12 July 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 Security Council Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
– As delivered –
Thank you Mr. President,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
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, as well as Ukraine, align themselves with this statement.
The EU is an active member of the International Syria Support Group and we do all in our power to ensure the full implementation of the Security Council Resolutions 2254, 2268 and the Geneva Communiqué.
A Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254 and the 30 June 2012 the Geneva Communiqué is needed to bring a lasting peace to the country, defeat Da’esh and all terrorist organisations in Syria and enable Syrians to return to their homes in safe conditions and contribute to the reconstruction of their country.
Conditions need to be created urgently for serious direct talks to agree on broad, inclusive, non-sectarian transitional governing body with full executive powers, as stated in the statement of the International Syria Support Group of 17 May. To that end, all parties to the conflict need to respect the cessation of hostilities, make progress on the issue of arbitrarily detained persons and work to ensure immediate, secure, sustainable and country-wide humanitarian access to all population in need. The level of humanitarian aid, including medical equipment and supplies need to be significantly enhanced to meet the needs of all vulnerable people, including internally displaced people and host communities throughout the Syrian territory.
Without real and significant improvements in the conditions necessary for serious negotiations, both the political process and the cessation of hostilities are at risk.
The EU condemns all violations of international humanitarian law, attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, in particular against medical facilities, schools, markets and IDP camps. The EU strongly condemns excessive and disproportionate attacks committed by the Syrian regime against its own people, including starvation of civilians through the besiegement of populated areas.
The EU reiterates its strong support for transitional justice and accountability for all serious human rights abuses and violations of International Humanitarian Law including any which may constitute a war crime committed in Syria by all parties including Da’esh. The EU renews its call to the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. The EU welcomes the renewal of the mandate for the Commission of Inquiry and calls for the cooperation of all parties, in particular the Syrian regime to grant necessary access.
Serious negotiations are required to reach an agreement by 1 August on such a transition. Only a real commitment on both sides of the political track can lead to an agreement.
The EU is stepping up its support to the Syrian opposition, and in particular the High Negotiations Committee, as the opposition delegation in the UN-brokered talks in Geneva. The EU encourages unity among opposition groups and and welcomes the opposition having intensified their coordination and preparations for negotiating a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict.
The EU urges the government delegation to finally lay out its plan for truly implementing a genuine political transition. Speeches such as that by Bashar Al-Assad of 7 June which reject the political process, reject the legitimacy of the opposition delegation and advocate a military solution, seem calculated to undermine the ISSG process and with it the best hope for peace in Syria.
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 EU is ready to increase its support even more to both the humanitarian work and the political negotiations, in full coordination with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. We are ready to rapidly provide support to stabilisation, reconstruction and the return of refugees and internally displaced people to their homes in safe conditions once a political transition has started.
The EU would like to pay tribute to the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Iraq.
The surge of terrorist activities that we have witnessed recently is a sign that Da’esh is losing ground on the military front. However, every attack that results in the loss of life is a breeding ground for further sectarian tension in a country and a region that requires cohesion and unity in the face of a complex crisis.
The EU continues its firm support for Prime Minister al-Abadi’s efforts to build an inclusive government and his programme of reforms and commends Iraqi progress particularly regarding stabilization. Only a government that can provide safety, services and opportunities for all its citizens will be able to build a strong, unified Iraq. The EU will continue to support the Iraqi government in this endeavour.
As far as the Middle East peace process is concerned, we may have reached a critical juncture. It is time for international initiatives to become a coherent collective effort to revive the two-state solution.
For the EU, as outlined in previous Council Conclusions, there is no alternative to 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. It remains the only realistic way of ending the conflict once and for all. It offers the prospect of a secure 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.
However, we are currently concerned that the two-state solution could be slipping beyond reach.
This is why the EU is united in its determination to work alongside international partners and the region to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process.
This is the very reason why the Middle East Quartet, in its report published on 1 July, outlined the dangerous trends on the ground imperilling the two-state solution.
The EU welcomes the publication of the Middle East Quartet’s report. The EU endorses the recommendations outlined in the Quartet’s report as a contribution to creating the conditions for the two-state solution and asks the Secretary General to report on their implementation.
The EU expresses concern at the trends on the ground and calls on the parties to swiftly engage with the Quartet and other relevant stakeholders and implement the recommendations in full. Such implementation would demonstrate a genuine commitment to a peaceful solution by rebuilding mutual trust and creating the conditions for direct and meaningful negotiations that resolve all final status issues. The EU stands ready to support the parties in this process.
The EU welcomes also the Joint Communiqué on the Middle East peace initiative adopted at the Ministerial meeting in Paris on June 3rd 2016.
Inclusiveness is now needed in the follow-up of the Paris meeting and the Quartet report. These major international initiatives must proceed hand-in-hand, well-coordinated, and well-sequenced so that they constitute a coherent collective effort to rescue the two-state solution, while paving the way for direct talks.
The EU also encourages discussion in the context of the Arab Peace Initiative, which holds out hope for a permanent regional settlement.
We are deeply concerned by the continuing cycle of violence. Violence costs human lives; it causes grief, resentment and exacerbates mistrust and mutual recriminations, thereby undermining prospects for a peaceful solution.
While our thoughts are with the families of the victims, we urge the parties to work towards de-escalation of tensions; to refrain from actions that would fuel further tension by way of incitement and provocation; and to observe international humanitarian law and adhere to the principles of necessity and proportionality in the use of force.
We also recall that only the reestablishment of a political horizon and the resumption of dialogue can stop the violence. Security measures alone cannot stop the cycle of violence. The underlying causes of the conflict need to be addressed.
Israel’s continued settlement policy, illegal under international law, and actions taken in this context, such as evictions and forced transfers of populations, demolitions, and confiscations – including of EU project – constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible.
Palestinian unity is essential for a viable Palestinian state. President Abbas must be fully behind reconciliation, which is fundamental for progress towards permanent resolution and key for improving security for Palestinians and Israelis. Militant activity as well as the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza feed general instability and impede efforts to achieve a negotiated solution.
We need bold leadership on the ground to reverse these trends.
This requires an end to both settlement expansion and violence. The EU therefore regrets that Israel’s response has been approval of additional hundreds of settlements’ units in occupied Palestinian territory. A fundamental change of policy by Israel with regard to the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Area C, will significantly increase economic opportunities, empower Palestinian institutions and enhance stability and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinian leaders should consistently and clearly condemn specific terrorist attacks. We encourage the Palestinian leadership to step up against incitement to violence and clearly distance itself from such actions. To address the needs of the Palestinian population, the EU urges all Palestinian factions to engage in good faith in the reconciliation process, on the basis of the PLO platform, democracy and rule of law.
The EU calls for all parties to take swift steps to produce a fundamental change to 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.
The EU will continue to work with its Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, along with the Quartet and other stakeholders, in the region and beyond, in order to make progress towards a just and lasting peace based on a two-state solution.
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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