8405th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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19-Nov-2018 01:37:07
Despite ceasefire, Gaza still on brink of armed conflict, Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process tells Security Council at 8405th meeting.

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Against the backdrop of a tenuous calm, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process today warned the Security Council that the Gaza Strip remains on the brink of an armed conflict that holds catastrophic consequences for some two million impoverished Palestinians living there.

Nickolay Mladenov briefed the 15-member Council via videoconference from Jerusalem, recalling that between 11 and 13 November one of the fiercest exchanges of fire since the 2014 Gaza conflict had been trigged by an Israeli Security Defence Forces operation inside the Gaza Strip. A local Hamas commander and six other Palestinians were killed, sparking clashes in the following days. Those included some 450 rockets and mortars launched by Gaza-based militants into Israel, as well as Israeli airstrikes against 160 militant targets. Welcoming the restoration of a precarious calm, he urged all stakeholders to support it as a matter of priority.

The situation’s fragility underscores the urgent need to change the dynamics on the ground and address underlying political issues, he stressed, noting that the latest escalation came just as the United Nations and its partners were intensifying efforts to alleviate Gaza’s humanitarian and economic crises. “The clock on intra-Palestinian reconciliation is ticking,” he added, voicing support for Egypt-led efforts to advance that process. Meanwhile, illegal Israeli settlement expansion continues to eat away at the viability of a contiguous Palestinian State. “If any side fails, every side fails,” he warned.

Many Council members also voiced concern about the further erosion of a two-State solution, long supported by the 15-member organ and reflected in its resolutions. Speakers expressed alarm over escalating inflammatory rhetoric and calls to violence, while some cautioned their fellow delegates to avoid taking unilateral action that could further heighten tensions between the parties.

The representative of Kuwait, recounting his delegation’s efforts to provide Security Council responses to the Israeli operation that started the fighting, said Israel continues to blatantly target civilians in Gaza through its use of excessive and arbitrary force. Urging the Council to implement its resolutions on the protection of Palestinian civilians, he said that if Member States stand together they could successfully compel Israel to end its unjust actions. Warning that the current humanitarian situation in Gaza will lead to an explosion, he called on Israel to lift its blockade and end its violations of holy sites in Jerusalem.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, cautioning against aggressive attempts to revise previously reached agreements, including Council resolutions, warned that a two-State solution is becoming “ever more distant”. Citing the recent escalation of provocative rhetoric, unilateral actions and calls to violence, he urged restraint and an end to all hostilities. International partners should respect sensitive “final-status issues” — including the status of Jerusalem and the right of return for refugees. Those cannot be simply taken off the table before the parties themselves are even able to address them, he stressed.

The representative of the United States, meanwhile, described the Special Coordinator’s briefing as incomplete, having ignored other serious Middle East conflicts, including Iran’s increased terrorist activities. The Coordinator’s statement also omitted the provocations that caused Israel’s military responses, she said, underscoring that the targeting of civilians by Gaza militants demonstrate that they are a terrorist group. Also citing the existence of Islamic Jihad — an Iranian proxy group — she observed that only one side attacks indiscriminately and terrorizes to achieve its objectives.

Ethiopia’s delegate echoed expressions of concern — raised more broadly by Council members today — about the recent escalations as well as the severe and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. Spotlighting the lack of essential services, water, fuel, electricity and health access, he said they must be restored as a matter of priority. All sides must exercise maximum restraint and efforts to renew the peace process must be advanced or else “this latest tragedy will only be repeated”, he cautioned, emphasizing that the two-State solution remains the best and only realistic option.

Also speaking were representatives of Netherlands, France, Bolivia, Poland, Kazakhstan, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Sweden and China.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:39 a.m.

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