I would first like to express Pakistan's hope and conviction that the leadership, energy and dynamism of Secretary General Antonio Guterres will help in healing the complex conflicts and crises in the Middle East and in restoring world order, which is threatened today from multiple directions.
I would also like to express my appreciation for the insightful briefing provided by the Secretary General's Special Representative for the Middle East, Mr. Mladenov.
For 50 years, Israel has persisted in its occupation of the West Bank in defiance of the UN Charter's central tenet that territories cannot be acquired through the use of force and aggression.
The Security Council's resolutions, especially Resolution 242 demanding Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories; the Oslo Accords outlining the principle of "land for peace"; the general consensus of the world community for a two-state solution – none of these basic foundations for lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people have been implemented by Israel.
It is our conviction that enduring peace in the Middle East is inconceivable without a just resolution of the Palestine-Israel dispute. And establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine, on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders, and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, is the only sustainable guarantee for peace.
It is clear that the movement of any State’s Embassy to Jerusalem will also manifestly violate Security Council resolutions.
The International Conference on the Middle East Peace Process held in Paris over the weekend is a welcome step in the right direction. With over seventy States in attendance, the Conference reaffirmed the primacy of the two-state solution. There must be consequences for those who continue to defy the force of international consensus.
We are also following with great dismay the tense situation unfolding in Gaza after two million Palestinians have been left with just a couple of hours of electricity a day in the middle of winter. We call for full respect of the right to freedom of expression, peaceful protest and assembly in Gaza.
Palestine, the Holy land, is the heart of the Arab and Islamic world. What happens to Palestine and its people will resonate throughout the region. Let us not forget that the basic narrative of the region's extremists - of Daesh and Al Qaeda- is that Muslim peoples' can secure justice only through resort to force and violence. It will be difficult to defeat this narrative and extremist ideologies unless we bring justice to the Palestinian people.
The recent Security Council Resolution 2334 affirmed the self evident conclusion that the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are likely to foreclose a two-state solution and eliminate the prospects of a peaceful settlement of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Pakistan welcomes the Council's adoption of Resolution 2334. Not surprisingly, the resolution has been opposed by the occupying power. But others, who have sought to apply pressure and coercion on Members of the Security Council, and on the United Nations, display their own narrow and deeply flawed vision. Resolution 2334 must be expeditiously and fully implemented by the parties concerned.
As the outgoing US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said in his speech last month, in the absence of the two state solution, Israel will be left with the option to be either a Jewish State or a democratic state. Ruling over a Palestinian majority, it could not be both. Unless, of course, Israel intends – as some extremists have advocated – to expel the Palestinians from the West Bank and create a second Palestinian exodus from their homeland. This will be a recipe for perpetual war.
The fratricide is Syria is now almost six years old. The human suffering it has caused is unprecedented in recent history. We have collectively missed many opportunities to end this tragic conflict over this period.
Yet another such opportunity now beckons. With the Russia-Turkey brokered ceasefire, backed by Security Council resolution 2336, still holding, Syrians have started believing again. Their eyes are now set on the peace talks in Astana on 23 January.
These tentative beginnings must be nurtured and regional and international players must stay firm in their resolve to bring peace back to Syria. This can be achieved if the legitimate interests of all involved States and parties are equitably accommodated and a viable coalition formed to defeat Daesh and other terrorist groups.
Even as Iraqi and coalition forces retake Mosul and defeat Daesh, thought must turn to building durable structures of peace through the recognition and reconciliation of the interests of all of Iraq's people.
Despite the untiring shuttle diplomacy of UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Yemen continues to burn. The extended war is grinding the country further into poverty. The situation has been further exacerbated by external armament and encouragement of certain groups. The endeavors of the Special Envoy must be fully supported by all parties to restore peace with dignity for our Yemeni brothers and sisters.
I thank you.