Summary: 23 July 2015, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union by Mr. Carl Hallergard, Minister Counsellor, 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
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 country Liechtenstein and member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, align themselves with this statement.
The EU reaffirms its commitment to a just and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 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. We reaffirm that there is no alternative to a negotiated two state solution. The regional context, including the ongoing radicalisation and spread of terrorism, makes it even more urgent to end the conflict. The status-quo is not an option, as the viability of the two-state solution is constantly being eroded by new facts on the ground. We urge both parties to demonstrate their stated commitment to the two-state solution through concrete actions. Actions by either side which call into question their stated commitment to a negotiated solution must be avoided. The EU will actively support the parties to restore confidence and create an environment of trust necessary to engage in meaningful negotiations as soon as possible.
An immediate priority must be to address the grave situation in the Gaza Strip. One year after the conflict, the humanitarian and socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip remains dire. In light of the urgent needs of the people in Gaza, all international community pledges should be honoured. We furthermore express our concern over UNRWA’s severe lack of funds and, as a leading donor to UNRWA, we call on all concerned donors to step up their funding.
The EU believes that compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law by states and non-state actors, including accountability, is a cornerstone for peace and security in the region.
We welcome recent steps taken by Israel to ease restrictions in Gaza. However, further positive measures are now needed that enable the full delivery of humanitarian aid, reconstruction and economic recovery on a permanent basis. We call for a fundamental change of the political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip, including the end of the closure and a full opening of the crossing points, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns. Recent rocket fire by militant groups is unacceptable and underlines again the danger of escalation. All stakeholders must commit to non-violence and peace. We call on all parties to agree on a durable ceasefire that prevents a return to conflict, strengthens Gaza, as it is an integral part of a future Palestinian state, and reinforces the link between Gaza and the West Bank.
The EU urges all Palestinian factions to find common ground, based on non-violence and reconciliation, and to work together to address the needs of the Palestinian population. Intra-Palestinian reconciliation is an important element for reaching the two-state solution. In that regard, we call on the Palestinian factions to make reconciliation and the return of the PA to Gaza a top priority. The PA must take greater responsibility in this regard and assume its government function in the Gaza Strip, including in the field of security, civil administration and through its presence at the Gaza crossing points. The EU is ready to provide full support to these efforts, including through the rapid reactivation and possible extension in scope and mandate of its EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS missions.
We are committed to working with all sides, including through implementation of existing agreements, to allow the socio-economic development of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and empower Palestinian institutions in preparation for statehood, based on the rule of law and respect for human rights. We stress that actions such as the easing of restrictions must be part of a fundamental change of policy with regard to the occupied Palestinian territory. We call on Israel to enable accelerated Palestinian construction, as well as social and economic development in Area C. Such actions will serve to strengthen the prosperity and security of both Israelis and Palestinians. We further call on Israeli authorities to halt plans for forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure in the Susya and Abu Nwar communities.
The preservation of the viability of the two-state solution is at the core of EU policy and will remain a priority. In this regard, and recalling that settlements are illegal under international law, the EU reiterates its strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, such as building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions and confiscation – including of EU funded projects – evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins, illegal outposts, settler violence and restrictions of movement and access. These actions seriously threaten the two-state solution. Settlement activity in East Jerusalem seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both states. We will continue to closely monitor developments on the ground and their broader implications and remain ready to take further action in order to protect the viability of the two-state solution. The EU and its Member States reaffirm their commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products. We 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.
Securing a just and lasting peace will require an increased common international effort. The EU, notably through the action of its recently appointed Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, will work actively on a renewed multilateral approach to the peace process in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including partners in the Quartet, notably the US, in the region and the United Nations Security Council. The establishment of an International support group is a possible way to contribute to this end. The EU’s position on parameters, as set out in the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of July 2014, provides a basis for achieving consensus on the way forward. The EU is ready to engage in joint work with regional partners on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative, and welcomes ongoing efforts of the Quartet in this regard.
The conflict in Syria has entered its fifth year and the human suffering it has caused and it continues to cause is immense. A lasting solution to this conflict is urgently required. In this framework, we have fully supported and we will continue to fully support the efforts of UN Special Envoy de Mistura to revive a political process.
The EU has contributed to the “Geneva consultations” and we hope that those talks will help launch a Syrian-led inclusive political process leading to a transition, based on the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, and in line with relevant UNSC Resolutions in order to maintain the country’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our ultimate objective is to help build a democratic and pluralistic Syria where the human rights of all persons are protected and all Syrians, including minorities and vulnerable groups, are included. We are determined to support all efforts to this end.
This political approach is at the heart of the ‘EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the ISIL/Da’esh threat’ which was adopted in March 2015 and is currently being implemented. Da’esh poses a complex terrorist threat to Syria, to the entire region but also to Europe. We all know that military action alone is not sufficient to defeat Da’esh. In Iraq, the EU is working and will continue to work closely with the Government, supporting it as much as we can in its efforts to restore inclusive governance and stability. In Syria, an inclusive political transition is crucial to sustainable peace and stability: the fight against Da’esh and other terrorist groups must be conducted in parallel with the search for lasting political solutions. All member states, in accordance with resolutions 2170 and 2178, should take decisive action to stop the flow of foreign fighters, counter ISIL/Dae’sh financing, and combat its incitement.
The Assad regime’s brutal war against its own people, massive human rights violations, and systematic obstruction against democratic reforms have contributed to the flourishing of ISIL/Da’esh in Syria. As a consequence of its policies and actions, the Assad regime cannot be a partner in the fight against Da’esh.
The UN, centred on the Security Council, will have a key role. Specifically, UNSCR 2170 and UNSCR 2178 call on all member states to take decisive action to stop the flow of foreign fighters, counter ISIL/Da’esh financing, and combat its incitement. We should actively support countries implementing these and related UNSC resolutions. We must continue to engage in relevant GCTF initiatives.
More than 220,000 Syrians have been killed and more than half of the population is displaced. Peace will remain elusive in Syria, so long as impunity reigns. The EU therefore reiterates the need to hold perpetrators of violations and abuses to account: justice and accountability must be included in the political process from the outset.
In a letter dated 18 June, 71 countries, including all EU Member States, expressed their outrage at the never ending state of unchecked brutality in Syria, in particular by the systematic use of barrel bombs. The Arria formula meeting convened by France and Spain on 26 June 2015 showed clearly to this Council and to all members of the United Nations the terrible toll exacted on civilians by the widespread use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime. As it was highlighted in that meeting, the use of barrel bombs has no military value and its only goal is to terrorize the civilian population. We strongly condemn these indiscriminate attacks, as well as continued besiegement of civilian areas, the starvation of civilians as a method of combat and the arbitrary detention and torture of thousands of Syrians. We believe it is high time for this Council to follow-up on its own resolutions, including resolution 2139, 2165 and 2191, and to take decisive action to put an end to these on-going violations of international law and of UNSC resolutions.
We are equally concerned about frequent reports for more than a year now that toxic chemicals such as chlorine have been used as a chemical weapon in Syria. The use of chlorine gas as a weapon is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention as well as UNSC Resolutions 2118 (2013) and 2209 (2015). Both resolutions foresaw further measures under Chapter VII in case of non-compliance. We stress once again that those responsible for such inhumane acts must be held accountable and strongly support the initiative within this Council to establish an attribution mechanism through an OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism.
The EU is determined to continue supporting the Syrians and the refugee-hosting countries in the region affected by the crisis. Humanitarian aid and longer term assistance are and will remain important pillars of the EU’s response to the crisis in Syria and in the neighbouring countries.
Overall, more than EUR 3.7 billion was mobilized by the EU since the outbreak of the Syria crisis. At the Kuwait III Conference of 31 March 2015, the European Union and its Member States pledged close to EUR 1.1 Billion.
In Syria, we note with serious concern that humanitarian needs continue to rise while access to vulnerable people faces an increasing number of constraints. We call on all parties, in particular the Assad regime, to implement in full the provisions of the UNSC Resolutions 2139, 2165 and 2191.
The countries in the region, in particular Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, have made and continue to make considerable efforts to shelter and offer protection to Syrian refugees. We commend the generosity of those countries and we fully recognize the economic and social impact of this situation. In particular, the EU remains fully aware of the immense security challenges that the crisis poses to Lebanon and Jordan. The response to this protracted crisis cannot be sustained through humanitarian response only. There is a need for a longer term / resilience-based response supporting neighbouring countries capacities to provide services and opportunities (access to labour market, to national education and health systems, etc.) for Syrian refugees. We also reiterate the importance of ensuring that humanitarian concerns are addressed by applying international standards on the protection of refugees.
Enhanced burden sharing between countries in the region and international partners is necessary in line with the principles of the “Berlin declaration”. The EU remains committed to sustain its support to the countries and the people affected by this crisis and calls on all international partners to enhance also the level and predictability of their respective support.
Thank you, Mr. President!
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
- Ref: EUUN15-110EN
- EU source: European Union
- UN forum: Security Council
- Date: 23/7/2015