Statement by Ambassador Masood Khan Permanent Representative of Pakistan in the debate of the Security Council on “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question" New York, (23 January 2013)

Let me now make a statement in my national capacity.

I thank Mr. Robert Serry, for his detailed briefing.

We also welcome the Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine, H.E. Dr. Riad Al Malki, who has come especially to New York to attend this meeting of the Security Council.

In the past quarter, two significant developments took place.

Following a spiral of violence in November last year, a ceasefire was agreed between Hamas and Israel. The ceasefire is generally holding. Sporadic breaches should come to an end.

On 29 November last year, the General Assembly voted to make Palestine a "Non-Member Observer State". This decision reflected Palestinian peoples’ deepest aspiration which was supported by a vast majority of the UN General Assembly and the international community.

Regrettably, after this momentous development, two punitive measures were initiated against the State of Palestine by Israel:

a) announcement of new settlements, including in the E-1 area; and

b) withholding of tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority.

The first measure scuttles the two-State solution; the second debilitates Palestine economically and financially. Both these measures must be rolled back.

These measures are not in the interest of regional peace and stability; nor of Israel.

We condemn the Israeli announcement to expand settlements. In fact, the international community is against this proposed expansion.

Settlement construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory contravenes international law, especially of the Geneva Convention.

The planned settlement in E-1, by connecting earlier illegal settlements with other settlements in and around East Jerusalem, would divide the West Bank into two enclaves, and destroy the contiguity of the Palestinian State. It would thus render the two-State solution unworkable.

The contiguity of the Palestinian state has been reaffirmed as an integral part of the peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict in the Quartet Roadmap. All member states of the United Nations, and especially the members of the Quartet are, therefore, guarantors of the two-State solution.

World leaders have spoken against planned settlements but so far there is only negative response from Israel. At the end of last month's consultations on Middle East, a vast majority of Council members enunciated their position on settlements at a press stakeout. The Quartet, however, chose to remain silent.

This year – the year 2013 – is crucial. If relevant actors do not take action now, the two-State solution may not remain viable. It is probably the last opportunity for the international community to move towards a lasting resolution of the conflict. Procrastination in pursuing the two-State solution is leading to its erosion. Delay does not mean suspension of activity; it is tantamount to abdication of responsibility.

We urge both the Quartet and the Security Council to demonstrate a sense of urgency. If the Quartet cannot move, countries with interest and influence in the region should act to facilitate resumption of the peace process, based on the Arab Peace Initiative, the Quartet Roadmap, the Madrid Principles and Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions.

Resumption of the peace process, however, should mean action with clear benchmarks and deadlines.

Comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East cannot be ensured without Israel's withdrawal from all occupied lands, including those of Lebanon and the Syrian Golan.

The Security Council must also ensure and monitor implementation of Resolution 1860 as well as other relevant resolutions. Illegal blockade of Gaza and collective punishment of its population must cease.

Peace in the Middle East has remained a dream for over six decades.

A solution based on two States is not an issue for the Palestinians alone. A single State would also mean demographic imbalance for Israel, as well as continuation of strife, volatility and suffering. Peace would remain elusive.

The best course of action for resolving Arab-Israeli conflict lies in the establishment of an independent, viable and contiguous State of Palestine on the basis of pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. Two States, living side by side, in peace and security, is the goal that we ought to pursue single-mindedly.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Syria descends into deeper conflict, severely wracked by internecine violence, the humanitarian crisis continues to grow exponentially.

There are pronouncements and protestations by the international community to the effect that it must respond swiftly to stop the killings and move the Syrian nation – Government and opposition – towards dialogue and a political process. But beyond political rhetoric, there is no progress towards engagement. The only realities are continuing carnage and a political stalemate.

The Security Council itself remains immobilized.

The United Nations Secretary General and Joint Special Representative Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi have used their political capital and clout to persuade the parties, regional countries and Council Members, to evolve a common platform for ending the vicious cycle of violence in Syria.

Diplomacy is all about hope. So we mustn't lose hope.

We need a ray of hope, a breakthrough, a process that brings Syria and the region out of this quagmire.

The levers for a breakthrough are self-evident:

I thank you.