20 April 2017, New York – Statement on behalf of the EU and its Member States delivered by H.E. Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
– Check against delivery –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU and its 28 Member States.
The Candidate Countries Montenegro* and Albania*, align themselves with this statement.
The Middle East peace process remains a top priority for the European Union, and our policies on this issue remain clear and consistent.
We believe that it is more important than ever to uphold international consensus on the key principles underpinning the Middle East peace process – indispensable corner stones for a just and enduring peace for Israelis and Palestinians, based on the two-state solution, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign, and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition.
There is no viable alternative to a negotiated two-state solution, based on parameters set out in the European Council Conclusions of July 2014, that fulfils the legitimate aspirations of both parties, including Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and that resolves all permanent status issues.
On 23 December 2016, this Council adopted Resolution 2334. It reiterated some of the key threats to the viability of the two-state solution also identified in the July Quartet report, including continued settlement activities, acts of violence, terror and incitement.
The EU recalls that settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible.
The EU will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. The EU will continue to distinguish, in its relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.
As for Jerusalem, the EU will continue to respect the international consensus embodied in UN Security Council Resolution 478 of 1980. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.
Unfortunately, actions on the ground continue to dangerously imperil the prospects for a two-state solution.
Since January this year, Israeli authorities have advanced plans and tenders for nearly 6.000 settlement units in the occupied Palestinian territory. In late March, the Israeli government decided, for the first time in more than two decades, to establish a new settlement deep inside the West Bank. It also declared further land deep inside the West Bank as ‘state land’. The EU is deeply concerned about the adoption in February of the so-called ‘Regularization Law’. This would mean crossing a new threshold, even under Israeli law, for the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.
We call on Israel to end all settlement activity and dismantle the outposts erected since March 2001 in line with prior obligations.
The EU is also deeply concerned about the significant increase of Israeli demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian structures – including of EU-funded projects – in Area C, which is of critical importance for the viability and contiguity of a future Palestinian state. Many affected communities, such as Khan al Ahmar, are at imminent risk of eviction and forced transfer. The EU remains committed to protecting the rights of the Palestinians, including their human rights, and to providing assistance to people in vulnerable situations in their current place of living in Area C. We call on Israel to meet its obligations under international law including international human rights law and international humanitarian law, allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and accelerate the approval of master plans and building permits for Palestinians in Area C.
The EU firmly rejects terror and any acts of violence that take innocent lives, as well as any incitement to hatred and violence, which we see as fundamentally incompatible with advancing a peaceful resolution.
We call on Palestinian leaders to consistently and clearly condemn terrorist attacks, and to take all steps within their capacity to end incitement to hatred and violence.
We also urge Palestinian factions to engage in good faith in the reconciliation process which is an important element for reaching the two-state solution. The EU urges all parties in the West Bank and Gaza to advance this process leading to democratic elections in the West Bank and Gaza. A single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian authority, with full control over Gaza, is critical for achieving a viable Palestinian state. To this end, the EU calls on all Palestinian factions to find common ground and to work together to address the needs of the Palestinian population.
Last but not least, the situation in Gaza is unsustainable. All parties must take swift steps to produce a fundamental change to the political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip in accordance with the Security Council Resolution 1860 (2009), including the end of the closure and a full opening of the crossing points, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
The EU stands ready to support the consolidation of Palestinian state capacities and efforts to strengthen the Palestinian economy both in the West Bank and Gaza.
To make progress, we need the parties to demonstrate through policies and actions their genuine commitment to the two-state solution, to prevent the irreversible loss of this solution and to find a new path back to successful final status negotiations.
The EU will support all serious peace-making efforts, and will continue to work closely with the parties, with partners in the region and beyond, including within the framework of the Quartet.
As reflected in discussions at the Summit of the League of Arab States in March, the Arab Peace Initiative provides key elements for the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the opportunity for building a regional security framework. The EU strongly believes that further dialogue on this basis will bring results. A comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could provide new impetus for peace and security throughout the wider region and therefore this opportunity must be seized.
I would now like to turn to Syria.
Syria has been the geo-strategic link between Europe and the Middle East; it was the core of the Mediterranean civilisation that shaped our culture, our traditions and our way of thinking. This role as a bridge between civilisations and continents is what has made this country so important throughout its entire history.
Today’s Syria is at war – a war that is killing her people and destroying her cultural heritage.
We condemn the systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by all parties, particularly the Syrian government and its allies. The EU continues to call for full unhindered humanitarian access and for accountability for all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
The historic bridge is collapsing and we cannot simply wait for the conflict to end while we spend billions to contain the crisis and keep the refugees fed and sheltered.
The United Nations, this Security Council, can build bridges and Europe is here to help. This is why the European Union has endorsed a Strategy for Syria in early April, aimed at promoting a political solution in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. We are focused on putting all our weight behind achieving a framework agreement in the UN-mediated intra-Syrian talks in Geneva that will contain a political package so that a negotiated transitional political process can be implemented in line with the previously mentioned Resolution.
Only this month, on 4 and 5 April, the EU hosted in Brussels the Conference “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”, together with 6 co-chairs, namely Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, the UK and the UN.
A number of thematic sessions took place on 4th April, with the large participation of civil society and non-governmental organisations. These sessions conveyed specific messages on the humanitarian situation inside Syria and on the regional dimension of the crisis. The Ministerial segment on 5th April was chaired by High Representative Mogherini and was opened by UNSG Guterres. The Conference fulfilled three main objectives:
i) USD 6 billion pledged for 2017 by all donors present.
ii) support to the political process under the UN acquis. In this regard, the Conference benefited from all participating countries expressing their strong support to the UN-led negotiation process in Geneva, and calling for the ceasefire agreed in Astana to be fully implemented.
iii) finally, the Conference took stock of ongoing planning for post-agreement assistance under UN-auspices and exchanged on instruments for assistance that could be deployed, once a genuinely inclusive political transition is firmly under way, in line with Security Council Resolution 2254.
The EU condemns in the strongest terms the chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on 4 April 2017, which had horrific consequences, causing the deaths and injuries of scores of civilians including children and relief workers, with many victims displaying symptoms of gas poisoning. The use of chemical weapons or chemical substances as weapons amounts to a war crime. Their use, including by the regime and Da’esh, must stop and identified perpetrators must be held accountable for this violation of international law. We strongly support the investigation by the OPCW’s Fact Finding Mission (FFM) which is in the process of gathering and analysing information from all available sources, as a precursor to further investigations by the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism. The EU is united behind their work and committed to bringing impunity to an end.
The EU also strongly condemns the horrific attack in Rashidin on April 15, which killed at least 126, many of them children, and injured dozens.
Accountability for gross and systematic violations perpetrated in Syria is paramount. Any inability to ensure accountability of perpetrators can result in additional brutality and continued flouting of international norms.
The EU calls on all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.
Let me also speak about Lebanon. The EU welcomes Lebanon’s recent progress to end the political stalemate with the election of a president and a new government in place. Agreeing on a new electoral framework before the expiration of parliament’s mandate on 20 June and holding timely election is the next important milestone for Lebanon’s democratic process. The EU reaffirms its commitment to the unity, sovereignty, stability, independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon. It reiterates the importance of an ongoing commitment to a policy of disassociation from all regional conflicts, in line with the Baabda Declaration.
The EU stresses the importance of Lebanon’s continued commitment to the full implementation of its international obligations, including Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, 1701, and 1757. The EU also commends Lebanon’s extraordinary efforts in continuing to host more than 1.1 million refugees from Syria until conditions for their return are met, and stresses the importance to live up to commitments with regards to rights and protection of refugees. As confirmed at the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region on 5th April 2017, the EU is determined to continue its support to Lebanon’s stabilisation and development and calls upon the regional partners and international community to do the same.
* Montenegro, and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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