hungary, Viet Nam, Bahrain, Egypt and Brazil.

The Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Permanent Observer of the Holy See also participated.

The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 4:20 p.m.


ROSEMARY A. DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, warned that under the pressure of violence, settlement expansion, unilateral measures, intra-Palestinian division and deepening mistrust, the prospects for a just and lasting peace are growing ever more elusive.  “The status quo will only lead to further deterioration of the situation,” she said.  While congratulating Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on forming the new government of the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli people on their recently concluded general elections, she said the prolonged absence of a political solution to the conflict has coincided with the steadily deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Israeli authorities advanced at least 2,100 housing units in Area C settlements and issued tenders for another 950 units during the reporting period, she reported, emphasizing that such activities constitute a violation of international law.  She added that demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures continue across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

While the situation in Jerusalem’s holy sites remained calm in the past month, the cycle of violence regrettably continued, she said, recalling that on 30 March, Palestinians in Gaza marked the first anniversary of the “Great March of Return” protests, which remained largely peaceful despite some protesters who ignored calls for restraint and engaged in acts of violence.  Seven Palestinians, including four children, were killed by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza and more than 1,300 were injured, she added.  Reiterating calls that children should never be the targets of violence, be put at risk or encouraged to participate in violence, she also called on Israel to use lethal force only as a last resort and in response to imminent threat of death or serious injury.  Also during the reporting period, Palestinian militants fired 30 rockets and mortars from Gaza towards Israeli civilian populations, she continued, stressing that such indiscriminate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and must cease immediately.  Hamas must ensure that protests remain peaceful and prevent provocations near the fence.

Noting that settler-related violence also continued during the period under review, she recounted incidents of violence committed by Israeli civilians as well as the tying, blindfolding and shooting of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy allegedly for throwing stones.  Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recorded 14 Palestinian attacks against Israeli settlers and other civilians in the West Bank, she said, adding that the reporting period also saw a worsening of the Palestinian financial crisis.  Despite austerity measures and recently announced support pledges by Arab States, the risk of the Palestinian Authority undergoing financial collapse is growing, she warned.  Emphasizing the need for a sustainable resolution of the Authority’s funding crisis, she said the parties should address its causes through dialogue, implement bilateral agreements and avoid taking unilateral actions.

Turning to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, she said 70 per cent of women in the enclave are unemployed today, increasing the chances of suffering poverty and violence.  The United Nations is making progress on the implementation of a package of urgent humanitarian and economic interventions aimed at stabilizing the situation, preventing an escalation, lifting closures and supporting Egypt-led reconciliation efforts, she said.  Reiterating her call on the Palestinian factions to engage in earnest, she thanked Member States who have contributed humanitarian support and urged others to do the same.

As for the broader situation across the region, she said Lebanon remains stable with the situation along the “Blue Line” calm.  However, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) confirmed the existence of five tunnels, three of which cross the Blue Line and constitute a violation of Council resolution 1701 (2006), she reported.  Recalling that President Donald Trump of the United States signed an official proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan on 25 March, she underlined the need to respect United Nations resolutions on that issue, especially Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 497 (1981).  The ceasefire between Israel and Syria has held with relative calm and low levels of military activity in the areas of separation, she reported.  Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy in Syria is working with all sides to reach a negotiated political solution to the conflict in that country.

She concluded by declaring:  “As we mobilize in each crisis to address the critical needs of the Palestinian population, be it in Gaza or the West Bank, we shall not lose sight of the core political issue — the prospect of two peaceful and secure States living side by side in harmony.”  That imperative compels the United Nations to work with both parties, bring them back to the negotiating table and urge them to avoid unilateral actions that might undermine the prospects for peace, she said.  “Only determined action by the parties themselves can salvage the two-State solution.”

NADA MAJDALANI, Palestinian Co-Director of EcoPeace Middle East, said that 97 per cent of Gaza’s ground water is not suitable for human consumption and 30 percent of illnesses are from water-borne pathogens.  With an average power supply of just four hours, wastewater facilities fail to operate, emptying the equivalent of 34 Olympic swimming pools of raw sewage into the Mediterranean Sea every day.  After more than 12 years of the blockade, consecutive wars and loss of life, as well as the failure of internal Palestinian reconciliation, a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip is happening right now, she emphasized.  Underlining the critical importance of water and climate security issues for the region’s people, she said that while politicians can speak of a disengagement policy, it is not possible to disengage from a shared environment, she said, citing the demise of the River Jordan as an example of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict’s environmental cost.  She said EcoPeace has designed an integrated master plan for the Jordan Valley that could turn it around from a valley of poverty and despair into one of shared prosperity for all communities, from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, based on the principles of sustainable development and equal opportunities in the framework of a two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders.

GIDON BROMBERG, Israeli Co-Director of EcoPeace Middle East, recalled a memorable time when he joined Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian mayors in a jump into the River Jordan together.  Planning for that moment required years of work by EcoPeace, including through its “Good Water Neighbours” programme, which seeks to raise awareness of the river’s pollution among young people and their parents on all sides, he said.  In turn, those empowered civilians pushed their mayors to engage with other leaders in the region to rehabilitate the waterway and create more economic opportunities for all.  Describing decades of conflict and competition over water in the Middle East, he said each side — including Israelis and Palestinians — once fought for every drop.  “Water was left unresolved as a final-status issue because coming to an agreement over sharing scarce water resources was difficult and would produce winners and losers,” he said.  In contrast, he noted, new desalination and other water technologies have eased such constraints over water in the region.  Some 70 per cent of Israel’s water now comes from desalination, and the fair sharing of water between Israelis and Palestinians is now possible.  Noting that policies and community-led advocacy have resulted in the flow of fresh water from the Sea of Galilee to the River Jordan for the first time in 50 years, he said solar technology — led by Jordan — helps to fuel water-based technologies.  Describing such cooperation as a “potential geopolitical game-changer”, he said it also supports climate resilience for all concerned and a healthy interdependence among States.  The use of technology to drive peace is not a new idea, he said, recalling that post-Second World War coal and steel agreements among States in Europe laid the groundwork for a sustainable peace.  EcoPeace has multiple partners for peace on all sides of the conflict, he said, adding: “Good water, and not necessarily good fences, make good neighbours.”  Against the backdrop of climate change threats and within the framework of a two-State solution, he said, the Council should urge Israel, Palestine and Jordan to work together in advancing new water technology and sustainable development for their shared future.  “Let us set water free to give life and hope to our region,” he added.


RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, warned that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is declining rapidly.  The outlook has become even grimmer after the Israeli elections, which further entrenched “the extreme right that has come to rule Israel as a racist, apartheid State” under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said, emphasizing that the absolute support given to Israel by a permanent member of the Council has only emboldened its flouting of the law.  The Prime Minister and other Israeli officials shamelessly brag about inflammatory rhetoric and countless war crimes in total contempt of the Council’s authority, he said, demanding:  “Without accountability, how can anyone expect anything other than the unbridled impunity we have witnessed for decades?”

The Palestinian right to self-determination has long been recognized and supported globally, he continued, noting the growing international consensus in that regard.  “Occupation, annexation and human rights can never be accepted as just and moral,” he stressed.  The wanton killing, wounding and terrorization of Palestinian children, women and men by occupying Israeli forces and extremist Israeli settlers constitutes gross violations of international law.  Israel’s 12-year-long blockade of the Gaza Strip remains illegal, he said, underlining that isolating and imprisoning 2 million people is mass collective punishment tantamount to a war crime.  “Whether settlements or walls, home demolitions or evictions, forced transfers, threats to the historic status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites, or any annexation measures, all are unlawful, war crimes, and cannot be justified under any pretext.”

Stressing the need to end all such illegal practices, he called on the international community to stop normalizing the occupation and treating it with deference.  It is strange that when it comes to Palestine, calls to uphold the law are viewed as delusional rather than as a legitimate tool to remedy injustice, he noted.  Decisions and declarations signed by others in a departure from international law and United Nations resolutions can neither change facts nor legitimize what is illegitimate, he emphasized, pointing out that the Council unequivocally deemed Israel’s annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem to be unlawful, null and void and without legal effect.  The prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force stands, he added.

As speculation abounds about the pending “peace plan” to be proposed by the United States, he said, any initiative detached from international law and relevant United Nations resolutions or dismissive of human rights can neither be viable, nor just.  He emphasized the strength and longevity of the firm commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative, as well as Jordan’s role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and the efforts by Egypt and the Russian Federation to help restore Palestinian unity.  He also called for international support for the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  “We remain committed to a peaceful, political, legal, non-violent path for realizing our rights and bring an end to the conflict,” he said, adding:  “No one can accuse us of not wanting peace or not seeking the best interests of our people; our only condition is that any effort or initiative be based on international legality, on the parameters enshrined over decades in the relevant United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.”

DANNY BEN YOSEF DANON (Israel) said it is a painful time for the Jewish people, noting last Saturday’s shooting at the Chabad centre in California.  A woman named Lori Kaye was shot and killed as she jumped in front of the gunman to protect the Rabbi.  “This is the second synagogue shooting in six months,” he noted, adding that it is unacceptable that worshippers have to face violence and death in places of worship.

Delivering his statement, he said he would present four pillars proving Jewish ownership of the land of Israel based on the Bible, history, law and the benefit to international peace and security.  Citing the Bible, he said the Jewish right to the land of Israel is confirmed in both the Old and New Testaments.  The Jewish claim is confirmed time and again, not only in Jewish history, but in world history, he said.  It is not just the Hebrew bible or the 50 million Jews around the world who accept this, but all three monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, he said, adding that the Koran itself accepts the “divine deed of the Jewish people to the land of Israel”.  When the Romans destroyed the Jewish kingdom, they sent the Jews into a 2,000-year-long exile, he said, adding that the Romans knew that the land belonged to Israel but they still confiscated it and named it Palestine.

For the next 2,000 years, the land of Israel continued to be conquered by others but despite that, a Jewish community remained.  “We knew some day we would return to our homeland,” he said, adding that Jews pray three times a day for the return to Zion, the Jewish land.  “If this is not enough proof, let us consider international law,” he continued, noting the Balfour Declaration’s endorsement of the Zionist cause.  After the Ottoman Empire fell, the British Empire took legal ownership of the land and committed to establishing a Jewish homeland.  These documents are Zionist documents, he said, insisting that Zionism is the realization of the self-determination of the Jewish people in their homeland.  In 1945, the United Nations Charter guaranteed the rights of all people to exercise their self-determination, and two years later, the Organization called for the establishment of a Jewish State and a Palestinian State.  “We accepted it and the Palestinians did not, they declared war,” he noted.

The War of 1948 did not end with peace, but rather with armistice agreements with Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, which insisted that the lines be temporary, he continued, reiterating that Israel’s right to exist is a critical component of international peace and security.  He went on to recall that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964, three years before 1967, he said, adding that that makes “no sense” because there were no settlements in Judaeo-Sumerian in 1964.  “What were they liberating?”  The Arabs have rejected opportunities for peace time and again, including one presented by the United Nations in 1947 and others in the years since, he said.  It weakens the Council’s mandate to continue to blame the side that offers solutions and to reward the side that keeps rejecting them, he said, describing Palestinian rejectionism as chronic.  “There should be no reward for rejectionism,” he reiterated, emphasizing that real peace will only be possible when the Palestinian people accept the Jewish State and end their campaign of incitement.  “Enough is enough,” he said demanding:  “How can Israel be expected to make any concessions to a leader who pays others to harm Israel?”  Israel will never do or agree to anything that compromises its security, he stressed.

RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) agreed with the directors of EcoPeace that the road to peace in the Middle East will be paved by many forms of cooperation, including on crucial water and energy resources.  The sustainability of such projects demonstrates that Palestinians and Israelis cooperate on a daily basis, focusing on what is best for their communities, he noted.  While Israel is often blamed for the difficult situation on the ground, the real culprit is Hamas, which places its own interests above those of the Palestinian people, he said.  Indeed, that group’s aggressions have only resulted in poverty and hopelessness while hindering the international community’s ability to help.  The humanitarian situation of the Palestinians cannot improve until Hamas “is no longer in the picture” or commits to peace, he emphasized.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said Israel’s ongoing occupation continues to limit the chances for peace, with the occupying Power pushing forward its illegal settlement activities, demolitions and forced displacement of Palestinian civilians while tightening its 12-year-old siege of Gaza.  Meanwhile, the occupying Power makes unilateral decisions, refused to review the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron and is attempting to change the historical character of Jerusalem, he pointed out.  Turning to the Syrian Golan, he said recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over that territory is a violation of the of the Charter of the United Nations and relevant international law and other agreements.  Noting that the report of the Human Rights Council’s Independent Inquiry to investigate protests at the Gaza fence in 2018 found that the use of force by the Israeli Defense Force led to 183 deaths and many more injuries, he said such actions amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Meanwhile the ongoing siege of Gaza constitutes a violation of international norms and also requires follow-up.  “Palestine cannot be the exception to the rule,” he stressed, also calling upon Member States to recommit their support for UNRWA.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), hailing civil society’s dynamism and plurality, warned against hostile actions recently committed against that sector.  Stressing that there is no alternative to a two-State solution within internationally agreed parameters, he said any solution must allow Palestinians to gain full access to their resources and rights while also ensuring Israel’s security.  Condemning Israeli settlement construction as contrary to international law and a source of escalating tensions, he emphasized that any use of violence by any side is unacceptable.  On Gaza, he said the authorities must respect the right to peaceful demonstration, describing the findings of the Human Rights Council’s Independent Inquiry as both important and serious.  Israel, while exercising its right to protect its own security, must also respect the principles of necessity and proportionality in the use of force, he said, stressing that all sides must act with restraint and refrain from using children in protests.  He concluded by emphasizing that Belgium does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and will not accept that situation as a precedent for similar future initiatives.

MA ZHAOXU (China) spotlighted the international community’s common responsibility to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the Palestinian people, noting that their situation remains dire.  Calling for efforts to uphold a two-State solution and address the crisis “at its source”, he said all parties must abide by Council resolutions aimed at establishing a sovereign State of Palestine and any new initiatives must be in accordance with agreed-upon parameters.  The construction of new settlements must stop and the parties must refrain from actions or rhetoric that could further escalate tensions, he emphasized, calling for efforts to advance the intra-Palestinian dialogue and bring the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks out of their current deadlock.  He went on to express concern over Israel’s recent non-payment of tax revenues.  All sides must comply with United Nations resolutions and other international agreements on that matter, he said, adding that, meanwhile, States should scale up their support to UNRWA and remain committed to ongoing negotiations aimed at resolving other hotspot issues in the region.  China recently hosted the second China-Arab States Forum on Reform and Development, he said, adding that countries of the Middle East participated in its Belt and Road Forum.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) condemned the recent wave of terrorist attacks against places of worship.  Describing the situation in the Middle East as a growing concern, he said conflict and violence in Syria, Yemen and Iraq constitute violations of international law, emphasizing that all stakeholders must refrain from inciting further violence.  Besides the death toll, Equatorial Guinea regrets the loss of infrastructure and the damage to agriculture, he said, adding:  “Such is the suffering awaiting the millions of Palestinians who have been involuntarily displaced to parts of the world.”  While awaiting the proposed peace plan of the United States, Equatorial Guinea remains concerned that Israel’s recent elections will radically influence its outcome.  He also expressed concern over Israel’s decision not to renew the international presence in Hebron and its withholding of Palestinian tax revenues.  He further expressed concern over the situation faced by civilians living in the Gaza Strip, stressing that both Hamas and Israel must refrain from unilateral actions that could exacerbate the conflict.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies at the heart of the instability in the Middle East.  Emphasizing that the internationally recognized basis for a Middle East settlement remains “iron-clad”, he said Israel must cease its settlement activities in the West Bank.  Both Palestinians and Israelis must renounce violence and refrain from aggressive and provocative actions, he said, stressing:  “No one party can achieve any breakthroughs alone.”  The Quartet (European Union, Russian Federation, United Nations, United States), whose functioning has been approved by multiple Security Council resolutions, is crucial in achieving a settlement, he said, adding that his delegation will continue to support the reinforcement of coordination with regional actions.  The recent session of the Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum held in Moscow earlier this month demonstrates the Russian Federation’s essential and critical commitment to peace, he said.  Emphasizing that any assistance to Gaza must be carried out in coordination with the legitimate authorities and the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, he said the Russian Federation will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected people, underscoring the important work of UNRWA.  He added that the Golan Heights are undoubtedly Syrian territory that Israel occupied in 1967 and then later annexed.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said a sustainable peace requires a safe and secure Israel living alongside a Palestinian State based on the pre-1967 borders.  “It will take the support of the whole international community to make such a historic peace possible,” she emphasized.  Citing the Balfour Declaration, she said it was written amidst the First World War and is “a product of its time”.  Emphasizing her country’s commitment to lasting peace, she said that although it is proud of its role in the creation of a Jewish State, the United Kingdom also supports the establishment of a Palestinian State.  A lasting peace should begin without delay, she said, noting that the goal of a two-State solution remains at stake.  Prosperity and strong Palestinian institutions serve Israel’s interests as well, she continued, urging that country to reverse its revenue-confiscation policy.  She also expressed regret over Israel’s approval of additional settlement construction while condemning the terrorism of Hamas and other military groups in Gaza.  “We are second to none in supporting Israel’s right to security […] but measures should be appropriate,” she stressed.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, said that despite constant calls for a de-escalation in the Middle East, there has not been any progress at all.  On the contrary, there has been no action to prevent a further loss of lives.  In recent violent episodes, civilians, including children, were killed or wounded on both sides.  She emphasized that recent developments in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are a reminder of how important it is to continue the de-escalation process.  Despite the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the security situation remains volatile.  All sides must fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.  The priority is to restore a political horizon for the resumption of a meaningful peace process.  A negotiated two-State solution and a resolution of all final status issues are a realistic way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties and achieve long-term peace.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) expressed concern about the worrying situation on the ground, including Israel’s approval of thousands of new housing units and its policy legalizing so-called “wildcat settlements”.  He expressed particular concern that such activities in East Jerusalem’s Old City are leading to heightened tensions around the Temple Mount.  Citing a shift towards de facto annexation of the West Bank — which would contravene international law — he warned that a situation in which two peoples exist in an unequal manner within the same territory would lead to violence.  He went on to condemn all violent actions, including rocket fire into Israel, emphasizing that France does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, the Golan Heights the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, and rejects the decisions to the contrary by the United States.  States must not give in to the temptation to deviate from relevant international agreements and pursue unilateral actions, he stressed, warning them not to treat such agreements as a “menu of options”.  Meanwhile, the Council’s increasingly deafening silence on the matter is impacting its credibility in the eyes of the world, he pointed out.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), reaffirming the importance of a two-State solution, called upon the Council to bring both parties to the negotiating table.  The guidelines for negotiations must be based on the already established legal framework, which include General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Plan and the Quartet’s road map, he said.  Condemning Israel’s unilateral actions, including its refusal to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron and its continued withholding of tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, he declared:  “As long as the territories remain occupied, we run the risk of changing facts on the ground.”  He also pointed out the occupation’s disproportionate impact on Palestinian women.

Mr. TRULLOLS (Dominican Republic) said the cross-border nature of water makes it a critical component of any peace negotiations.  Welcoming Israel’s recent election as an opportunity to reinvigorate stalled peace talks, he said the security and well-being of civilians in the region should override all political considerations and obstacles.  He condemned all attacks against civilians — including the use of mortars and incendiary devices as well as disproportionate use of force.  Noting that water shortages are compounding an already severe humanitarian situation and jeopardizing attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said that over-cropping, urbanization and the long conflict have conspired to create the current alarming situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, adding that Israel’s withholding of tax revenues and loss of international support is putting even more pressure on the Palestinian economy.  The Council must support the conditions most conducive to a political solution, on the basis of internationally agreed resolutions and with protection for the rights and well-being of civilians, he stressed.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) echoed concerns about the severe humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the impact of recent unilateral actions and decisions, warning that they threaten to heighten tensions.  Recognizing Israel’s right to preserve its own security and existence — as long as that right is exercised in accordance with the principles of proportionality and due care — he said that country is obliged to comply with all relevant Council resolutions, including those demanding an end to its settlement activities.  He emphasized the urgent need to lift the blockade against Gaza while also preserving Israel’s ability to ensure its security, and echoed concern expressed following its decision to withhold a significant amount of tax revenues.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said the meeting is taking place following the issuance of a “watershed” report by the Human Rights Council’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on the violence committed against Palestinians in Gaza since 31 March 2018.  Describing such violence as a blatant disregard for and violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, he said the international community must help address the humanitarian situation in Gaza in light of UNRWA’s funding crisis.  Noting that the Palestinians’ suffering is made worse by Israel’s withholding of tax revenues belonging to the Palestinian Authority, he reiterated support for the latter’s rejection of pieces of that payment, stressing:  “It is their money, and it should be paid in full and without preconditions.”  Noting that Indonesia has pledged an additional $1 million to UNRWA, he urged other States to follow suit.  Calling for the setting of a timeframe to achieve a two-State solution, he cautioned against the “lure of interim agreements”, which history has proven can be exploited by the occupying Power.  “We have a two-State solution on the table, but at the rate we are going only one State will exist,” he said, adding that the pace will result both in a tragedy for the Palestinian people and for the credibility of the Council.

TIEMOKO MORIKO (Côte d’Ivoire) said the ongoing political and security issues in the West Bank and the grave humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians in Gaza has further eroded the hopes of the Oslo agreements.  Despite this gloomy picture, however, peace remains possible, he said.  Expressing support for the two-State formula, with two States co-existing side by side with the pre-1967 borders, he called upon both parties to engage in constructive dialogue and to refrain from unilateral actions that could further aggravate tensions.  He also expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and noted the important work of UNRWA.  Turning to Syria, he emphasized the importance of preserving the ceasefire in Idlib Governorate, ensuring the sustainable delivery of aid and engaging with all parties to implement Security Council resolutions.  Concerning Yemen, he called for efforts led by the United Nations to reverse the violence and insecurity in that country, stressing that all sides must engage in dialogue and build a future of peace and stability.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, saying his delegation supports a two-State solution and expressing concern over inaction on the Council’s part.  Noting the lack of progress towards resolving the issue, he said he tried to take the initiative of breaking up the usual presentations and invited the briefers from EcoPeace Middle East.  Civil society can play a very important role in building trust and confidence, he added.  Turning to the question of water, he said it is not an esoteric issue and is a part of the Oslo agreements.  Water has implications for security, he emphasized, saying Germany will maintain the relationship between climate change and security on the agenda.

KIYOTO TSUJI (Japan) said that he continues to support a two‑State solution.  He expressed concern about the current impasse in the political process, noting that while there is no easy way towards peace in the Middle East, it is important to resume direct dialogue among parties.  The continued engagement by the United States is important, he said, expressing hope that its peace plan, which will be released in the not‑so‑distant future, will serve as a constructive basis for direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.  The Government of Japan urges the Government of Israel to freeze its settlement activities, including the construction plan approved by Israel in April, which are undermining the viability of a two‑State solution.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said that the question of Palestine is still a source of concern for the region and the world.  The situation is deteriorating, and instead of talk of a two‑State solution and land swaps, which characterized the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis and is enshrined in agreements and resolutions, there is talk of the annexation of the West Bank or of parts of it, and the possible collapse of the whole peace paradigm.  The road to negotiations is blocked, and the Palestinians are under tremendous political and economic pressure borne out of a new political reality, a debilitating financial situation and a fragile security situation.  What is missing is not United Nations resolutions or peace plans or road maps for peace.  All of this has been done, she said.  What is needed is the political will to choose life and to take the road of peace.

SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) said a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue is at the top of her delegation’s agenda.  The protection and defence of holy places and their Arab identity is of paramount importance, she emphasized, calling upon Israel to respect its commitment to ensure the safety of the faithful.  Entry into and egress from Al Aqsa Mosque must not be undermined, she stressed, condemning extremists who recently invaded that mosque under the protection of Israel’s armed forces.  Concerning the question of Palestine refugees, she called upon the international community to fulfil its responsibility to them, underlining the importance of resolving all such final-status issues by direct negotiation.  Turning to Syria, she said political approaches to the conflict must prioritize that protection of that country’s territorial integrity.  Expressing appreciation to countries extending support to Syrian refugees, she also highlighted her own country’s role in that regard.  She went on to stress the importance of continuing global anti-terrorism efforts, emphasizing in that regard, Jordan’s continuing support for Iraq’s reconstruction and re-stabilization efforts.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said the systematic effort to undermine the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people continues, with illegal settlements, the disproportionate use of force against civilians, an ongoing blockade of Gaza and escalating tensions.  “Inaction in the face of persistent non‑compliance with international law and United Nations resolutions further encourages Israel,” he said, stressing that the Council cannot turn a blind eye to the situation.  There is an urgent need to revitalize the peace process.  For decades, the basis of negotiations have been relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet road map, and the terms of reference cannot be changed.  Echoing other speakers who called for the setting of a time frame to realize a two‑State solution with an independent State of Palestine, he said until that goal is realized UNRWA’s mandate remains vital to the refugees, for the region and beyond.  “It is our collective and moral duty to support the Agency and extend its mandate later this year,” he stressed, adding that one Council member’s recent decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights is null and void.

MONA JUUL (Norway) said institution-building and economic development — while crucial — cannot substitute for a political solution.  Expressing concern about the Palestinian Authority’s current fiscal crisis, including Israel’s recent decision to withhold 6 per cent of the revenues it collects on behalf of the Authority — she said the resulting austerity measures are not sustainable and donors cannot fill the gap.  Both parties should be pragmatic and find a practical solution, she said, adding that Gaza’s economy can similarly not be sustained without lifting the current closure regime.  On 30 April, Norway will chair the next meeting of the international donor group to Palestine, giving participants an opportunity to urge the parties to close some of their outstanding fiscal files.  Calling on the parties to demonstrate genuine commitment to a two-State solution and take credible steps to reverse the current negative trends — including settlement activity and acts of violence — she said the needs in Syria remain staggering and the donor community must stay resolute in their support.  Turning to Yemen — the world’s worst humanitarian crisis — she urged the parties to abide by the 2018 Stockholm Agreement and the principles of international law.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said that his Government condemns the illegitimate and unethical decision by the United States President on the so-called Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan.  It is a blatant violation of international law, the Charter of the United Nations and relevant United Nations resolutions.  The United States decision is an attempt to undermine international legitimacy.  It revealed the truth behind the criminal scheme that attempted to promote occupation and revealed the blatant violation by the United States of its commitments as a member of the Security Council.  The United States chose to become an enemy to the countries of the world.

The entire international community rejected the decision of the United States, which marginalized that country further, even with regard to its closest allies, he said.  Preventing the Council from shouldering its decisions because of the position of the United States in relation to Israel’s occupation has encouraged Israel to continue with its aggressive behaviour.  The occupied Syrian Golan is an integral part of Syria’s territory and recovering it from Israeli occupation remains a priority.  Syria has always adopted a firm position that supports the Palestinian people in their right to self-determination, he said.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, said the bloc has decided to strengthen its efforts to address the problems of occupation in the State of Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.  Recalling the League’s twenty-ninth summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 2018, as well as the March meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, he noted that leaders adopted a number of resolutions to implement the Madrid principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the two-State solution.  They also reaffirmed that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.  Moreover, discussions during those meetings encompassed issues concerning the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the cessation of funding for UNRWA and the closure of the PLO office in Washington, D.C., by the United States.  As such, the bloc rejects any unilateral decision concerning the State of Palestine that is not in compliance with a negotiated and just solution, he said, expressing support for the 2018 proposal by President Abbas to the Security Council in that context.  As such, the question of the Middle East must be resolved within the Security Council, he stressed.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that the two‑State solution is drifting further and further away as it faces new hurdles.  Highlighting recent positive developments, he welcomed the formation of a new Palestinian Government and expressed hope that its formation will encourage the advancement of intra‑Palestinian reconciliation.  He also welcomed the positive developments in the assistance and delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip.  However, settler‑related violence has increased.  As a result of the decision taken by Israel’s Government not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, a greater number of violent incidents occurred in the H2 zone of Hebron.  Israel also continues to expand its settlement activity in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem.  On 7 April, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank.  If undertaken, this would represent the gravest threat to the two‑State solution.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) noted that escalating violence, worsening humanitarian crises and human suffering seriously undermine the vision of a peaceful Middle East.  In Libya, regional rivalries and external interference imperil the peace process, while international efforts to find a political solution in Syria have yet to accomplish the desired objective.  Moreover, the political crisis in Yemen has produced an unprecedented humanitarian challenge with millions remaining on the brink of famine.  The situation is aggravated by the systematic erosion of the established norms of international law, she warned, observing that inclusive political processes are being abandoned in favour of military solutions, plunging the region into deeper instability and chaos.  Meanwhile, competing interests pursued by external Powers are further accentuating regional fault lines, evidenced in attempts to erode the long-standing international consensus on the status of Jerusalem and the unilateral decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan.  Moreover, Israel’s control of and restrictions on access to Islamic and Christian holy sites has further inflamed tensions, with the threat of the annexation of the West Bank now looming large, she pointed out.

CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said efforts for a two-State solution and the rights of Palestinians are of utmost urgency in the face of Israel’s expressed intention to make the occupation irreversible and annex parts of the West Bank.  “Extending Israeli laws and sovereignty over settlements in the West Bank is a flagrant violation of international law and, if carried through, it could thwart chances to reach a peaceful solution,” he said, emphasizing that Israel’s declarations must be met with international condemnation.  If left unchallenged, such worrying trends will continue until the occupation is entrenched, eroding the commitment to a two-State solution, he warned, while also expressing concern about the recent unilateral dismantling of agreed building blocks for resolving final-status issues, and the non-renewal of the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron.  Meanwhile, Israel’s settlement planning and construction, demolitions and confiscation of Palestinian property continue unabated, including in East Jerusalem, he said.  Calling on third States to uphold their obligations under international law, including by respecting the principle of differentiation in all relevant dealings, he expressed regret that some private companies continue to disrespect such provisions.  The situation in Gaza remains volatile and demonstrations at the fence with Israel continue, he noted.  The economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory — captive and dependent on Israel — is now characterized by high levels of frustration among unemployed youths and looming environmental disaster, he said, warning that such elements might contribute to a “foretold disaster”.  He reiterated calls for the continuation of funding for UNRWA to enable the Agency to continue reliably and predictably to deliver its crucial services.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) said that the policies adopted by Israeli occupying authorities, including settlement and oppression, are adding insult to injury and making it more complicated in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Using force against a defenceless population, continuing settlement activities and ignoring Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) is not a key for peace but merely a provocation of the Palestinians and the international community.  Jerusalem has a particular prestige for all Jerusalemites and all those who believe in the three Abrahamic religions.  The decision to annex the Syrian Golan is null and void, he said.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that the formation of a new Palestinian Government offers a glimmer of hope amid the shadows of despair that have long characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Commending the tireless efforts of neighbouring countries in facilitating talks among the various Palestinian factions, he said that the increasingly fragmented Palestinian land will only make the two-State solution more difficult to realize.  Also underscoring the role of UNRWA, he said that moves to change the identity of Jerusalem and its status quo not only affect the already fragile populations who live there but also would have potentially detrimental effects on regional peace.

SAMI BOUGACHA (Tunisia) appealed to the international community and the Security Council to bring pressure on the occupying Power to end its settlement and occupation of Palestinian territory.  During a March meeting of the League of Arab States in Tunisia, he recalled, Arab leaders affirmed the Palestinian question’s central role, also renewing their condemnation of unilateral measures to change the historic status of East Jerusalem.  They also called upon the international community to support UNRWA, he recalled further, adding that his delegation supports all efforts undertaken in accordance with international agreements.  Any initiatives to settle the conflict that do not take such agreements into consideration are doomed to failure, he warned, also stressing the illegality of recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan.  The latest position taken by the United States in that regard can have no impact, he stressed, calling for a peaceful and just solution to the conflict.

Mr. MAJEED (Iraq) said the occupying Power has perpetuated a long list of violations to change the legal status of the occupied territories, predicting that Israel’s decisions in violation of international law will result in serious consequences for the region.  He called for strengthening the international support to lift the Israel’s immunity so as to compel that country to accept international agreements and resolutions.  Moreover, Iraq rejects all violations of Muslim and Christian holy places as well as Israel’s attempts to change the historic and legal status of Al Aqsa Mosque by dividing it in time and place, he said.  Iraq also deplores the recent declaration by the United States of Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan, he added, rejecting in that context any resolution consecrating Israel’s occupation.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said the Middle East faces a number of threats to international peace and security and the Palestinian question remains the biggest challenge.  The imposition of Israeli sovereignty over Golan is null and void, she emphasized.  Qatar is working with the United Nations and the parties concerned to advance prospects for peace and alleviate the humanitarian situation of Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, which is under blockade, she said, adding that the Government is also following the military escalation in western Libya, which undermines the political track sponsored by the United Nations.  The Security Council should take steps to deter those responsible for the escalation, she said, underlining her country’s support for Libya’s legitimate Government of National Accord.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed its solidarity with the Palestinian people.  This is a critical juncture that is unsustainable, he said, emphasizing that the Security Council must implement its own resolutions, which are the basis of a peaceful solution to the conflict.  However, it has been unable to ensure compliance with its mandate due to the use of the veto by one of its permanent members, he noted.  Calling for implementation of all relevant United Nations resolutions, he underscored the essential need for immediate action to reverse the situation on the ground and reduce tensions.  Turning to the situation in Gaza, he said it remains a matter of great concern, particularly the serious humanitarian situation, which continues to deteriorate every day.  This matter must be dealt with comprehensively in accordance with international law and all relevant United Nations resolutions, he stressed.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) said the viability of a two‑State solution is at serious risk.  “We are further from a solution than we were 70 years ago,” he added.  Affirming the rights of both Israel and the State of Palestine to coexist in peace, he called on both urgently to return to the negotiating table and reverse the current negative trends on the ground, as detailed in the recent report of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.  He condemned the launching of rockets and other explosives devices from Gaza as well as Israel’s excessive use of violence, requesting that both adopt measures to allow for the de‑escalation of tensions.  He went on to call for the suspension of orders to demolish Palestinian homes and for full recognition of the State of Israel, among other steps towards a resolution of the conflict.  As for Syria, he called upon all parties to avoid actions against civilians.  Concerning Libya, he emphasized that the recent military escalation there, with the support of major stakeholders, does not respect current international agreements.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), condemned recent attacks against worshippers of the Abrahamic faiths around the world.  What is clear in the Middle East is that the situation in the Palestinian territories is fragile and can no longer be neglected, she said, urging the international community to address humanitarian conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  Israel’s near‑total closure of the Gaza Strip continues to harm the nearly 2 million Palestinians living there, she noted, citing extreme restrictions on travel outside Gaza, even in humanitarian cases, as well as severe restrictions on the entry and exit of goods.  “We must drive international momentum to break the deadlock of the political process,” she continued, calling for efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final‑status issues in the Middle East peace process.  A two‑State solution is the only viable way to resolve the conflict, she said, emphasizing the need to respect the international consensus, enforce the agreements underpinning the international order, and to apply United Nations Charter principles to all nations without exception.  International peace and security will not succeed without an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories, she stressed, reiterating that the recent recognition of “Israeli sovereignty” over the occupied Syrian Golan by the United States does not alter the legal status of that territory under international law.  It is critical to provide the necessary assistance and support needed for Palestinians to attain economic and social development in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals, she said.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that a two-State solution remains the only viable avenue to sustainable peace.  Settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international humanitarian law.  The decisions taken by the Security Council in this regard must be fully respected and fully implemented by all parties and relevant actors.  With respect to recent developments on the Golan, s/he stressed that the prohibition of the annexation of territory is a cornerstone of the rules-based order.  Annexation amounts to an act of aggression not only forbidden by international law, but also subject to individual criminal accountability, including under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

KAI SAUER (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the absence of a meaningful political process has given way to the status quo in trompe-l’oeil style, with Palestinians seeing their future State shrink while the settlement policy continues steadily.  There is no viable alternative to a negotiated two‑State solution, based on the internationally agreed parameters set out in the Council’s conclusions of July 2014, which fulfils the legitimate aspirations of both parties and resolves all final‑status issues, including the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both States, he said.  Stressing that the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law, he called for a date for the planned Palestinian elections.  Turning to Syria, he said the regime bears overwhelming responsibility for the catastrophic humanitarian suffering of its people.  Expressing concern about the growing number of violations of the Idlib agreement, he stressed that the way towards a stable peace lies in resuming intra‑Syrian negotiations in Geneva and finding a Syrian‑led solution to the conflict leading to a political transition.  The European Union will do its utmost for a peaceful, sovereign, democratic, independent and integral Syria to emerge, he said, adding that it will remain at the forefront of international efforts to promote accountability and justice as part of any future process of national reconciliation in Syria.

COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about reports indicating a dire situation in the Gaza Strip, with retaliatory actions causing severe humanitarian suffering, deaths and civilian injuries.  His delegation remains troubled by the limited progress achieved and ongoing settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, reiterating that such actions are in violation of international law.  He welcomed the momentum maintained during several meetings held in 2019, including the third intra-Palestinian meeting, the conference of a group of Arab and European foreign ministers and the first Joint Summit of the League of Arab States and European Union Member States.  Much can be gained if Palestinian leaders and their people reunite behind their cause of self-determination, but the prevailing rift and divisions in Palestinian leadership greatly undermines their collective ability to engage meaningfully in the peace process, he pointed out.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) noted that Israel recently enacted a law allowing the occupying Power to withhold the tax revenues of detainees and martyrs.  Israel is also violating the sanctity of religious sites, he said, emphasizing that the Palestinian cause remains a priority and any solution that does not grant Palestinians the right to establish an independent State along 1967 lines is doomed to fail.  As such, his delegation is committed to relevant Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, he said, emphasizing the need to protect Jerusalem and its legal and historic status.  He went on to state that Iran continues its provocative expansion in the Middle East, including its support of Hizbullah in Syria.   As such, he welcomed the United Kingdom’s decision to recognize that group as a terrorist organization.  He called on the Council to shed light on parties trying to subvert the peace process in Yemen, including Iran which provides the Houthis in that country with weapons in violation of United Nations resolutions.  He also called for an end to the suffering of detainees, abductees and the disappeared in Syria, noting that this is a humanitarian concern that must not be politicized.  The countries of the region suffer from imposed wars, he pointed out, calling for an end to occupation and hegemony in the region.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) expressed concern at the worsening of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.  The situation has not changed.  There has been an expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, she said, noting a fall in financial support that has led to a fiscal crisis and increasing humanitarian needs.  The two-State solution is the only way to preserve peace in the Middle East and to give back rights to the Palestinian people and the right to have an independent State that is a member of the United Nations.

DATO’ NADZIRAH OSMAN (Malaysia), associating herself with OIC and the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concern over Israel’s recent irresponsible statement regarding the annexation of the West Bank.  She also expressed disappointment that the United States would recognize the forced and illegal occupation of land belonging to a sovereign State.  Hopefully, the United States can demonstrate leadership, she said.  That country and other Security Council members must do their part to allow both the State of Palestine and Israel to resume negotiations.  Condemning Israel’s continuous disproportionate use of force against Palestinian protestors in March, she said the international community has a collective duty to ensure an end to the violations.  Malaysia also condemns the proclamation by the United States that it recognizes Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, an indivisible part of Syria, she said, emphasizing that the Security Council must resume its rightful role as the ultimate broker, particularly on the Israel‑Palestine conflict, and overcome the long‑standing trust deficit due to its inaction.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the OIC, said the international community has been burdened by recurring violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  The persistent patterns of violation cannot be seen in isolation from measures, statements and provocations from Israel, the occupying Power, or other parties in further destabilizing the region and delaying the prospects for peace.  For nearly 5 million Palestinians living under occupation, the degradation of their water supply, the exploitation of their natural resources and the denial of their right to health are symptomatic of their lack of any meaningful control over their daily lives, he said.  People in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be able to stand up for their rights without being punished for their courageous advocacy and calls for action, he said, emphasizing that the Council must take immediate action to ensure that Israel ceases its violations of international law when responding to any just demonstration by innocent and unarmed Palestinians.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said air attacks and bombings continue to massacre the Palestinian people while the Security Council remains silent.  Cuban reiterates its firm rejection of Israel’s disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force against Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, she said.  Condemning the illegal construction and expansion of Israeli settlements and the seizure of Palestinian land, she also expressed her delegation’s profound concern at Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron.  The Council must demand an immediate end to the occupation as well as compliance with the resolutions on the Middle East, she said, expressing her delegation’s support for a two-State solution based on the pre‑1967 borders.  She further expressed concern over the decision by the United States to recognize the occupied Syrian Golan as Israeli territory, describing it as a flagrant violation of international law.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said that the Council is failing to protect its legitimacy on the question of Palestine, which is probably the most enduring in the organ’s history.  Since the last debate on the topic in January, more countries have announced their intention to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  In recent weeks, there was disturbing news that Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan is also receiving recognition.  Such decisions are illegal and in clear violation of the resolutions of the Security Council and the Charter of the United Nations.  He requested that the Security Council President publicly condemn the decisions by any country to recognize Israel’s illegal annexations of Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan.  The President should also encourage these countries to return to the right side of international law and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with international norms of acceptable behaviour.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) said that the Security Council has an explicit legal obligation to counter aggression and occupation and must therefore take the necessary steps to force the occupying Power to end the occupation.  However, the consideration of this issue by the Council over the course of the past seven decades has resulted in the adoption of some resolutions with no actual effect on the fate of Palestinians.  Interestingly enough, he said, relying on the absolute support of a permanent member of the Council, Israel has implemented none of those resolutions.  Additionally, whenever the Council has opted to adopt any resolution to force Israel to implement them, the United States has vetoed all such proposals.  As a result, the “Zionist regime” has been emboldened to continue, with total impunity, its expansionist policies and illegitimate practices.  Under the current United States Administration, the situation has changed drastically as the United States itself has also embarked on violating directly the relevant binding resolutions of the Council.  The first example was moving its embassy to Jerusalem, while the second was recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan.  Both acts are against the peremptory norms of international law, he said.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said the two-State solution is the best option to resolving the seven-decade long conflict.  Over the past three months, with Israel going to elections and the Palestinian factions still unable to resolve their differences and unite, there was no progress made regarding the relaunch of negotiations.  “We believe that in the current stalemate, the international community should play a positive role in facilitating the relaunch of negotiations,” she added.  Hungary is awaiting the presentation of the United States peace plan with hope.  Meanwhile, the Israeli and Palestinian people should understand that long-lasting peace requires compromises.  All sides must agree to engage in real dialogue in good faith.

PHAM HAI ANH (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concern over continuing negative trends, especially deadly clashes, incitement of violence, provocations, illegal settlement expansion, displacement of people and the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank.  This situation undermines all efforts towards a peaceful solution for the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.  Viet Nam condemns all acts of violence against civilians and the excessive use of lethal weapons, he said, urging all concerned parties to exercise restraint.  Regarding Gaza, he called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to act to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.  There can be no lasting solution for Gaza without lifting of the blockade and the restoration of power of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, he said.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said the international community must ensure the implementation of its resolutions to create the positive conditions needed for political settlements across the Middle East.  That includes ending any interference in the domestic affairs of States and allowing them to maintain their sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Palestinians, like any other people, must be permitted to exercise their right to self-determination.  Underlining Bahrain’s support for efforts to respond to the needs of Yemen’s people and to pursue a political settlement in that country in line with Council resolution 2216 (2015), he went on to condemn the scourge of terrorism, which threatens international peace and security.  Innovative mechanisms will be needed to jointly combat existing and emerging global challenges, he said, pledging to cooperate to those ends.

MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) said one generation after another has listened to nearly identical Council briefings about the situation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Expressing hope that the Council — and the broader United Nations — will remain the guarantors of the Palestinians’ inalienable rights, he warned against adding “new injustices” on top of the historical ones committed against the Palestinians.  In that vein, the United States decision on the Syrian Golan is null and void and has no impact.  “We are facing a new stage in the development of the Palestinian issue,” he said, noting that the pursuit of a two-State solution — chosen by all parties — is under threat.  The current status quo cannot continue and solutions cannot be based on the annexation of land.  Indeed, the parties can either chose to live in peace and security within 1967 borders, or give into the idea of a single State.  “There is no third scenario possible,” he added.

FREDERICO SALOMÃO DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil), encouraging the parties to seek a constructive political environment conducive to a return to meaningful negotiations, welcomed the United States initiative to present a peace plan.  Urging all parties to engage in the latter with an open mind, he said peace will only be achieved with difficult decisions and concessions from all sides.  On Syria, he voiced concern about the escalation of violence in Idlib Governorate and reiterated the importance of fully complying with the 2018 ceasefire agreement.  Convening a constitutional committee will be another crucial step towards an urgently needed political solution.  Turning to Yemen, he expressed regret that the security situation there continues to delay the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement and of resolution 2452 (2019).  While welcoming the parties’ announcement that they have agreed to the concept of operations for phase I of the redeployment of forces in Hodeidah, he noted with concern reports of continued violence and the risk of undermining that city’s fragile ceasefire.  Meanwhile, he stated Brazil’s opposition to any military action in Libya and urged all sides to deescalate the situation.

The representative of Israel, taking the floor again, addressed statements by Iran, Syria and Lebanon, describing Iran as one of the main co-sponsors of terrorism.  That country spends billions of dollars a year at the expense of its own people, he said, adding that it is trying to make Syria a platform for ballistic missiles.  Meanwhile, Syria offers its territory to Iran as a training ground for terrorists, he said, pointing out that Hizbullah, a recognized terrorist organization, plays a full part in the Government of Lebanon.  The international community has a moral obligation to undertake strong measures against those feeding violence and promoting terrorism, he emphasized.

The representative of Iran, also taking the floor a second time, said the delegation of Saudi Arabia made unfounded allegations against his country, describing the statements as tantamount to attempts by Israel to divert attention from reality.  Describing Saudi Arabia’s ideology as the ideology of major terrorist groups, he said that country’s petrodollars are the main source of terrorist-financing activities around the world.  Ideologically and financially, they are the founding fathers of terrorist groups.  They try to portray themselves as a country fighting terrorism.  This does not change the reality of the cold-blooded murders of a Saudi journalist and beheading of minorities.  Describing Israel’s statement as “nonsense”, he said that country must answer why it has started war so many times and invaded all its neighbours, without exception, in its short lifespan.

The representative of Saudi Arabia rejected Iran’s statement as baseless accusations against his country.  Iran has violated so many laws and history has demonstrated that it interfered in the domestic affairs of Arab countries.  History also shows that sectarianism started with the Khomeini revolution, he said.  He said Iran’s constitution states that it is important to promote the rights of the revolution and Tehran therefore interferes in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries while continuously threatening to close maritime shipping lanes, he said.  Iran is also providing support to Houthi coup-masters in Yemen, he said, urging the international community to call Iran out for these violations.

For information media. Not an official record.


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