Statement by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan at the Security Council Open Debate on "Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question"
(July 24, 2018)

Mr. President,

My delegation thanks the Swedish Presidency for convening this open debate and UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov for his comprehensive briefing.

The tide of turmoil and conflict in the Middle East far from receding, has continued to rise, with even greater unpredictability.

As a consequence, millions of people are having to endure unimaginable suffering – caught up in a vortex of violence, driven by the actions of the occupying power as well as the divergent interests and priorities of regional and external powers.

Special coordinator Mr. Mladenov has presented a deeply troubling assessment of the situation in the region, especially in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The facts speak for themselves: fresh from the tragedy of over 130 innocent civilians killed by occupation forces since the inception of the ‘great march of return’, Gaza was dealt another blow by the Israeli bombardment of the besieged enclave on July 13 and later, resulting in the further loss of precious lives including of Palestinian children.

In the wake of the recent escalation, some have called for all sides to exercise restraint and to step back from the brink of renewed conflict. Much as any resort to violence is unacceptable, the Palestinian issue is, in essence, a struggle between an occupied people and an occupying power.

Obfuscating this incontrovertible reality would be tantamount to drawing moral equivalence between the acts of the aggressor and the aggrieved. This is clearly unacceptable.

Mr. President,

The long suffering Palestinian people continue to face well-entrenched and systematic violations of their fundamental human rights at the hands of the Israeli occupation.

Addressing the UN Committee on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zaid Ra’ad Al-Hussein spoke at length, of the endemic and multi-faceted challenges confronting the daily existence of the Palestinian people.

If there ever was need to lend credence to these words, the so-called Jewish ‘nation state’ law, passed by the Israeli Parliament on 19 July, provides a vivid manifestation of the legally enshrined policy of discrimination by Israel. By ascribing ‘privilege’ purely on religious grounds, this ‘basic’ law relegates the indigenous Arab population to second-class citizens and also reduces the status of Arabic.

Such racist laws should have no place in today’s world.

Historical facts cannot be re-written by legislative fiat.

We reject any attempts to diminish the legal standing of the Palestinians or to deprive them of their legitimate rights within their homeland.

The international community cannot continue to avoid its responsibility to promote a just solution to the problem. The Security Council cannot continue to avoid its obligations under resolution 242 and at least 80 successor resolutions to enforce a just solution to this conflict, one that is at the core of the challenges that confront the Middle East today.

Mr. President,

The plight of the Palestinian people has reverberated across this chamber for as long as the UN has existed. But sadly no end seems to be in sight to their suffering.

In recent days, Security Council inaction over Palestine has led to a more proactive role by the General Assembly, to fill the void.

Thus, the resolution overwhelmingly adopted by the Emergency Session of the General Assembly on 13 June, was a call for action for the Secretary General, to ensure protection of the Palestinian civilian population.

We look forward to the Secretary General’s report outlining concrete and practical steps to alleviate the pain and suffering of the Palestinians.

Equally intrinsic to this goal is predictable, sustained and adequate funding for UNRWA. The challenge at hand cannot be over-emphasized - the agency currently faces a resource shortfall of US$ 256 million.

As members of the international community, we must collectively endeavour to preserve the integrity of the agency’s core services to 5.3 million Palestinian refugees.

Mr. President,

The Middle East stands at a dangerous crossroads. As existing conflicts have intensified and new threats have emerged, the imperative of diplomatic solutions is more urgent than ever before.

As Iraq and Lebanon consolidate their democratic gains as a result of recently held parliamentary elections, we commend them for turning a new page in their national quest for inclusive and representative political participation.

Pakistan will continue to lend its support for negotiated settlements in other regional situations including Syria and Yemen, based on agreed frameworks and through inclusive political engagement.

Mr. President,

Speaking before this Council last month, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “today, in a region once home to one of history’s greatest flowering of culture and coexistence, we see many fault lines at work, old and new, crossing each other and generating enormous volatility.”

It will not be easy to restore peace and stability in the Middle East. Beyond the diplomacy, and a genuine commitment by all powers and parties to negotiated solutions, a comprehensive and enlightened policy is needed to address and overcome the underlying political, economic and social causes of these conflicts.

Such a comprehensive policy and bold diplomacy, especially by those who wield power and influence with the principal parties, is essential, if we are to defy the dire predictions of disaster in the Middle East that abound today.

I thank you.