We thank Special Representative Nikolay Mladenov for his briefing.
As the Special Representative has said, prospects of peace in the Middle East remain grim.
Central to this sobering assessment is the plight of the Palestinian people, who, for the last seventy years, have suffered dispossession, displacement and deprivation at the hands of Israeli occupation.
Israel continues to defy international consensus with impunity - persisting with its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory.
Settlement of the Palestinian issue, Madam President, is central to lasting peace and stability in the Middle East, not its incidental byproduct. And illegal Israeli settlements lie at its heart.
The Security Council, through its Resolution 2334 of December 2016, sent an unequivocal signal to Israel that settlements in occupied Palestinian territory had ‘no legal validity’, and remain a major stumbling block to the achievement of a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, this resolution has been disparaged by some as an ‘old world’ bias of the United Nations against Israel, but it cannot and does not absolve Israel from its international obligations.
The Israeli decision to construct new settlements in the West Bank is yet another dangerous provocation. The so-called ‘Legalization Bill’ aims to provide a veneer of legality to an act that is internationally recognized as illegal.
Meanwhile, the blockade of the Gaza strip continues in its tenth year. This inhumane act must end - human suffering cannot be mortgaged for political ends.
It is our firm conviction that a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, is the only sustainable guarantee for enduring peace in the Middle East.
It is the strength of peace, not the threat of force that offers the best hope to arrest the rising tide of extremism in the region.
The seething fires of conflict in Syria rage with unspeakable fury. The scale of human suffering in Syria cannot be quantified with mere statistics.
The road to peace in Syria is through an inclusive Syrian-led and Syrian-driven process of political reconciliation-one that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. Those who seek military ends threaten to extinguish any such hope.
In Iraq, as Iraqi forces consolidate their gains against Deash and its affiliates, we are confident that the foundations of a strong Iraqi state will be laid on an inclusive vision, recognizing and reconciling the interests of all Iraqi people.
But with seven million people facing the threat of famine, the conflict in Yemen has become a humanitarian catastrophe. A massive humanitarian response must complement the political process.
The forthcoming High Level Pledging Event in Geneva on 25th April provides an ideal opportunity to recalibrate our commitments, commensurate with the needs of the Yemini people. In a spirit of solidarity with our Yemeni brothers and sisters, my country has already contributed wheat worth one million dollars to meet immediate needs.
Pakistan lends its support to all diplomatic efforts for peace and stability in the Middle East. Well-intentioned efforts of the international community are imperative to restore this cradle of civilization to its rightful place, as the beating heart of humanity.
I thank you.