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(United Nations Headquarters, New York, 25 July 2017)

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the last weeks, escalating tensions in the holy city of Jerusalem, sparked by the closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the imposition of restrictions on worshippers by Israel following a violent incident, was another demonstration of how easily the situation can escalate and approach levels of no return.

The Committee aligns itself with other statements reiterating the call for respecting the sanctity of these sites and the right to worship in them, and it regrets all loss of life.  In its 21 July Joint Communiqué with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Committee called on the international community to urgently reaffirm respect for the historic status quo, and to compel Israel, the occupying power, to rescind all measures that violate this historic status quo, including the installation of metal detectors, and to comply with its obligations under international law.

The reestablishment of the status quo at religious sites should be matched with urgent efforts towards ending the Israeli occupation of the State of Palestine. This year marks 50 years since the 1967 War and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The Question of Palestine is the longest-standing item on the UN agenda and the Israeli occupation is the longest-running. As the Committee has stated repeatedly, this is an unacceptable and unsustainable situation that must end immediately.

In an effort to mark five decades of continuing occupation and explore concrete ways of ending it, the Committee has been organising events throughout 2017. Just this past month, on 29 and 30 June, we convened at headquarters the United Nations Forum to Mark Fifty Years of Occupation. Opened by the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Ms. Amina Mohammed with a message from the Secretary-General, and bringing together experts, politicians, civil society representatives from Israel, Palestine and other countries, as well as one Nobel Laureate, the Forum provided a platform for arguably the most far-reaching, novel and balanced discussions on the Question of Palestine conducted under UN auspices in a long time.

While the views expressed were diverse, the consensus among participants was clear: the occupation is illegal, it needs to end and it needs to end now. I urge everyone to study the report of the Forum, which will be published in early August. It contains thought-provoking observations and recommendations, including the need for the international community to redouble its efforts towards achieving a viable and just solution, based on the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative, and the need for States to distinguish, in their dealings, between the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. Moreover, in the context of Gaza, participants called for a shift from a humanitarian to a political and human rights framework which would take into account the legal obligations of all stakeholders.

Mr. President,

The Committee has continued to carry out other aspects of its mandate in support of Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, including building capacity of Palestinian civil servants. For instance, the Committee organized a Capacity Building Workshop in Beirut in April, entitled “Goal 17 for Palestine: South-South and Triangular Partnerships for Sustainable Development”. The Workshop promoted a common understanding of the practice of South-South & Triangular Cooperation as an important modality for attaining the SDGs in Palestine and equipped participants with practical tools to comprehend the inherent challenges and opportunities. Last week, on 20 and 21 July, the Committee convened an international conference on the Question of Jerusalem in Baku, Azerbaijan, supported by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The Conference provided an opportunity to discuss ways to garner practical and concrete economic support from the international community for the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, as well as the serious situation in the City.

Mr. President,

The Committee has repeatedly stressed the illegality of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, now in its tenth year, which amounts to collective punishment and has resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crises, exemplified by the ongoing power, medical and water shortages and all of their consequences. The Committee has also constantly pronounced itself on the illegality of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which remains a major impediment to achieving peace and a grave breach of international law. The Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) explicitly called on Israel to take steps “to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” Unfortunately, the recent announcements by the Israeli Government of an additional 4,000 settlement housing units point to the complete lack of respect for the Council’s demands and a complete lack of accountability and progress in the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016).

The momentum generated by the resolution must not be lost and the Council must make fullest use of accountability mechanisms to secure complete implementation of its resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016) that “requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the […] resolution.” While the two briefings to date highlight what has been known for years – namely that Israel continues to be in flagrant violation of international law – they have been oral briefings and the Committee urges the Secretary-General to issue written reports in future and propose practical ways and means to hold Israel accountable.

Thank you