I would like to thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, for inviting me to address this meeting in my capacity as President of the Security Council.
Thirty-one years ago, an international conference took place in Madrid, where for the first time, Israeli leaders sat across the table from Arab leaders including Palestinians, Lebanese, Jordanians and Syrians. This meeting marked the starting point of an array of bilateral and multilateral peace negotiations. The Conference reminds us that a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means. The support of the international community has been and will be continue to be crucial for a sustainable peace settlement.
During the past year, the Security Council has remained seized of the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The Council has continued to receive monthly briefings from the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, and to hold open debates on this agenda item on a quarterly basis. The Security Council convened additional meetings, in response to the situation in Gaza and East Jerusalem. The Council also adopted a press statement on the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The Council has continued to receive the Secretary-General’s reports on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), in briefings by the Special Coordinator every three months, as well as in written form every six months – the most recent one last June.
The situation in the Middle East remains a central concern of the Security Council, especially regarding the lack of progress in finding a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The status-quo is not sustainable and significant steps to reverse negative trends on the ground are urgently needed.
The Security Council remains fully committed to pursuing a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, in line with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter, international human rights law, international humanitarian law and consistent with its relevant resolutions, which represent a cornerstone of peace and security in the region. This should be achieved through direct negotiations on final status issues between the parties, leading to achieving a two-state solution, where two democratic States, Israel and a sovereign and independent Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognised borders, in line with international law and relevant UN resolutions, as well as taking into account internationally agreed parameters.
Council members continue to be concerned by the deteriorating situation on the ground and call for an immediate end to actions which undermine the trust between the parties and threaten the viability of a two-state solution. This includes settlement construction, demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property and evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and Masafer Yatta and settlers’ attacks across the occupied Palestinian territory, incitement to violence and terrorism.
Members of the Security Council condemn violence and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, and stress the importance of ensuring protection of civilians. The Security Council continues to be concerned by the dire economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza and calls on all relevant actors to take steps to improve it now and in the longer term and to strengthen the ceasefire reached.
Council members stressed the need to ensure full, unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza and call on the parties to actively work towards the sustained and regular opening of the crossing points. They welcome the efforts of Egypt, other regional countries, the United Nations, the Middle East Quartet and other international parties in this regard and encourage progress towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation and the effective functioning of the Palestinian Authority, including in the Gaza Strip. They take note of the signing of the declaration of Algiers for Palestinian reconciliation under the auspices of Algeria, including on holding legislative and parliamentary elections within an established time-frame. Moreover, the Security Council continues to carefully monitor the acute fiscal and financial situation faced by the Palestinian Authority and stresses the importance of addressing this situation, including providing support to efforts undertaken to strengthen its institutions. The Council welcomes the efforts of member states and the AHLC donor group for their support to the Palestinian state building endeavor.
The members of the Security Council also recognise the essential role that UNRWA plays, thanks to the lifeline support and provision of services for millions of refugees in the region. Similarly, Council members note with great concern the recurrent funding crisis of the Agency and thank donors for the timely contributions while inviting others to contribute as well.
The Security Council will continue to follow closely the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, to pursue the implementation of its relevant resolutions and to foster and support efforts towards an environment conducive to achieving peace, prosperity, and security for both Israeli and Palestinian people, including through the Quartet. Building upon the spirit of the Madrid Conference, only through a negotiated and committed process with international support, real peace and reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians can be achieved. Only through dialogue and diplomacy can both the Israeli and Palestinian people attain the equal measures of freedom, security, dignity and prosperity they rightly deserve.