29 November 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union by H.E. Mr. João Vale de Almeida, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the United Nations General Assembly 71st session, 49th plenary meeting on Agenda item 35: Question of Palestine
– As delivered –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Liechtenstein, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union is gravely concerned at the trends on the ground, threatening the viability of the two-state solution. Over the last months, we have seen an acceleration of negative trends in direct contradiction with Quartet recommendations. The risk is to entrench a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of both peoples.
The European Union has a clear position, set out in our Council conclusions, to pursue the two-state solution. The same two-state solution that since Oslo has been identified as the objective of all Israeli Governments, of the Palestinian leadership and of the international community: a negotiated two-state solution that meets Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues in order to end the conflict.
This to us is a clear position and also a clear objective not only of ours, but also that we share with the rest of the international community and of the parties.
The European Union is extremely concerned by the escalation in violence and tensions in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian Territory.
We unequivocally condemn all acts of terror and incitement – they are simply unacceptable; they can never be justified. We insist that all perpetrators of crimes or of acts of terror, against the Israelis as well as against the Palestinians, must be brought to justice.
The response of security forces needs to be proportionate and consistent regardless of who is the perpetrator. Israel must conduct thorough investigations into cases in which lethal force has been used. Alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all sides must be investigated in accordance with international law and standards.
Compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law by states and non-states actors, including accountability, is a cornerstone for peace and security in the region.
We are also concerned at recurring tensions at Holy Sites. Jerusalem is a city sacred to three religions. We renew our calls for upholding the status quo put in place in 1967 in line with previous understandings and with respect to Jordan’s special role. Any change of the status quo would have deeply destabilizing effects.
The European Union Member States have never recognised the annexation of territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem. All discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in East Jerusalem must stop. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.
Let me turn to settlements and recall here the long-held position of the European Union: settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-State solution impossible.
Since early 2016, and particularly since the publication of the Quartet report, there is an acceleration of Israeli settlement expansion. The steady and systematic acceleration of settlement expansion goes directly against the recommendations of the Quartet Report. Other related policies negatively impact on the socio-economic development of Area C, which is of crucial importance for the viability of a future Palestinian state. Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures in Area C, including some funded by the EU and EU Member States, have vastly increased in 2016. This has led to evictions and forced transfers, including of Bedouin communities.
We express particular concern about measures, which could amount to collective punishment, such as for instance punitive home demolitions, the sealing off of Palestinian villages and withdrawal of work permits. We recall once more 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 EU and its Member States reaffirm the commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products. We also express our commitment to ensure that – in line with international law – all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Settlement activity in East Jerusalem seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both states.
The EU is also alarmed by the advancement in Knesset of the ‘Settlement Regularisation Bill’ which would allow for the ex post ‘legalisation’ of Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank and de facto confiscation of private Palestinian land. The new legislation would allow for a dramatic expansion of Israeli settlements, and would therefore critically endanger the contiguity of a future Palestinian state and prospects for a two state solution.
Militant activity and the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza feed general instability and constitute a recipe for renewed conflict. Fundamental improvements in living conditions are needed particularly as regards the most vulnerable, in particular children and older persons.
While all international donors should swiftly honour their pledges made at the Cairo Conference, Gaza’s humanitarian needs can only be properly addressed through political progress on the following three tracks:
Firstly, all sides must respect the cease-fire. All indiscriminate attacks are illegal, unacceptable and increase risks of escalation. The illicit arms build-up by Hamas and other militant groups must stop. We urge all parties to work towards de-escalation of tensions.
Secondly, the EU urges all Palestinian factions to engage in good faith in the reconciliation process on the basis of the PLO platform and Quartet principles. A single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian authority, with full control over Gaza, is critical for fulfilling the national aspirations of the Palestinian people and for achieving a viable Palestinian state.
In this context, the EU encourages the prompt setting of a new date for the planned Palestinian local elections which – if held in line with international standards – could become an important step towards more Palestinian democracy and towards national unity.
Thirdly, we reiterate our call on Israel for an end of the Gaza closure and a full opening of the crossings, while addressing its legitimate security concerns. The lifting of restrictions on the movement of people, including for representatives of the international community, services and goods – particularly those designated as ‘dual-use items’ – is needed to allow reconstruction, service delivery and international infrastructure projects.
To conclude, the Israeli-Palestinian Electricity Agreement of September was welcome and the EU urges both parties to promote further confidence and trust building measures.
Thank you, Mr. President.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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