8669th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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20-Nov-2019 02:18:20
Israeli-Palestinian escalation in Gaza shows urgent need for political progress on Middle East peace process, Special Coordinator tells Security Council at 8669th meeting.

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The recent escalation of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip demonstrates the urgent need for political progress on the Middle East peace process, which, in turn, calls for maintaining the international consensus on basic principles, the Special Coordinator of that process told the Security Council today.

“Upholding the international consensus on resolving the conflict and all final-status issues on the basis of the two-State solution, as per relevant resolutions, international law and mutual agreements is critical,” Nickolay Mladenov said during his regular monthly briefing, cautioning that unilateral actions fuel anger and disillusionment while undermining the prospects for peace.

Expressing regret with the 18 November announcement by the United States that it no longer views Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as inconsistent with international law, he stressed that the position of the United Nations remains that settlement activity is a flagrant violation of international law and an obstacle to a peaceful solution.

He went on to affirm the importance of holding credible Palestinian elections. “A whole generation’s voice for the future has yet to be heard,” he said, describing intra-Palestinian division as “a cancer eating away at the aspiration for statehood, peace and the commitment to democracy.” He pledged that the United Nations will do everything necessary to support a successful Palestinian election process.

Also briefing today was Tania Hary, Executive Director of the Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, who pointed out that Israel continues to control many aspects of daily life in Gaza, including the main crossing points, as well as the movement of humanitarian and commercial goods. People in the enclave are only permitted to travel in “extraordinary cases”, she added. Far from ensuring security, however, such restrictions constitute an effort to apply pressure for political gain, she emphasized, pointing out that Israel has an interest in maintaining the fracture dividing the Palestinians. Israel’s restrictions created despair and had a political goal rather than a security purpose, she said.

Noting that much of the current focus is on the expansion of settlements, she said Gaza’s continued isolation is another primary obstacle to the peace process, emphasizing that, without self-determination, Palestinians cannot vote for those who make decisions affecting their lives. She called upon the international community to insist on Israel allowing the maximum access possible, subject only to serious security concerns. It must remove obstacles imposed on those seeking work or trying to reunite with their families, she said, adding that it must also lift restrictions for those seeking health care and on companions of those receiving medical care — such as parents of young children.

Most Council members taking the floor affirmed their support for a two-State solution and many underlined the importance of holding inclusive and credible Palestinian elections, alongside efforts for intra-Palestinian reconciliation. Many speakers criticized the announcement that the United States no longer recognizes the illegality Israel’s settlements under international law.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine described Washington’s decision as yet another in a series of irresponsible recent steps that will only undermine the prospects for peace and the legitimacy of United States diplomacy. Such desperate attempts to alter international law through mere political whims will never succeed, he said, emphasizing that every country represented at the United Nations has the ability to contribute to Middle East peace by withholding support for the settlements, thereby ensuring accountability and ending long-standing impunity for that country’s crimes. “There can be no international law applied to all of us, and another […] designed to fit the colonial greed of Israel,” he stressed.

The representative of the United States clarified that her country does not judge the legality of any particular settlement, or what the final status of such settlements should be in a peace agreement. However, the focus of discussions within the Council, should not be on settlements, but on attacks against Israeli civilians that threaten peace and security, she said, pointing out that both sides are affected by such terrorist actions. The United States remains committed to the cause of peace, but also to fair treatment of Israel in the United Nations, she added. “We will not stand idly by when this Council unfairly condemns Israel, especially when those who attack Israel are not condemned,” she stressed.

Israel’s representative thanked the United States for “righting an historic wrong” by denying the illegality of settlements in the West Bank and identifying the true obstacles for peace in the region. The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan demonstrated the lengths to which Israel is willing to go to achieve peace through negotiations, as did the withdrawal from Gaza, he added. The armistice that ended the fighting in 1948 specified that agreed boundary lines were exclusively for military purposes, without prejudice to final status, he said, adding that insistence on the validity of pre-1967 borders pre-determines the outcome of negotiations.

The Russian Federation’s representative decried the announcement by the United States, warning that it can only heighten tensions and describing it as a gross violation of international law. He went on to affirm that the Golan is Syrian territory illegally annexed by Israel, while expressing serious concern about that country’s rocket fire against Syria.

China’s representative called for an immediate end to all rhetoric and actions that contravene United Nations resolutions. Emphasizing that statehood is an inalienable right and “not something to be traded for”, he pointed out that resolution 2334 (2016) clearly finds Israel’s settlement expansion to be illegal under international law, demanding that it end immediately.

Kuwait’s representative rejected all attempts to justify Israel’s expansionist policies, describing them as flagrant violations of international law. He also denounced other actions aimed at changing reality on the ground, including in Jerusalem.

Indonesia’s representative described the new position unveiled by a Council member as a clear, unquestionable and flagrant violation of international law. “The international community must resist the irresponsible and unjustifiable call which seeks to undermine the international consensus concerning this conflict.”

France’s representative declared: “It’s not up to one country as to what is legal.” Israel’s settlement policy contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention and Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), among other documents, he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Poland, Peru, Equatorial Guinea and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:22 p.m.

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