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The President ( spoke in French): In accordance with the understanding reached in the Council’s prior consultations, and in the absence of objection, I shall take it that the Security Council agrees to extend an invitation under rule 39 of its provisional rules of procedure to Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
It is so decided.
I invite Mr. Guterres to take a seat at the Council table.
The Security Council will now begin its consideration of the item on its agenda. The Council is meeting in accordance with the understanding reached in its prior consultations .
At this meeting, the Security Council will hear a briefing by Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, whom I welcome on behalf of the members of the Council and to whom I now give the floor.
Mr. Guterres (spoke in French): At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude for this opportunity to address the Security Council.
In today’s world, I can perceive two groups of conflicts. The first extends from South and South-West Asia, through the Middle East to Sudan and Chad and into the Horn of Africa. From Peshawar to Kandahar, from Mosul to Gaza and from El Geneina to Mogadishu, we are confronted with a series of distinct crises, each with its own historical roots. But even so, those conflicts are now increasingly interrelated and together have major implications for global peace and security, drawing the serious attention of the international community.
UNHCR is not present in Gaza. A sister agency, UNRWA, was created before UNHCR existed to address the needs of Palestinian refugees in the area. While we may not be directly involved, it is impossible for me not to make reference to the current political and humanitarian crisis. In Gaza, the civilian population is not even allowed to flee to safety elsewhere. I want to express UNHCR’s firm solidarity with UNRWA’s action and to call for a strict adherence to humanitarian principles in and around Gaza, including respect for the universal right to seek and enjoy asylum.
The President (spoke in French): I thank Mr. Guterres for his briefing.
I shall now give the floor to members of the Security Council.
Mr. Urbina (Costa Rica) (spoke in Spanish ): ...
The situation in Gaza, which still has us on tenterhooks, testifies to the magnitude of the challenges facing the international community. Those who seek refuge or who are displaced by a conflict become double victims every time the international community in general and the Council in particular fail to solve the conflicts that force them to abandon their homes. Those hundreds of thousands of people, about whom Mr. Guterres has spoken to us today, are first the victims of the actions of some and then victims of the inaction of others.
Mr. İlkin (Turkey): ...
Likewise, we also highly appreciate UNHCR’s latest efforts with respect to the situation in Gaza and in support of its sister organization, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In this regard, we join in the High Commissioner’s strong appeal to the international community and all humanitarian actors to support UNRWA. The situation in Gaza is indeed tragic and totally unacceptable, and requires immediate action on the part of the United Nations and the Security Council.
Ms. Pierce (United Kingdom): ...
I would like to start by echoing the Commissioner’s admiration for the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in acutely challenging circumstances, and in particular for the bravery of United Nations workers trying to relieve suffering in Gaza. The escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel has caused immense suffering and shortages of humanitarian supplies. We join others in calling for immediate humanitarian access and the provision and distribution of supplies in accordance with international humanitarian law. We welcome any initiatives that bring about a pause in hostilities to allow the provision of humanitarian help. I think it is clear to all of us that more is needed, before any resolution to this conflict, and most immediately through a ceasefire. We also condemn acts of violence and terror directed against civilians in the region. My Foreign Minister, along with the French Foreign Minister and others both inside and outside the Council, are still in New York, searching for a way forward as a contribution to resolving the conflict.
Mr. Bui The Giang (Viet Nam): ...
The current situations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, some South Asian countries, vast areas of Africa and, most notably, in Gaza are clear and typical testimony to that. With 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip being victimized in a terrible manner, this humanitarian crisis has been an appalling example of the magnitude of the suffering that human beings can be driven into, and it has provided living evidence of the imperative need for greater and better humanitarian efforts.
Mr. McMahan (United States of America): ...
Finally, I would like to say a few words about the current situation in Gaza. We must remain focused on the urgency of the humanitarian situation. We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Israel has taken steps to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, but, as Secretary Rice said yesterday, the people of Gaza need to be in a position to be able to get a lifeline to goods, supplies, sanitation and medical help.
Mr. Rogachev (Russian Federation) (spoke in Russian ): ...
... The developments of recent weeks once again demonstrate the need to seek long-term solutions in the area of the Middle East settlement, in particular as it relates to the problems of Palestinian refugees. We urge UNHCR to be prepared to cooperate more closely with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, including in coping with possible new flows of refugees.
Mr. Dabbashi (Libya) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
Libya endured colonization and fascist persecution for three decades, during which thousands of Libyans fled the country. It therefore understands all too well the current suffering of Palestinians. No one can doubt their suffering, and specifically the suffering of two thirds of the population of Gaza, under the Israeli occupation. Approximately 1 million refugees live in Gaza and have been subjected to bombing and artillery fire over the past two weeks. The total embargo does not allow them to escape this holocaust, which, unfortunately, imitates Nazi methods, but with modern means of destruction and killing. As of yesterday, those methods had caused the death of more than 700 Palestinians, including 219 children and 89 women. By this morning, the number of those killed had risen to 763.
I must mention here that many refugees from Gaza had to leave their homes as long ago as 1948. They were again forcibly displaced in 1967, this time towards Gaza. They currently have no other option than to die in this holocaust from which they cannot flee. There is no other outcome for them but death, and only death.
That is the goal of the Israeli authorities, who are in flagrant violation of international law, in the context of total silence by the Security Council. This silence can only be interpreted as support for the aggression and as indifference to the souls of innocent victims on the part of those who are preventing the Security Council from shouldering its responsibilities.
In this context, I take this opportunity to commend the work done by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), led by Ms. Karen AbuZayd. I welcome the courage shown by UNRWA staff in Gaza and throughout the occupied Palestinian territories despite the grave dangers that they face and their being repeatedly targeted by the Israeli occupying forces.
The international community must be generous and respond to the urgent appeals made by UNRWA eight days ago from Gaza. Our hope is that we will soon hear a briefing from Ms. Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, and that arrangements will be made for her to make this briefing to complement the briefing that we heard today, so that we can get a thorough picture of the situation.
We in the Security Council need to take practical steps to ensure the protection of civilians in time of war and to protect them from any threat by any party. We need to remove all obstacles to humanitarian assistance. We also need to require the parties concerned to meet their international obligations and the other obligations they have already undertaken so that we in the Council will be able to meet our responsibilities.
The President (spoke in French ): ...
I wish in general to recall the importance which the Security Council must attach to the protection of civilians. That dimension, too, is naturally at the heart of France’s actions, alongside its close partners, with respect to the situation in Gaza, as demonstrated by the presence, today and in recent days, of its Minister for Foreign Affairs , Bernard Kouchner, and several of his counterparts in New York, and by its ongoing efforts.
Finally, and above all, I would recall that long-standing population displacements are usually linked to the fact that the armed conflicts and human rights violations that have led people to flee remain unresolved. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons are particularly striking examples of that and testify to the importance of working for the political settlement of conflicts, peacebuilding and the implementation of national reconciliation processes that guarantee human rights in order to resolve the problem of refugees and displaced persons. I assure the High Commissioner that we are highly sensitive to that fact and to the essential role of the Security Council in that regard.
I now resume my functions as President of the Security Council.
I call on Mr. Guterres to respond to the questions and comments raised.
Mr. Guterres ( spoke in French ): ...
I would also like to express my gratitude for the statement made by the representative of the United Kingdom. First of all, I wish to say that we are deeply committed to fully supporting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in its activities. We appeal for UNRWA to be effectively supported, financially and by other means, by the international community, and we hope that developments will move towards the achievement of full respect for humanitarian law in relation to the Gaza conflict.
The need to cooperate with UNRWA was mentioned. I can assure the representative that we are actively cooperating now, supporting UNRWA’s activities in full respect for UNRWA’s mandate. I think it is also very important from the point of view of UNHCR not to create confusion, which would not help solve the problem. With full respect for UNRWA’s mandate, I strongly appeal to the international community to give UNRWA all it requires in the extremely difficult circumstances in which it currently operates, with enormous courage on the part of its staff.
Again, apologizing for not speaking Arabic, I thank the ambassador of Libya for his intervention. ...
The ambassador also mentioned the need to guarantee the sustainability of voluntary repatriation. I can only repeat what I said in that regard. I would like to mention again his appeal for full support for UNRWA. I also want to say that when one looks at the Gaza situation from the point of view of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — there are many other perspectives that are beyond my mandate, but, from my perspective, what is more shocking is that that population does not even have the right to flee. We give protection and support to refugees who have fled conflict in many areas, and we try to help them endure their plight, and, one day, find a solution to their plight. But in this conflict people do not even have the right to flee, which, of course, makes the humanitarian dimension of the situation even more tragic.
The meeting rose at 12.45 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. The final text will be printed in the Official Records of the Security Council . Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A.