Situation in Middle East - Security Council Open VTC

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24-Jun-2020 02:34:17
Annexing parts of West Bank will ‘grievously harm’ two-state solution, Secretary-General says, addressing Security Council on Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Calling on Israel to abandon plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, the Secretary-General told the Security Council during a 24 June video conference meeting that such a move would threaten the vision of a two-State solution.

“If implemented, annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-State solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations,” the Secretary-General said during a meeting on the Middle East focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We are at a watershed moment.”

Promising to continue to speak out against any unilateral steps that would undermine chances to resolve the conflict through negotiations, he reiterated his commitment to support both parties, with the goal of achieving the vision of two States — Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable Palestinian State — living side by side in peace and security within secure and recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both nations.

Concerned about the current situation, he said the Palestinian leadership has reacted to the annexation plans by considering itself absolved of all bilateral agreements with Israel and the United States. Elements that also risk increasing the hardship of the Palestinian people include economic fragility linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, reduced donor support and the recent Palestinian decision to stop accepting clearance revenues that Israel collects on its behalf.

Urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to commit to meaningful dialogue, he encouraged regional and international supporters of the two-State solution to help bring the parties back to a path towards a negotiated, peaceful settlement. He also called on Quartet members to take up their mandated mediation role and find a mutually agreeable framework for the parties to re-engage, without preconditions, adding that: “Leaders must act wisely and swiftly and demonstrate the will to advance the goal of a just and lasting peace.”

Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the 15-member organ on the fourteenth report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), covering the period from 21 March to 4 June. Joining the Secretary-General’s call on Israel to abandon its annexation plans, which officials have said could begin in a matter of days or weeks, he said deliberations on the issue have brought this long-standing conflict to a critical juncture. Annexation could irrevocably alter the nature of Israeli-Palestinian relations and up-end more than a quarter of a century of international efforts in support of a future viable Palestinian State.

“Decisions may be reached that will do irreparable damage to Palestinian and Israeli societies, to the security and economic well-being of both peoples,” he said. “This bleak vision, however, is not yet a fait accompli. The window is closing, but there is still time to avert chaos. It will require a concerted effort by all stakeholders and the will to take political risks to achieve peace.”

Citing widespread international and regional opposition to annexation plans that is supported by Israeli and Palestinian civil society, think‑tanks, academics and many others, he recalled that, 27 years ago, both party leaders agreed to embark on a road to resolve the conflict through negotiations, without taking unilateral action. Yet, today, “we are further than ever from this goal”, he said, adding that the threat of unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank sends one message: that bilateral negotiations cannot achieve peace. “We cannot allow this to happen,” he said. “Diplomacy must be given a chance. All of us who believe in the legitimate right of both Palestinians and Israelis to self‑determination, security and a brighter future must reject this move and consolidate efforts to preserve a sustainable two-State solution.” He asked all Council members to join the Secretary-General in his call for an immediate re-engagement with the Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russian Federation, European Union and the United Nations — and the countries of the region to find a way out of the current crisis.

Raising concerns about the Palestinian leadership’s response to the threat of annexation, he said it has halted all bilateral contacts, which will have a dramatic impact on Palestinian life, particularly those in Gaza. Ending civilian coordination will deny them life-saving treatment, and already, an eight-month-old boy has died due to the current situation. While the United Nations and other international organizations are increasingly being asked and are willing to perform coordination responsibilities, the Organization cannot replace the Palestinian Authority. It is critical that humanitarian and other assistance is not delayed or stopped.

Highlighting developments since the report’s circulation, he said Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down a 2017 law that enabled wide-scale expropriation of private Palestinian land and the retroactive legalization of thousands of housing units in Israeli settlements. Meanwhile, demonstrations, clashes and other incidents across the Occupied Palestinian Territory left 3 Israelis injured, 1 Palestinian dead and 44 others sustaining injuries. A total of 45 structures were demolished on grounds of lack of permits in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing 28 people and affecting another 250.

In Gaza, despite relative calm, the launching of incendiary balloons and devices continued, and in retaliation, Israel Defense Forces targeted several Hamas targets in the Strip. The Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee in Gaza stopped receiving and processing permit applications for Gaza residents, ending all communications with Israeli authorities, which resulted in hundreds of patients, including many children needing life-saving medical treatment, being unable to exit the Strip. At the same time, the financial situation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) remains a serious concern.

Never before has the risk of escalation been accompanied by a political horizon so distant, an economic situation so fragile and a region so volatile, he said. All stakeholders must take action that will enable the parties to “step back from the brink” and urgently re-engage in dialogue that will halt unilateral steps, chart a positive way forward and avoid a descent into chaos, he said, adding that: “Everyone must do their part in the coming weeks to preserve and promote the prospect of ending the occupation and achieving a negotiated two-State solution, based on international law, United Nations resolutions and bilateral agreements.”

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said it is the Council’s duty and responsibility to address any situation jeopardizing international peace and security, and that Israel’s possible move to annex parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory would constitute, if implemented, a serious threat to regional stability, with broader ramifications on international security. Recalling that, since 1993, the Palestinians have wisely chosen the path of peace and coexistence, but the creation of an independent Palestinian State remains elusive, with Israeli settlement‑expansion, stumbling negotiations and the logic of perpetual occupation and domination becoming entrenched. Despite these setbacks, the two-State solution remains the only paradigm accepted by both parties and endorsed by the international community. The ambitious Arab Peace Initiative, launched in 2002, adopted the same parameters as a means to achieve regional peace and normalization with Israel.

However, he said, if the annexation plans are implemented, it will destroy any prospects for peace in the future. Palestinians will totally lose faith in a negotiated settlement, and Arabs will lose interest in regional peace, he said, cautioning that: “A new dark reality will set in, vis-à-vis this conflict, and in the region at large.” Israelis wrongly believe that the status quo is sustainable; it is not, he said. If the two-State solution is removed from the table, a one-State reality will take its place, and this is going to create a whole different reality and dynamics, he said, adding that: “What is also at stake here is the effectiveness of your august Council. I hope you recognize the urgency of the matter and the gravity of Israeli policies.” It is incumbent upon the Council to exert its influence on Israel so it refrains from any unilateral measures that will further inflame tensions and endanger stability and peace in the Middle East, he said, emphasizing that: “We should be united in our condemnation and rejection of this uncalled-for provocation, and Israel must be made to recognize that its nefarious, self-centred plans will remain inadmissible and will never gain any international acceptance.”

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