19 October 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union by H.E. Ms. Joanne Adamson, Chargé d’Affaires a.i., 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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The Candidate Countries Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, align themselves with this statement.
The following remarks are focussed on the Middle East peace process. The EU position on Syria will be outlined during the forthcoming informal meeting of the General Assembly.
Already in July, in this Council, the EU expressed concern at the trends on the ground, threatening the viability of the two-state solution. Parties were called upon to swiftly engage with the Quartet and other relevant stakeholders, implement the Quartet’s recommendations in full and reverse negative trends.
Regrettably, we have instead seen an acceleration of negative trends in direct contradiction with Quartet recommendations as well as with Foreign Affairs Council conclusions. 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.
For the EU, there is no alternative to a negotiated two-state solution – based on parameters set out in the Council Conclusions of December 2009 and July 2014 – 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. It remains the only realistic way of ending the conflict once and for all.
Since early 2016, and particularly since the publication of the Quartet report, there is an acceleration of Israeli settlement expansion. Settlements are illegal under international law. On 28 September, Israel announced plans to construct 98 new housing units in what is effectively a new settlement, near the existing one of Shiloh, which drew wide condemnation from the international community. This cuts deeply into the West Bank and further increases risks to the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.
Other related policies threaten notably the socio-economic viability of Area C for the Palestinian population. As clearly illustrated by OCHA’s data, Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures, including some funded by the EU and EU Member States, have vastly increased in 2016 – not least recently.
Such settlement and planning policies constitute an obstacle to peace. A fundamental change of policy by Israel with regard to the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Area C, is necessary to prevent the irreversible loss of the two-state solution. It will significantly increase economic opportunities, empower Palestinian institutions and enhance stability and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
We continue to be deeply concerned by the continuing cycle of violence and killings – most recently on 9 October in Jerusalem.
The EU unequivocally condemns acts of terror and extends its deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
We urge all parties to work towards de-escalation of tensions; to observe international humanitarian law and adhere to the principles of necessity and proportionality in the use of force.
Palestinian leaders are again urged to consistently and clearly condemn terror attacks, and take all steps within their capacity to end incitement. Violence brings not only personal tragedy, but also makes any peace process infinitely more difficult.
Let me now turn to the situation in Gaza, an important topic of today’s session. Militant activity and the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza feed general instability and constitute a recipe for renewed conflict. What hopes can Palestinian youth in Gaza have for their future in current circumstances?
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 increases risks of escalation. Such activities threaten the lives of civilians, divert resources from humanitarian efforts and impede reconstruction and development. The illicit arms build-up by Hamas and other militant groups must stop.
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 provide an important renewal of Palestinian democracy and a first step towards advancing national unity.
Finally, we reiterate our call on Israel for an end of the closure and a full opening of the crossings, while addressing legitimate security concerns. The lifting of restriction on 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.
The EU urges both parties to promote confidence and trust building measures. In this regard, the EU commends the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Electricity Agreement on 13 September.
The EU reiterates its readiness to provide its full support to resolve the situation.
In these challenging times for the peace process, the EU believes that regional partners can play a key role in changing the dynamics on the ground, not least through discussion based on the Arab Peace Initiative, which provides key elements for a comprehensive settlement. Their engagement and progress in the peace process represents an opportunity and could unlock new forms of cooperation benefiting the whole region.
Recalling French efforts and the communiqué adopted at the Ministerial meeting in Paris on June 3rd, as well as conclusions adopted by Foreign Affairs Council on 20 June, the EU is determined to continue to work in close coordination with the parties, Quartet partners and all other relevant stakeholders toward a two-state solution, which ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues.
I will end by thanking the UN Secretary-General and his Special Coordinator for their ceaseless efforts.
*Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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