8557th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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20-Jun-2019 02:01:58
Special Coordinator reports largest expansion of West Bank settlements in 2 years, as he briefs Security Council on Middle East Peace Process at 8557th meeting.

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With nearly 6,000 housing units advanced, approved or tendered, recent weeks have seen the largest expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in two years, the senior United Nations official coordinating the Middle East peace process official said today, as he briefed the Security Council on the flagging implementation of its resolution 2234 (2016).

Speaking at the outset, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process declared: “Developments during this reporting period cannot be divorced from the broader context of Israel’s continued military occupation of Palestinian territory and settlement activity, Hamas’ hold over Gaza and military activity, the threat of war, unilateral actions that undermine peace efforts and severe challenges to the fiscal viability of the Palestinian Authority.” In addition to the 6,000 housing units advanced, approved or tendered, he said the demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned structures also continued throughout the period between 25 March and 10 June.

Providing updates on several cases before the Israeli authorities, he said violent and provocative acts — as well as incitement and inflammatory rhetoric — also persist. The Israel Defense Forces struck 300 militant targets and 21 residential buildings in Gaza, from which incendiary kites and other devices continued to be launched into Israel. In addition, the situation in the Gaza Strip remains perilous and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) — which continues to carry out its work in Gaza — is now operating on the basis of a projected $211 million shortfall on its $1.2 billion annual budget. “Negative trends continue to overshadow positive developments,” he noted.

With Council members taking the floor, several expressed concern that Israel is failing to implement resolution 2334 (2016), which calls for the cessation of settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and states that such activities lack legal validity. Others spotlighted the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza — as well as UNRWA’s severe funding shortfall — while calling for an end to violence and escalating rhetoric on both sides.

In that vein, the representative of Kuwait, Council President for June, speaking in his national capacity, emphasized that stopping Israeli settlement expansion is central to establishing peace. He called upon Israel to end those activities — as well as the forcible seizure of Palestinian land and the withholding of tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority — expressing concern that its military attacks, threats and provocative statements also continue unabated. No real political progress can be seen without lifting the long‑standing blockade imposed against Gaza, he added.

Indonesia’ representative echoed the concern of other speakers that the developments outlined by the Special Coordinator continue to erode the chances of reaching an agreement acceptable to both sides. “The hope for a better future is fading away,” he warned, pointing out that the occupying Power continues to dismantle past political agreements and parameters. Calling attention to UNRWA’s important role against a backdrop of worsening economic and social conditions, he said the generous contributions of many nations are a clear demonstration of support. Indeed, the Agency’s existence is “the least the United Nations can do to help the Palestinians, given the failure of this Council to act authoritatively on its own resolutions”, he said.

France’s representative stressed that Gaza’s future cannot be separated from a two-State solution, which, in turn, is threatened by Israel’s continued settlement expansion. Israel’s continued settlement-expansion policy continues to undermine the latter, she said, stressing that France does not recognize its sovereignty over any of the occupied territories. Indeed, economic peace cannot replace the quest for a real political settlement rooted in international law, and attempts to deviate from the latter are doomed to fail, she warned.

South Africa’s representative said “we are fiddling, while the reality of an independent, safe, security and self-sufficient Palestinian State is slowly dwindling”. Emphasizing that historical injustices against the Palestinians must be addressed, he said direct negotiations between the two sides is vital to identifying a mutually acceptable path forward. Pressing Council members to exert every effort to bring all sides to the table, he stressed: “No people can be repressed forever.” He added: “The Palestinian people will continue to resist. That was true for all of us.”

Also speaking were representative of the United States, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland, United Kingdom, Peru, China, Dominican Republic, Germany, Belgium, Equatorial Guinea and the Russian Federation.

The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:03 p.m.

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