8648th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East - Part 1

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28-Oct-2019 03:10:06
Preventive diplomacy urgently needed to ensure lasting peace amid dangerous emerging flashpoints, Special Coordinator tells Security Council at 8648th meeting.

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The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process underlined today the urgent need for preventive diplomacy to ensure a fair and lasting peace as “new dangerous flashpoints emerge” in the region.

“The region cannot afford another war and we must continue our efforts to de‑escalate tensions and create openings for political solutions in the interest of peace,” Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov said by teleconference from Jerusalem, before the Council held a day‑long open meeting on the issue.

He noted a new political initiative in the form of an announcement by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of his intention to set a date for Palestinian elections, saying the international community should only support such a process if it strengthens national unity and not division. For that purpose, agreement must be sought across Palestinian groups, in accordance with relevant legislation, international best practices and existing agreements. He went on to welcome an agreement on Israel’s transfer of tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, calling for more progress on that front.

Unfortunately, facts on the ground continue to deteriorate and there are no prospects of final negotiations on the horizon, which pushes prospects for a two‑State solution even further away, he said, citing Israel’s continuing settlement activity and its seizure of Palestinian property in the West Bank as well as violence by settlers and various other security incidents, some of which resulted in casualties.

Concerning the situation in the Gaza Strip, he said that although overall violence in the enclave has fallen, hundreds of casualties still occur during protests at the fence forming the perimeter with Israel. He reiterated concerns over the impact of such demonstrations on children, stressing Israel’s responsibility for restraint and that of Hamas to ensure the safety of children by preventing them from being “used and exposed to the risk of violence”.

Regarding other regional developments, he reported demonstrations in several countries, from Joran and Iraq to Lebanon, in which protestors are demanding an end to corruption and improvements in daily life, noting that they resulted in hundreds of fatalities. As for Syria, he expressed hope that the launch of the Constitutional Committee will lead to a political agreement after nine years of devastating conflict in that country.

Following the briefing, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that, in light of the ever‑worsening situation, the Security Council can no longer shirk its responsibility to ensure that Israel abides by its resolutions. All legitimate tools, including sanctions and court prosecution, must be used to make it do so, he emphasized. He went on to urge the release of the database on businesses engaged in commerce with the settlements as well as non‑recognition of unilateral decisions affecting final status issues in order to ensure implementation of resolutions demanding an end to Israeli settlement activity.

Israel’s representative said it is a disgrace that the Council continues to target his country with recycled arguments rather than focusing on the devastation and ethnic cleansing currently being directed against Kurds and others in Syria and across the region. As for terrorism by non‑State actors, he said it is sponsored by Iran and others, with each group seeking to impose a single religious leadership across the globe. He urged the Council to adapt to a new world in which conflicts are driven largely by such actors, stressing the need for concerted action to cut off terrorists from their support and safe havens.

In the ensuing debate, most speakers affirmed the urgent need to resume the Israeli‑Palestinian peace process and pursue a two‑State solution, particularly in light of the turmoil in the region. Many decried the humanitarian situation of Palestinians, urging Israel to abide by its obligations under international law, and the international community to provide adequate support for Gaza’s reconstruction and for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, and Council President for October, described the failure to resolve the plight of Palestinians as a “profound mark” against the Council. “Council resolutions have been breached and ignored,” she pointed out, expressing grave concern about continued disregard for the long‑standing peace process through the systematic foreclosing of final status issues, particularly borders, the return of refugees, the status of Jerusalem and the “ever expanding illegal settlements”. “How is it possible to believe in this Council, in peace and security, in the face of such offending breaches of our decision?” she demanded. “This Council must find ways to repair its damaged and waning credibility as a source of peace and security.”

Many delegates also called upon the parties to refrain from actions that undermine prospects for the resumption of peace talks, citing Israel’s settlement activity, confiscation of property and other harmful actions, as well as the need to end violence against Israelis. Several also underlined the need for Palestinian reconciliation.

Jordan’s representative pointed out that her country has borne a large part of Syria’s humanitarian burden. Emphasizing that forced displacement and mistrust have no place in a land holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths, she noted that the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) will consider UNRWA’s work in November. Calling upon all Member States to provide the Agency with another mandate as well as financial support, she declared: “This is a responsibility that is upon us all.”

Syria’s representative affirmed that the Syrian Golan is an integral part of his country, pointing out the confiscation of resources, evacuation of residents and other illegal practices in the region. Others condone such actions, with the United States recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan, he said, while underlining that those decisions have no effect.

The representative of the United States, on the other hand, said debates in the Council pay disproportionate attention to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, an issue handled in a one‑sided manner. If the Council is truly committed to peace in the Middle East, it should focus on and condemn violence by Hamas against civilians under its rule and its undermining of peace prospects, she said.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative cautioned against attempts to impose alternative schemes for resolving the conflict, describing the decision by the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights as a gross breach of international law. He also criticized attempts to distract the Council’s attention from the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict in favour of “artificially inflated subjects”.

Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, France, Kuwait, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Peru, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Belgium, Turkey, Norway, Brazil, Japan, Pakistan, Namibia, Qatar, Egypt, Croatia (on behalf of the European Union), Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement), Tunisia (on behalf of the Arab Group), Malaysia, Cuba, Algeria, Maldives, Iran, United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Bahrain, Ecuador and Nigeria.

Others delivering statements were the Permanent Observers for the Holy See and the League of Arab States.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m., suspended at 1:15 p.m., resumed at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 5:22 p.m.

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