(United Nations Headquarters, New York, 17 January 2017)
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, I wish to begin by congratulating Sweden on its election to membership in the Security Council and on its presidency, and to also congratulate the other newly-elected members, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Italy and Kazakhstan. We express our appreciation as well for the outgoing Council members, among them members of our own Committee, and recognize their efforts during their tenures: Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela.
Allow me also to congratulate His Excellency Secretary-General António Guterres on assuming his duties at the helm of the United Nations. The Committee looks forward to working closely with the new Secretary-General and the wider UN family to resolving the question of Palestine, which has been on the agenda of the Security Council and General Assembly for far too long. While the necessary components for the resolution of this longstanding issue are well known to all, the Secretary-General’s good offices, vigour and experience will be pivotal in making the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace a reality.
Despite efforts to break the political stalemate, 2016 saw limited achievements on the part of the international community to realising enduring peace and a negotiated two-State solution on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap. In the meantime, the two-State solution continues to be severely threatened by unrelenting developments on the ground, including the decade-long blockade of Gaza – which amounts to collective punishment, and the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – which amount to altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, all in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions. These actions, along with other ongoing provocations and incitement, raise tensions and fuel resentment and violence. Similarly, preventing Palestinian development in Area C of the occupied West Bank and taking Palestinian land for Israeli settlement activities only increase a sense of frustration and hopelessness and call into question Israel's commitment to the two-State solution.
Yet, there were reasons for hope last year and in the first weeks of the new year, including action by this Council and the French initiative, which the Committee has supported. On 23 December, by resolution 2334, co-sponsored by three members of this Committee and New Zealand and supported by another 10 members of the Council, including two Committee members/observers (Egypt and Ukraine), for a total of 14 in favour and one abstention, the Council demonstrated its much-needed leadership at this stage. The Council unequivocally reconfirmed support for a two-State solution on the basis of the 1967 lines and its Charter-based principled positions. It reiterated that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal. Acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible. All parties must take immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians as well as acts of provocation and destruction. The international community must distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, i.e. all lands occupied since 1967. The Council also urged the intensification and acceleration of international and regional efforts aimed at achieving the two-State solution.
Breaking its silence of nearly seven years on this issue, with resolution 2334 , the Council has generated a unique momentum for peace, in a very difficult environment, by reaffirming the core purposes and principles of this organisation and parameters of the international consensus to resolving the question of Palestine. That momentum must be maintained at all cost and the international community, most notably the Council, must follow up on its determination to secure the full implementation of this and its other relevant resolutions, rally around the legal principles contained in the resolution and hold perpetrators accountable for violations of international norms. The Committee will look forward to the Secretary-General’s reporting on the implementation of the provisions of the resolution.
Similarly, the Committee welcomes the Joint Declaration issued at the Paris Conference over the weekend, in which participants welcomed international efforts to advance the Middle East peace, including through adoption of the Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) and reiterated that a negotiated two-state solution should meet the legitimate aspirations of both sides, including the Palestinians’ right to statehood and sovereignty, fully end the occupation that began in 1967, satisfy Israel’s security needs and resolve all permanent status issues on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). While the Joint Declaration did not go far enough in condemning those who seek to actively undermine this outcome, the Committee urges all interested parties to ensure that the two-State solution remains a realistic possibility and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace is achieved.
As thoroughly documented by UN agencies and others, the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, remains dire and the two-State solution is in real peril. The Committee urges the international community to actively seize the moment and exert collective efforts to ensure reversal of the negative trends on the ground and launch of credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process with a view to achieving a comprehensive peace agreement that justly resolves all final status issues. Both Israelis and Palestinians must show leadership and make the difficult decisions required for peace.
During this year, tragically marking 50 years of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, the international community must spare no effort to ensure that this untenable situation is ended and that the Palestinian aspirations for independence and sovereignty in their State, as well as Israeli security needs, are met. The Committee will mark this solemn anniversary by organising several events in the hope of drawing attention to the continuing plight of the Palestinian people in all its dimensions and generating further momentum towards ending the Israeli occupation. The Committee calls upon all States and organisations to enhance their cooperation and support to the Committee in the performance of its General Assembly mandate, including with respect to achieving the end of the Israeli occupation, capacity-building of the State of Palestine and recognition on the basis of the 1967 borders and its eventual admission to full membership in the United Nations.
Thank you for your attention.