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United States Unveils Warsaw Talks Plan as Russian Federation Warns against Excluding Iran from Stabilization Efforts

The prospects for a viable, contiguous State of Palestine have dwindled as Israel continues its illegal settlement expansion in occupied Palestinian territory, speakers told the Security Council today, noting also that the lack of progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation persists, and that violence between the Israelis and Palestinians shows no signs of abating.

“As 2019 begins, we should have no illusions about the dangerous dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continue to unfold before our eyes,” cautioned Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, during the Council’s quarterly open debate on the Middle East.  During the last quarter of 2018, Israeli authorities advanced, approved or tendered more than 3,100 housing units planned for settlements in Area C, nearly half of which are deep in the West Bank, he said, warning that additional attempts to pass legislation that would directly apply Israeli law to occupied West Bank territory are raising fears of future annexation.

He went on to state that despite the tireless efforts of Egypt and the United Nations, hopes for genuine intra-Palestinian reconciliation are fading by the day as each side blames the other for the lack of progress.  He called upon Palestinian leaders to act decisively to resolve the political impasse by implementing the 2017 Cairo Agreement in full.  Pointing out that more than 25 years have passed since the Oslo accords opened a pathway to peace, he emphasized that recommitment to the basic tenets of bilateral agreements will provide hope for the future and lend impetus to the drive for peace and stability.  “A quarter of a century of investment in peace and State-building must not be allowed to wither under the pressure of violence, radicalization and suffering,” he stressed.

About 50 speakers — Council members and non-members alike — exchanged views on a range of issues, including obstacles to a two-State solution — by which Israel and Palestine would exist peacefully side by side as independent States — and the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that his delegation is beginning 2019 with high hopes that the “better sides of humanity will prevail” despite its many current challenges.  Israel’s illegal occupation has become more entrenched in the last year, causing deep suffering and loss, even as the political process remains deadlocked and a political horizon absent, he added.  Citing several important international events and trends, he recalled that the global community rallied with generosity and compassion following the unprecedented funding crisis that confronted the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  “The meaning of this collective mobilization cannot be underestimated,” he stressed, noting that it not only provides hope and alleviates the fears of refugees, but also serves as a “model of multilateralism at work”.

Israel’s representative called upon the Council and the international community to condemn Iran’s acts of aggression and to “follow the money” supporting terrorism.  The trail leads back to one common supplier — Iran, “the source of modern terrorism”, he said.  He recalled that after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme in 2015, the world was optimistic that Tehran would rejoin the community of nations and use the money realized from the lifting of sanctions to fund development.  “That was wishful thinking,” he said, adding that, instead, the regime fed those funds to terrorist groups working to spread Iranian ideology across the Middle East and the world.  The Council must, as a crucial first step, designate Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad as terrorist organizations, he stressed.

Iran’s representative, for his part, said that the deterioration of the situation over the last year “proves that Israel is a child-killer regime”.  He cited that country’s ongoing settlement plans, its inauguration of an “apartheid highway”, and its recently enacted law aimed at ensuring the institutionalization of racism.  “Racism is the very nature of the Israeli regime,” he emphasized, describing such policies as shameful and meriting condemnation in the strongest possible terms.  Asking why the systematic violation of the inherent rights of Palestinians has been allowed to continue for the last 70 years, he pointed out that the United States has shielded Israel and thereby rendered the Council “absolutely ineffective” on the matter.  He went on to call for full Palestinian membership in the United Nations.

In similar vein, Kuwait’s representative warned that the Council’s inaction has given Israel the green light to perpetuate the occupation.  He was also among the delegates expressing support for fully-fledged United Nations membership for the State of Palestine, while also congratulating it on assuming the chairmanship of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.

However, the representative of the United States said the Council spends far too much time on the question of Palestine instead of addressing the other situations in the wider Middle East.  He said that the United States and Poland will host the “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East” in Warsaw on 13 and 14 February, expressing hope that the meeting will be more productive than the Council’s discussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Russian Federation’s representative expressed concern that Iran — a significant player in the Middle East — is not invited to the Warsaw conference, and cautioned against isolating Tehran in any attempt to draw up plans for stabilizing the region.  Echoing concerns that the status quo in the Middle East is not viable, he emphasized that, in fact, it is in jeopardy, with parties expanding unilateral activities and exacerbating existing problems amid reports of increasing violence.  Calling for the resumption of peace negotiations, he also warned that Member States will not tolerate attempts to revise the basis for such talks, while underlining that Israel and Palestine themselves must resolve final status issues.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative emphasized that Israelis and Palestinians must rise above their differences, while also expressing concern about conflicts in other countries in the Middle East, such as Syria and Yemen.  There is no military solution to any of the region’s different conflicts, he stressed.

At the meeting’s outset, Council members observed a moment of silence in honour of the Chadian peacekeepers killed in a weekend attack in Mali.

Also speaking today were representatives of Indonesia, Poland, Belgium, China, Equatorial Guinea, Germany, United Kingdom, Peru, France, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Brazil, Syria, Ecuador, Jordan, Argentina, Namibia, Pakistan, Norway, United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt, Cuba, Morocco, Botswana, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Libya, Qatar, Japan, Venezuela (for Non-Aligned Movement) and Maldives.

Speakers also included a representative of the European Union delegation, the Permanent Observers for the Holy See and the League of Arab States, as well as the Vice Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Israel’s representative took the floor a second time in response to statements delivered on behalf of Iran, Lebanon and Syria.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 4:42 p.m.

Briefing

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that as 2019 begins, no one should have any illusions about the dangerous dynamics of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Over time, the possibility of establishing a viable, contiguous Palestinian State has been systematically eroded by facts on the ground, he said, noting that Israeli authorities have advanced, approved or tendered more than 3,100 housing units planned in Area C settlements.  Nearly half of them are to be built deep in the West Bank, many in isolated settlements in the Nablus area and near Hebron.

Cautioning that additional attempts to pass legislation that would directly apply Israeli law to occupied West Bank territory are raising fears of future annexation, he pointed out that, in December 2018, the Government endorsed a bill to advance the legalization of some 66 illegal outposts across the West Bank within two years.  The demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned structures continued across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, with 25 structures seized or demolished for lack of Israeli-issued building permits, he said, noting that the documents are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.  As a result, 32 people have been displaced, he added.

He went on to report growing pressures on the foundations of a future Palestinian State, many of them imposed by decades of occupation and internal divisions.  In addition, despite the tireless efforts of Egypt and the United Nations, hopes for genuine intra-Palestinian reconciliation are fading by the day as each side blames the other for the lack of progress.  He called upon Palestinian leaders to engage constructively with Egypt and act decisively to resolve the political impasse by ensuring full implementation of the 2017 Cairo Agreement.  The continuing absence of a functioning elected Palestinian legislative body remains a cause for concern until credible elections can take place, he added.

On the security front, a dangerous dynamic has been unfolding in the West Bank over recent months, with a series of deadly terrorist attacks increasing the risk of destabilization, he said.  The reporting period also witnessed an increasing number of Israeli military operations in Areas A and B of the West Bank.  Pointing out that more than 25 years have passed since Oslo opened a pathway to peace, he emphasized that recommitting to the basic tenets of bilateral agreements will provide hope for the future and an impetus for peace and stability.  “A quarter of a century of investment in peace and State-building must not be allowed to wither under the pressure of violence, radicalization and suffering, he said.

He went on to report that Israeli security forces killed eight Palestinians during the reporting period, while stressing that Hamas must stop the indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel.  With recent cuts in donor funding, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continued, noting that the World Food Programme (WFP) had to suspend food assistance to 27,000 people and reduce the rations of a further 166,000.  He urged donors to continue their support for the critical services provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Turning to Lebanon, he said the situation in the south and along the “Blue Line” remained calm but tense during the reporting period.  The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was able to confirm that two of the tunnels discovered by the Israeli Defense Forces crossed the Blue Line, thereby violating Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  On 9 January, the Israeli Defense Forces initiated construction of a wall south of the Blue Line and close to the Lebanese reservation area near Misgav Am, he said.

As for the occupied Golan, he reported that the ceasefire between Israel and Syria has been maintained in relative calm and low levels of military activity in the areas of separation and limitation on the Bravo side.  On 20 and 21 January, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) observed and heard an increase in air activity over, and the firing of missiles into, those areas, he recalled, adding that UNDOF liaised with both sides to de-escalate the situation.

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said his delegation was beginning 2019 with high hopes that the “better sides of humanity will prevail” despite its many current challenges.  In the last year, Israel’s illegal occupation has become more entrenched and caused deep suffering and loss, even as the political process remains deadlocked and a horizon absent.  However, he said, among those marked setbacks there have also been glimpses of hope and inspiring stories of Palestinian resilience and achievement.  Also citing several important international events and trends, he said the global community rallied with generosity and compassion following UNRWA’s unprecedented funding crisis, providing critical support to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees.  “The meaning of this collective mobilization cannot be underestimated,” he stressed, noting that it not only provided hope and alleviated refugees’ fears, but also served as a “model of multilateralism at work”.

In that vein, he said, 2018 also highlighted a shared determination between the Palestinian people and their leadership — as well as by the international community — to preserve the foundations of a just and peaceful solution and protect Palestinian rights.  The year saw the near-consensus rejection of actions aimed to legitimize Israeli measures in East Jerusalem and renewed support for a two-State solution both in the Council and at the General Assembly.  “We appeal to the international community to reject attempts to erode this consensus and to match words and commitments with practical measures to ensure accountability for all violations,” he said, underlining the need to “make impunity costly”.  There is no viable plan B to the two-State solution, and immediate action is required to advance its realization before it is too late.  Indeed, despite positive developments, the situation on the ground has been far less positive.  Cycles of violence and suffering continue amid Israel’s illegal policies and the relentless colonization of Palestinian land.

“Day by day, this occupation is destroying the two-State solution and sowing deep despair among our people,” he stressed, adding that the realities on the ground have been repeatedly confirmed in reports of the Secretary-General.  In the last year, Israel deliberately advanced the illegal construction of more than 5,600 settlement units, a wall, checkpoints, Israeli-only roads and other occupation infrastructure.  It demolished Palestinian homes and forcibly transferred civilians in an effort to alter the demography, character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Calling for the explicit condemnation of those actions, he said acts of violence and hatred against Palestinian civilians were incited by a barrage of inflammatory rhetoric, with 295 Palestinians killed and some 29,000 injured in 2018.  Meanwhile, the Israeli blockade of Gaza has resulted in grave humanitarian suffering.  Urging the Council to heed appeals and pay those matters urgent attention, he said Member States also have a responsibility to withhold aid and assistance for Israel’s illegal actions, recognize the State of Palestine and support the latter’s request for membership in the United Nations.

DANNY DANON (Israel) expressed hope that, in the course of 2019, the Council will engage in “factual, constructive dialogue” on the situation in the Middle East.  Two days ago, he recalled, Iranian Quds forces fired a missile from Syria into Israel, which the latter successfully intercepted.  Israel then responded by targeting Iranian military infrastructure in Syria and continues to hold the Iranian regime responsible for the missile attack.  Calling upon the Council and the international community to condemn Iran for that act of aggression, he emphasized that Tehran must fully, without preconditions, withdraw all troops from Syria.  While wishing no aggression, Israel stands ready to hold accountable anyone who wishes to wipe it off the map, he stressed.

Urging the Council to “follow the money” supporting terrorism — as it did with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) — he said the trail today leads back to one common supplier — Iran, “the source of modern terrorism”.  Underlining the urgent need to take action against that regime, he recalled that, following the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme deal in 2015, the world was optimistic that Tehran would rejoin the community of nations and use the money realized from the lifting of sanctions to fund development.  “That was wishful thinking,” he said, adding that, instead, the regime fed those funds to terrorist groups working to spread Iranian ideology across the Middle East and the world.

He went on to state that covert “terror tunnels” discovered in December 2018 stretched from private homes in Lebanon into Israel, recalling that his delegation subsequently provided the Council with proof of Hizbullah’s responsibility for their construction, in clear violation of Israel’s sovereignty, as well as resolution 1701 (2006).  “This is what happens when we rely on wishful thinking.”  Having taken swift actions to close the illegal tunnels, Israel will continue to neutralize all such threats against its people, he emphasized, warning that Iran is now trying to infiltrate other countries — including Iraq, Somalia and Yemen — and directing billions of dollars annually into its never-ending attempts to destroy Israel.

Meanwhile, Iranian money directly supports Hamas and the group known as Islamic Jihad, he continued.  Recalling that Hamas led a delegation to Iran in 22 December 2018, he rejected denials by that group’s officials of previous statements underlining its wish to see Israel’s destruction.  Tehran’s attempts to close in on Israel on multiple fronts will not succeed, he stressed.  Indeed, the European Union recently imposed new sanctions against Iran and it is now the Council’s turn to take the leap, he said.  Israel stands committed to the fight against terrorism and the international community should join it, he added, while underlining that the Council must, as a crucial first step, designate Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad as terrorist organizations.

RETNO LESTARI PRIANSARI MARSUDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, emphasizing that the Palestinian question deserves the Council’s full attention, said all sides must comply with international law, including by refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric.  The peace process requires legitimacy based on internationally agreed parameters, she stressed, warning:  “Any peace plans which fail to accommodate such parameters will not succeed.”  A two-State solution is the only option for resolving the Palestinian issue, she reiterated.  She went on to express concern over the humanitarian situation, particularly in Gaza, underlining that funding is essential for the work of UNRWA.  On Syria and Yemen, she said continuing efforts for an inclusive political solution must be pursued further.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) pointed out that the Security Council spends far too much time on the question of Palestine instead of devoting that time to addressing the other situations in the wider Middle East.  Noting that the United States and Poland will co-host the “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East” in Warsaw on 13 and 14 February, he said the conference will not be a forum for attacking Iran, but will focus on broader issues in order to create momentum towards a more peaceful and stable Middle East, including concrete benchmarks to that end.  However, Iran must cease its destabilizing actions, he emphasized, recalling that country’s firing of a space‑launch vehicle last week.  He went on to note that the tunnels discovered by UNIFIL are in violation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), and that Iran conducted the launch of missiles from Syria into Israel.  Tehran must withdraw its forces from Syria, he reiterated, expressing hope that the meeting in Warsaw will be more productive than the Council’s meetings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) called upon the parties to refrain from violence, noting that civilians on both sides, including children, have lost their lives.  The recent development in Gaza demonstrates the need to resume bilateral talks and address sticking-point issues, such as final status matters and security arrangements, she emphasized.  To realize the legitimate aspirations of both sides, they should refrain from unilateral steps, adding that Poland supports a two-State solution, which can only become reality through meaningful bilateral negotiations.  Creating such a political horizon is possible through regional cooperation and other mechanisms such as the Middle East Quartet.  Warning that that Israel’s settlement activities will split the West Bank, she expressed her delegation’s expectation that the Egypt-led intra-Palestinian reconciliation process will lead to the establishment of a single Palestinian Authority.  The upcoming Warsaw conference will bring added value in creating a positive vision for the Middle East, she added.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) reiterated his delegation’s support for a two-State solution reached in full respect for all established parameters, emphasizing that all credible diplomatic initiatives must also support those goals.  Noting that a peaceful regional environment is crucial to peace, he said 2018 saw worrying trends on the ground — including Israel’s ongoing settlement initiatives and increased violence — he said they further diminish the already precarious prospects for peace.  Condemning Israel’s disproportionate use of force against civilians at the Gaza border fence in 2018, he also rejected the irresponsible incitement of Gaza residents to cross the fence and cause damage.  Protests must remain non-violent and must never be exploited, he emphasized.  Expressing grave concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, he called for lifting the blockade and for opening crucial crossing points, all while taking Israel’s legitimate security concerns into account.  He went on to express regret that intra-Palestinian talks seem to be stalled and urged Palestinian leaders to build strong institutions and work towards credible democratic elections.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), echoing concerns that the existing status quo in the Middle East is not viable, emphasized that the status quo is, in fact, in jeopardy with parties expanding their unilateral activities and exacerbating existing problems amid reports of increasing violence.  Condemning all terrorist acts, as well as the arbitrary use of force and the targeting of civilians, he called for the resumption of peace talks in accordance with the Middle East Quartet’s road map and similar initiatives.  Warning that Member States will not tolerate attempts to revise the basis for such talks, he underlined that Israel and Palestine themselves must resolve final status issues.  Reiterating the Russian Federation’s offer to host negotiations between them, he said it will also continue to support intra-Palestinian reunification talks, as well as UNRWA’s important humanitarian work, which must continue to prevent the further radicalization of civilians.  Meanwhile, States should pool their efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian track while also seeking to stabilize Syria, Yemen and Iraq, he added.  As for the planned Warsaw conference, he expressed concern that Iran — a significant player in the Middle East — has not been invited, cautioning against isolating Tehran in any attempt to draw up plans for stabilizing the region.

GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said that, although Israel-Palestine conflict is the most complicated one, his country is committed to realizing the rights of both sides and to support a two-State solution.  Both sides must rise above their differences, he emphasized.  Citing unemployment, lack of decent housing, poor health services and lack of clean drinking water, he called upon the Council to find an urgent solution to the suffering of those affected by the conflict.  UNRWA’s budget deficit must be remedied since the Agency plays a key role in international assistance to Palestine refugees, he added.  Stressing that Fatah and Hamas must renew dialogue, he also expressed concern over conflicts in other parts of the Middle East, such as Yemen and Syria.  There is no military solution to any of the region’s different conflicts, he reiterated.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) congratulated the State of Palestine on assuming the chairmanship of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, echoing the statement by that observer delegation’s Permanent Observer that the position represents a source of hope for Palestinians and reflects the level of international attention.  He went on to recall that 2018 was characterized by negative developments, including Israel’s expansion of settlements, killing of civilians and the blockade of Gaza, yet the Security Council is yet to act.  Its inaction has given Israel the green light to perpetuate the occupation, he said.  Palestinians have the right to independence and dignity — basic human rights of which they were deprived for six decades — he said, emphasizing that their plight does not result from the lack of political will, but from Israel’s rejection of any solutions proposed.  It continues to destroy prospects for a two-State solution, he said, stressing that Kuwait supports full-fledged membership of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.

MA ZHAOXU (China) said the two-State formula faces serious challenges, with efforts to resume dialogue fading and the risk of further violence intensifying.  Rejecting all violence against civilians, he called upon the parties to exercise restraint and upon Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza.  The international community must adhere to all relevant United Nations resolutions, to the “land for peace” principle, and to the Arab Peace Initiative, among other agreements aimed at ensuring a just, lasting two-State resolution of the conflict.  Israel must also cease all its settlement activity in accordance with resolution 2334 (2016), he said, calling upon the parties to act with prudence, implement all international agreements, respect the principle of peaceful coexistence and avoid unilateral actions or actions that might further inflame tensions.  Meanwhile, the international community should remain united behind its support for the resumption of peace negotiations, he said.  China supports the creation of an independent Palestinian State and will step up its efforts to help integrate Palestine into the international community while promoting peace in the region, he added.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed concern that protracted conflicts in the Middle East continue to force many from their homes and to threaten international peace and security.  The Council must exert pressure on any parties that continue to keep such conflicts alive, he emphasized, expressing particular concern about developments on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory over the past year.  Warning against unilateral actions, he reiterated his delegation’s support for a two-State solution, with independent Israeli and Palestinian States living side by side in peace and security.  While violence against civilians cannot be tolerated, Israel’s legitimate security concerns must be addressed, he stressed, also voicing support for the intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks led by Egypt.  Turning to Gaza, he expressed hope that the current downtick in tensions will continue and that mutual understanding will be reached on the movement of goods and products.  Finally, he welcomed the announcement by the United States of its intention to publish a schedule for the resumption of peace talks, saying they should serve as a “true and positive point of departure” for resuming negotiations.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said his country is steadfast in its commitment to Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic State.  “We will not remain silent when Israel’s right to exist is questioned or compromised,” he said.  Highlighting that a clear perspective of the political process is urgently needed, he expressed support for any attempt to restart meaningful direct negotiations between the parties to the conflict, with the objective of creating a lasting peace.  Confidence-building measures and positive steps by both parties are essential.  Israeli settlement policies must cease as these actions are illegal under international law.  Germany strongly condemns all attacks, including the firing of rockets and use of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza.  The humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza is a matter of grave concern.  UNRWA remains indispensable in providing aid in the Palestinian territories.  Progress on intra‑Palestinian reconciliation is also of utmost importance.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) condemned the rocket launches from Gaza into Israel, describing the situation as deeply concerning.  The passage of 25 years since the Oslo agreement is a stark reminder that “we don’t have the luxury of time” to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The last three months saw three Israelis, including a baby, killed, she said, noting that Hamas claimed responsibility.  During the same period, 17 Palestinians were killed.  While emphasizing Israel’s right to defend itself, she said it must refrain from excessive use of force, warning that miscalculation could escalate tensions in Gaza, which suffered a brutal war in 2014.  Also, the Council must impress upon Palestinian factions the need to work together in the reconciliation process led by Egypt.  She went on to caution that developments in the West Bank jeopardize prospects for a two-State solution, saying it is deeply regrettable that Israel settlement activities continue deep in the West Bank.  She also condemned Israel’s violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty while denouncing Hizbullah’s destabilizing activities.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), expressing concern about the hostile climate surrounding the Middle East peace process, condemned the continued indiscriminate attacks by Hamas and the disproportionate response by Israel’s security forces.  Reaffirming the need for a two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders, he warned against all actions that undermine trust.  He went on to deplore Israel’s intensified settlement activities and to reject hate speech, underlining that diversity must be valued.  Peru categorically rejects terrorism by Hamas, he added.  Concerning the humanitarian front, he urged stable and predictable funding for UNRWA.  On Yemen, he said the ceasefire agreement reached in Sweden marked a turning point, and urged the Council to preserve its unity.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) agreed with other delegates that the “illusion of a status quo” obscures a daily deterioration of the situation on the ground.  Twenty-five years after the Oslo Accords, less than half of Israelis and Palestinians still believe in the prospect of a two-State solution.  Recalling the alarming statement delivered by the President of the Palestinian Authority before the Council earlier this month, he warned that the risk of escalation on the ground — including in the Gaza Strip — has not receded.  Indeed, repeated outbreaks of violence continue amid the unprecedented humanitarian crisis.  Condemning the disproportionate use of force by Israel’s security forces against civilian protesters, he emphasized that the international community must respond to Gaza’s urgent needs, support the swift reopening of crucial crossing points and lift the blockade.  France has doubled its contribution to UNRWA, which continues to play a key role in providing humanitarian support, as well as stability and security, he said.  Urging the resumption of dialogue, he stressed the need to hold the planned Palestinian elections in transparent conditions and to reverse Israeli settlement policies.  The Council — which has never been able to speak with one voice on the issue — must take swift action in support of peaceful dialogue because the territory is being “cut up into pieces before our eyes”, he stressed.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his delegation — in its first statement delivered as an elected Council member during an open debate — reiterated its commitment to reaching a resolution to the question of Palestine.  Citing the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) on Israeli settlements as an example of the Council’s potential outcomes on the matter, he said if the organ fails to take action to ensure the implementation of its own resolutions its very credibility will come into question.  The recent upsurge in tensions between Israeli settlers and the Palestinian people residing in settlements are indicative of the obstacles to peace created by such illegal expansion, he stressed, calling for the full implementation of resolution 2336 (2016), including the submission of timely written reports by the Secretary-General on its implementation every three months.  “We must not allow the decisions made by the Security Council to be undermined and blatantly violated,” he stressed, also voicing concern about the deliberate targeting of children, continued human rights violations and the punishing of civilians by defunding UNRWA, including Israel’s plans to shut down the Agency’s schools in East Jerusalem.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said that his delegation, which is guided by the principles of human rights and international law, is deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza, particularly the humanitarian and economic conditions there.  Calling for a two-State solution, which is the only way to bring a just and lasting peace, he urged parties to redouble efforts to guarantee Palestinians the right to self-determination and Israelis the right to live in peace and security.  He therefore warned against any acts of terrorism and use of inflammatory rhetoric.  The last quarter of 2018 saw increased violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The international community must meet the pressing humanitarian needs of Palestinians.  On Golan, he stressed the importance of implementing Security Council resolutions that can bring an end to the conflict.  The world must not waver in its efforts to achieve a two-State solution and mutual recognition.  All men and women in the region should live in hope and security.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon), expressing hope that Palestine will obtain the status of full United Nations membership, said Palestinians today face a war against their lands, territory and rights.  Two days ago, an Arab development summit ended in Beirut, with members united against Israeli aggression, as well as on such issues as the status of Jerusalem, the Palestinians right to self-determination and to an independent State, and the right of Palestine refugees to return.  The United Nations must support lasting peace in the Middle East, including by ensuring the full implementation of such resolutions as those on Israeli settlements and the Golan Heights.  Emphasizing that Israel continually violates Lebanon’s sovereignty, she cited 13 air violations, 4 maritime violations and 4 land-based violations against her country in the first week of January alone.  The most recent violation, this week, resulted in the building of a wall and other structures within Lebanese territory around the “Blue Line”.  Reaffirming her country’s sovereignty, she said Beirut also remains committed to achieving a peaceful resolution on outstanding border issues.

FREDERICO MEYER (Brazil) expressed support for the two-State solution, and welcoming the initiative by the United States to present a peace plan, said Israelis and Palestinians alike will be asked to make difficult concessions.  He urged both sides to negotiate with an open mind towards a fair solution for all involved.  More broadly, he urged all parties in Syria to engage with the Special Envoy and to convene the Constitutional Committee, as a United Nations-mediated political process owned and led by Syrians themselves will bring the conflict to an end.  In Yemen, he urged parties to refrain from actions that could breach the truce established by the Stockholm Agreement, noting that Brazil will contribute military observers to the United Nations Mission approved by resolution 2452 (2019).  The recent crisis on the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon underscores the importance of UNIFIL for the region’s stability, he added.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that Israel has continued its aggression in the occupied territories, in gross violation of international law and relevant Council resolutions.  “Such aggressions would not have been committed had the Security Council not failed to implement relevant resolutions,” he stressed.  Support from other countries continues to encourage Israel to act aggressively.  Certain countries play the role of the “false witness”, but this will not deter Syria from restoring its right to the Golan, he said.  Israel’s attempt to alter the situation, including its aggressive statements and criminal acts, is “doomed to failure”.  Some have invested in a terrorist war waged against Syria.  Israel has attempted to hold illegitimate elections in the Syrian Golan.  It has subjected some to house arrest while Israeli officials have repeated aggressive statements.  Unfortunately, the Special Coordinator did not issue a strong condemnation of Israel’s aggressive actions, particularly its strikes against Damascus International Airport.  “Such a disregard is a political and moral failure,” and “thus makes him illegitimate”, he said.

LUIS BENIGNO GALLEGOS (Ecuador) expressed concern over the continued attacks, killings and detentions.  Israelis and Palestinians continue to die because of violence in the West Bank.  Palestinians still lack access to health care, water and jobs.  “Facts on the ground are sounding alarm bells,” he stressed.  However, instead of quelling tensions, Israeli authorities have approved plans for the construction of some 2,200 settlement units in the West Bank.  This and other provocative actions endanger the possibility of a two-State formula.  He endorsed various initiatives put forward to restart talks.  “It is imperative to preserve the prospects of a two-State solution,” he added.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan) recalled her country’s close links with Palestinians and support for their cause since they were displaced from their lands.  Jordan has made every effort to advance peace so as to restore all their lands and meet their aspirations.  The two-State formula, which guarantees a viable Palestinian State within the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, could foster an end to the conflict, she said.  However, Israel’s unilateral measures and settlement‑building in Jerusalem — the holy city for half of the world’s Christian, Muslim and Jewish peoples — must end.  Underlining Jordan’s stable commitment and mandate to preserve and protect Islamic and Christian holy places in Al-Quds, she described the city as a “red line” in final status discussions.  The issue of refugees is also a part of the solution, as a function of all international legal measures, including General Assembly resolution 194 and the Arab Peace Initiative, she said.  Turning to UNRWA’s need for continued support, she stressed that any attempt to reduce its role undermines the rights of refugees.  She went on to call for a political solution to the situation in Syria.  As for Yemen, she recalled that Jordan hosted a meeting, convened by the Special Envoy, between that country’s Government and the Ansarullah group.  Noting that war has indeed deprived the region of stability, she declared:  “This is a very high price to pay socially.”  Calling for a focus on social, political and economic causes, she added that, when all people, particularly the young, see a promising culture, there will be undeniable benefits for the international community.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the peace process is at its most difficult moment since the 1993 Oslo Accords.  Collective efforts are needed to keep the two-State formula alive, he said, urging the friends of the Israelis and Palestinians to work constructively for a peaceful settlement of differences, in accordance with General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative and the efforts of the Middle East Quartet.  He advocated support for the inalienable Palestinian right to self-determination and to a State, while recognizing Israel’s sovereign right to exist within secure borders.  Expressing concern over Israel’s construction of settlements in Palestinian territories, he pointed out that such actions are in breach of international law.  He went on to condemn all terrorist acts and violence by Hamas and other Palestinian organizations.  He also recognized Israel’s right to legitimate defence, while pressing it to respect international humanitarian law and the principles of distinction, proportionality and military need in using force.  Underlining that the final status of Jerusalem must be defined through bilateral negotiations, he also expressed support for a political solution to the Syria situation which respects that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  As for Yemen, he welcomed the creation of the new United Nations mission and expressed hope that the Stockholm Agreement will help to end the conflict.

NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that this month marks 10 years since Israel’s first major military assault on the Gaza Strip.  Since then, two further major conflicts have taken place and repeated outbreaks of violence have ensued.  The economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire.  Secured and stable funding for UNRWA should remain a concern and a priority, he stressed, expressing concern over the Agency’s funding crisis.  He called Israel’s settlements in the West Bank illegal and warned that they remain an impediment to peace and the two-State solution.  He further expressed concern over Israel’s worsening treatment of Palestinian prisoners.  The Government of Israel must cease its settlement expansion and destruction of Palestinian homes, he stressed, urging that country to also withdraw from occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, recalling that Pope Francis compared peace to “a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence”, said the image captures the situation between Israel and Palestine, where its tenuous existence is constantly threatened by human rights violations and unilateral actions that hamper efforts to alleviate hardship.  He appealed to both sides to resume dialogue towards ending the conflict.  The Holy See seeks international guarantees for Jerusalem, as recommended by the General Assembly in 1947, he said, cautioning against transforming a territorial and political conflict into one about religion and identity, and pressing political office holders to use their authority responsibly.  Describing peace as the fruit of a political project grounded in mutual responsibility, he said such work should spare no effort to protect citizens.  He drew attention to the humanitarian situation in Gaza and other occupied territories, stressing also that aid to Palestine refugees must be allowed to continue unimpeded.

SAAD AHMAD WARRAICH (Pakistan) cited diminishing hope among Palestinians against the backdrop of the Special Coordinator’s grim assessment.  Israel’s expanded illegal settlements — which are worsening the situation — are emblematic of a blatant disregard for international law and the global community’s will, including resolution 2334 (2016).  “Creating ‘alternative facts’ on the ground cannot change historic realities or neutralize the legal rights of people living under foreign occupation,” he stressed, adding that the suffering of civilians in Gaza represents a moral outrage and must end.  A viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine based on internationally agreed parameters is the only path to assuring sustainable peace.  Meanwhile, he said, sufficient and predictable funding to UNRWA is imperative, as are the intra-Syrian political process and diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Yemen.  Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for a “surge in diplomacy”, he emphasized that “we should not fail the Palestinian people”.

MONA JUUL (Norway) urged Council members to come together and agree on a durable political solution for the benefit of the Syrian people.  Regarding Yemen, she expressed concern that the situation on the ground remains very fragile and called for all parties to uphold the momentum achieved in Sweden.  Norway will continue to prioritize humanitarian aid to Yemen.  Palestinian State-building and economic development remains essential to achieving a two-State solution, she said, expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.  Donors must mobilize support for the Palestinian people, she added, stressing that UNRWA remains indispensable in distributing must needed aid to the people there.

SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab Group, said the international community must continue efforts aimed at leveraging all energies towards peace, prosperity and tolerance.  Ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian State according to international law and the Arab Peace Initiative will ensure stability in the region.  He called for Israel to halt its settlement expansion, which impedes international efforts towards peace.  He underscored the legal responsibility of the international community, commending the efforts of Egypt to promote Palestinian independence.  Supporting UNRWA is essential to ensuring the delivery of vital supplies and assistance to the Palestinian people.  On Yemen, it is important to stop all violations of human rights and implement relevant Council resolutions.  Such violations would not happen without Iran’s support.  Iran is also the common denominator to the conflict in Syria.  He further expressed concern for the presence of terrorist groups in Libya.

GEORG HELMUT ERNST SPARBER (Liechtenstein) expressed disappointment with the Council’s failure to exert its leverage over the parties to the conflict in Syria, saying it continues to be characterized by systematic and egregious violations of human rights.  Liechtenstein supports the work of the Commission of Inquiry into grave human rights violations, he said, stressing that accountability must be part and parcel of any political agreement to end the conflict.  That has long been a demand of the Syrian people and countless Syrian civil society groups, he noted, emphasizing that sustainable peace and effective rebuilding will only be possible if those who have perpetrated crimes against humanity and large-scale war crimes are held to account.  On Yemen, he underlined the essential need for the Council to address atrocity crimes as the peace process moves forward.  It must ensure that accountability for atrocity crimes is included in any final peace settlement in order to prevent a return to conflict, he said.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) categorically rejected Israel’s illegal policies and practices, especially those to ingrain racial segregation against Palestinians.  He urged the Council to take steps to stop Israel’s settlement‑building and to implement its resolutions on lifting the siege against Gaza, opening border crossings and ending the area’s humanitarian and economic crisis.  He reiterated the need for comprehensive peace in the Middle East, in line with the Arab Peace Initiative, which included Palestinian statehood along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, the return of refugees and of Syrian Golan and Lebanese territories.  On Syria, he called for a fair political solution to end the suffering of people within and beyond its borders, as well as the withdrawal of all foreign fighters, especially Iranian forces and militias.  Condemning chemical weapons use, he called on the international community to hold perpetrators accountable.  The region has seen new developments in Yemen with the Stockholm Agreement, a breakthrough, not supported by the Houthis — who themselves are backed by Iran’s regime — as seen by their “rogue” drone attack on the Al-Anad military base, and attack against a United Nations committee.  Citing findings from an independent observer report that Iran supports Houthi militias, he said the Council must compel Iran to abide by resolutions 2231 (2015) and 2216 (2015), as those militias had violated the ceasefire 679 times, and looted humanitarian aid, as stated in a 31 December 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) report.  They have flouted United Nations and regional efforts to resolve the crisis and have been unwilling to bring back the “happy Yemen”.  He advocated a comprehensive political solution that would guarantee sovereignty across the territory and a commitment to the three terms of reference:  the Gulf Initiative, national dialogue and relevant Council resolutions, especially resolution 2216 (2015).

DIDAR TEMENOV (Kazakhstan), recalling his country’s support for the two-State solution, the early resumption of bilateral negotiations without preconditions and Palestinians’ right to self-determination, said Israel’s settlement‑building has obstructed peace in the region.  The difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza should be a great concern for all, he said, advocating support for UNRWA, as education, health care, social services and the hope of 5.3 million Palestine refugees were at risk.  He encouraged those with influence — Arab countries, the United States, Russian Federation and the European Union in particular — to urge both sides to reach agreement on mutually acceptable principles concerning the coexistence of two States.  More broadly, the 18 January meeting of the parties to the conflict in Yemen, held in Amman to exchange prisoners, was an important step towards peace, he said, reiterating Kazakhstan’s deep commitment to multilateral efforts to achieve stability in the Middle East.

FERIDUN SINIRLIOGLU (Turkey) pressed Israel to stop all settlement activities, home demolitions, land confiscations and other policies that deny Palestinians’ right to development.  Palestinians have the right to return to their homeland.  “This cannot be withheld”; nor can their refugee status be used as a bargaining chip.  The situation in Gaza is deeply worrying amid UNRWA’s worst financial crisis in its history.  As chair of the Agency’s Advisory Commission and the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA, Turkey will contribute to the entity’s work and calls on all actors to do the same.  A two-State solution, with the State of Palestine established along 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital, is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace.  In Syria, Turkey helps to advance the political process through efforts to finalize the Constitutional Committee, he said, calling the involvement of the United Nations and efforts to strike a balanced composition crucial.  “Turkey’s resolve to fight against terrorism in Syria is firm,” he said.  It will not tolerate safe havens for any terrorist organization “on the other side of our borders”.  Nor will it consent to the pursuit of any agenda that contravenes Syria’s unity and the will of its people.  Turkey and the United States have agreed to coordinate the withdrawal process to avoid a power vacuum.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that Israel’s “limitless” aggression against Palestinians, intensified colonial settlement policies and assaults on Islamic and Christian holy places, notably Al-Aqsa Mosque, have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis affecting Palestinians, especially in Gaza.  Such actions cannot be seen as isolated from provocations by Israel and others aimed at forcibly and unlawfully altering the legal status of Jerusalem, he said.  Emphasizing the Council’s duty to end such impunity, he pressed its members to ensure accountability for all Israel’s violations and to provide protection for Palestinians.

Alongside the International Criminal Court and all other major actors, the Council should also halt Israel’s construction of illegal settlements, he continued.  It should consider positively the admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, he said, while also urging the international community to ensure more predictable, sustained funding to enable UNRWA to address its unprecedented financial crisis.  He pressed the Council to revive opportunities for progress in the stalled peace process, stressing the decisive moral and political role of international actors in sponsoring multilateral political peace efforts based on relevant United Nations resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

GUSTAVO MARTIN PRADA of the European Union called on the Israeli authorities to adhere strictly to the principles of necessity and proportionality in their use of force and to take steps to stop the increasing violence by settlers.  The risk of further escalation of tensions is compounded by the advancement last month of Israel’s plans for more than 2,000 settlement units.  All settlement activity is strictly illegal under international law, he stressed.  In Gaza, the political and security situation remains volatile, and the dire humanitarian situation a matter of grave concern.  Miscalculations could easily lead to the outbreak of a dangerous spiral of violence, he warned, stressing that a fundamental change is crucial, and must include an end to the Gaza closure and the full opening of crossing points into the area.

Despite commendable efforts by Egypt, intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks seem to have reached a deadlock, he continued, calling on all Palestinian factions to find common ground and work together to address the needs of the Palestinian people.  “We expect the Government to work towards genuine and democratic elections for all Palestinians,” he said.  It is essential to continue to support UNRWA in its efforts to put in place cost-saving measures and reforms.  The European Union remains committed to the internationally agreed parameters for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East based on international law, relevant Council resolutions and previous agreements.  Serious efforts must be made towards resuming meaningful negotiations aimed at a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital of both States.

MOHD SUHAIMI AHMAD TAJUDDIN (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the world “can only watch in utter disgust” as Israel continues to inflict injustice with impunity.  As the violations continue to prolong, prospects of a two-State solution could just as well be another utopian dream.  He urged the Council and all Member States to press Israel and demand that it cease all illegal settlement activities.  On Yemen, he welcomed the developments resulting from the peace talks held in December 2018 in Sweden, adding that such an outcome deserves support.  Malaysia will continue to support the rights of the Palestinian people, including the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine, based on pre-1967 borders.

MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) said current events coupled with today’s briefing only reflect the injustice of the suffering of the Palestinian people which is mainly due to the continued Israeli occupation.  He called on all parties to give priority to the interests of the Palestinian people, as they are the ones bearing the exuberant cost of the conflict.  The road to peace is still clear, he continued, adding that reconciliation will be achieved when all parties realize that the fate of the Palestinian and Israeli people is intertwined.  He reiterated that Egypt is committed to a two-State solution, based on the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.  Disregarding this path will only lead to the destruction of 25 years of work built following the signing of the Oslo Accords.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) expressed regret about the United States unilateral actions and its continued obstructions which, in the Council, prevent action on the part of the international community.  Rejecting the disproportionate use of force by Israeli security forces, in flagrant violation of international law, she also condemned the illegal construction of Israeli settlement and the confiscation of Palestinian property, all of which are in contravention of the fourth Geneva Convention.  Israel must put an end to its aggressive policies and practices and adhere to all international agreements on the situation, especially resolution 2334 (2016).  Reiterating Cuba’s support for a sovereign and independent Palestinian State and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, she said her nation will welcome Palestine as a full United Nations member State.  In addition, she called for Israel’s total and unconditional withdrawal from the Syrian Golan and all other occupied territories, and demanded respect for multilateralism and an end to the manufacturing of pretexts as an to attempt to legitimize aggressions.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) said 2018 was a year of frustrations in international efforts to build trust among the parties and compel them to resume negotiations.  Israel’s policies and actions gave rise to tensions and only pushed the peace process further backward, he said, warning that settlements in particular threaten peace, stability and prosperity.  Urging the Council and the Middle East Quartet to shoulder their responsibility on the matter, he called on the parties to avoid any actions that could escalate the situation.  Morocco supports the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to have a viable, independent State living side by side in peace with Israel.  Calling for a fair, lasting and comprehensive peace achieving in line with that two-State formula — as not only a political achievement, but an important way to combat terrorism — he fully endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative as a pathway forward.

COLLEN V. KELAPILE (Botswana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, congratulated the State of Palestine on its historic 2019 Chairmanship of the Group of 77, and expressed support for Palestinians’ inalienable right to both self-determination and independence.  He advocated a return to meaningful negotiations to end the occupation and resolve the conflict, urging enhanced international efforts facilitated by the Middle East Quartet, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Madrid terms of reference.  Peace-loving nations with an understanding of the conflict’s dynamics must summon the will to work towards embracing dialogue.  He cautioned against steps that could undermine the negotiation process and urged respect for all relevant Council resolutions.  Both sides must cease hostilities and return to peace talks, he said, reiterating that settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory violate international law.

KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said Israel’s settlement expansion, blockade of Gaza and suppression of peaceful Palestinian protesters are serious challenges to Palestinians’ establishment of an independent State.  He called for implementation of Council resolution 2334 (2018), among others adopted by the General Assembly, as well as a halt to settlement expansion.  The Council should take legally binding measures to stop such illegal acts, he said, expressing support for ending Israel’s occupation and establishing an independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stands in solidarity with Syrians in their efforts to regain the occupied Syrian Golan, he said, noting that all controversial issues must be resolved through dialogue.

MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, warned against unilateral actions taken by Israel and expressed support for the position taken by many delegations to resist oppression on Palestinians.  The League also opposes the United States decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.  He called on all States to resist the campaign aimed at removing Jerusalem from the final status issue.  He also denounced the decision by the United States to cut funding to UNRWA and reaffirmed the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.  The conflict must be resolved through direct negotiations by the two parties.  Israel’s settlement activities constitute a major obstacle to a two‑State solution.  The League reaffirm the illegal nature of new laws passed by Israel’s Knesset legalizing settlements.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, urged the Council to make 2019 a year of action and progress in realizing the inalienable rights of Palestinians.  Recalling that the “Group of 77” developing countries and China — representing 80 per cent of the international community — elected the State of Palestine as its Chair, she said the last year has been marked by a stalled peace process, indiscriminate violence against Palestinian civilians protesting at the Gaza fence, a lack of progress on Palestinian reconciliation and settlement building by Israel.

Planned demolitions of Bedouin villages, such as Khan al-Ahmar-Abu al Helu, have only captured the Council’s fleeting attention, she said.  “The international community is turning a blind eye, not only to the obligations of the occupying Power that are being breached, but to its own obligations, as a third party under international law,” she stressed, cautioning States against taking unilateral actions on final status issues, as they would further imperil the two-State solution.  She also called on those that have not done so to recognize the State of Palestine and support its rightful place among the community of nations.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) warned that the situation in the Middle East remains unstable and the plight of the Palestinian people has deteriorated over the past year, due largely to violations of Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 2334 (2016).  As a country that has been through many wars, Viet Nam shares other’s concern about the unjustifiable suffering of civilians and unresolved issues.  Viet Nam reiterates support for Palestinian people’s just struggle for their inalienable rights, as well as a two-State solution.  Moving forward, Viet Nam supports regular consideration by the Security Council of the issue with a view to strengthening efforts aimed at a long-lasting solution for the region.  Council unity is crucial, he stressed.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Special Coordinator’s statement once again presented the horrible facts on the ground — including the expansion of Israeli settlements which poses a real threat to any two-State solution and draws the situation closer to an all-our war.  Regrettably, the briefing today lacked any glimpse of hope, disappointing the majority of Member States.  The Council must become more effective on the matter in order to preserve its credibility, he stressed, also calling for the implementation of General Assembly resolution A/ES-10/L.23 on protection of the Palestinian civilian population and the establishment of a practical mechanism for its implementation.  Expressing support for Palestine’s full-fledged membership in the United Nations, he called on all States to respect the legal status of Jerusalem and avoid any unilateral actions in contravention of those established norms.  The peace process must be preserved in line with the Arab Peace Initiative and other internationally recognized terms, he said, adding that occupation must also be ended in the Syrian Golan and elsewhere.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said all stakeholders must work to resolve final status issues “through a serious negotiation between the two sides”, with the goal of ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian territory.  Calling for special attention to be paid to Jerusalem, she rejected any efforts to alter the character of the city, especially Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Pledging to continue to help alleviate the humanitarian suffering of Gaza’s residents, she reiterated Qatar’s demand for a peaceful resolution that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.  Turning to the situation in Syria, she called for a political solution that maintains the country’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Finally, she said, the illegal, unilateral blockade imposed on Qatar has negatively impacted relations between countries of the region.  Thanking the Government of Kuwait for its efforts to resolve the dispute, she recalled that the International Court of Justice issued a decision siding with her country in July 2018.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that 2018 was a challenging year in terms of the question of Palestine as mutual distrust deepened and civilian casualties mounted.  He urged Israel to freeze its settlement activities and called on the Palestinian parties to sincerely engage in reconciliation to bring Gaza back under the control of the Palestinian Authority.  Developing economic independence for Palestine is essential to achieve a two-State solution, he continued, emphasizing the need to provide information and communications technology so that Palestinians can connect to global markets.  Turning to UNRWA, he said Japan provided its highest financial contribution in 2018, focusing on education and health care.  Regarding Yemen, he welcomed the breakthrough last month in Stockholm, and expressed hope that it will lead to a swift resolution to the humanitarian challenges the Yemeni people face.

HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that another year has gone by but the question of Palestine remains unresolved.  The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in 2018 marked the highest toll since the 2014 war in Gaza, he said, adding that Israel continues its settlement expansion and demolition of Palestinian structures.  Expressing his delegation’s solidarity with the Palestinians, he said the conflict poses a serious threat to international peace and security while emphasizing the need for faith in multilateralism.  Whereas the Council’s resolutions are legally binding, it has failed to enforce them, he pointed out, while stressing that implementing resolution 2334 (2016) is the most viable path to peace since it seeks a two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders.  Calling for its full implementation, especially by the occupying Power, he underlined the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence.  An end to Israel’s settlement activities will help to realize a two-State solution, he said, while stressing that the international community and the Council failed to hold that country accountable for illegal actions, many of which amount to war crimes.  The absence of accountability diminishes the prospects for peace, he noted, adding that the Council must ensure that justice is served.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and OIC, called for Palestine’s full membership in the United Nations.  Emphasizing that the deterioration of the situation over the last year “proves that Israel is a child-killer regime”, he also cited ongoing Israeli settlement plans, the inauguration of an “apartheid highway” and a recently enacted law aimed at ensuring institutionalized racism.  “Racism is the very nature of the Israeli regime,” he said, describing those policies as shameful and meriting condemnation in the strongest possible terms.  Asking why the systemic violation of Palestinians’ inherent rights has been allowed to continue for the last 70 years, he said the United States has shielded Israel and thereby rendered the Council “absolutely ineffective” on the matter.

Noting that Israel has been emboldened by such impunity, he said it has waged more than 15 wars and invaded and occupied numerous lands over its short history.  Most recently, those brazen actions included the development of offensive missiles able to reach “anywhere in the area” as well as “any target” — thereby threatening all counties of the region.  “The gross systematic violation of territory and sovereignty or all regional countries by Israel must stop,” he stressed, calling for the latter to be held accountable for its actions.  All countries in the region have the right to defend themselves against an armed attack by Israel, he said, calling upon the international community to continue to support the realization of Palestinian rights and reject further occupation, aggression, oppression and intimidation.

FARZANA ZAHIR (Maldives), noting the persistence of the illegal occupation of Palestine, condemned demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned property and the illegal building of settlements, calling on Israel to lift the Gaza blockade and cease disproportionate attacks against Palestinian civilians.  Limits on the movement of people and goods into Gaza must be immediately lifted, he said, pressing the Council to take urgent action to protect civilians and deliver aid.  An independent, sovereign State of Palestine — established alongside Israel within pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital — is the only solution to the conflict.  In Syria, he said the United Nations and international community must do more to reinvigorate talks to reach a peaceful settlement to the conflict, while in Yemen he welcomed the adoption of resolution 2452 (2019) to establish a special political mission.

The representative of Israel, taking the floor a second time, responded to the statement delivered by Iran’s delegate by noting that the firing of surface-to surface-missiles from Syria is evidence of Iran’s entrenchment in the latter country.  Those missiles bear the slogan “death to Israel”, he said, stressing that threatening the existence of another United Nations Member State is a violation of the Organization’s Charter.

Responding to the statement delivered by the representative of Lebanon, he said Iran’s transnational network of terror reaches deep into Lebanon.  Israel does not wish to trigger an escalation of tensions, but it must respond to Hizbullah’s recent actions, he said, noting that all activities have been carried out on Israel’s side of the Blue Line.

In response to the statement delivered by Syria’s delegate, he said that country is now offering itself up as a platform for Iranian terror and urged the international community to combat that threat.

For information media. Not an official record.