Palestinian President Presents Plan to Relaunch Peace Talks with Israel, Says New Multilateral Mechanism Should Guide Process, in Briefing to Security Council
United States Position on Moving Embassy to Jerusalem ‘Won’t Change’, Permanent Representative Stresses
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, briefing the Security Council this morning, outlined a new proposal to relaunch peace talks with Israel — including the rapid convening of an international summit on the matter, and the subsequent creation of a multilateral mechanism to guide the process — while also demanding that the United States reverse its decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem.
“We come here before your august Council in the midst of deadlock on the peace process due to the United States decision regarding Jerusalem, Israel’s ongoing illegal settlement activities, its violation of the resolutions of the Council and its disrespect of signed agreements,” said Mr. Abbas, describing decades of Palestinian commitment to peaceful negotiations. Israel’s intransigence had led to the failure of each of those efforts, he said, adding that the country had transformed its once-temporary occupation into a permanent situation of colonization and apartheid.
Against that backdrop, he proposed a new plan — underpinned by several concrete requirements — to address the problems that had consistently undermined efforts towards peace. First, he called for the convening of an international peace conference by mid-2018 with broad international participation, whose outcomes must include the State of Palestine’s recognition as a full member of the United Nations and a guarantee of international protection for its people; mutual recognition between the States of Palestine and Israel based on 1967 borders; and the formation of an international mechanism to assist in negotiations to resolve the permanent status issues as defined in the 1993 Oslo Accord.
A second element of the plan, he said, would require all parties to refrain from unilateral actions during the negotiation period. First and foremost must be the cessation of settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the suspension of the United States decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem. Third, the Arab Peace Initiative — as adopted and endorsed — must be implemented, resulting, among other things, in the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine and an open city for the faithful of the three monotheistic religions.
Noting that United States President Donald Trump had yet to clarify whether he was for or against a two-State solution — despite having held four meetings with the Palestinian leadership in 2017 — he described the decision to take the issue of Jerusalem “off the table” by recognizing the city as Israel’s capital and transferring its embassy there as both unprecedented and dangerous.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in opening remarks that “there is no Plan B” in lieu of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The global consensus for a two-State solution could be eroding and obstacles on the ground could potentially create an irreversible one-State reality. It was impossible to square the circle of a one-State reality with the legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians, he stressed, appealing to the international community to step up its support for the region’s stability and the security, rights and dignity of the 5 million Palestinian refugees.
Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, echoed concerns that “the enemies of peace are growing more confident by the day”. The international community must reaffirm that sustainable peace required a two-State solution that could only be achieved through a negotiated solution, he said, also calling for an end to Israeli settlement expansion and for policy shifts that were consistent with a transition to greater Palestinian civil authority.
For its part, he said, the Palestinian Authority must continue to advance institution-building and service delivery to its people and bring the Gaza Strip — led by Hamas for the last decade — back under its control. Maintaining support for Palestine refugees was fundamental, he added, reiterating concern over the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) sizeable funding shortfall and encouraging Member States to urgently consider providing the Agency with new funding to support the estimated 1.5 million highly vulnerable people in need.
Israel’s representative, voicing regret that Mr. Abbas had quickly exited the Chamber without engaging in dialogue, said direct negotiations were the only path to peace. Mr. Abbas was inspiring “a culture of hate within Palestinian society” and had spent, in 2017, $345 million for terrorists to kill innocent Israelis — money that could have been spent to build schools and hospitals.
Emphasizing that Mr. Abbas did not actually want to negotiate peace with Israel, he said that while the current United States Administration was working hard to make progress, the Palestinians were using the decision to move its embassy as yet another excuse to reject negotiations. Israel would always insist on its sovereignty over a united Jerusalem. “After all these years of Abbas’s rejectionism, one thing is very clear: when we extend a hand, Abbas extends a fist,” he said. Only when the terrorists of Hamas extended a hand did Mr. Abbas embrace them with open arms.
The representative of the United States, also expressing regret that Mr. Abbas had left the Chamber before the discussion, described as “flawed” Council resolution 2334 (2016), which had reaffirmed Israel’s settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as illegal and invalid. Indeed, Israel would not be pushed into a deal by damaging its own interests. The United States recognized the suffering of the Palestinian people and offered an “outstretched hand” to its leadership, she said, calling for peace. Regarding her country’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, she declared that “you don’t have to like it, but that position won’t change” and emphasized that the choice at hand was between hate and resuming negotiations to improve Palestinian lives.
Bolivia’s representative, noting that Israel’s expansionist policies violated international law and continued to suffocate Palestinians “day in and day out”, said the situation had grown more alarming against the backdrop of significant reductions to UNRWA’s resources. Decrying those cuts as a “blatant move to politicize the safety and security of millions of Palestinian refugees”, he drew attention to the critical situations of several individual Palestinian civilians — including that of the 17-year-old girl Ahed Tamimi — noting that Israel was the only country of the world that tried children in military courts.
France’s representative was among other speakers voicing support for renewed negotiations based on internationally agreed parameters, including respect for pre-1967 borders and putting an end to Israeli settlement construction. Emphasizing that the status of Jerusalem could only be determined by both parties, he welcomed Mr. Abbas’ proposal, stressing that the only option was a two-State solution. Providing a political horizon that would restore hope to Israelis and Palestinians, and the revival of the possibility of resuming negotiations, was critical.
Also speaking were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Sweden, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Peru, Netherlands, Ethiopia and Kuwait.
The meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and ended at 1:05 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that after his recent visit to the Middle East, positive developments in Iraq represented an exception in the region where there was a need for a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “There is no Plan B,” he said, underlining that the global consensus for a two-State solution could be eroding and obstacles on the ground potentially creating an irreversible one-State reality. It was simply impossible to square the circle of a one-State reality with the legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians. Appealing to the international community to step up support, he also asked for concerted action by all parties, as the stability of the region depended on it and the human security, rights and dignity of 5 million Palestinian refugees were at stake.
NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned that tensions in the region were escalating as increased fighting in Syria endangered stability, de-escalation agreements and efforts towards a political solution. Despite the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Iraq, much of the Middle East remained in the grips of a human tragedy of immense proportions. Meanwhile, Israelis and Palestinians were no closer to peace after more than a century of hostilities. “The enemies of peace are growing more confident by the day,” he stressed, noting that the failure of moderation represented a win for the forces of radicalization.
In January, he said, the international community had discussed key priorities to advance peace at an extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, established in 1993 as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. There had been widespread, unequivocal support for the two-State solution as well as for the need to resume negotiations on all final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. Participants had committed to addressing the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, he said, adding that his own message had been clear: The international community must reaffirm that sustainable peace required a two-State solution that could only be achieved through a negotiated solution. Efforts to implement concrete and transformative steps on the ground should continue, including ending Israeli settlement expansion and advancing policy shifts, particularly in Area C, consistent with a transition to greater Palestinian civil authority.
The Palestinian Authority must continue to advance institution-building and service delivery to the Palestinian people and bring Gaza back under its control, he continued. It was also critical that any future peace proposal focus on the two-State solution and all final status issues according to prior agreements and relevant United Nations resolutions. Meanwhile, maintaining support for Palestine refugees was fundamental, he stressed, reiterating his concern over United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) sizeable funding shortfall and encouraging Member States to urgently consider providing the Agency with new funding to support the estimated 1.5 million highly vulnerable people in need.
Outlining recent developments on the ground — including the killing of seven Palestinians by Israeli security forces, the stabbing to death of one Israeli civilian by a Palestinian in the West Bank and the killing of four Palestinian children in clashes with security forces since the beginning of the year — he emphasized that the use of force must be calibrated and that lethal force should only be used as a last resort. Urging Israeli security forces to exercise maximum restraint in that regard, he called on all sides to reject violence, condemn terror, ensure accountability and work to reduce tensions. There had been dangerous security incidents in and around Gaza, including Israeli airstrikes and two rockets fired by Palestinian militants into Israel. The international community must join the United Nations in calling on militants in Gaza to refrain from such provocative actions and to end the building of tunnels, which only risked the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Noting that Israel had continued to advance its illegal settlement-related activities, including the demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned structures, he said continued power cuts up to 20 hours per day severely undermined the delivery of basic services. As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza escalated, the implementation of the Egyptian-brokered intra-Palestinian agreement had stalled. Absent immediate steps forward, “we will face a total institutional and economic collapse in Gaza,” he stressed, welcoming a proposal by the Palestinian Government to incorporate into its 2018 budget some 20,000 civil service employees in Gaza.
For a decade, 2 million people had lived under the full control of Hamas with crippling Israeli restrictions. “It is time to break this cycle,” he said, calling for Gaza’s return to Palestinian Authority control as “there can be no Palestinian State without Palestinian unity”. Outlining additional security concerns in the Syrian Golan and Lebanon, he urged the international community to continue advocating for substantial Israeli policy changes related to the situation in the West Bank, including a halt to settlement construction. Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians were not negotiations between equals, for one side — which remained under military occupation — had committed to a peaceful solution to the conflict through negotiations.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the State of Palestine, said 70 years after Palestine’s Nakba, some 6 million Palestine refugees continued to suffer the cruelty of exile and loss of human security. They were part of the 13 million Palestinians whose country had not yet been recognized as a full United Nations Member State, despite numerous resolutions reaffirming their rights to self-determination and statehood on their national land. “Our great people remain rooted in their land,” he stressed, recalling that numerous Palestinian institutions had existed both before and after the 1917 Balfour Declaration. “The British Government bears responsibility for the catastrophic consequences inflicted on the Palestinian people as a result,” he said.
Expressing support for the dismantling of arms of any kind — both nuclear and conventional — and for the fostering of a culture of peace and the combating of terrorism around the world — he recalled that Palestine had joined 83 security arrangements with States around the world. It had also engaged in many peace conferences over the years, having signed the Oslo Accords in 1993, and engaged in serious meetings with former United States Secretary of State John Kerry. However, Israel’s intransigence had led to the failure of all those efforts. “After all of this, how can it be said that it is we who reject negotiations?” he asked.
Noting that Israel continued to violate numerous relevant resolutions of both the Council and the General Assembly, he said that country acted as if it were above the law, having transformed its occupation from a temporary situation as per international law into a situation of permanent settlement colonization and imposing a one-State reality of apartheid. During 2017, Palestine had met with United States President Donald Trump four times, expressing its readiness to reach a historic peace agreement. “Yet this Administration had not clarified its position,” he said, asking: “Is it for the two-State solution, or for one State?” In a dangerous, unprecedented move, the United States had undertaken the unlawful decision — rejected by the international community — to take the issue of Jerusalem “off the table”, recognizing the city as Israel’s capital and transferring its embassy there.
Meanwhile, he said, the United States continued to list the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) on its terror list, and since 1987 it imposed restrictions on the work of Palestine’s Mission in Washington, D.C., under the pretext of Congressional decisions. The United States had contradicted itself and its own commitments and had violated international law as well as relevant resolutions related to Jerusalem. Calling for the establishment of a multilateral mechanism emanating from an international conference to help resolve the conflict with support from international partners, he pledged to intensify Palestine’s efforts to achieve admission to full membership in the United Nations and guarantee international protection for its people.
“We come here before your august Council in the midst of deadlock on the peace process due to the United States decision regarding Jerusalem, Israel’s ongoing illegal settlement activities, its violation of the resolutions of the Council and its disrespect of signed agreements,” he continued. In that context, he outlined a new proposal for a peace plan that addressed the core problems that had undermined such efforts for decades. First, he called for the convening of an international peace conference by mid-2018 with broad international participation, including by the Council’s five permanent members and the international Quartet. That meeting’s outcomes must include: Acceptance of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations and a guarantee of international protection for its people; mutual recognition between the State of Palestine and the State of Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders; and the formation of an international mechanism to assist in negotiations to resolve the permanent status issues as defined in the Oslo Accord — including that of Jerusalem.
A second element to his plan, he said, would require that all parties refrain from unilateral actions during the negotiation period, particularly those that would prejudice the outcome of a final solution. Foremost must be the cessation of settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the suspension of the United States decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem. Third, the Arab Peace Initiative — as adopted and endorsed — must be implemented. He also outlined a number of terms of reference for that implementation, which included the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine and as an open city for the faithful of the three monotheistic religions.
Pledging Palestine’s readiness to “undertake the longest journeys” to realize its people’s rights, he nevertheless warned that they would not move one inch if it was asked to forsake those rights. Any agreement reached with Israel would be presented to the Palestinian people in the form of a general referendum, he said, adding that “we have presented our vision for peace”. Expressing hope that the proposal would be received with both wisdom and justice, he concluded by asking the Council: “If justice for our people cannot be attained here, then where should we go?”
DANNY BEN YOSEF DANON (Israel) said he expected the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority to stay and have a dialogue, but unfortunately, he had exited the Council chamber, having put his demands on the table and expecting the Council to come up with results. The only way towards peace would be direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The Chairman was inspiring “a culture of hate within Palestinian society” and had spent, in 2017, $345 million for terrorists to kill innocent Israelis — money that could have been spent to build schools and hospitals. The Chairman did not actually want to negotiate peace with Israel. Since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 in 1947, brave leaders had emerged in Egypt and Jordan who were willing to negotiate, compromise and sign peace agreements with Israel. However, the Palestinian leadership had continued to choose conflict over coexistence and, since taking office, Mr. Abbas had rejected peace plan after peace plan, he said.
The current United States Administration was working hard to make progress towards peace, but Mr. Abbas was once again looking hard for an excuse, claiming it was the United States announcement about Jerusalem that had led him to reject negotiations. Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel forever, he said, adding that his country would always insist on Israeli sovereignty over a united Jerusalem. “After all these years of Abbas’s rejectionism, one thing is very clear: when we extend a hand, Abbas extends a fist,” he said. Only when the terrorists of Hamas extended a hand did Mr. Abbas embrace them with open arms.
Israel had no doubt that the day would come when the Palestinian people would be blessed with leadership that shared noble aspirations for peace, he said. That leadership would condemn terrorists and stop the shameful practice of paying terrorists. It would educate its people about tolerance rather than peddle in anti-Semitism, and it would recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. “Israel eagerly awaits the day when this Palestinian leadership will emerge and will bring the hope of a better future for its people and our region,” he said.
NIKKI HALEY (United States) said the monthly session on the Middle East had, for many years, been focused on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Welcoming efforts to broaden the discussion, she emphasized that the United Nations was spending a disproportionate amount of funds on the issue when there were other pressing concerns in the region that needed more attention, including the situations in Syria and Yemen, terrorist attacks in Egypt and the regime in Iran. Both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian situation were suffering, yet Israel was a thriving country. The Palestinian people were suffering more, including those living under Hamas rule in Gaza, and in the West Bank, too many had died and too much potential had been lost. Expressing regret that President Mahmoud Abbas had left the Chamber before the discussion, she presented a snapshot of the new United States Administration’s position. Noting that Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) was flawed, encouraging a false notion that Israel would be pushed into a deal by damaging its own interests, she said the United States had worked hard over the past year to address that damage. Still, the Administration recognized the suffering of the Palestinian people, she said, offering the “outstretched hand of the United States” to the Palestinian leadership towards a path of peace. Welcoming President Abbas’ visit to the Council, she said that given recent comments on the current situation, she would “not shut up” and would speak the truth. Taking a hateful path would lead to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people, while a road towards negotiation would be beneficial. Recognizing the Palestinian Authority’s regret over the United States decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, she said “you don’t have to like it, but that position won’t change”, and emphasized that the choice at hand was between hate and resuming negotiation with a view to improving the lives of Palestinians. The United States was ready to work with the Palestinian leadership, but “we will not chase after you”, she said.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said severe situations in the region, such as Yemen, also included the Palestinian issue, which should not be pushed into the background at a time when developments had become more acute, negotiations had stalled and the question of Jerusalem had increased a sense of desperation. Of critical importance was supporting UNRWA to avoid a situation where the Palestinians felt as though they had nothing to lose. The Russian Federation, providing assistance to the Agency and through bilateral initiatives, had aimed its efforts towards renewing direct negotiations between both parties. The Middle East Quartet retained its unique format and could, with the work of the League of Arab States, play an integral role in dislodging the impasse. The Russian Federation also advocated related work towards that end, including efforts by Egypt and Jordan. New developments in the conflict required the international community’s action. In the past two weeks, his country had hosted visits by stakeholders, he said, underscoring the need for pooled efforts that would be constructive and that would leave behind insulting rhetoric. On the agenda now was the Russian Federation’s proposal, which addressed trust and security issues of the entire region.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the conflict was not “just another crisis”. As peace continued to lose ground regarding the oldest conflict in the region, all efforts must be made to de-escalate tensions in Gaza, which represented an integral part of Palestinian territory. There was no viable peace with Israel without Gaza. More broadly, the conflict must be addressed through negotiations based on internationally agreed parameters, including respect for pre-1967 borders and putting an end to Israeli settlement construction. Moreover, the status of Jerusalem could only be determined by both parties and the issue of refugee camps must be addressed. France supported efforts to resume negotiations, he said, noting the United States engagement in that regard, which should follow internationally agreed parameters, and welcoming President Abbas’ proposals. The only option was a two-State solution, he said, underlining the urgency of providing a political horizon that would restore hope to Israelis and Palestinians and the possibility of resuming negotiations.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said efforts towards the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict required an acknowledgment that its fundamental root cause was the Israeli occupation. Sweden remained fully committed to the two-State solution based on international law, known parameters and relevant Council resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016). Calling on the parties to avoid any action that prejudged the final status issues, he said “that includes Jerusalem and refugees”, and underlined the Council’s duty to uphold its resolutions on the city’s special status. Sweden had recognized the State of Palestine in 2014 and fully supported its State-building progress. Efforts towards the re-establishment of Palestinian Authority control in Gaza and intra-Palestinian reconciliation were also crucial, as was continued support for UNRWA. Voicing concern over a significant reduction in that Agency’s funding, which must be urgently and sustainably resolved, he said Sweden had already contributed $59 million to it in 2018 and urged other countries to step up their own contributions. Further, Sweden — together with Jordan, Egypt, UNRWA and the Secretary-General — had decided to co-host a ministerial conference this spring on the Agency’s pressing financial situation.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said Israel’s expansionist policies violated international law and continued to suffocate Palestinians “day in and day out”. The parties did not enjoy an equal footing, as one was the occupying Power and the other was a colonized people. Israel had built a wall in contravention of international law, forcibly evicted civilians from their homes, committed human rights violations and was presumed to have committed war crimes. Meanwhile, it continued its blockade against Gaza with devastating repercussions. The situation was all the more alarming at a time when UNRWA was caught up in a financial crisis that threatened its critical work, and when its resources had been cut in a “blatant move to politicize the safety and security of millions of Palestinian refugees”. Drawing attention to the critical situations of several individual Palestinian civilians — including that of the 17-year-old girl Ahed Tamimi — he said Israel was the only country of the world that tried children in military courts. Only a two-State solution that included the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of a sovereign and independent State of Palestine could ensure a long-term peace, he stressed, also reiterating Bolivia’s condemnation of the United States decision to move its embassy to that city and to recognize it as the capital of Israel.
MUKHTAR TLEUBERDI (Kazakhstan) urged the parties concerned in the peace process to maintain the historical status quo of Jerusalem, in accordance with previously reached international agreements. Any attempts to artificially modify that status might aggravate an already difficult situation. He endorsed the statement of the Secretary-General that the final status of Jerusalem must be resolved in line with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. At the same time, the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and Israeli sides should be taken into account. He noted the difficult humanitarian crisis in Gaza, underscoring that nearly 2 million Palestinian residents, half of whom were children, received electricity for no more than eight hours each day. He also echoed the Special Coordinator’s concern about UNRWA’s funding. A significant reduction of its regular budget had increased the anxieties of the 5.3 million refugees already suffering from a protracted crisis, he stressed.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said that his country remained committed to a two-State solution that would put an end to the conflict. The leadership of the United States was essential for that process to take place, and its efforts offered a significant opportunity to deliver peace. His Government stood ready to provide support to help achieve a viable agreement. The parties involved should move forward and reaffirm their commitment to all previous diplomatic agreements that had taken them closer to peace. He welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s continued recognition of the State of Israel. If a peace process was to succeed, it needed to be conducted in an atmosphere free from violence, and every Israeli and Palestinian had the right to live in peace and security, as well as a right to dignity. He condemned kidnapping and acts that did not allow people to properly grieve their loved ones, and noted that only when both parties rejected violence could peace have a chance to flourish. He also expressed his concern about the Israeli Government’s decision to establish a settlement deep in the West Bank.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said his country was committed to peace in the entire Middle East region, in particular to stabilizing the situation between Israel and Palestine. He deplored the most recent violence between the two parties and appealed to both sides to moderate and reign in their behaviour, as well as to refrain from any acts that might enflame an already thorny situation. They should spare no effort to seek to stabilize and normalize the situation, to relieve the suffering of the people. His Government backed the two-State solution. It was possible that the two-State solution would entail painful concessions for both parties, but hard choices should be made where necessary. The historic claims of the Palestinians were just and fair, and the right of Israel to live in peace and security must also be taken into account. Both parties must refrain from taking unilateral actions that would hinder dialogue, he said.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) noted with concern the increase in incidents along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. That included rockets fired from the Strip and Israeli retaliatory measures, as well as growing tensions over the latter’s northern border. She recognized Israel’s right to defend itself and ensure the security of its citizens. At the same time, she urged all parties to exercise restraint to avoid further hostilities that would put large groups of the population at risk. She was also deeply concerned about the deteriorating financial situation of UNRWA, noting the effects of reducing support could bring serious security and humanitarian consequences. An end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be sought by reviving the peace process. Poland supported a two-State solution under which national aspirations of both parties to the conflict would be met, including the Palestinian right to self-determination and independence as well as Israel’s right to ensure its security.
WU HAITAO (China) said the long-standing question of Palestine affected the region and only a two-State solution could resolve that. Among other things, Council resolution 2334 (2016) must be implemented, with Israel ceasing all settlement activity and acting to prevent further violence against civilians. Both parties must implement relevant resolutions and take actions that would lead to the resumption of talks. Shared comprehensive and cooperative security must be part of such efforts, as should development-related initiatives. China supported a political settlement of the question of Palestine, he said, emphasizing that all parties must uphold justice and strive for peaceful co-existence to reach a solution that accommodated their interests. China would continue to provide assistance to UNRWA, he said, calling on all countries to contribute to the Agency to help the Palestinian people.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said the current alarming situation required both parties to play their role, rejecting negative unilateral initiatives and working towards a two-State solution, which was the only viable alternative. The status of Jerusalem must be negotiated between both parties, based on United Nations resolutions on the matter. The consequences of the conflict were disastrous for those living in Gaza, which was experiencing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with 47 per cent youth unemployment alongside water and electricity shortages. Calling for re-opening negotiations, he encourages all Palestinian parties to engage in dialogue on the return of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza to address humanitarian concerns.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said the unwillingness to budge from entrenched position had helped to grind to a halt the peace process. Efforts must aim at reviving negotiations with a view to implementing a two-State solution. Action and words must aim at building mutual trust and dialogue and leaders on both sides must commit to the process. In addition, resolution 2334 (2016) must be implemented to halt Israeli settlement building, Israeli soldiers must leave and the human rights of Palestinians must be respected. On both sides, all forms of discrimination must be rejected. Underlining the urgency of meeting the needs of civilians in Gaza, he reiterated Peru’s support for UNRWA, whose funding should be stable and predictable.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), reiterating his country’s support for the two-State solution and its opposition to Israel’s settlement policy, said the current lack of confidence between the parties was creating a dangerous vacuum. “Worldwide examples of resolved conflicts show [that] negotiations don’t start with trust; they start with courage,” he said. The international community could help the parties find a way back to the negotiation table, he said, adding that cooperation between the Quartet partners and regional players was crucial. Emphasizing that the crisis in Gaza was growing rapidly, he said Council members had a collective responsibility to ensure that UNRWA could execute its mandate. All stakeholders must put the needs of the population at the forefront of future decisions regarding Gaza, he said, calling also on the Palestinian Authority to proceed on the path of intra-Palestinian reconciliation.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), expressing deep concern over the situation in Gaza, said progress towards full Palestinian Authority control over that territory would not only help to improve the economic and humanitarian situation, but also advance Palestinian unity. That in turn could give impetus to the dormant peace process. He reiterated his country’s support for the two-State goal, adding, however, that recent moves and actions might not contribute towards progress in that regard. Removing longstanding obstacles would be in the best interests of the two parties and the international community. He said it was incumbent on the Security Council to support greater efforts towards a comprehensive, lasting and just solution, adding that at the end of the day, responsibility for making progress fell on the two parties.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, noting that he was honoured by the participation of the President of Palestine in the meeting. It was a valuable opportunity that allowed everyone to listen to the owner of the just cause of Palestine. Prior to holding non-permanent Council membership, Kuwait had pledged to make every effort to support the Palestinian cause as one of the pillars of its foreign policy. Kuwait remained firm in its commitments towards the Palestinian people to establish an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel, as the occupying Power, had put obstacles in the way of peace in the Middle East. All Member States should abide by Security Council resolutions, he said. The occupation continued to violate international law. The Middle East peace process had witnessed many milestones. However, the failure to commit to resolutions had exacerbated the humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinian people. The repercussions of the recent decision on Jerusalem were jeopardizing the peace process. He called upon the United States, as it played an important role in the process, to compel Israel to end its occupation of all Arab and Palestinian territories, in accordance with the relevant resolutions, the principle of land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative.