Summary: 8 November 2013, New York - Statement delivered by Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations at the United Nations General Assembly 68th Session Fourth Committee – 23rd Meeting Agenda item 53: Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its member States.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland+ and Serbia*, the countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
Ending the Arab-Israeli conflict remains one of the main priorities of the European Union.
The courageous agreement by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, following the initiative by US Secretary of State Kerry, to re-engage in negotiations with a clear objective and timeframe gives us new hope.
We are fully supportive and we are committed to helping to ensure the success of the on-going direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians aiming at a comprehensive peace between the two sides, through a two-state solution with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
The European Union has repeatedly stressed its conviction that a resolution of the conflict can be achieved through a comprehensive peace agreement, based on the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Roadmap, the agreements previously reached by the parties and the Arab Peace Initiative. We recall the applicability of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the applicability of the fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians.
The European Union continues to urge all parties to refrain from actions which could undermine the negotiation process and the prospects for peace. We will not lose sight of developments on the ground and we will continue to act in accordance with our well-known principles and positions and in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law.
The European Union deplores continuing Israeli plans and activities to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. Let me also reaffirm the long-held position of the European Union that settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-State solution impossible. All settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, should cease immediately. New construction plans should be abandoned.
The European Union condemns in the strongest terms continuing settler violence and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians. We call on the Government of Israel to protect Palestinian civilians from violence, bring the perpetrators of any such acts to justice and to comply with its obligations under international law.
The European Union and its Member States also express their deep concern about the worsening living conditions of the Palestinian population in Area C, which is its main land reserve. We are particularly concerned by the instances of collective demolitions in recent months, often resulting in the displacement of Palestinians, including Bedouin communities. As the Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman rightly pointed out before the Security Council last month: "such incidents reinforce the […] conviction that Palestinians require access to a fair planning and zoning regime so as not to resort to the building of structures without an Israeli permit that lead to demolitions". The European Union also calls on Israel to work out improved mechanisms for access, administration and cooperation, including with regard to international donors. For our part, we will continue to support the economy and infrastructure development in the Palestinian Area C, as set out in the five-year Joint Action Plan adopted in the framework of the European Union's Neighbourhood Policy.
The European Union remains the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority and has constantly encouraged and supported the Palestinian state building process. However we are particularly concerned with the slowing economic development in the Palestinian territory and the difficult fiscal situation it is producing. We will continue to play our part; at the same time we call on other donors, especially those in the region, to increase their financial support to the PA.
One element of deep concern for the European Union is the number of Palestinians killed recently in the oPt, in separate incidents involving the use of live fire by Israeli forces. Moreover, we express our concern at the continuing incursions by Israeli forces into Area A. Incursions by Israeli forces into Palestinian cities where the Palestinian Authority, under the Oslo Accords, assumes the powers and responsibilities for internal security and public order put in jeopardy the internationally recognized success of Palestinian institution building efforts. We are also concerned about the recent episodes of violence by Palestinians, resulting in the death of three Israelis and in the injury of several others, and we call on all to refrain from violence and incitement, reinforce calm and reverse these negative trends in order to preserve the political space needed for a successful outcome of the on-going negotiations.
Turning to the situation in Gaza, the European Union followed with great concern the hostilities that affected the Gaza Strip and Israel in November 2012, and regretted the loss of civilian lives on both sides. We renew our condemnation in the strongest terms of any violence deliberately targeting civilians. We welcomed the ceasefire that put an end to those hostilities and we urge all parties to fully comply with its provisions.
We have at the same time to recognize and to underline that the present situation in Gaza is unsustainable and will remain so as long as it remains politically and economically separated from the West Bank. Fully recognizing Israel's legitimate security concerns, including with regard to vital threats in the region, and expressing its appreciation for some recent positive measures by Israel with regard to the opening of the crossings for commercial goods, the EU continues to call for the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from the Gaza Strip. To this end, the EU calls for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), the full respect of international humanitarian law and full implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.
As regards the specific issue before us today - i.e. the protection of Human Rights - the EU and Israel engage in regular dialogue on these matters in the framework of our bilateral relationship. Let me focus here on four specific issues: human rights defenders, administrative detention, freedom of religion, and the rights of children.
The EU recalls that support for human rights defenders is a long established element of the European Union’s human rights external relations policy. We consider that in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory human rights defenders play an important role in promoting the common values of democracy, peace and human rights. The EU recalls the legitimate right of Palestinians to engage in peaceful demonstrations.
While the numbers have declined, the EU remains concerned about the extensive recourse by Israel to administrative detention of excessive duration without charge. Under international law, detainees have the right to be informed about the reasons underlying any detention and to have the legality of their detention being determined without undue delay. The EU calls upon Israel to bring formal charges against these individuals, with such charges being determined through fair trials.
Freedom of religion and belief is one area in which the European Union has been active for a long time, as shown by the yearly resolution that we run in the Third Committee. We express concern that, notwithstanding Israel’s welcome temporary easing of restrictions during Ramadan, the separation barrier and Israeli restrictions on movement continue to limit severely access for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. We are also concerned about respect for the freedom of religion by the de-facto authorities in the Gaza Strip.
On the issue of children's rights, the EU remains concerned by the high number of Palestinian children held in detention by Israel and by reports of ill treatment during the arrest, transfer and interrogation of child detainees in the West Bank. In this regard, we welcome the commitment by Israel to cooperate with UNICEF on implementing the recommendations contained in the March 2013 UNICEF briefing paper "Children in Israeli Military Detention". We urge to proceed expeditiously in this direction and we wish to underline this as an example of how Israel's positively engaging with UN offices, programmes and funds and the Specialized Agencies that are active in the oPT is beneficial to all the involved parties, including the Palestinian people.
In conclusion, let me stress once again that the European Union will continue to work with its partners within the Quartet, as well as with the other actors of the international community, including those in the region, to contribute to a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The EU will continue to provide political and financial support to this effect and, in so doing, will continue to place particular emphasis on the need for full respect for international humanitarian and human rights laws.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
+ Iceland continues to be a member of EFTA and the European Economic Area.