United Nations General Assembly: Informal meeting of the General Assembly on the situation in Gaza
- As delivered -
I would like to thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this session, and to thank the UN Secretary General, Special Coordinator Serry, Commissioner-General Krähenbühl, High Commissioner Pillay and ASG Kang for their statements.
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union warmly welcomes yesterday's announcement of a 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and strongly calls on all parties to respect its terms. There must be an immediate end to the loss of civilian lives. All rocket fire from the Gaza Strip must stop, and all offensive Israeli military actions must come to an end. We commend the efforts of the UN Secretary General, Egypt and the United States to broker this and earlier deals, and hope that this new agreement can be extended into a lasting ceasefire. We call on all parties to not miss this opportunity.
Mr President, in the past few weeks we have witnessed scenes which we hope never to witness again. We condemn the terrible loss of almost two thousand lives, including over 420 innocent children. Many more have been injured; entire livelihoods have been destroyed as well as vital public infrastructure. It is clear that Gaza faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis – addressing this will require a coordinated international effort, in which Israel and the Palestinian Authority must also exercise their responsibilities.
Mr President, allow me to reiterate the EU's strong condemnation of the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and other militant groups. These are criminal, unjustifiable acts. The EU calls on Hamas to renounce violence. All terrorist groups in Gaza must disarm.
While recognizing Israel's legitimate right to defend itself against attacks, the EU is appalled by the horrific human cost of the Israeli military operation. The terrifying ordeal being suffered by the children and families in the Gaza Strip and in Israel must stop once and for all. The Israeli military operation must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law; civilians must be protected at all times.
Let me take this opportunity, particularly in the presence of UNRWA CG Krähenbühl to thank UNRWA, our partner, for its indispensable work on the ground. We reiterate our condemnation of the shelling of UNRWA schools on more than one occasion. It is unacceptable that innocent displaced civilians, who were taking shelter in clearly identified and designated UN areas after being called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, were killed. We call for all these incidents to be investigated immediately and for the results of those investigations to be published. There must be justice for the victims and the international community has a collective responsibility. We also extend our condolences to the families of UNRWA personnel who lost their lives in these attacks. We also reiterate our condemnation of the placing of rockets and other material by militant groups in UN premises. The inviolability and integrity of UN premises must be respected by all and at all times.
This tragic escalation of hostilities and its death toll which exceeds that of previous outbreaks of violence should strengthen our resolve to ensure this never recurs. In order for this ceasefire to be durable, we must acknowledge that the situation in Gaza is unsustainable. The need for a comprehensive change in the Gaza Strip is imperative. The status quo ante is not an option. A solution to the current conflict will need to tackle the root causes comprehensively in order to avoid a renewal of violence in the future. It is unacceptable for millions of Israeli citizens to live under the threat of rocket fire from the Gaza strip. It is also intolerable for almost 2 million people to be confined to a small strip of land without being able to trade or to move, and live under the control of a military group that has not renounced violence. In order to reach a long-term solution, two elements are key: improving the living conditions for the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and ending the threat to Israel posed by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. For this to happen, the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Abbas must return to the Gaza Strip. The restrictions on Gaza must be lifted. In this context, the European Union recalls the provisions of UNSC 1860 which call for arrangements both to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition to Gaza and which can ensure the sustained re-opening of Gaza's crossing points, and reiterates its readiness to contribute to a comprehensive and sustainable solution meeting the legitimate security, socio-economic and humanitarian needs of Israelis and Palestinians alike. Any such contribution will depend on the requests of our partners following the talks which are currently ongoing in Cairo.
Finally, Mr President, even at this difficult moment, let me make the position of the European Union absolutely clear. The Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be a part of the Palestinian state. A comprehensive peace where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognised borders must remain our objective. Gaza should be given the opportunity to become the future Palestinian state's window on the Mediterranean Sea. The deaths of almost 2,000 people over the past month do not lead us to question this, but to reaffirm it, even if developments on the ground, including Israel's continued settlement activities, appear to make the prospect of a two-state solution increasingly difficult to achieve. The European Union has demonstrated its commitment to working with the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu and with the Palestinian consensus government under the leadership of President Abbas to achieve this objective. We reiterate that commitment today. The European Union will do all it can to support the achievement of a just and lasting solution to this conflict.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
UN forum: General Assembly (including Special Sessions)