Situation in Middle East - 8717th Security Council Meeting

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11-Feb-2020 02:33:04
Key players reject proposed United States Peace Plan as failing to meet minimum rights of Palestinians, Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov tells Security Council.

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Palestinian Leader’s Presence a 'Distraction’, Says Israel, as Arab League Warns against ‘Another Type of Apartheid’ in Holy Land

The Palestinian Authority, as well as the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), have all rejected the peace plan proposed by the United States on 28 January as failing to meet the minimum rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today.

Briefing Council members on the situation, Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov said that the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy described the United States proposal as departing from internationally agreed parameters, adding that a number of African Union member States similarly rejected it during that regional bloc’s recent summit.

However, senior figures within the Government of Israel said they would be willing to use the proposal as the basis for direct negotiations, he noted. Similarly, some Member States have expressed hope that its release will offer an opportunity to bring the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back to the negotiating table. He went on to emphasize that “the United Nations policy on this issue is defined by relevant United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements”.

Since the proposal was announced, he continued, violent incidents have occurred throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around the Gaza Strip. However, escalation will only serve those seeking to radicalize people, he warned, emphasizing: “All must show restraint and unequivocally condemn violence.”

He went on to note that senior Israeli officials vowed to unilaterally annex large portions of the West Bank, including all settlements in the Jordan Valley. Underlining the Secretary-General’s consistent opposition to such unilateral action, he cautioned that such plans could close the door to negotiations, severely undermining opportunities for normalization and peace. However, those who reject the proposal should not turn to violence, he stressed, declaring: “That would be the worst possible response at this sensitive moment.” What is needed, rather, is political leadership and serious reflection on what must be done to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, he said.

Recalling that the United Nations has long supported a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on United Nations resolutions, international law and previous agreements, he said it is time to hear proposals on how to return to a mutually agreed mediation framework that ensures the resumption of meaningful negotiations. While it is difficult to envision a comprehensive agreement under current circumstances, “we must avoid continued entrenchment in the status quo”, he emphasized.

Warning that continuing on the current trajectory would only push the sides further apart, he said: “There is no other road to achieve this goal except through negotiations.” There is no framework other than the one that the two sides agreed together on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements. He went on to warn that the absence of a peace accord could drag both peoples, and the region, into a spiral with no end in sight.

Secretary-General António Guterres said “this is the time for dialogue, for reconciliation, for reason”. Urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to demonstrate the necessary will to advance peace, he reiterated that the position of the United Nations remains defined by General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. The Organization remains committed to the end goal of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, based on the pre‑1967 lines, he affirmed.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the State of Palestine reaffirmed his rejection of the peace plan proposed by Israel and the United States, saying it violates the Arab Peace Initiative and the right of Palestinians to self-determination. “This plan, or any part of it, should not be considered as an international reference for negotiations,” he declared, emphasizing: “We will never surrender our rights.” He went on to reiterate his readiness to begin negotiations immediately with an Israeli partner who is similarly ready for peace, under the auspices of the Middle East Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union) and within internationally agreed parameters.

Israel’s representative, while also stating his readiness to take steps towards peace, said President Abbas came to the Council to distract the international community instead of going to start negotiations in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, those who voted in favour of more than 150 related United Nations resolutions only encourage his behaviour. In fact, the United States plan is simply a starting point for negotiations, using a new approach to replace the failed old strategies presented over the past 70 years, he said, pointing out that previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements acknowledged that borders were to be the subject of bilateral negotiations.

The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States said the measures proposed in the United States peace plan will impact many issues that should be addressed through negotiations, adding that the measures benefit only the Israeli side. Whereas the “blueprint” was presented as the “fruit” of negotiations, it excludes the Palestinians and seems to imply that the plan will be imposed upon them. The plan appears to have been drafted with the idea of seeing it rejected by Palestine and the world, he said, adding that it also sets new parameters — granting land, settlements and Jerusalem to Israel, while not proposing a realistic two-State solution. Instead, it seems to propose the creation of a single State with two categories of citizens: those with and those without rights, he noted.

“This is shameful,” he said, pointing out that the international community would be accepting another type of apartheid — and in the Holy Land, no less. The League of Arab States already has a peace plan, he continued, describing the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative strategy as a viable proposal that is subject to negotiations. By contrast, the United States plan undermines the idea of negotiations whereas it should, in fact, have been the fruit of discussions. It appears there cannot be peace unless one side admits defeat and submits. He concluded by saying he was appalled to hear a call to exclude President Abbas from negotiations on the grounds that he is not a good dialogue partner. The question is not about any individual, he stressed, recalling that the same type of characterization was made about another Palestinian President 15 years ago.

Some Council members took issue with the United States proposal, saying it remains a unilateral plan that excludes input from the Palestinian authorities. France’s representative emphasized that international law and Security Council resolutions are not mere options that Member States can choose to embrace or abandon. Cautioning against executing any annexation plans in occupied Palestinian territory, he emphasized that no solution can emerge from unilateral decisions. The proposal by President Abbas to establish a multilateral mechanism for the relaunch of negotiations warrants close consideration, he added.

The representative of the United States explained that the proposed peace plan remains a fresh, viable option for reopening a path to peace talks. Describing it as a blueprint for a Palestinian State and an opening offer to talk, she expressed hope that the Council will give the new approach a fair hearing and that Israelis and Palestinians will have the courage to sit down and talk with one another.

Some delegates said that a range of proposals should be considered, since previous efforts to restart peace talks have all failed. Germany’s representative said the outline for talks contained in the United States proposal merits consideration. He also noted the ideas of President Abbas in that regard and invited the parties to submit proposals.

In a similar vein, the United Kingdom’s delegate said the United States proposal reflects a genuine desire to resolve the conflict, adding that Palestinian leaders owe it to their people to give it due consideration. Where there is disagreement or outrage, the only path forward is dialogue, she added. “We must now take the first step towards negotiations; there is no other way forward.”

The Russian Federation’s representative said his country’s vision aligns with Arab assessments in the outcome of the 1 February meeting of the League of Arab States. By contrast, the United States proposal fails to reflect the core elements of an internationally recognized legal framework, as set out in the Arab Peace Initiative and countless United Nations resolutions, he noted. What is to be done when Palestinians reject it?, he asked. The silver lining is that the Palestinian situation, relegated for years to the back burner, is once again in the global spotlight, with the so-called “deal of the century” calling attention to the need for peace in the Middle East and advocating international action to formulate a lasting settlement, he said, calling for the revival of the Middle East Quartet as an international mediator and the sole mechanism recognized by the Council for that purpose. The Moscow platform should be revived without preconditions, he added.

South Africa’s representative recalled that Nelson Mandela was released from prison 30 years ago today, and that his eventual election as President of a united and democratic South Africa demonstrated that what had once seemed intractable was solvable. “May this be a lesson in finding peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

Tunisia’s representative said that his delegation, alongside Indonesia and others, is preparing a draft resolution with a view to ending the Israeli occupation and promoting a solution to the conflict.

Also delivering statements were representatives of Indonesia, China, Estonia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Viet Nam, Dominican Republic and Belgium.

The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 12:41 p.m.

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