18 October 2017, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States 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* and Albania* align themselves with this statement.
On 16 October, the 28 Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the European Union adopted a statement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the culmination of 12 years of diplomacy facilitated by the EU, unanimously endorsed by UN Security Council resolution 2231. The successful implementation of the JCPOA continues to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme remains exclusively peaceful. While the EU expresses its concerns related to ballistic missiles and increasing tensions in the region, the EU reiterates the need to address them outside the JCPOA and it is determined to preserve the JCPOA as a key pillar of the international non-proliferation architecture. (full statement is distributed in the room)
The Middle East peace process remains at the top of the European Union agenda. In the Open Debate on 25 July, we have restated the EU’s core policy positions on this topic as reflected in successive EU Council conclusions, proving clarity and consistency.
The EU’s commitment to achieving a two-state solution is the central element of our policy. A negotiated two-state solution, which ends the occupation and fulfils the aspirations of both sides, is the only way to bring the lasting peace and security that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve.
This is also why the EU will continue to speak out clearly when developments or incidents threaten the two-state solution, and undermine the peace process.
We have noted with deep concern the reports of the UN Special Coordinator Mladenov on settlement activities and related actions, not least in East Jerusalem, including the last report according to Resolution 2334 stressing the high rate of settlement activities throughout 2017. In particular in Jerusalem, we noted the eviction of a Palestinian family in the Palestinians neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, residents for over fifty years. This was the first such eviction in that area since 2009.
The EU deeply deplores the decisions taken this week by the Israeli authorities to promote further plans, tenders and permits for thousands of settlement units across the West Bank, including, for the first time since 2002, in the heart of Hebron. We have also seen reports of construction work starting for the first new settlement in 20 years, Amihai, and of preparatory ground work being initiated in the sensitive area of Givat Hamatos in East Jerusalem, where further settlement construction would severely jeopardize the contiguity and viability of a future Palestinian state. We urge Israel to reverse these decisions which run counter to international law and directly threaten the two state solution.
The EU’s position on Israeli settlement construction and related activities, including recent evictions in East Jerusalem and plans leading to forced transfer of Bedouin communities in the West Bank, is clear and has not changed: the EU remains strongly opposed to Israel’s settlement policy, which is illegal under international law. As reaffirmed by the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, it also dangerously threatens the viability of the two-state solution. The international community will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed to by the parties themselves through negotiations. Settlement activity in East Jerusalem seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both States.
The EU also strongly opposes related actions taken in this same context, such as continued demolitions and confiscations – including of EU and EU Member States funded projects – in the occupied Palestinian territory. Locations where settlements are planned to expand are particularly affected. The entire communities of Khan al-Ahmar and Susya are at imminent risk of eviction and forced transfer. The Israeli authorities must halt demolitions and seizures of Palestinian property, including educational facilities in Area C, such as those in Khan al-Ahmar, Abu Nwar, Jubbet ed-Dib and Wadi as-Seeq, in accordance with its obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. We also call on Israel to accelerate the approval of master plans and building permits for Palestinians in Area C to allow for Palestinian development.
The EU is deeply concerned that the continuing cycle of violence has led to a serious loss of human life in Israel and the Palestinian territory in recent months. The EU firmly condemns the terror attacks and violence from all sides and in any circumstances. In late September, a fatal shooting-incident took place at the entrance of a West Bank settlement, as a Palestinian gunman killed three Israelis, one police man and two security guards. Another security guard was gravely injured. The EU expresses condolences to those affected and its regret for all loss of life. Resolution 2334 condemns all acts of violence against civilians. The EU also firmly rejects any incitement to hatred and violence, which we see as fundamentally incompatible with advancing a peaceful resolution. Upholding commitments to act effectively against violence and incitement is critical in order to rebuild mutual trust and avoid another escalation.
Let me now turn to the situation in Gaza, where an already dire humanitarian situation has been worsening in past months, not least due to the division in the Palestinian political arena.
The EU has consistently urged all Palestinian factions to work together to address the needs of the Palestinian population. A single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian authority, with full control over the West Bank and Gaza, is critical for achieving a viable Palestinian state.
The EU welcomes the agreement signed in Cairo on 12 October. This, we believe, can become an important step for making genuine progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation. The EU will closely study the details of this agreement and what it will entail, while we welcome the continuing engagement of Egypt. If fully implemented, this agreement can become an important step towards achieving the goal of Palestinian unity under a single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian national authority on the basis of the PLO platform, Quartet principles, and in accordance with existing agreements.
The EU is ready to fully support these efforts and will continue to liaise with Egypt, our interlocutors on the ground, and our international partners, in order to help this process to succeed.
A key priority is to immediately improve the dire situation of the people in Gaza. We therefore call on all parties to take swift steps to produce a fundamental change to the political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1860 (2009). This includes the end of the closure and a full opening of the crossing points, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
The EU calls for unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza, as foreseen by international humanitarian law, for national, local and international humanitarian organizations, including EU bodies and all EU Member States.
The unsustainable situation in Gaza and recent tensions in Jerusalem underline the need for a political horizon. Political leaders need to do what is necessary and sometimes difficult, for the sake of long-term peace and security.
This is why the EU will continue to work tirelessly with the parties, regional- and international partners, not least within the Middle East Quartet, to promote a return to a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, in line with known parameters; towards a peace that can be sustained.
Let me also speak about Lebanon. On 30 August 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2373 renewing the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for one year. We welcome the Resolution and reaffirm our full support to UNIFIL, including its maritime component, whose deployment within its existing mandate, alongside the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is crucial to maintain stability and security in southern Lebanon and along the Lebanese shores.
UNIFIL must be provided with the necessary means and equipment to guarantee its full operational capability. Several EU Member States are making significant contributions to UNIFIL. In parallel, assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces must continue to allow it to maintain security across the country and fight terrorism.
In Syria, the fighting is not over. The EU firmly believes that there can be no military solution to the conflict and is committed to the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the Syrian State. Only a credible political solution, as defined in UNSCR 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué will ensure the stability of Syria and enable a decisive defeat of Da’esh and other UN-designated terrorist groups in Syria. The EU supports fully Special Envoy De Mistura’s efforts towards this end.
The EU recalls the strict obligation for all parties to the conflict to make the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure such as medical care facilities their primary responsibility, in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law. The EU therefore calls upon the regime and its allies, notably Russia as the Guarantor of the Astana process, to undertake all efforts to ensure: a full cessation of hostilities; the lifting of sieges; and full unhindered sustainable country-wide humanitarian access. We call upon all parties to ensure that humanitarian organisations can conduct their operations unhindered and we remain committed to providing humanitarian assistance to all in need. In this regard, the upcoming renewal of the SCR 2165 is of utmost importance.
The EU strongly condemns the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties, particularly by the Syrian regime. This must end and those responsible must be held accountable.
At the Syria event the EU organised in New York in the margins of the UN General Assembly, HRVP Mogherini launched the Brussels process which aims at maintaining the focus of the international community on the conflict in Syria, the continuing humanitarian situation and sustaining international engagement in support of achieving a lasting political solution, negotiated in Geneva in line with SCR 2254, to the benefit of the Syrian people and the region. The EU has agreed to increase efforts to ensure both the full and effective participation of women and sustained consultation and dialogue with civil society in the political process.
The EU reiterates that it will be ready to assist in the reconstruction of Syria only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, negotiated by the Syrian parties in the conflict on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015) and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, is firmly under way.
Coming to Iraq, first of all, we welcome that Iraqi forces with the support of the Global Coalition have succeeded in inflicting a rapid defeat on Da’esh in Hawijah. We commend the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the Iraqi people on this success, which shows that Da’esh in Iraq is weakening, and that it is close to being eliminated completely as a territorial force. It is essential however that Iraq remains united in the fight against extremism.
In relation to the unilateral referendum held in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the EU continues to support the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.
The EU believes that the general interest of Iraqi people is best served through dialogue and cooperation, that unilateral steps must be avoided, and that all open questions must be resolved through consensual positions based on the full application of the provisions of the Iraqi Constitution. The EU calls on the Federal Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to build on their successful security cooperation in the campaign to liberate Mosul and to engage in a constructive dialogue on all issues across the political and economic spectrum, included the disputed internal boundaries. The EU also urges all parties in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to seek common ground and restore the functioning of its democratic institutions, including by holding regional elections.
In this respect, we are extremely worried about the risk of escalation, not least in Kirkuk. There can be no military solution to inter-Iraqi differences. All parties need to show restraint and refrain from further escalation. It is essential that all parties now engage in a constructive dialogue about all open questions, based on the provisions of the Iraqi Constitution.
* Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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