I thank you for convening today’s open debate on the Middle East.
We thank Undersecretary General Jeffrey Feltman for his very insightful and timely briefing.
This is an important time for Palestine and Israel as well as the region. There is a slight tinge of optimism in Mr. Feltman’s briefing today.
flicker of hope appeared after the visits of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to the region.
This tentative beginning, after a long hiatus, should be leveraged to generate momentum for engagement and resumption of the peace process.
The Security Council, the Quartet, and the regional leaders need to energize the stalled peace process. While different bodies, including this Council, have to play their role, it is conventional wisdom that the most decisive impetus for restarting the peace process will come from Israel and Palestine. Working towards sustainable peace is in their own interest. We all know that a leadership role by the United States could persuade the two sides to come to the negotiating table.
The process needs benchmarks and deadlines.
In his report pursuant to UNGA Resolution 67/19, the Secretary General reiterates that end of occupation and achievement of a two-State solution is overdue. He gives us a stark reminder that the year 2013 would be decisive for the peace process. Similar views have been expressed by other regional and world leaders.
A two-State solution is rapidly vanishing. Palestine and Israel have not met for the past two-and-a-half years. There is an impasse in the peace process.
US Secretary of State John Kerry warned last week that “the window for a two-state solution is shutting” after “years of failure” and that the chance to create a Palestinian state along side Israel will be lost in one to two years. This is not a gloomy forecast. This is a reality developing on the ground.
This warning underlines the sense of urgency for taking concrete steps fast. The two sides need to engage and to do that they need to overcome their skepticism.
Ongoing settlement construction and Israel’s plans for new settlements in E-1 area will hinder the two-State solution by cutting the West Bank into two and destroying the contiguity of the Palestinian State.
A one-State reality will be unlawful and unsustainable.
The International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements, established by the Human Rights Council, pronounced that settlements symbolize an acute lack of justice experienced by the Palestinian people. They deny the right to self-determination to the people of Palestine and systematically discriminate against them.
The report calls on Israel to comply with Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and cease all settlement activities without preconditions. We concur.
In the interest of both Israel and Palestine, new Israeli settlement plans must be frozen and earlier decisions rescinded.
It is in the interest of Israel itself to work towards a long-term and sustainable resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ending Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan and Lebanese lands is imperative in this regard.
Establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous state of Palestine, on the basis of pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Shareef as its capital, living side by side with Israel, is the only lasting solution of the Palestinian question.
This is also time for national cohesion within Palestine. Momentum towards building and consolidating national institutions – interior, police, finance, health, education - must be maintained. Flow of financial assistance to Palestine should not slow down.
We hope that recent elections in Israel and consequent formation of government there will not be cited as justification for reduced interest in the resumption of the peace process.
While we continue to push for a long term solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, urgent measures need to be taken to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.
One,Gaza has become one big prison. The blockade on Gaza, as demanded by UNSC Resolution 1860, must be lifted. Heightened restrictions on movements of people and goods, as well as on fishing limits must be removed.
Two,checkpoints and barriers should be removed from the West Bank, because they interfere with mobility and trade. The World Bank report to the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels last month provides details of the damage to Palestinian economy caused by Israeli restrictions. Productivity has halved since late 1990s and unemployment has increased many times.
Three,Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues should be transferred to Ramallah on time.
Four,inhuman treatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails should be stopped. Any untoward incident could endanger the fragile calm in the region.
Five,an independent investigation into the death of Arafat Jaradat in Israeli custody is overdue. It must be initiated and concluded to bring perpetrators to justice.Mr. President,
We welcome the agreement between Palestine and Israel to involvement of UNESCO in Jerusalem. This is a small but important confidence building measure.
Let me now turn to Syria.
Syria is being decimated before our own eyes.
Last week’s briefings revealed that more than 70,000 people have been killed. Syrian is killing Syrian. Foreign terrorist organizations have penetrated into Syrian territory. Summary executions are on the rise. More than 1.3 million Syrians have taken refuge in neighboring countries. Some 7 million people inside Syria need humanitarian attention and assistance.
The crisis is assuming more sinister dimensions by the day. Violence and refugees are threatening to embroil the whole region into a wider conflict.
Dictates of realpolitik have immobilized the international community and this Council from making any meaningful intervention.
Things have reached a tipping point. Competing doctrines of militarization and military triumph are choking conduits for dialogue and diplomacy.
Supply of weapons to all sides should be halted. Within the opposition, some entities and outfits are allied to Al-Qaeda. Going by Libyan experience, these weapons would end up in the hands of terrorists who could plunge the entire region into a wider crisis.
Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and other briefers last week made impassioned pleas to the Council to work towards a political solution.
We continue to feel that the Geneva Communiqué contains all the right ingredients for political dialogue and dispensation. No other alternative is in sight.
Syrians, regional countries and major powers need to sit with Mr. Brahimi to implement the Geneva Communiqué. If there is any fresh thinking, it needs to be developed fast and shared with the Council members. We earnestly hope that this would happen without delay to stop further carnage in Syria.
We appeal to all sides to continue to trust Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi as a mediator. It is also important that he continues to represent both the United Nations Secretary General and the Arab League.
I thank you, Mr. President