Create Conditions for Resumed Talks, Special Coordinator Urges Security Council Ahead of Day-Long Debate on Middle East Peace Process

United States Decision to Cut Funds for Palestine Refugee Agency, Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital Draws Concern, Fear of Further Backsliding

Twenty-five years after the historic Oslo Accords, the United Nations had fallen into a pattern of managing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than resolving it, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today, underscoring the Organization’s responsibility to help the sides return to negotiations and quickly show results.

Now is not the time to give up on Oslo, said Nickolay Mladenov via video link from Jerusalem, but rather, to push for policies that rebuilt trust. The lack of political will to resume negotiations had elicited a heavy price: violence, settlement expansion, Palestinian political divide and the dire situation in Gaza under the control of Hamas. Taken together, these elements kill hope, he said.

Absent a credible proposal to underpin final status negotiations, the international community must build the conditions for resumed talks, notably by bolstering consensus around the two-State solution.

However, the United States’ 6 December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had led to protests and low-level violence across the West Bank and Gaza, he said, while its greatly reduced $60 million pledge to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had heightened anxieties for 5.3 million refugees. Allowing the Palestinian national project to backslide risked destabilizing a precarious situation, he stressed, and the recent funding cuts to UNRWA only reinforced those concerns.

In the ensuing open debate, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said the world had borne witness to decisions made in 2017 that denigrated Palestinians’ rights and dismissed the global consensus prevailing for decades. To the United States, he said: We reject this unilateral, provocative decision, which directly contravenes the Charter and United Nations resolutions on the matter. It was an understatement to say that Palestinians faced an existential crisis. He appealed for collective action in following up on the explicit calls made in resolution 2334 (2016).

Israel’s delegate, in turn, said the real threat came from Iran, which allocated $1.5 billion to its proxies, including in Judea and Samaria. More than $800 million was sent each year to Hizbullah alone, which was then used to terrorize Israel and southern Lebanon. These are hard facts that cannot be refuted, he stressed. Iran sought to destroy Israel, destabilize the region and threaten the world. The Council must fully implement resolution 2231 (2015).

Iran’s delegate said Iran-ophobia had become a kind of obsession for the United States and Israeli regimes. The United States’ provocative recognition of Al-Quds Al Sharif as the capital of the Israeli regime revealed its complicity in depriving Palestinians their right to an independent State.

Throughout the day, delegates likewise took issue with the United States decision, with the representative of the Russian Federation stressing that the emotional response reflected how delicate the question of Jerusalem truly was. The solution lay in a prompt resumption of dialogue on all contentious issues. Long-term and fair agreements that dovetailed with previous decisions of the international community were required, reflecting the interests of both sides.

Lebanon’s delegate, meanwhile, said Israel’s claim of exclusive control of Jerusalem, and the United States’ recognition of that city as Israel’s capital, buried any hope of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. Israel’s stated intention to build a wall along the Blue Line and in sensitive occupied areas could lead to conflict.

Jordan’s delegate said decisions about Jerusalem taken outside a comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue were unacceptable. Jordan would continue to engage with the international community to reject any attempt to change Jerusalem’s historical status. She called on States to fully support UNRWA, stressing that implementation of relevant Council resolutions was the only way to create the conditions for balance in the region.

Stressing the need for direct negotiations through both parties � rather than through unilateral resolutions of major donors of the peace process � the speaker from the League of Arab States said the United States decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital flouted all international agreements governing the Middle East peace process.

For her part, the representative of the United States said her country had done nothing to pre-judge the final borders of Jerusalem or alter the status of the holy sites. Rather, it remained committed to the possibility of a two-State solution, if agreed to by both parties. Recalling that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had recently declared the Oslo peace accord dead, she said such words were not those of someone willing to work towards peace.

On that point, Norway’s delegate said his country and the European Union would convene an extraordinary ministerial session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels on 31 January. That meeting would address measures that could help restart final status negotiations, and sought to assist the Palestinian Authority in reinstating control in Gaza, as outlined in the Cairo agreement of 12 October 2017.

Egypt’s delegate similarly advocated support for Egyptian efforts to foster Palestinian unity, which itself was one of the best means for building a strong, Palestinian society capable of being a partner for peace.

Also speaking today were representatives of China, Netherlands, Kuwait, Sweden, France, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Poland, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, CAte d’Ivoire, Peru, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Liechtenstein, Cuba, Pakistan, Indonesia, Japan, Venezuela, Botswana, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Estonia, Argentina, Syria, Brazil, Morocco, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Arab Group), Iraq, Iceland, Qatar, Bangladesh, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Malaysia, as well as the European Union and the Holy See.

A representative of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People made a statement, as well.

The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 4:28 p.m.

Briefing

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said we have all fallen into the paradigm of managing, rather than resolving the conflict. There were those who believed it could be solved through peaceful bilateral negotiations, addressing final status issues and the status of Jerusalem on the basis of prior agreements and United Nations resolutions, and that there must be two States, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.

He said others believed in making unilateral moves that could only lead to a one-State reality. Still others believed in violence. They did not recognize that Palestinians and Israelis both had legitimate national, historic and religious connection to the land. The international community had a duty to prove that they were wrong � and to work with both sides to return to the negotiation table.

As this year would mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Oslo Accords, he said: now is not the time to give up on Oslo, but rather, to push for policies that rebuilt trust, engage on final status issues on the basis of international consensus, and show political leadership to remove obstacles to a sustainable solution. The lack of political will to restore confidence and resume negotiations had been there for years. Peace efforts had floundered. The paralysis had elicited a heavy price: violence; expanding settlement activity; a Palestinian political divide; and a deteriorating situation in Gaza under the control of Hamas. Taken together, these elements kill hope, he said. We either take urgent concrete steps to reverse this perilous course or risk another conflict.

Expressing deep concern about funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) this year, he said the United States’ $60 million pledge was a significant reduction of its traditional contribution, increasing anxieties for the 5.3 million Palestinian refugees supported by UNRWA.

He said protests and a low level of violence across the West Bank and Gaza continued to follow the United States recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Since 18 December 2017, seven Palestinian civilians had been killed by Israeli security forces during protests. On 9 January, an Israeli civilian was shot dead in a drive-by shooting near Nabulus, and on 18 January in Jenin, one Palestinian was killed during an Israeli military raid, reportedly seeking perpetrators of the 9 January attack. During the reporting period, Palestinian militants had fired eight rockets and mortars from Gaza, with three falling inside Israel, he said, and Israeli Defense Forces targeting Hamas military sites in Gaza, and destroying a tunnel from that area into Israel and Egypt under the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Turning to settlements, he said that, on 10 January, Israeli planning authorities advanced plans for more than 1,400 housing units in Area C, while one plan for nine units in Psagot had been approved for construction. Four tenders were published for 500 units that had been processed in 2017. Further, on 31 December 2017, the Central Committee of the Likud party passed a resolution calling for unhindered settlement-building and to extend Israeli law and sovereignty in all areas of liberated settlement in Judea and Samaria. Days later, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Basic Law: Jerusalem, which would likely make any peace agreement difficult for Israeli to transfer control over areas currently within the area it defined as Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction to Palestinian authority. Sixteen Palestinian structures had been demolished due to the lack of building permits that were nearly impossible to obtain, while four other structures were destroyed during a military operation in Jenin.

On the Palestinian political front, he said the Palestinian Central Council, having met in Ramallah on 14 and 15 January, rejected the United States as a partner until it cancelled its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and rescinded the designation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist group and closure of the PLO office in Washington, D.C. It also declared that the Oslo process was no longer valid, and tasked its Executive Committee to suspend recognition of Israel until it recognized the State of Palestine and annulled its annexation of East Jerusalem.

In Gaza, he said implementation of the Egyptian-brokered intra-Palestinian agreement had ground to a halt over issues of tax collection, payment of salaries to public sector employees, the return of Government administration to ministries, and security control. Norway and the European Union would convene an extraordinary session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on 31 January to discuss ways to accelerate efforts towards a two-State solution, and enable the Palestinian Authority to resume full control over Gaza. In Lebanon, efforts continued to consolidate stability following the return of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and the situation of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations was generally quiet, he added.

We are at a critical point in the peace process, he said, with the current volatility hardening positions, which played into the hands of extremists. The international community must build conditions for resumed talks. It was vital to support strengthening Palestinian institutions and enhancing service delivery in the West Bank and Gaza. We can wait no longer to reverse the negative trajectory of this conflict, he said. Every illegal settlement, every person killed and every failed effort in Gaza made it more difficult to overcome divisions. It was time to break that destructive pattern.

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said that 2017 ended on a disheartening note as the world bore witness to decisions denigrating the Palestinian people’s rights and national aspirations, dismissing the global consensus that had prevailed for decades. Nevertheless, he found solace and hope in the resounding rejection of such decisions and the unequivocal reaffirmations of, among other things, respect for the legal, political and historic status of the city of Jerusalem. Palestine’s position rejecting the 6 December 2017 decision on Jerusalem by the United States had been fully conveyed to the Council and remained unwavering, he said, adding: We remain insistent on respect for the law and our rights, and we reject this unilateral, provocative decision, which directly contravenes the Charter and United Nations resolutions on the matter.

That position was not intended as disrespect and should not be translated as such by anyone, he said. On the contrary, it was a position rooted in full respect for the law, for the principles of justice and equity and for the decades long international consensus on the parameters of a peaceful solution. It was a position of respect for the legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people who had been so patient and steadfast despite the grave injustices they continued to endure. No price tag can be put on the rights and dignity of any people, who would not be quashed by threats, intimidation or punitive action. Palestinians remained resolute in calling for the application of international law to the question of Palestine. Nothing that the Palestinians had ever done should be misconstrued or cynically portrayed as a rejection of peace. It was, therefore, appalling to witness the resurgence of claims by the Israeli Prime Minister and other Government officials that the President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, was not a man of peace. History and facts spoke for themselves and such claims could not be farther from the truth.

Against that backdrop and the ever-worsening situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it was an understatement to say that the Palestinian people were facing an existential crisis, he said. Palestine had rung the alarm bells before to no avail; yet it was compelled to do so again due to the gravity of the situation. The world was witnessing in shocking detail the dehumanization of the Palestinian people, their subjugation and deprivation, attempts to erase their history, heritage and identity, and the systematic decimation of their communities and of their will and hope. It is a crisis unquestionably about our very existence in our homeland, our rights, including to self-determination and return, and our survival as a people, he stressed. Palestinians were openly degraded and demonized by the occupying Power and the public was being incited against them to the point of outright extremism and terror.

Such actions not only contradicted international law and human rights, but set a dangerous precedent in the Council far beyond the confines of the Palestinian question, he said. He appealed for compassion and the upholding of humanitarian law and principles of collective responsibilities, urging donors to enhance support to UNRWA. In the span of a year, Palestinians had seen their hopes for peace rise up, only to be suddenly dashed. Now was the time for collective action in following up on the explicit calls made in resolution 2334 (2016). It was also time for the international community to mobilize the political will to implement the relevant resolutions and revive the peace option, averting the grave impact the continued unravelling of the situation would have regionally and globally. He reiterated calls for a collective peace process under international auspices aimed at achieving a just solution and fulfilling the long-denied rights of the Palestinian people.

DANNY DANON (Israel) said the real threat came from Iran. Brave people had marched through Iranian streets demanding a better life and chanting: Not Gaza, not Lebanon. I give my life for Iran. He praised their moral fight against their Government. Detailing dangerous Iranian regime activities, he said Israel had warned of Iranian tentacles of terror, cited evidence of its build up in Lebanon through its proxy, Hizbullah, and its efforts to sneak into Israel. In fact, Iran had invested $35 billion in Syria. He then shared classified information demonstrating the extent of Iran’s military build-up in Syria, so the world would understand the growing threat posed by that country.

He said there were 82,000 fighters under direct Iranian authority in Syria, including 3,000 members of its Revolutionary Guard, 9,000 from Hizbullah and 10,000 violent Shia militants from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran also commanded 65,000 local Syrian fighters. These are hard facts that cannot be refuted, he stressed.

Moreover, Iran claimed that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Syria was on the run, he said. If that were so, then why did Iran keep sending in its forces, recruiting extremists and building bases to house fighters for the long run, he wondered. The answer was so that it could destabilize the region, threaten Israel and terrorize the free world. Iran was building missile factories in Syria, turning innocent people into human shields. It was turning Syria into the largest military base in the world, seeking to control that country, which it required in order to destabilize the region. The Shiite Crescent has reached our doorstep, he warned. Iran was ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

He said Israel faced that risk on its northern border, through Hizbullah and Iranian-Syrian efforts. We can no longer distinguish between Lebanon and Syria, he said. Israel supported the 1974 agreement on the engagement in Syria and it would take action to protect its citizens. The Shiite Crescent was more powerful than ever. The international community should be concerned about Iran, as the Iranian presence in Syria would spill into Europe and across the globe.

Major European corporations and countries had signed multi-billion-dollar deals with Iran in 2015, he said, citing a $720 million solar deal in that context. Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran had increased its military spending. In 2014, 17 per cent of Government spending went to the military, in 2017, it jumped to 22 per cent, or $23 billion. In 2018, Iran’s military budget would only grow. The money earned from your economic deals would be spent on ballistic missile testing and promoting terror, he said.

Moreover, Iran allocated $1.5 billion to its proxies in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Judea and Samaria, he said, among other places. More than $800 million was sent each year to Hizbullah alone, which was then used to terrorize Israel and southern Lebanon. The lifting of sanctions under the Plan of Action had released $100 billion of frozen assets, which Iran was using to increase its slush fund for terror. Iran sought to destroy Israel, destabilize the region and threaten the world. When Iran takes control, we are all in danger, he said, pressing the Council to fully implement resolution 2231 (2015). You cannot allow Iran to fund worldwide terror, he said. The Council must unite to confront that menace to international stability.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said that there was a lack of courageous leaders who were willing to step forward, acknowledge hard truths and make compromises in order to achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. In a recent speech to the PLO Central Council, Palestinian President Abbas declared the landmark Oslo peace accord dead, rejected any United States role in peace talks, insulted the United States President and invoked an ugly and fictional past that painted Israel as a colonial project engineered by Europeans. President Abbas’ speech had gotten little attention in the media, despite the fact that it invoked outrageous and indulgent conspiracy theories. Such words were not those of someone who was willing to work towards peace. The United States had done nothing to pre-judge the final borders of Jerusalem or alter the status of the holy sites, rather, the United States remained committed to the possibility of a two-State solution, if agreed to by both parties. Peace required compromise that took into account the core issues of both sides, which was her country’s primary goal. Hate-filled speeches and end runs around negotiations took the issue nowhere, she said, stressing that peace would not be achieved without courageous leaders.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that the relaunching of the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue had been made considerably more difficult due to settlement activity and inflammatory rhetoric. Rather than advancing a viable plan, the international community had borne witness to well-known decisions on Jerusalem, which had been met by categorical rejections. The emotional response to those decisions reflected how delicate the question of Jerusalem truly was, he said, expressing further concern about the decision to cut financing to the Palestinians, including to UNRWA. The solution to the situation lay in a prompt resumption of dialogue on all contentious issues, including the status of Jerusalem. Long-term and fair agreements that would dovetail with the previously adopted decisions of the international community were required, reflecting the interests of both sides. The Russian Federation would continue to support efforts to break the deadlock of the peace process, including through contact with the relevant States. The conflict would only be resolved through collective efforts. The Russian Federation believed that any inter- or intra-Palestinian disputes must be resolved through direct dialogue.

In Syria, territory in the northern part of the country had been cleansed of ISIL/Da’esh, setting the stage for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said. Under the Geneva format, constitutional reform and elections would take place in Syria, under the auspices of the United Nations. He called attention to the persistent, difficult situation in Libya, calling for a political settlement to that situation, while also expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, which could only be alleviated through a political settlement.

WU HAITAO (China) said the question of Palestine was at core of Middle East peace. The humanitarian situation in Gaza was grim. The Council must remain united and promote a political solution with urgency. The two-State solution was the right approach and the international community must remain committed to relevant United Nations resolutions and the land-for-peace initiative, among others. China supported the just cause of Palestinians to restore their legitimate national rights, as well as their right to a fully sovereign independent State based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This position will not change, he said, citing China’s four-point proposal which called for a political process based on the two-State solution; adherence to durable security; coordinated international efforts; and a holistic approach to promote peace through development. China would proceed from that basis. Efforts to resolve the status of Jerusalem should adhere to the principles of respect for diverse history, equity and fairness, implementation of the international consensus and peaceful coexistence. He called for greater support for UNRWA and for countries hosting Palestinian refugees.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that a two-State solution was the only viable way of fulfilling the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike, to live in peace, security and dignity. He expressed concern about developments on the ground, with tensions increasing over the past two months, and condemned all acts of violence, including the firing of rockets from Gaza, the killing of an Israeli citizen in the West Bank on 9 January and the cynical use by militants of the crossing at Kerem Shalom/Karm Abu Salem as a cover for building a tunnel. He was also concerned by the high number of Palestinian casualties in protests and confrontations in the past months. The Netherlands strongly opposed the recent Israeli announcements on settlement expansion. Settlements were illegal under international law and were an obstacle to peace. Both parties should urgently take significant positive steps to build confidence and improve the situation on the ground. A political horizon for the two-State solution was needed, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said today was the first time since becoming a Council member that his country was participating on the Palestinian issue. No party must be allowed to avoid implementation of binding Council resolutions through unrealistic excuses. Yet, Israel was in breach of resolution 2334 (2016), as it continued its aggressive policies, unilateral measures and provocations in the absence of any serious call by the Council to end its aggressions and comply with its 1949 Geneva Convention obligations. Its unprecedented settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had become a daily routine for Palestinians, confirming the need to end that situation through a two-State solution. He welcomed the demand by the General Assembly and the Council to end the occupation, reaffirming the importance of the land-for-peace initiative and the Arab peace initiative. He cited United Nations principles, including not to infringe on Jerusalem’s special status, and regarding the importance of measures that sought to do so. It was unacceptable to think that unilateral decisions would ease the conflict. He encouraged all donor States to provide UNRWA with funding, noting that Kuwait had offered $7.9 million in December 2017 and January 2018. He reaffirmed East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, and expressed support for all legal and peaceful efforts by the Palestinians at the national and international levels to exert sovereignty over Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said that only a two-State solution, based on known parameters, international law and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, could fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians and achieve the security and peace they deserve. Developments on the ground continued to deteriorate. The rapid settlement expansion, challenges to the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem and the shrinking space for civil society in Israel and Palestine continued to undermine the prospects for peace. He was also concerned by Israeli legislative initiatives and policies that risked prejudging future negotiations and undermining the prospects for a two State solution. That was particularly true with regard to legislation and policies that would undermine the status of Jerusalem, including the continued Israeli policy of revoking the residency rights of Palestinians, in violation of international humanitarian law.

FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France) said deadly crises in the region had neither normalized nor marginalized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and escalation carried the risk of unbridled regional conflict. Having taken note of the United States’ commitment to seek resumed negotiations with a view to a final status agreement, he anticipated proposals to be made in that regard, notably within the international framework. On 22 January, the Palestinian President had reaffirmed his commitment to peace rooted in a two-State principle and he recalled the parameters as: two States living in peace and security along secure 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land exchanges and Jerusalem as the future capital of both States. A regional approach with economic incentives could foster a peace agreement, but could not supplant one. The parties were at a crossroads, where each parameter was imperilled. Also, there were 600,000 settlers � 200,000 of them in East Jerusalem � and he condemned settlements as illegal, confirmed by resolution 2334 (2016). The status of Jerusalem must be determined by the parties in an agreement, where it would become the capital of both Israel and Palestine. France recognized no sovereignty over Jerusalem and denounced the United States’ announcement which departed from international consensus and especially Council resolution 478 (1980). He expressed regret that Israeli law was making it difficult to share Jerusalem under a future peace agreement. Until a fair solution to refugee question was reached, UNRWA’s provision of services would be indispensable. The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting on 31 January should reaffirm the financial and political commitment to the two-State solution. We need a commitment from all, beginning with the United States partner, he said.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said that peace and security in the Middle East remained a matter of serious concern. Issues ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Syrian and Yemeni crises and the situation in Libya had dominated much of the Council’s discussion for the past year. The geostrategic importance of the Middle East region was well known, but for the Horn of Africa, the situation had a direction implication on its peace and stability. It was already witnessing the impact of the Gulf crisis, and the fallout from the Yemeni conflict was being felt across the Red Sea. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the core of the dangerous situation that had defined the Middle East for the past several decades. As much as Ethiopia supported the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, it also supported the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the right of Palestine to exist as a free and independent State.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLA�Z (Bolivia) regretted that there were 5 million Palestinian refugees and that those living in the Gaza Strip were suffering under an inhumane blockade. It was discouraging that there were efforts to expand settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, while Palestinian children were being abducted and held in Israeli jails. Bolivia rejected the obvious intention of the Israeli Government regarding the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian lands, which was a clear violation of several resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly. He expressed dismay regarding the decision by the United States to cut funding to UNRWA and believed that decision would have a significant impact on the humanitarian assistance the Agency was able to provide to needy people. The reduction in funding would mean the denial of access to basic services, including education and health care, to people who had been stripped of their lands, livelihoods and history. His country condemned the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, said that her country strongly supported all initiatives aimed at strengthening security and stability in the Middle East. The international community should seek to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian question by reviving the peace process, which was the only way to resolve all final status issues. Poland believed the aspirations of both parties regarding Jerusalem must be fulfilled through negotiations, adding that the status quo put in place in 1967 pertaining to the holy sites must be upheld. Her delegation supported a two-State solution that took into account national aspirations, including the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and independence and Israel’s right to ensure its security. She expressed deep concern about the deteriorating financial situation of UNRWA, which could result in serious security and humanitarian consequences.

STEPHEN BENEDICT HICKEY (United Kingdom) said his country envisioned Israeli and Palestinian States living side by side within secure recognized borders, and Jerusalem as their shared capital. The United Kingdom would contribute to all credible efforts to restart the peace process. Statements that demonized the Jewish people were unacceptable and he encouraged Palestinian leaders to implement recommendations from the Quartet report on incitement. Both sides must adhere to previous agreements. The Palestinian Central Council’s recommendation to de recognize Israel were non-binding and unconstructive, and he welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s recognition of Israel and support for the two-State solution. Settlements and demolitions must be halted, and humanitarian efforts supported, especially in Gaza and including for the full return of the Palestinian Authority to that area. Progress must also be made on reconciliation, in line with the Quartet principles. UNRWA must become more efficient and must be able to continue to carry out its functions, he said, stressing that unexpected reductions in donor disbursements could undermine regional stability. The United Kingdom shared the United States’ desire to end the conflict and its efforts to submit proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. It would contribute to refugee compensation and enable trade and investment among the United Kingdom, Israel, a future Palestinian State and neighbours.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said his country favoured a solution based on dialogue to any conflict. It was essential for Palestinians and Israelis to engage in direct frank dialogue without preconditions. The only just solution was one in which aspirations were fulfilled in the framework of two States living in peace and security. Negotiations must be held in the context of the Arab peace initiative and Council resolutions, as must efforts to address the status of Jerusalem. A just solution based on dialogue meant that none would see their aspirations fulfilled entirely. While Israel was entitled to live in peace and security, Palestinians’ right to a State could not be denied. Violence should cease immediately, he said, with parties adhering to international law and refraining from unilateral actions. The international community should promote dialogue while the Council should take all efforts necessary to that end.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (CAte d’Ivoire) deplored the entrenchment of positions seen since the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and decision to transfer its embassy to that city. The bogging down of the peace process and stiffening of positions were liable to permanently undermine efforts to create two States living side by side in peace and security. He reaffirmed support for the two-State solution, noting that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated in the framework of United Nations resolutions. Israeli and Palestinian actors must engage in dialogue and abandon any unilateral action that could alienate prospects for a peaceful political solution. He expressed regret over the United States’ reduced contribution to UNRWA, encouraging Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to continue dialogue, and the Authority in particular to show an openness to dialogue with neighbouring countries, especially over the welcoming of Palestinian refugees. On Syria, he urged the fact-finding mission to shed light on circumstances surrounding the use of chemical weapons and favoured a consensus-based mechanism to ensure accountability for the perpetrators. He also welcomed France’s 23 January launch of an international partnership against impunity for the use of chemical weapons, as well as the extension of the mechanism to deliver assistance across borders to besieged areas, calling for an end to hostilities in de-escalation areas.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed support for a two-State solution based on 1967 borders and negotiated by Israel and Palestine, stating that there was no alternative and no Plan B. It was important to act in conformity with international law and the United Nations Charter. Peru urged parties directly involved to end, investigate and punish any violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. Hate speech, anti-Semitism and discrimination in all their forms must be rejected, and relevant Security Council resolutions complied with. Noting the Secretary-General’s readiness to contribute to a resumption of negotiations, he said it was important for UNRWA to have sufficient support and predictable financing.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), Council President for January, speaking in his national capacity, said the eighth international meeting on Syria, held in Astana on 22 December 2017, had produced several documents promoting confidence-building with the aim of combating terrorism and consolidating the political process in that country. Kazakhstan would cooperate closely with the Syrian national dialogue in Sochi, Russian Federation, from 29 January to 3 February, he added. In Yemen, he said the coalition must keep all ports open to facilitate humanitarian assistance. Emphasizing his country’s support for the two-State solution and the work of UNRWA, which must continue without financial cutbacks, he endorsed the call by the United States’ representative for leaders with political will, great vision, conviction and commitment to peace.

MOHAMED ASIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said that his country had always believed that an independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, established on the 1967 borders, living in peace and harmony with Israel, was the only solution to the seven-decade conflict. He called on Israel to fully implement the decisions of the Council and to respect the legal obligations of the United Nations Charter. On Syria, he said that, while he recognized the progress being made in finding an end to the conflict, with the all-Syria congress expected to be convened at the end of January, much more needed to be done. On Yemen, he said that it had suffered the worst famine in years, while violence still prevailed in Libya. Peace was a prerequisite and consequence of development, and constructive and lasting solutions must be found in those countries.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said peace in the Middle East seemed more remote than ever. Israel’s claim of exclusive control of Jerusalem, and the United States’ recognition of that city as Israel’s capital, buried any hope of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. It is making our people despair, and desperate people do desperate things, she said. A failure by the international community and the Security Council to reaffirm the core principles of peace could plunge the Middle East into more conflict, with dire global implications. On southern Lebanon, she said Israel’s stated intention to build a wall along the Blue Line and in sensitive occupied areas threatened to destabilize the situation and could lead to conflict. It also reflected Israel’s total disregard for Council resolution 1701 (2006), she said, urging the Council to prevent further Israeli provocations. She went on to say that, despite Lebanon’s economic, social and security challenges, the conflict in Syria and the heavy burden of hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon’s leaders were committed to holding parliamentary elections in May.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that the repeated failure of the Council to act on the most serious crimes in Syria was particularly apparent as chemical weapons attacks continued unabated, in blatant disregard of the most fundamental rules of international law and with horrific consequences for that country’s people. Liechtenstein deplored the discontinuation of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, whose investigative capacity and preventive dimension was urgently required. The Council had a crucial responsibility to protect civilians from the most serious crimes under international law, he said, calling attention to the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen which had reached unprecedented dimensions. His country was concerned about the already-fragile peace process in the Middle East that had been further jeopardized by recent developments that put at risk the possibility of a two-State solution, which was the only promising avenue for achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.

ANAYANSI RODRA�GUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed her deep concern about the situation in the Middle East and the lack of progress in finding a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She rejected the unilateral statement made by the President of the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That was a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and international law. The Security Council must uphold the responsibility entrusted to it by the Charter in the maintenance of peace and security. It must call on Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory and to comply with resolutions adopted by the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The blockade of Gaza must end immediately. Cuba would continue to support a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-State solution.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that the global peace and security landscape remained plagued by challenges. In fundamental ways, the world had gone into reverse. Nowhere was that fraught situation more apparent than in the Middle East. The two-State solution was in peril. That morning, there had been a glaring flight from reality, with some speakers trying to deflect attention from the tragedy of the Palestinian people. Occupiers had no option but to present alternative facts. The decision by certain countries to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem had inflamed the situation. The legal status of Jerusalem was unambiguous. When principles were trumped by self-serving interests, reason was supplanted by threat and intimidation. The Middle East could only seek the dividend of peace if it was built on the foundation of justice.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that he hoped that in 2018 there would be a final end to the conflict in Syria and the beginning of a political transition process that was accepted by all parties, which would make it possible for its entire population to be part of a better life. He remained deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Yemen that had continued to deteriorate because of ongoing conflict, collapsing basic services and economic decline. Yemenis had suffered for too long. They needed the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law by protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure, and by facilitating rapid, safe and unfettered humanitarian access. He called on all parties to cease hostilities and engage meaningfully within the United Nations to achieve a lasting political settlement. The subject of Jerusalem was widely known by the international community to be a very sensitive one, and the legally binding status of Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem under the United Nations Charter was unquestionable.

JOA�O PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, European Union, reiterated its firm commitment to the two-State solution. The aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem must be fulfilled, and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both States. The European Union was also stepping up its efforts to provide a political horizon for solving the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement and construction and related activities, including recent evictions in East Jerusalem and plans leading to the forced transfer of Bedouin communities in the West Bank, was clear and had not changed. The European Union remained strongly opposed to Israel’s settlement policy, which was illegal under international law.

He also expressed concern over the recent significant reductions of funding for UNRWA. Reduced support would have serious security and humanitarian consequences not only in the West Bank and Gaza but also in neighbouring countries. He stressed that the European Union had provided extensive and reliable support to UNRWA since 1971.

SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the main source of instability in the Middle East, and failure to achieve a comprehensive and just settlement would significantly contribute to regional tensions and continued violence. Implementation of relevant Council resolutions was the only way to create the conditions for balance in the region. Progress could not be made through unilateral measures, she said, adding that decisions about Jerusalem taken outside a comprehensive resolution of the Israel-Palestinian issue were unacceptable. Jordan would continue to engage with the international community to confront and reject any attempt to change Jerusalem’s historical status. Quoting the King of the country, she said Jerusalem must be open to all followers of all Abrahamic religions. She went on to call on the international community to extend full support to UNRWA, adding that, in Syria, the priority was to find a political settlement. Hopefully, the ninth round of Geneva talks would pave a way to peace and stability in Syria.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that, to restore peace in the Middle East, it was urgent that the Council applied solutions envisioned by the Charter to put an end to the humanitarian crises that continued to ravage ancient peoples, religions and cultures. The Palestinian-Israeli peace process was at the centre of the maelstrom sweeping the region and was one of the longest-standing conflicts on the Council’s agenda. He reiterated the urgent need to resume negotiations between the parties of the central issues of the conflict, on the basis of all relevant Council resolutions. He underscored that there could be no doubt that the Holy City of Jerusalem had a very special place not only in the hearts of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but also for worshippers of the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions everywhere.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the United States’ provocative decision to recognize Al-Quds Al Sharif as the capital of the Israeli regime revealed the complicity of the Israeli and United States regimes to deprive the Palestinians of their basic right to establish their own independent State with that city as its capital. Illegal settlements were both a grave breach of the fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime which clearly indicated that the Israeli regime never had any interest in peace, he said. Emboldened by impunity provided by the United States, the Israel regime had shamelessly and flagrantly violated at least 86 Council resolutions since 1948. The United States was never an honest partner for Middle East peace and it never would be. He said the Council had failed to act on genuine issues such as the occupation of Palestinian territory and the indiscriminate bombing of Yemen. Promoting and spreading Iran-ophobia had become a kind of obsession for the United States and the Israeli regime, perpetrated by those who sold or bought United States he added.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that his country intended to strengthen its political engagement to stabilize the Middle East. During a visit to Israel and Palestine in December 2017, his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs reiterated Japan’s support for a two-State solution and urged both parties to engage constructively in negotiations, in which the United States would still play an important role. Japan would continue to support UNRWA, he said, adding that the international community must be united in upholding a two-State solution through negotiations on the basis of United Nations resolutions and agreements previously reached by the parties. The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting at the end of January would be a good opportunity to that end.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, League of Arab States, affirmed its support for Middle East peace efforts. The Council’s meeting today was taking place against the background of the United States decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and transfer its embassy there. That decision flouted all the international agreements that governed the Middle East peace process. In order to have global peace, direct negotiations were needed through both parties and not through unilateral resolutions of major donors of the peace process. The League of Arab States had rejected the United States’ 6 December 2017 position on Jerusalem, and had done so during a meeting of the League of Arab States in Cairo on 9 December 2017. The statement by the United States had undermined the peace process. On the vote on Jerusalem in the General Assembly, he noted that the United States had used economic threats to get countries to change their stance on that matter.

SAMUEL MONCADA ACOSTA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed that organization’s abiding solidarity with the Palestinian people. The ongoing Israeli occupation and the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a whole remained a serious threat to international peace and security that required urgent attention. Emphasizing that the Council must fulfil its duties under the United Nations Charter, he said resolution 2334 (2016) was the most viable path to peace. Provocations, unilateral actions and the escalation of tensions were incompatible with the pursuit of peace, he said, adding that contempt for the Council and disregard for its resolutions would exacerbate the situation.

Addressing the decision by some Governments to move their embassies to Jerusalem, he said unilateral actions taken in flagrant disrespect of Council resolutions, including resolution 478 (1980), jeopardized prospects for a two State solution while having a negative impact on the situation on the ground. He called for an immediate halt to settlement activities and a complete lifting of the blockade on Gaza, adding that threats against UNRWA could lead to a humanitarian disaster in Gaza with potentially destabilizing effects.

NAME TO COME (Botswana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that he supported the search for a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East and expressed concern that the question of Palestine had remained unresolved for many decades. He was also concerned about the escalation of violence, which had undermined all international efforts for a lasting solution. His country supported the principle of self-determination, and in that respect, supported the Palestinian people in their quest for sovereignty and independent statehood. There was no alternative to the two-State solution of two sovereign States living side by side. He urged all Member States to avoid taking unilateral actions that would jeopardize peace in the Middle East. He regretted the decision of the United States on 6 December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

EDGAR SISA (South Africa) said that another year could not be allowed to proceed without progress on the Middle East peace process. New challenges, as had been seen with the developments pertaining to the status of Jerusalem, had compounded existing negative developments such as the continuing Israeli illegal settlement activity. The best option for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict was premised upon the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence, which entailed a principled position against the military occupation of the Palestinian people and their land. It was also premised on the right of both the peoples of Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace in their own States, and the belief that there could be no military solution to the conflict. His country was deeply concerned that unilateral action by some Member States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel undermined the revival of a peace process.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Arab Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said Jerusalem was the mother of all cities which, for 1,400 years, had been an Arab and Muslim city, open to all religions. It was the eternal historical capital of Palestine and so it would remain, he said. Over 50 years, the Security Council had adopted several resolutions which emphasized that unilateral decisions affecting Jerusalem’s status were null and void, and those resolutions cannot be ignored. In that vein, the transfer of any embassy to Jerusalem would be null and void, fuel tension, undermine trust in the peace process and affect any chance for peace based on the two-State solution. He went on to say it was high time for the Security Council to take a firm position against Iran, which had continued its flagrant interference in the internal affairs of Arab States while spreading and supporting terrorism. On Syria, he noted Saudi Arabia’s efforts to unify that country’s opposition factions, and called for immediate humanitarian access nationwide, the prompt release of detainees and the dignified return of refugees.

SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) said that as the international community continued to seek avenues to advance the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian question, efforts must remain focused on paving the way for Israel and Palestine to return to meaningful negotiations. There was no substitute to an agreed multilateral approach for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum in a sustainable manner. Achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the question of Palestine was imperative for the attainment of durable peace and security in the Middle East. It was for that reason that he acknowledged the adoption of the General Assembly resolution on the status of Jerusalem on 21 December 2017, and called upon all parties to respect relevant United Nations resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

SVEN JARGENSON (Estonia) said that a just and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the two-State solution, must be worked towards. The regional context, including the ongoing radicalization and the spread of terrorism, made it even more urgent to end the conflict. The status quo was not an option, as the viability of the two-State solution was constantly being eroded by emerging new facts on the ground. He affirmed their country’s position that the status of Jerusalem had to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant United Nations resolutions. Estonia was also concerned about the funding cuts to UNRWA, which had been an essential lifeline for many Palestinians for decades, providing basic services, including food and support as well as children’s education and health care. Humanitarian aid should not be politicized, he said.

MARTA�N GARCA�A MORITA�N (Argentina) said that his country supported all efforts aimed at achieving peace and security in the Middle East. He called for unilateral provocative action to be avoided. Turning to the question of Palestine, he reiterated his country’s firm support for a lasting solution to the Palestinian question based on the two-State solution. He reaffirmed his support for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people for self-determination. Settlements ran counter to international law and weakened the possibility for a two-State solution, and led to a continued unsustainable status quo. Jews, Muslims and Christians must have access to sacred sites, and any attempt to minimize that was unacceptable and would not contribute to finding a solution to the conflict.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said the unilateral decision by the United States to relocate its embassy to the occupied city of Jerusalem was a flagrant violation of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. That country’s action had no value whatsoever and would not alter the city’s legal status. The United States veto of a draft Council resolution on the status of Jerusalem demonstrated that country’s total disregard for international law and its unlimited support to the racist, expansionist and Zionist Israeli regime at the expense of the Palestinian people. The Assembly’s related resolution, meanwhile, showed how limited United States influence could be. Despite years of war, Syria had never lost its moral compass, always maintaining its principled position on the Palestinian question, he said, called for the State of Palestine to be given full membership in the United Nations.

It was regrettable that the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General had disregarded the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan, he said. Israel had continued to confiscate territory in the Syrian Golan, expanding settlements, exploiting resources, distorting history and destroying culture. Responding to the statement by the representative of Saudi Arabia, he said that to reach a settlement to the conflict in Syria, the regime of the Saudi royal family must stop issuing fatwahs that fuelled terrorism. It must also stop giving support to more than 100 armed terrorist groups in Syria, including the supply of toxic chemical substances. Saudi Arabia had been spreading terrorism for decades, he said, calling for a decisive international response.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said that at the heart of the situation in the Middle East was the need to work towards a Palestinian State that was fully sovereign, economically viable and territorially contiguous. His country believed that the moment had arrived to bring about a political process that would put an end to the war in Syria, while the military victory achieved in 2017 against extremism in Iraq should be followed by a successful process of reconstruction, economic recovery and national reconciliation. Without a cessation of hostilities, the humanitarian tragedy in Yemen would continue, and in that context, Brazil called on all actors in a position of influence to help bring the parties to the negotiating table and put an end to the fighting as soon as possible.

HICHAM OUSSIHAMOU (Morocco) said the King, as Chair of the Committee on Jerusalem, attached great importance to Palestinians’ rights to an independent State along 4 June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Government had always sought to achieve just peace in the Middle East based on relevant resolutions and the Arab peace initiative, and made efforts to revive the stalled political process. Israel’s illegal Judaization activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory allowed no prospects for solutions in the near future. Jerusalem was a symbol of coexistence for the Arab region. As Chair of the Committee, the King had expressed the concern of Arab and Muslim countries about the United States decision, and on 6 December 2017, sent a letter to the Secretary-General stressing that any attempt to alter the historic status of Jerusalem would lead to a religious conflict. Morocco called for preserving the city’s legal and historic status and encouraged the Council to push for a final settlement of the conflict based on international resolutions.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOGLU (Turkey), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the United States decision violated international law. It demonstrated a blatant disregard of Palestinians’ historic, legal and natural rights, and further, a painful affront to the religious rights of Christians and Muslims worldwide, as well as universal values. He called on States to refrain from recognizing that decision and to implement resolution 478 (1980). Al-Quds Al-Sharif was a holy city for all three monotheistic religions, he recalled.

As such, he said all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of East Jerusalem were illegal, stressing that OIC was appalled by the actions of violent settlers and occupation forces in occupied Al Khalil/Hebron, which threatened to transform a solvable political conflict into a never ending religious war. This must be urgently averted, he said. Implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) was paramount to advancing peace and States must uphold their obligations for accountability for any violations. He reiterated calls for lifting Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, and in light of the recent United States decision to reduce funding to UNRWA, underscored the need for funding to that Agency.

Speaking in his national capacity, he described Turkey’s efforts in fostering peace in Syria. At the last round of Astana talks, confidence-building measures had been adopted, he said, adding that the Astana and Sochi platforms were complementary to the United Nations process. Turkey’s resolve to fight terrorism was firm. Terrorism could have no religious or ethnic justification. On 21 January, Turkey had launched counter-terrorism operation Olive Branch, in line with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, targeting terrorists, hideouts, weapons, vehicles and equipment. All protections were being taken to protect civilians. Among its goals was to neutralize terrorists in Afrin, he said, stressing that Turkey would take all measures to protect its national security.

SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates), speaking for the Arab Group, said that Security Council resolution 242 (1967) laid the foundation for any acceptable settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which would require Israel’s withdrawal from the Arab territories. The resolution remained the only way to address the question of Palestine. The Arab Peace Initiative presented an historic opportunity for Israel to have normal relations not only with its Arab neighbours, but also with other Muslim countries. The Amman Summit reiterated last March that the initiative was a strategic option for Arab States. Unfortunately, Israel proposed only one alternative: the continuation of its occupation, the perpetuation of its colonization and diminishing Palestinian sovereignty. Israel had also succeeded in burying the 1993 Oslo Accord and practically ended it by enforcing the brutal apartheid system in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and converting the Gaza Strip into one big prison.

He also addressed final status issues and affirmed the Arab Group’s firm rejection and strong condemnation of the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the occupying Power, and the decision to move its embassy to that city. The Group considered that action to be null and void, and a serious and dangerous breach of international law and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. Even though the policy did not have any legal impact that would change the status of Jerusalem, the Arab Group considered it a clear violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and an attack on both Arab and Muslim nations, as well as on Christians around the world. It was also a dangerous development that undermined the peace process and the two-State solution. The Security Council and Member States should not recognize any unilateral measures that targeted Jerusalem’s character or its demographic composition, and should refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

TORE HATTREM (Norway) said that settlement activities undermined prospects for a two-State solution, and should stop. With the support of relevant parties and stakeholders, Norway and the European Union had decided to convene an extraordinary ministerial session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels on 31 January. That meeting would address measures that might have a positive impact on the efforts to restart final status negotiations. It would also discuss efforts to assist the Palestinian Authority to reinstate its control in Gaza, as outlined in the Cairo agreement of 12 October 2017. Delivery of essential services by UNRWA was crucial to addressing the basic needs of Palestinian refugees. The financial situation of the Agency was critical and there was a risk that it would not be able to deliver on its mandate.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said it was, more than ever, important to have peace on the horizon in the Middle East. Iraq was particularly concerned by the Palestinians’ dire humanitarian situation. He called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities, and for those countries which had not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so soon. Doing so would be an investment in peace. Renewed interest in the Palestinian issue was an opportunity to renew direct negotiations under the aegis of the United States, European Union and Arab States, he said, welcoming also the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative.

EINAR GUNNARSSON (Iceland) said more attention should be paid to the conflict in Yemen, where civilians were paying a huge price in a senseless war. Compared to other conflicts in the Middle East, the Israel-Palestine conflict should be soluble, he said, emphasizing that actions which led away from the two State solution, or which risked undermining trust, enflaming passions and sparking violence, must be avoided. That applied equally to violence by Palestinians and to disproportionate Israeli military responses, as well as the latter country’s settlement policy. He added that failure to address the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees could potentially breed extremism among young people, and that undermining UNRWA now would undermine Middle East peace and stability.

MOHAMED OMAR MOHAMED GAD (Egypt) said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was worsening: Palestinians could no longer enjoy their freedom, exercise their right to self-determination, create an independent State or live in peace and security. The international community was on the horns of a dilemma, as people watched the United Nations closely. Indeed, any country could allow itself to leave the international community or sign treaties with perfect impunity. All actors must do their utmost to end the occupation, as regional tensions were growing. Institutions are failing, he said, opening the door for some to practise aggression and violence, and disseminate extremist and racist ideologies. We have to act, he said. Egypt had always been looking for ways to balance the humanitarian situation in Gaza, efforts that did not absolve the occupying Power of its responsibilities related to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Checkpoint measures must be eased and construction activities restarted. Stressing that any action that was not aligned with international law had no legal status, he said Egypt had regularly called on parties to return to the negotiating table on the basis of the two-State solution. Any alternative not agreed by the parties would only increase tensions. He advocated support for Egyptian efforts to foster Palestinian unity, which itself was one of the best means for building a strong, Palestinian society capable of being a partner for peace.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) renewed support for all efforts aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, expressing support for two States living side by side, and a Palestinian State established along 1967 borders, in line with Council resolutions and the Arab peace initiative. The parties must deal with Al-Quds Al Sharif as part of comprehensive settlement of the Middle East question, she said, citing Council resolution 478 (1980). Indeed, Al-Quds Al Sharif was a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations. Qatar did not recognize any efforts to change the legal position or demographic structure of that city. She underscored need to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians. More broadly, she called for stabilizing situation in Syria, in line with the Charter and international law. Also, illegal unilateral measures against Qatar had grave impacts on regional peace and security, affecting the campaign to combat terrorism. She rejected any violation of Qatar’s sovereignty, emphasizing that her country had a legitimate right to maintain national security.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country was deeply concerned by unilateral decisions and actions which compromised the standing of East Jerusalem as a final status issue. The legal status of Jerusalem must be preserved within the framework of relevant United Nations resolutions, he said, urging the Council to prevail upon Israel to immediately halt its illegal settlement activities, lift the blockade on Gaza and end all forms of occupation and violence. Enhanced, predictable and sustainable financing for UNRWA must be ensured, he said, urging Member States to help uphold the Agency’s ability to make a difference in the lives of Palestinian refugees. Concluding, he said Bangladesh expected the Council to show unity of purpose in finding peaceful, just and lasting solutions to all protracted conflicts and related humanitarian situations worldwide, including the Palestinian question.

FODA� SECK (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, stressed the Committee’s deep concerns that Israel was continuing the process of imposing game-changing realities on the ground. Earlier in January, Israel’s Parliament passed a bill that would make it next to impossible for any future Israeli Government to cede any part of Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, to an independent Palestinian State as part of peace negotiations. The Committee deplored all human rights violations against the Palestinian people and the breaches of international humanitarian law that continued to be perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Until the occupation of that territory ended and Palestinians gained full control over their resources, the Committee called upon the international community to continue supporting the Palestinian people.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), recalling the General Assembly’s resolution in December 2017 on the status of Jerusalem, said the decision by the President of the United States to recognize Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of Israel, and to move the United States embassy to that city, deserved global condemnation. It represented an insult to international legitimacy and the unanimous will of the international community. The United States and Israel should pay due attention to international efforts to resolve Middle East issues, including the question of Palestine, and participate in the peace process with honesty and diligence. He reiterated his country’s firm support for the Palestinian people and emphasized the need to end the Israeli military occupation. He added that the Syrian issue should be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, with no foreign intervention.

SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia), associating himself with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said a resolution of the question of Palestine remained elusive due largely to Israel’s defiance of Council resolutions. Israel must stop all violations and illegal activities, and fully comply with all its obligations. The United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would only embolden Israel, as the occupying Power, to continue with its repressive policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. Malaysia called on the United States to consider rescinding its decision and to work with all parties involved towards a comprehensive and lasting peace, based on the two-State solution. Noting with serious concern dwindling financial backing for UNRWA, he said his country would continue to extend assistance to that the Agency, within its means, and urged all Member States to do likewise.

HADAS MEITZAD (Israel) referred to the statement by Lebanon’s representative and noted that the President of that country had referred to Hizbullah as a legitimate armed power in Lebanon. Lebanon should focus its energy on the full implementation of all Security Council resolutions. She said that the representative of Syria had debased the forum of the Council with conspiracy theories, noting that it was difficult to comprehend how they had the audacity to take the floor when they were targeting their own civilians. The Syrian Government was perpetrating a siege against its own people in eastern Ghouta using chemical weapons. Israel, meanwhile, was providing aid to Syrians. Directing her comments to the representative of Venezuela, she said that country was in a state of moral bankruptcy. Regarding the statement made by Bolivia’s representative, she said it was disappointing that it was one sided and did not reflect the true situation on the ground. Concerning the statement by Kuwait’s representative, she said that restricting freedom of expression and jailing citizens who criticized the Government were common practices for Kuwait.

Source: United Nations