22 October 2015, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by H.E. Mr. Ioannis Vrailas, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”
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Thank you Mr. President,
The Candidate Countries Montenegro* and Albania*, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
Whilst the Middle East faces multiple challenges today, including the crisis in Syria, the Middle East Peace Process cannot be allowed to slip from our agenda. It is crucial for the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also for regional peace and security.
The increased deadly violence in October, not least in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel, claiming many lives and injuring over a thousand, is a tragic reminder of this. We deeply regret the loss of lives, and our thoughts are with the victims and their families. The risk of escalation is a source of great concern.
We therefore urge political leaders on both sides to promote calm, encourage restraint and avoid actions which could further fuel tensions.
Violence or acts of terror against any innocent civilian are simply unacceptable. The response of security forces needs to be proportionate and consistent regardless of who is the perpetrator.
The continued cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to ensure de-escalation and restoration of order is crucially important.
However, current developments on the ground provide the evidence that the status quo is not an option. They prove the need for a political horizon.
The best way of halting the violence is an immediate return to a credible political process. The immediate priority for the parties is to agree on substantial steps, which would improve the situation on the ground and build a path back to final status negotiations.
The EU position has been clear and consistent. A negotiated two-state solution, which ends the occupation and fulfils the aspirations of both sides, is the only way of bringing the lasting peace and security that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve.
On the same token, actions by either side that call into question their stated commitment to a negotiated solution must be avoided.
This includes expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank – illegal under international law – and demolitions – also of EU and EU Member States funded projects.
The two-state solution will also require Palestinian factions to work together to address the needs of the Palestinian population. We therefore continue to urge them to make reconciliation a top priority. The Palestinian Authority must take greater responsibility in this regard and assume its government functions in the Gaza Strip. The dire situation in Gaza must be fundamentally changed to allow for improved socio-economic conditions for the local population and security for all.
Let us also not forget Jerusalem, a city sacred to three religions. The historical status quo at the holy sites, a matter of great sensitivity, must not be altered. Therefore all relevant parties must open a serious dialogue to ensure the status quo at the holy sites is upheld.
A renewed peace process will require a common international effort.
The EU remains determined to play its part, not least through the EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process, Fernando Gentilini. We will work with all sides, through implementation of existing agreements, to allow Palestinian socio-economic development, and empower Palestinian institutions in preparation for statehood.
The EU warmly welcomes the statement of representatives of the Quartet dated 30 September and their consultations with foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia as well as with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, and other interested Member States. Outreach to regional partners will remain essential, as the Arab Peace Initiative is of key strategic importance for any future comprehensive peace agreement.
The EU offers its full support to the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process, Mr. Mladenov. The Security Council, with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, continues to have a crucial role in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
However, ultimately a sustainable peace will require courageous decisions by the parties to the conflict. We urge them to carefully consider the high price of a continued unresolved conflict, which will continue to be paid by local populations.
The EU continues to follow developments on the ground very closely. It remains determined to do its utmost to preserve the viability of the two-state solution in the interest of both Palestinians and Israelis.
Turning to the conflict in Syria, there is an increasingly urgent need to find a lasting solution that will end this conflict. Only a Syrian-led political process leading to a peaceful and inclusive transition, based on the principles of the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012, will bring back stability to Syria, enable peace and reconciliation and create the necessary environment for efficient counter terrorism efforts and maintain the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian State. There cannot be a lasting peace in Syria under the present leadership and until the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all components of the Syrian society are addressed.
The international community has to unite around two complementary and interlinked tracks – a political one that aims to bring an end to the civil war by addressing all the root causes of the conflict and establish an inclusive political transition process that will restore peace to the country – and a security one to focus on the fight against the regional and global threat of Da’esh.
The EU reiterates its full support to the UN-led efforts and the work of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. We call on all Syrian parties to show a clear and concrete commitment to the UN-led process and to participate actively in the working groups proposed by the Special Envoy. It is urgent for the moderate political opposition and associated armed groups to unite behind a common approach in order to present an alternative to the Syrian people.
We urge all those with influence on the parties, including on the Syrian regime, to use this influence to encourage a constructive role in the process leading to a political transition and to end the cycle of violence. The EU will pro-actively engage with key regional actors such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and international partners within the UN framework to build the conditions for a peaceful and inclusive transition.
We condemn the excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks that the Syrian regime continues to commit against its own people. The Assad regime bears the greatest responsibility for the 250.000 deaths of the conflict and the millions of displaced people. International humanitarian law applies to all parties, and human rights need to be fully respected. We call on all parties to stop all forms of indiscriminate shelling and bombardment against civilian areas and structures and, in particular, on the Syrian regime to cease all aerial bombardments, including the use of barrel bombs in line with UNSC Resolution 2139. We also call for the immediate cessation of the use of chemical weapons which is a violation of UNSCR 2118 and 2209. In this light, we welcome the unanimous adoption of UNSCR 2235 to identify those responsible for the use of chemicals as weapons and stress that those individuals, entities, groups, or governments must be held accountable. The systematic targeting of civilians by the regime has led to mass displacements and encouraged recruitment to and the flourishing of terrorist groups in Syria. This calls for urgent attention and action.
We strongly condemn the indiscriminate attacks, atrocities, killings, conflict-related sexual violence, abuses of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law which are perpetrated by Da’esh and other terrorist groups. We support international efforts and initiatives to address these issues. We condemn Da’esh’s deliberate destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq, which amount to a war crime under international law.
Those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria must be held accountable: we reiterate our call to the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The EU supports the efforts of the Global Coalition to counter Da’esh in Syria and Iraq. As a consequence of its policies and actions, the Assad regime cannot be a partner in the fight against Dae’sh. Action against Da’esh needs to be closely coordinated among all partners, and needs clearly to target Da’esh, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the other UN-designated terrorist groups.
The recent Russian military attacks that go beyond Dae’sh and other UN-designated terrorist groups, as well as on the moderate opposition, are of deep concern, and must cease immediately. So too must the Russian violations of the sovereign airspace of neighbouring countries.
This military escalation risks prolonging the conflict, undermining a political process, aggravating the humanitarian situation and increasing radicalization. Our aim should be to de-escalate the conflict. The EU calls on Russia to focus its efforts on the common objective of achieving a political solution to the conflict. In this context it urges Russia to push for a reduction of violence and implementation of confidence-building measures by the Syrian Regime along the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2139.
The EU will reinforce its efforts to scale up the implementation of the UNSC Resolutions 2139, 2165 and 2191 to deliver cross-border and cross line assistance in order to help those Syrians most desperately in need and will intensify humanitarian diplomacy and seek ways to improve access and protection as well as to promote humanitarian principles and local consensus on guidelines for the delivery of aid.
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