8449th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East Part 2

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22-Jan-2019 02:53:36
Prospects for viable state of Palestine dwindling as settlements expand amid continuing violence, Special Coordinator tells Security Council at 8449th meeting.

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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.

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