18 April 2006
Security Council Speakers, Alarmed by Escalating Middle East Violence, Urge Israeli, Palestinian Restraint, Return to Peace Process
Meeting Follows Last Week's Failure to Agree on Presidential Statement
NEW YORK, 17 April (UN Headquarters) -- Meeting following last weeks failure to agree on a presidential statement on the Middle East situation and in the wake of a suicide bombing today in Tel Aviv, the Security Council today heard from some 30 speakers, many of whom expressed alarm at the recent escalation of violence and urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to exercise restraint and do their utmost to curb attacks and counter-attacks that could undermine a return to the peace process.
The first speaker this afternoon, the Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that since his last address to the Council, Israel had continued and intensified its military campaign, committing flagrant and grave violations of international law. While Israel tried to portray its latest military escalation simply as a response to violence emanating from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, its actions were, in fact, clearly intended to inflict maximum pain, suffering and loss on the Palestinian people while entrenching the occupation and continuing the theft and colonization of Palestinian land, especially through its illegal settlement campaign and construction of its expansionist wall.
Israel's representative said that the Palestinian Observer had made no mention of Hamas. The Council deserved to hear who he represented -- President Abbas or Hamas, which had justified and celebrated this morning's suicide attack in Tel Aviv. He stressed that without the capable and sophisticated efforts of its security forces and the effectiveness of the security fence, Israel would be witnessing scenes of horrific death, bloody streets, limbless children and widespread fear. Since January, 11 major suicide terrorist attacks had been prevented and 90 potential suicide bombers had been arrested. On the very first day of Israel's national parliamentary elections a Palestinian terrorist organization had for the first time fired a Katyusha rocket into Israel. Israel would not compromise the safety and security of its citizens and would not passively allow human bombs, Katyushas or Qassams to penetrate its territory, kill Israelis or put them at risk.
Pakistan's representative told the Council that, while the new Hamas-led Palestinian Government had been well advised to respond to realities on the ground, especially the existence of Israel, and to eschew violence, recognition of realities was obviously a mutual process and neither Israel nor the international community could ignore the Palestinian reality. He said that if the Hamas Government was to emerge as a responsible player in a negotiating process, Israel and its newly-elected Government must equally be persuaded to desist from plans to impose a unilateral "solution". It was a supreme irony, he added, that the recent democratic Palestinian elections -- encouraged by the international community -- had led to a situation whereby the prospects for a peaceful settlement had dimmed almost to darkness.
Malaysia's delegate, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Palestinian people's choice of representatives through a free, fair and secure democratic process should be respected and not used as a pretext to end international assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather than being punished, they deserved much better treatment and it was the duty of Member States to ensure that they got it. In that connection, the Non-Aligned Movement called upon Israel to disburse without delay all the tax and customs revenues that rightfully belonged to the Palestinians. He added that the Non-Aligned Movement remained concerned at the failure of repeated efforts to revive the peace process and deeply regretted that the "Road Map" had yet to be implemented. It was incumbent upon both Israel and Palestine, in their own interest and with the assistance of the international community, to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of the negotiations.
The United States delegate emphasized that the Palestinian Authority must be held responsible for enforcing law and order, as well as for taking immediate action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism. Not only had there been no action to prevent the launching of Qassam rockets from the northern Gaza Strip into Israel or to prevent terrorist attacks, but such murderous and barbarous attacks had actually been defended. The United States had been willing last week to support a balanced presidential statement calling on both sides to refrain from steps that could escalate the situation. Unfortunately, the Council had been unable to achieve a balanced statement that acknowledged the critical role that both sides must play in fostering the environment needed for progress along the Road Map. Israel had a right to defend itself, and to condemn it for doing so while failing to acknowledge either the provocation of persistent Qassam rocket attacks or the Palestinian Authority's responsibility for stopping those attacks was unworthy of the Security Council.
Several delegates expressed regret over the Council's failure to agree on a presidential text, while insisting that the Security Council must play a central role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only the United Nations could serve as a mediator, facilitator and peacemaker in the Middle East, they said.
Most delegates condemned this morning's suicide bombing which killed nine people and injured many more in Tel Aviv.
Other speakers today included the representatives of Argentina, Qatar, France, Russian Federation, Japan, Ghana, Peru, Denmark, Congo, United Kingdom, Greece, Slovakia, United Republic of Tanzania, China, Bahrain (on behalf of the Arab Group), Yemen (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Turkey and Venezuela.
Also making statements were the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States to the United Nations.
The meeting began at 3:20 p.m. and ended at 7:20 p.m.
Acting on a request from the Permanent Representative of Bahrain as the Chairman of the Arab Group for the month of April 2006 (also on behalf of the League of Arab States), the Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Middle East.
Bahrain requested an immediate meeting last week (document S/2006/227) in order "to consider the recent developments in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem". The request was reiterated in letters from the Permanent Representatives of Yemen on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) (document S/2006/239) and Malaysia in his capacity as Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (document S/2006/240).
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that, today, the Palestinian people were celebrating a day of solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Over 9,500 Palestinians were being held as political prisoners by Israel, including some 350 children and 120 women. Demonstrations were being held throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, demanding the release of those prisoners. In that connection, he expressed his grave concern regarding the harsh treatment and deplorable living conditions of Palestinian prisoners and detainees and called upon the occupying Power to release them, in accordance with relevant provision of international humanitarian law.
The Council had a clear responsibility vis-à-vis the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he continued. Today's open debate, given the deteriorating situation on the ground, was relevant and important. Thanking the members of the Arab Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the OIC for their requests to convene the meeting, he also thanked the members of the Council for demonstrating their flexibility and understanding during last week's negotiations on a draft presidential statement on the latest violence in the region. It was unfortunate that the Council had failed to respond appropriately to the latest dangerous developments.
Since his latest address to the Council, the occupying Power had continued with, and intensified, its military campaign against the Palestinian people, he said. Flagrant and grave violations of international law were being committed against the Palestinian civilian population every single day, every hour, "even at this very moment". The latest aggression and escalation of military attacks by Israel against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in the Gaza Strip, had begun on 7 April, when over the span of just three days the occupying Power had killed at least 21 Palestinians, including two children. That latest crime against the Palestinian people had been committed with the use of military war planes, F-16s, helicopter gunships, tanks and other heavy weaponry. Scores of innocent Palestinians bystanders had been wounded. It had become common practice for the occupying Power to carry out its open and declared illegal policy of extrajudicial executions in densely populated civilian areas. Those attacks had come on the heels of the Israeli attacks on 5 April.
The Government of Israel had continuously been trying to portray its latest military escalation simply as a response to violence emanating from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he continued. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, what the Israeli Government was doing, and what it had been doing throughout its nearly 39-year-old military occupation, was clearly intended to serve its political objectives of inflicting maximum pain, suffering and loss on the Palestinian people, while it entrenched its occupation and continued with its theft and colonization of Palestinian land, especially through its illegal settlement campaign and construction of its expansionist wall. However, President Mahmoud Abbas continued to condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including suicide bombings. In particular, he had strongly condemned today's bombing in Tel Aviv, stating that such acts harmed the high national interests of the Palestinian people. In that connection, he restated his condemnation of the loss of innocent civilian life on both sides, Palestinian and Israeli, calling on the occupying Power to do the same.
Israel was committing its crimes against the Palestinian people with complete impunity and on a repeated basis, he said. That must be condemned by the international community. Measures should be taken to halt the latest escalation of military attacks by the occupying Power, as well as its illegal practices and policies against the Palestinian civilian population. The international community needed to show more resolve in dealing with the situation, whether on the ground or in the political sphere.
Double standards concerning the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could not be accepted, he added. Such a double standard could be perceived in the silence of the international community as the occupying Power was indirectly permitted to kill Palestinian civilians and continue its illegal policies, while the Palestinian people were being killed and collectively punished through political and economic isolation for democratically electing their Government. Any calls on the Palestinian side would only be viewed as hypocritical, if they were not met by equal pressure on the occupying Power to put an end to its harsh military measures, to end its subjugation of the Palestinian people and accept their rights to live in freedom and security, under the protection of international law. He continued to hope that the Security Council would take the necessary measures to stop the dangerous deterioration of the situation and shoulder its responsibilities.
DAN GILLERMAN (Israel) said the Palestinian Observer had made no mention of Hamas. The Council deserved to hear who he represented -- President Abbas or Hamas, which had justified and celebrated this morning's suicide attack in Tel Aviv. In the midst of the holy week of Passover, a Palestinian suicide bomber had murdered nine people and wounded more than 60 others in yet another horrific act of terrorism. The Palestinian terrorist organizations Islamic Jihad and Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs had immediately claimed responsibility for that horrendous attack. How had the newly elected officials of the Palestinian Authority responded to this morning's abominable act? Official Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri had not bothered to condemn the attack, but had claimed instead that the Palestinians had every right to use all means to defend themselves. That reaction should not come as a surprise; just two weeks ago the same individual had stated that Hamas was committed to all forms of "resistance", including suicide bombings. Today's horrific terrorist act and the preceding ones were the direct result of the new axis of terror already described.
He recalled that, last Saturday in Tehran, during a well attended Convention on Terror, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, who usually sat in Damascus, another capital of the axis of terror, had said: "The new Government in Palestine will never recognize Israel and there is no other way than resistance to drive out the enemy from our lands." Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, the newest addition to the axis of terror, had stated after his bid for leadership: "[Hamas'] Government ministers are all potential shaheed", -- martyrs. On Saturday, the President of Iran, who had been calling for Israel's annihilation while acquiring nuclear capabilities to do so, and denying the Holocaust while preparing for the next one, had continued his calls to wipe Israel off the map, stating: "The Zionist regime is on the road to being eliminated." He had referred to Israel as a "rotten, dried tree" that would collapse in "one storm". It was particularly troubling that the same Iranian regime had announced just last week that it had enriched uranium, indicating a likely intention to perpetrate that very storm.
Those words spoke for themselves and needed no interpretation, he said. They represented the stated goal of the axis of terror. Every day, extreme fundamentalist leaders were inciting more acts of terrorism. A dark cloud was looming above the region and it was metastasizing as a result of the statements and actions by the leaders of Iran, Syria and the newly-elected Government of the Palestinian Authority. Those recent statements were clear declarations of war and Israel urged every Member State to listen carefully and take them at face value. Those words, coming from the corridors of the new axis of evil and terror, were echoed constantly by deeds of murder and terror, homicide bombings and brutal killings, with over 80 daily terror alerts of terrorism in Israel. The international community and the Security Council were urged to take swift actions to try and prevent the next murder that was already on its way.
He stressed that without the capable and sophisticated efforts of Israeli security forces, and the effectiveness of the security fence, there would be scenes of horrific death, bloody streets, limbless children and widespread fear. Since January, 11 major suicide terrorist attacks had been prevented and 90 potential suicide bombers had been arrested. Those attacks would have taken place in crowded areas of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, causing mass fatalities. Fortunately, security forces had prevented or pre-empted the worst of them. Yet, the mounting number of terror attacks continued. Since September 2000, Palestinian terrorists had perpetrated nearly 26,000 terror attacks against the Israeli people.
On the very first day of Israel's national parliamentary elections a Palestinian terrorist organization had for the first time fired a Katyusha rocket into Israel, he said. Israel would not compromise the safety and security of its citizens and would not passively allow human bombs, Katyushas or Qassams to penetrate its territory, kill Israelis or put them at risk. While Israel regretted any loss of life, any attempt to equate the loss of life caused erroneously by Israel acting in self-defence with a terrorist bomber specifically targeting women and children, was morally wrong and false. Terror was terror was terror. It could not, and must never be, justified.
JOHN BOLTON (United States), noting that the Council was meeting in the aftermath of a vicious and despicable act of terrorism in Tel Aviv, said that the burden of responsibility for preventing such attacks rested with the Palestinian Authority. The United States had noted reactions by several terrorist groups, including Hamas, that defended -- and even applauded -- the Tel Aviv attack, as it had noted President Abbas' quick denunciation of it. Defence or sponsorship of terrorist attacks by Palestinian Cabinet officials would have the gravest effects on relations between the Palestinian Authority and all States seeking peace in the Middle East.
The Palestinian Authority must be held responsible for enforcing law and order, as well as for taking immediate action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, he emphasized. The Council was meeting in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that the Palestinian Government had, despicably enough, actually supported. Not only had there been no action to prevent the launching of Qassam rockets into Israel, or to prevent terrorist attacks such as that launched today, but such murderous and barbarous attacks had actually been defended.
While regretting the loss of innocent life, including in Gaza, he said the United Nations must play an even-handed role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, encouraging both parties to take the necessary steps to make progress along the "Road Map". While the Organization could not be seen to favour one side over the other, it had repeatedly denounced terrorism and should do so again now. Unbalanced resolutions or statements that criticized one side or the other, but failed to address the actions or inactions of the other side, undermined the credibility of the United Nations and its ability to be an honest broker.
He said the United States had been willing to support a balanced statement during last week's consultations aimed at adopting a presidential statement calling on both sides to refrain from taking any steps that could escalate the situation. Unfortunately, the Council had been unable to achieve a balanced statement that acknowledged the critical role that both sides must play in fostering the environment needed for progress along the Road Map. Israel had a right to defend itself and to condemn it for doing so while failing to acknowledge either the provocation of persistent Qassam rocket attacks or the Palestinian Authority's responsibility for stopping those attacks was unworthy of the Security Council.
The United States also remained concerned about the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and had long supported them through substantial contributions of its foreign assistance funds, he said. On 7 April, the United States had announced that it would increase humanitarian aid to help Palestinians in need. Basic human assistance -- including health, food, and education -- would increase by 57 per cent, to a total of $245 million. The United States would also provide $42 million to strengthen civil society and independent institutions. Assistance would be administered through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other non-Palestinian Authority actors, including local and international non-governmental organizations.
CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said that in recent weeks, both Israelis and Palestinians had continued to suffer as a consequence of a new cycle of violence, revenge and reprisals. The mutual accusations between the parties on the immediate causes of such violence were very familiar. "We cannot but ask ourselves how much suffering Palestinians and Israelis would have to endure before some of their leaders abandon the dead-end road of mutual negation and set off irreversibly in the journey towards peace, reconciliation and recognition", he said.
To put an end to that vicious circle, it was essential that the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority recognize the legitimate aspirations of the other party to security, self-determination and the right to dignity and take concrete measures to address them. The Israeli right to live in peace and security entailed that the Palestinian Authority should take decisive measures against individuals or groups that carried out attacks against Israeli targets. The new Palestinian Government should take a clear stance against violence and immediately act to halt Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, as well as suicide bombings. It should also dismantle the terrorist infrastructures, as envisaged in the Road Map. Argentina condemned in the most energetic terms the terrorist attack committed a few hours ago in Tel Aviv and conveyed its sincere condolences to the families of the victims. There was no justification whatsoever for the killing of innocent civilians. Likewise, the new Government of the Palestinian Authority should fulfil the three conditions set forth by the Quartet and endorsed by the Council.
The Palestinian right to dignity and self-determination could not be achieved unless Israel put an immediate end to military operations in the Occupied Territory and to extrajudicial executions and other practices that contravened international law, he continued. In the same vein, Israel should cease all settlement activities and halt the construction of the separation barrier in the Occupied Territories. If the prospect of a Palestinian State was seen to dwindle and become a distant dream due to constant Israeli unilateral actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it would be increasingly difficult to persuade the Palestinians that it was imperative to accept the path to compromise. Peace could not be imposed unilaterally, or by force. On the contrary, any just and definitive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be achieved through good-faith negotiations between the two parties. All territorial modifications to the line of 4 June 1967 should be agreed upon in the framework of those negotiations and not be the outcome of fait accompli in the field.
The Palestinian right to dignity also related to the restrictions on the freedom of movement, he said. The isolation of the Gaza Strip contributed to the suffering of the population of that territory and to a further deterioration of the already dire humanitarian situation. He reiterated Argentina's call on Israel to take measures to keep the Karni Crossing permanently opened. Both parties should attach priority to the implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access of November 2005.
That was, in essence, the message that he would like to convey to Israelis and Palestinians, he said. He regretted that the Council had been unable to transmit a similar message last week and that the negotiations on a draft presidential statement had failed. In his view, the final version of the draft had been balanced and would have constituted a good basis for an adequate and timely reaction to the current events in the region. The best way to avoid a security and humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was through good-faith negotiations with the aim of establishing a viable, sovereign, democratic and contiguous Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER (Qatar) said that his country was convinced of the need to settle differences through peaceful means. Continued violence and repressive practices by the Israeli army were in flagrant violation of international legality and the decisions of the Council. Violence, oppression and extrajudicial killings had exacerbated the situation. The elections to the Palestinian Parliament had been carried out through a democratic process and the free choice of the Palestinian people must be respected. Repressive measures and illegal acts, including the building of settlements and the separation barrier, as well as isolation, were further obstacles to peace and worsened the humanitarian crisis of the Palestinian people.
The changes in the Palestinian Government had placed the Palestinian people at a crucial juncture for the future, he continued. Since the Council had on several occasions called for a sovereign, democratic and viable Palestinian State that would live side by side with Israel in peace and security, the international community should do more to make the peace process resume on the agreed basis. In that connection, he emphasized, among other things, the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the League of Arab States Summit in March 2002 in Beirut. He appealed to the parties to come back to the negotiating table and called on the Israeli Government to consider the peace process and return to 4 June 1967 boundaries. The primary reason for continued conflict was that Israel continued to occupy Palestinian land.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, condemned the deadly suicide attack in Tel Aviv, which no cause whatsoever could justify. France was shocked by the Hamas spokesman's reaction to the attack, but welcomed President Abbas' clear-cut condemnation.
Noting that his country had often expressed its concern over the increasing violence in the Gaza Strip, he said Israel's use of force directly threatened the safety of civilians there. France called on Israel to exercise the greatest restraint, particularly with regard to the extrajudicial killings. Recent incidents also demonstrated the importance of keeping open channels between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and he deplored the recent closure of crossing points. Israel must discharge its obligations under the Geneva Conventions and honour its commitments under past agreements. It must also reimburse fully all tax revenues that it had collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
France and Europe wanted to avoid punishing the Palestinian people, he said. European assistance had been only partly and temporarily suspended and the European Union remained the main donor to the Palestinian Authority. It must retain humanitarian assistance and projects in vital areas such as health. However, direct budgetary assistance had been temporarily suspended in order to determine how it would be channelled. The Palestinian Authority must renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and abide by previous agreements with Israel.
Emphasizing that the recent escalation called for a strong political response from the international community, he expressed regret that the Security Council had been unable to agree on a presidential statement last week, which France had supported. France welcomed the position of President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert favouring a resumption of peace talks. France solemnly appealed to the two sides to refrain from actions that could compromise final status issues and remained particularly concerned by Israel's pursuit of settlements, especially in East Jerusalem, as well as its construction of the separation wall and its imposition of obstacles to Palestinian access to the Jordan Valley.
KONSTANTIN DOLGOV (Russian Federation) said that, recently, the international community had witnessed rocket fire by Palestinian extremists and response attacks by the Israeli Defense Forces. All that led to increased tensions. Today's meeting was taking place against the backdrop of a terrorist act in Tel Aviv. Russia firmly condemned the latest extremist attacks against innocent people. There could be no justification for it. President Abbas had condemned the attack. The intent of the perpetrators was clear: they intended to worsen the situation and unleash a new round of violence. In those conditions, it was necessary to show self-restraint and avoid direct confrontation. It was necessary to send a clear message to both sides to refrain from the use of force and resume a dialogue based on the Road Map. He called on the Palestinian Authority to prevent anti-Israeli acts, including terrorist attacks, and ensure monitoring of the situation in the Palestinian territories. It was important to abandon violence and promote respect and compliance with previous arrangements, including the Road Map.
He also called on the Government of Israel to demonstrate restraint, despite the difficult circumstances. Israel should also refrain from unilateral acts, particularly with respect to settlements and the construction of the separation barrier. It was also necessary to stop extrajudicial killings. It was important to stop the cycle of violence and resume contacts between the parties as soon as possible through negotiations.
He added that, taking into account the worsening humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people, it was necessary to continue assistance to the Palestinian Authority without political preferences. Any rejection of such assistance could have a serious impact and could only lead to a new confrontation. Under the current circumstances, the role of the international community was to prevent the worsening of the already difficult situation. For its part, the Russian Federation intended to provide $10 million in the near future in assistance to the Palestinian Authority. That could prevent a further deterioration of the situation.
KENZO OSHIMA (Japan) said that the peace process in the Middle East was now facing complex challenges, which required delicate handling and the utmost restraint on both sides. Japan stressed its grave concern over the continued violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the week before last, which included rocket attacks launched against Israel from Gaza and the escalation of Israeli military operations, especially the shelling of Gaza. He strongly condemned the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv today and expressed his deepest condolences to the victims and their families. He could not but remain deeply concerned that this renewal of attacks and counter-attacks could seriously impair future efforts for dialogue and cooperation towards peace. He called on both sides to exercise the utmost self-restraint to prevent a further escalation of violence and restore calm.
He expected the new Government of the Palestinian Authority, led by Hamas, to adopt a policy that would advance the peace process in accordance with existing agreements and the Road Map. At this most delicate time, political wisdom and courage, as well as self-restraint, were needed more than ever. His country placed high hopes on the new Palestinian Government, which had been elected through the democratic process, trusting that it would exercise commensurate responsibility in full cooperation with President Abbas and that it would unequivocally repudiate violence and follow a path of peace, coexistence and mutual prosperity with Israel. At the same time, the international community should continue to send a strong, positive message to the new Government, in order to encourage it to initiate the necessary moves to restart the peace process. The international community must also encourage Israel to make greater efforts to realize peace through dialogue with the Palestinian side. Japan hoped that both sides would take steps to initiate direct talks between President Abbas and interim Prime Minister Olmert as early as possible.
Regarding Palestinian assistance, he said that Japan, as one of the major donors to Palestine, would carefully monitor the policy development of the new Palestinian Government on key issues. In the meanwhile, it would continue to provide humanitarian assistance through United Nations agencies, to avert a deterioration of the living conditions of the Palestinian people. A year ago, his Government had announced an assistance package of some $100 million for the immediate future, in support of the President's efforts toward peace. To date, more than 70 per cent of that pledge had been implemented. Japan would continue to work with all stakeholders for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace respecting relevant Security Council resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, the principle of land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the League of Arab States Summit in March 2002 in Beirut.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said that this morning's appalling suicide bombing clearly demonstrated the futility of the recourse to violence by both sides in place of a negotiated settlement of the Palestinian question. Ghana deplored the mounting death toll on both sides and reiterated its condemnation of all acts of violence and destruction. Ghana recognized the urgent need for Palestine and Israel to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from violence, which meant that both sides should not resort to unilateral measures that could exacerbate tension and undermine efforts to achieve peace in the region. The great human suffering resulting directly from that cycle of violence was intolerable and it was now more imperative than ever that the international community, particularly the Quartet, assist in bringing the two sides back to the negotiating table.
Reiterating that the Palestinians had a right to their own independent State that would guarantee the free movement of its citizens with real prospects for sustainable development, he said Israelis equally had the right to their own State within well-defined and secure borders. While Hamas was being encouraged to rethink its position on Israel and commit its Government to respect all existing agreements with Israel, including the maintenance of the ceasefire between Palestine and Israel, Ghana noted with concern reports of the stoppage of aid to the Palestinian Authority. Those who would suffer from that cut-off were the Palestinian workers denied salaries to care for their families. Greater care must be taken not to cause undue economic hardships to Palestinians, many of whom, through no fault of theirs, were already deprived of some of the basic necessities of life.
OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru) expressed serious concern over the continuing violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the rocket attacks against Israel and the use of artillery against Gaza. It was more important than ever that both sides avoid the escalation of the conflict. The new administration of the Palestinian Authority should take measures to prevent suicide terrorist acts and rocket attacks, while Israel should refrain from the use of excessive force and respect the Fourth Geneva Convention.
He said his country supported the conditions that, on 30 January, the Quartet had presented to the elected administration of the Palestinian Authority headed by Hamas. It had been requested to renounce terrorism and violence, to recognize Israel and to assume the commitments accepted by the former Palestinian Authority administration, including the Road Map. The new Palestinian administration had not given answers to those crucial requirements of the Quartet, which were also reflected in a Security Council presidential statement.
The uncertain situation impeded the negotiation between the two parties, he said, noting that there was no recognition of the State of Israel, on the one hand, nor recognition of a Palestinian counterpart for direct negotiations, on the other. That lack of recognition, the non-renunciation of violence and the non-acceptance of previously agreed commitments were the main obstacles to the resumption of negotiations and left the door open to unilateral acts of violence. Given those circumstances, Peru considered it necessary to maintain humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people and to consider how best to channel and optimize it.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark) associated herself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union and said that the situation in the Middle East continued to give rise to serious concern. She condemned today's attack in Tel Aviv and conveyed her heart-felt condolences to the families of the victims. It was a serious setback that could spur a new cycle of violence. While acknowledging that President Abbas had condemned the attack, she said she was outraged that Hamas had called it an act of self-defence. That meant that Hamas still considered violence and terror as a way of achieving its political goals. She was also troubled by the rocket attacks on the territory of Israel and retaliation acts by Israel. Both sides should demonstrate self-restraint.
Regrettably, the Palestinian Government had not yet committed itself to the principles laid out by the Quartet and recently reiterated by the European Union, she continued. All members of the Palestinian Government must be committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and all agreed principles, including the Road Map. She called the new Government to implement the commitments undertaken by the Palestinian Authority and dismantle the infrastructure of terror. Denmark and the European Union wanted to preserve the democratic functioning of the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, and she underlined the role of President Abbas in that respect. At the same time, under no circumstances could the Union risk that its funds could be diverted to terrorist or illicit activities. The Union had stopped its assistance to the Hamas, but its humanitarian assistance through international institutions and agencies would continue.
Following the elections of 10 March, the new Government would be formed in Israel in the next weeks, she said. It should work towards a negotiated solution based on agreed principles and relevant resolutions. Both Israel and Palestine should adhere to their obligations and refrain from unilateral actions. Israel should stop its settlement activities and construction of the barrier. Moreover, it must take steps to improve the humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinians. Resumption of Palestinian tax and customs revenues would be a welcome step in that regard. She hoped that both sides would return to the negotiating table to advance the negotiated two-State solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peaceful coexistence.
BASILE IKOUEBE (Congo) supported the position of the Non-Aligned Movement and said that recent developments challenged the international community at the time when one could have hoped for a decline in violence. The attacks in Tel Aviv today tragically demonstrated the unacceptable nature of widespread violence in the volatile region. During a recent debate in the Council, his country had urged both parties to undertake negotiations based on the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, as well as agreed principles, which should lead to the establishment of two States living side by side in peace.
He regretted that the Council had been unable to agree on a presidential statement last week, for the draft contained all the needed elements, he said. The tragic realities had again resumed with their litany of deadly acts, attacks and other reprehensible and pointless acts of provocation that often led to reprisals. The two parties had just provided the Council with a full list of those acts of violence. However, the hardening position of both sides caused great suffering for civilians. Those were people who already encountered great difficulties due to the acts of Israel and suspension of aid by donors. There was a possibility of a great humanitarian crisis and deterioration of the security situation in the region. It was important to make sure that the Palestinian people did not get the impression they were being punished for making a free political choice. He urged both parties to bring about the conditions for dialogue and conduct negotiations on the basis of well-known agreed rules.
In conclusion, he said that it was incumbent on the international community to get resolutely involved in the settlement efforts. Particular responsibility lay on the Quartet and the Security Council. Resolute implementation of international law with balanced treatment of both sides was needed.
ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom), endorsing the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said that today's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv was a terrible reminder of remaining challenges. Deploring the senseless and totally unjustifiable attack and condemning those responsible, the United Kingdom called on the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary steps to bring the perpetrators to justice and to prevent any further attacks. It was very disappointing that the new Government had not condemned the attack, as had President Abbas, but had sought instead to justify it. With the democratic mandate that Hamas had obtained came responsibility.
At the same time, the Palestinian people could not be punished, he stressed. The United Kingdom had been among the largest bilateral donors to the Palestinians and wished to be sure that such funding was not supporting terrorism. Deeply concerned by recent violence, particularly rocket attacks and threats of Israeli re-entry into Gaza, the United Kingdom believed that civilian casualties were unacceptable. While Israel had a right to defend itself, any such self-defence must be proportionate and within international law. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority must take steps to prevent terrorist attacks and to reform its security services. The United Kingdom also remained concerned by Israeli actions in East Jerusalem, including settlement activity, and increasingly restricted access to the city for Palestinians living to the east of it, which risked reducing the possibility of reaching agreement on the final status of Jerusalem. Above all, the United Kingdom remained committed to a negotiated solution to the conflict. For that to happen, both parties must remain committed to fulfilling their obligations under the Road Map.
ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece) said it was with grave concern that he had noted the escalation of violence in Israel and the Occupied Territory in the last few days. Greece unconditionally condemned all forms of terrorism, including rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza and senseless suicide bombings like today's in Tel Aviv. He called on the Palestinian Authority to take firm action against such unjustifiable acts. He recognized Israel's right to defend itself and protect its citizens. That right, however, had to be exercised within the boundaries of international law. Greece deplored the disproportionate nature of Israeli military activities which cost or endangered the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians and called on Israel to fully respect the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Continuing, he called on both parties to exercise maximum restraint and demonstrate political maturity and refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric. As tensions ran high, both parties must do their utmost to curb attacks and counter-attacks so as not to allow a return to the vicious circle of violence that had long beset the region. Greece remained committed to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East and to the realization of a two-State solution. In that context, the Road Map remained the framework of international efforts. Both parties should strive to fulfil the relevant respective obligations and commitments.
Over the past couple months, both Israelis and Palestinians had the opportunity to exercise their democratic right and elect their representatives, he added. It was in the interest of the new Palestinian Government to commit itself to the three principles set out by the Quartet on 30 January. He believed both peoples had a true desire for peaceful coexistence and that their leaderships would respond to that desire. The international community should stand ready to encourage steps in that direction.
PETER BURIAN (Slovakia) noted with concern the recent incidents and hostilities in the Palestinian Territory including indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, suicide bombings and major Israeli reprisal operations, bringing new suffering and loss of innocent life on both sides. Urging all parties to stop the spiral of violence, he called on them to refrain from steps that might further escalate the hostilities. He expressed sympathy for the victims of today's incident in Tel Aviv and condemned terrorist attacks that could not be justified. He also urged both sides to exercise the utmost restraint. Slovakia reaffirmed its support for a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the Middle East conflict and supported the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To achieve progress, both parties needed to accept previous agreements and obligations, return to constructive dialogue and take concrete actions at building mutual confidence and trust.
In that context, he noted with concern that the new Palestinian Government, which was formed and led by Hamas, had not committed itself to the three principles laid out by the Quartet in its 30 January statement. That step was a basic precondition for the continuation of meaningful talks on settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. To be a partner in the peace process, Hamas and the new Government must recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and accept previous agreements and obligations. He urged the new Government to commit itself to President Abbas' platform of peace aimed at creating conditions necessary for dialogue on a solution to the Middle East conflict. He also called on the Palestinian Authority to take a public stand against violence and firm measures against the perpetrators of rocket attacks and suicide bombings. He urged the Palestinian Authority to undertake all necessary measures to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism in the Palestinian Territories.
At the same time, he said his delegation believed that the new Israeli Government would reconfirm its commitment to peace in the Middle East based on principles laid out in the Road Map and would refrain from such steps that might contradict the principles of international law. Israel had the right to self-defence against terrorist attacks. Its responses, however, must be proportionate and everything possible must be done to avoid loss of innocent life. There was no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The only way to achieve a comprehensive settlement was through peaceful negotiations leading to a two-State solution in accordance with the Road Map. In spite of the latest wave of violence, there was a window of opportunity for the new Palestinian and Israeli Governments to return to the peace process.
TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said he was gravely concerned about the recent upsurge in violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He regretted that populated areas had come under fire causing deaths to innocent civilians, including children. He urged both sides to refrain from any measures that could lead to more violence and called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint. Violence was against the interests of both Israel and Palestine. Hamas needed to move towards accepting the three principles laid out by the Quartet. The Palestinian Government should take a clear stance against violence and actively seek to gain control over the firing of rockets and suicide bombings. In that regard, he condemned this morning's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
For its part, Israel was obliged to take meaningful steps to reduce the suffering of Palestinians by ending blockades, curbing arbitrary arrests, ending extrajudicial killings, stopping house demolitions and halting settlement activity, including barrier construction, he said. It was only through peace talks with the Palestinians that the conflict could be resolved. Unilateral actions would only make matters worse. The suspension of the monthly transfer of revenue collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians must be ended, as continued withholding of that revenue constituted a serious blow to the cash-strapped Palestinian Government and constrained its capacity to deliver services to its people.
He noted that aid and tax cut-offs were already crippling the Palestinian treasury, making it virtually impossible to pay salaries to government employees including police, teachers, medical personnel and others. Failure to transfer tax revenue, together with the suspension of much-needed foreign aid, amounted to collective punishment, as it affected not only employees but also their dependents. The flow of revenue to the Palestinians should not be interrupted at a time of need and increased demand. The international community must guide the two sides towards negotiations and compromise leading to a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the area. The cherished objective of a viable, democratic Palestinian State living side by side with Israel was within reach.
Council President WANG GUANGYA (China), speaking in his national capacity, called strongly on both sides to exercise maximum restraint and to keep the region from falling into the vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence. The Road Map endorsed by the Security Council remained the way forward, but there was a mutual lack of trust and the leaders on both sides must show political decisiveness, reduce political hostility and fulfil their commitments.
He recalled that, not long ago, both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples had exercised their democratic rights and the international community should not punish the Palestinians simply because of political differences. The prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict was detrimental for the whole world and the international community must adopt a constructive approach to help both sides out of it. It was regrettable that the Security Council had failed to agree on the presidential statement proposed by Qatar last week.
TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR (Bahrain), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that during the past few days Israel had maintained a continued and intensified attack against the Gaza Strip during which all types of weaponry had been used indiscriminately, including rockets and attack helicopters. Those attacks had continued daily, auguring serious consequences if Israel continued that violent approach. The escalation by Israel was one of its measures against the Palestinians for having elected Hamas by an overwhelming majority. The Palestinian choice had been made freely and democratically and reflected their free will to exercise their democratic right. All parties should respect the election results, despite the extremely difficult conditions in which the elections had been held and the Israeli harassment that had characterized them.
He said Israel had taken other punitive measures by boycotting the Palestinian Authority almost entirely and conducting brutal and intensive military attacks against the Palestinians. If Israel wished to have a negotiating partner it could not find a better one than the one chosen by the Palestinian people. Israel wished illegally to escalate its unilateral measures, especially in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Olmert had recently announced plans to draw up Israel's borders over the next four years in order to legitimize the confiscation of Palestinian lands, which meant effectively ending the two-State solution in contravention of the Road Map and United Nations resolutions. The occupation remained the crux of the conflict and Israel must withdraw from all occupied Arab territories. The Arab Group called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility to end Israeli violations in accordance with its own resolutions.
ABDULLAH ALSAIDI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, said that the resumption of massive Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, the extrajudicial killing and the policy of starving the Palestinian people were motivated by the erroneous belief that such a policy might lead to the capitulation of the Palestinian people and the imposition of a unilateral settlement that disadvantaged the Palestinian people and benefited the occupier. The OIC believed that that policy was misguided and would not lead to a sustained peaceful settlement of the dispute. Quite the contrary, it meant greater bloodshed and instability in the region. In the final analysis, it would not benefit either the occupier, or the occupied. For peace to prevail, Israel must be made to respect its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant international humanitarian law. It should also desist from carrying out its misguided policy in the future.
The intensification of the military campaign against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, as well as the policy of blocking the import of necessary food commodities by the Palestinian Authority, had no explanation other than punishing the Palestinian people for exercising their inalienable right to select their representatives in free and fair elections. That was not the correct message to send to the region. The international community was duty-bound not to condone a policy that penalized a people for exercising their right to free choice. The Security Council, being an organ contemplated to be the cornerstone of the new international order, must not fail in its duty to put an end to Israel's aggression against the Palestinian people. If peace was to prevail in the tormented and yet vital region of the Middle East, no country must be treated as if it was above the law.
HAMIDON ALI (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the Movement's commitment to a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said that the Movement remained supportive of the Palestinian people in exercising their inalienable rights.
The Movement was gravely concerned over the escalating military campaigns launched by Israeli forces in the Occupied Territory last week, he continued. He strongly condemned such campaigns, in particular the wilful killing of Palestinian civilians, including extrajudicial killings, the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Israel and collective punishment imposed against the Palestinians, including restrictions of movement. Those acts had led to -- and could lead to -- further violent retaliatory measures by the Palestinians. In addition, the Movement was seriously concerned over reported targeting by Israeli forces of UNRWA and other humanitarian aid agencies and workers operating in the Palestinian territories.
The Non-Aligned Movement urged Israel to exercise maximum restraint, and for both sides to take all necessary measures to stop the vicious circle of violence, he said. The Movement condemned the killing and injuring of all innocent civilians, which were unjustifiable, as well as all acts of violence, terrorism, suicide bombings and destruction. He urged the Security Council to immediately intervene by pressuring Israel to stop all attacks against the Palestinian people, as well as by assisting and supporting the Palestinian Authority in its efforts to prevail upon groups in its territories to halt all rocket attacks against Israel. He urged both sides to act in conformity with international law and refrain from taking any steps that could further escalate the violence and the already tense situation in the region.
The Palestinian people's choice of their representatives through a free, fair and secure democratic process should be respected, he said. The outcome of the elections in Palestine last January should not be used as pretext by the international community to cease extending assistance to the Palestinian people. He welcomed all financial and humanitarian assistance provided by the international community and urged strongly that it be sustained. The Palestinians did not deserve to be punished. They deserved much better treatment and Member States had the duty to ensure that they did get it. In that connection, he called upon Israel to disburse without delay to the Palestinian Authority the full amount of the monthly tax and customs revenues, which rightfully belonged to the Palestinians.
The Non-Aligned Movement remained concerned at the failure of repeated efforts to revive the peace process and deeply regretted that the Road Map had yet to be implemented. The Israeli Government had failed to take the necessary first step in adherence with its obligations. It was incumbent upon both Israel and Palestine, in their own interest, and with assistance of the international community, to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of the negotiations. That entailed, in particular, denouncing violent measures or acts of terrorism and revoking unilateral actions by Israel that could further undermine peace and stability in the region. He called for intensified efforts by the Quartet to salvage the Road Map. He also stressed the permanent responsibility of the United Nations, in particular the Security Council, towards the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects. The Council was in position to prevail upon Israel and Palestine to achieve their long-held desire for a just, lasting and comprehensive final settlement. There was a Chinese proverb, which said: "Make a decision when a decision is called for. Hesitation only brings disaster." The Council must not be reluctant to invoke its functions and powers.
GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, strongly condemned today's suicide bombing of a restaurant in Tel Aviv and offered condolences to the families of the victims. The Union condemned all acts of terror and violence and expressed its grave concern over the recent violent events in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It called on both parties to exercise maximum restraint and urged the Palestinian Authority to ensure security in the areas it controlled and the safety of international personnel. The Union urged the Palestinian Authority to take effective measures against terrorism and violence, notably against suicide attacks and the launching of rockets, and to reform its security services. It also called on Israel to stop the practice of extrajudicial killings, which was contrary to international law. The Union reminded both parties of their obligations under the Road Map and existing agreements.
He said that on 10 April, the Union's External Relations Council had discussed the situation of the Middle East peace process following the swearing in of the new Palestinian Government. The Council had noted with grave concern that the new Palestinian Government had not committed itself to the principles of non-violence, recognition to Israel's right to exist and acceptance of existing agreements. Consistent with the Quartet statement of 30 March, the Union was reviewing its assistance to the Palestinians against the new Government's commitment to those principles. The Union would continue to provide the necessary assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people. In that context, it had underlined the importance of improved access and movement, and called on both parties to implement the 15 November 2005 Movement and Access Agreement. The Council had emphasized the central role of President Abbas as the highest representative of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and reiterated its support for him.
Noting the result of the latest Israeli elections, he said the Council had underlined the importance of a strong commitment by the new Israeli Government to work towards a negotiated solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on existing agreements, United Nations resolutions and the Road Map. On the final status issues, the Union would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties. The Council had called on Israel to desist from any action that was contrary to international law and urged it to take steps to improve the humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinians including by resuming transfers of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues. The Council had welcomed the recent statement of Acting Prime Minister Olmert to seek negotiations with the Palestinians and the positive response to it by President Abbas. He reaffirmed the Quartet's central role in promoting the peace process.
YOUCEF YOUSFI (Algeria) expressed his delegation's concern over recent events, which could have profound repercussions for international peace and security. The Security Council had been unable to discharge its responsibilities in that regard by failing to respond yet again to clear Israeli aggression, in violation of its obligations. The Council had also regrettably failed to adopt a presidential statement last week in the wake of daily attacks by the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians, which Algeria firmly condemned. The Security Council and the Quartet must do their utmost to put an end to such violence against the Palestinians.
He said that Israel's recent hostile acts added to its long list of aggressive actions and its violation of the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people that it had perpetrated for decades. They included illegal settlement activities, house demolitions, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, torture, construction of the separation wall on Palestinian territory and the choking of the Palestinian economy. All those illegal practices contravened international humanitarian law, as well as numerous resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly since 1967. It was in that context of impunity that Israel had, on 14 March, attacked a prison in Jericho and kidnapped Palestinian detainees in defiance of the United Nations Charter, as well as international agreements and conventions. Algeria called for their immediate release to the Palestinian Authority. The Security Council must vigorously denounce the terrorism perpetrated by Israel. Its aggression against the Palestinian people must end, as must its unilateral measures and its policies of establishing facts on the ground, because they prejudged the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Al-Quds Al-Shariff as its capital.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), describing the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as volatile, said that the last few days had witnessed -- and continued to witness -- a dangerous Israeli military escalation against civilian Palestinian populations in Gaza, the West Bank and other areas, which had resulted in the killing of more than 20 people from relentless shelling and bombardment of Palestinian towns and villages, as well as the continuation of extrajudicial killings. The latest escalation fell within a long-standing policy of systematic and deliberate practices by Israel, which included seizure and isolation of Palestinian towns and villages, restrictions on the movement of people and commodities, as well as hastening the building and further expansion of Israeli settlements and the acquisition of more Palestinian lands through, among other things, the separation wall.
All those actions had been intensified in the wake of the Palestinian legislative election results, which had been conducted in a fair and democratic manner, he said. Punishing the Palestinians for their choices could only lead to the termination of the peace process and the worsening of an already desperate humanitarian situation. The Israeli Government's endeavour to exploit the results of those elections by intensifying its unlawful practices and further establishing its occupation, under the pretext that there was no partner with whom to negotiate, must not be allowed to continue. There would be no change in the thinking of the new Palestinian Government if Israel continued with its policies of unilateral measures, policies of closure, prevention of aid and suppression. Change could only come about through dialogue, respect for the human rights of the Palestinian people, their right to self-determination and their right to live in an independent State side by side with Israel.
He said that, at a time when Arab leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, most recently at the Arab League Summit in Khartoum, Israel had responded by adopting measures aimed at forcing an artificial settlement of the dispute through a unilateral demarcation of its borders that would keep for itself large chunks of Palestinian land in the West bank, East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the large settlement centres. Those actions would deal a huge blow to any chances of achieving peace between the Arab countries and Israel. Any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be reached through an agreement between the two parties and in a process of negotiations. Egypt called upon the Israeli Government to enter into direct negotiations with President Abbas on final status, with no preconditions other than the legal terms of reference of the peace process. There was no doubt that the latest developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had put the peace process on the door step of crucial and pivotal decisions, which would determine the region's future.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) endorsed the concern expressed by the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference regarding the bombardment against the Palestinians in recent days and the measures that were being taken by Israel that increased the suffering and deprivation of the Palestinian population. He also expressed his condemnation of the act of terrorism that had resulted in death and injury to several Israeli civilians.
The events in the last three months had transformed hope for peace in the Middle East into foreboding and fear, he continued. The positive trends and optimistic mood had all but evaporated following the Palestinian parliamentary elections, which had been encouraged by the international community and were free and fair. It was a supreme irony that that democratic exercise had led to a situation where the prospects of a peaceful settlement had dimmed almost to darkness. The United Nations, including the Security Council and the Secretary-General, must now play a central role in responding to the challenges in the region. The United Nations, and in particular the Council, had a direct responsibility in the conflict, stemming from the relevant resolutions. The United Nations was the only party that could serve as a mediator, facilitator and peacemaker.
Continuing, he advocated continued -- and enlarged -- assistance to the Palestinian people on behalf of the United Nations and its agencies. Although others had ended assistance to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations and its agencies could work out arrangements to channel such assistance as was available multilaterally and bilaterally, in ways that could strengthen political cohesion and order. The political authority of President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority should be preserved and strengthened. He hoped the Secretary-General and agencies would take urgent steps to identify the human and humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and mobilize a coordinated response from the world community. Arrangements also needed to be elaborated to preserve peace between Israeli forces and Palestinian security forces, as well as other armed groups and militias. Here again, the United Nations could play a central role. He trusted the Secretary-General would authorize the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and his Personal Representative to help the parties in evolving such arrangements for the maintenance of peace. The Special Coordinator could also be helpful in exploring the basis for resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and resurrecting consensus on the elements of the final settlement.
The new Palestinian Government, led by Hamas, had been well advised to respond to on-the-ground realities, especially the existence of Israel, and to eschew any resort to violence. Obviously, recognition of realities was a mutual process. Neither Israel, not the international community, could ignore the Palestinian reality either, including the democratic choice of the Palestinian people. And if the Hamas Government was to emerge as a responsible player in a negotiating process, there would be justification to reconsider its description by some States as a "terrorist organization". Israel and its newly-elected Government must be equally persuaded to desist from plans for a unilateral "solution". In the process of mutual confidence-building, Israel should halt further construction of the separation barrier and settlement activity in the West Bank.
MILAD ATIEH (Syria) said that his delegation was gravely concerned over the failure of the Council to shoulder its responsibility in the Middle East, due mainly to selectivity and double standards applied by some to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some Member States in the Council continued to oppose any resolution that condemned Israeli policies in the Occupied Territory and could bring about the implementation of relevant resolutions. The situation in the Middle East continued to deteriorate, due to those double standards and the failure of the protectors of Israel to find a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict. Israel continued to implement the most heinous policies against Palestine, which included continued attempts to storm villages and refugee camps in the Occupied Territory, extrajudicial killings and imposition of collective punishments, as well as continued construction of settlements and the separation barrier.
Continuing, he focused on the continued closures and "collective punishment of the Palestinian people" for the results of democratic, free and fair elections. Member States should not interfere in the internal affairs of Palestine and must continue providing assistance to the Palestinian people.
The situation in the Syrian Golan was no better than in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said. Among other Israeli actions, he mentioned the imposition there of the Israeli identity and continued building of settlements. In violation of the will of the international community, Israel still continued to plan further settlements. Israel's lack of desire for peace and security in the region and its pursuit of destabilization through expansion and occupation had made hopes for peace elusive. The Arab people looked forward to living in peace and security like any other people in the world. That would be realized only with full withdrawal of Israel to the 4 June 1967 borders, compliance with relevant resolutions, the internationally agreed principles and Madrid terms of reference. Israel should also accept the Arab Peace Initiative.
The claims by the Israeli representative in accusing Syrians and others of terrorism were cynical, he stressed. In fact, Israel's representative was trying to cover up war crimes committed by his Government against the Palestinian people. Israel should be held accountable for State terrorism against the Arab people in the Occupied Territory. It prevented the Palestinians from expressing their opinions and realizing their dream of establishing their homeland with the capital in East Jerusalem. It was ironic that Israel was trying to present itself as a victim. It was Israel that used the most modern weapons and terrorized the Arab people in the Occupied Territory. Israel did not hesitate to kill children and women. Since the eruption of the intifada, more than 4,000 civilians had died.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that, although Israel claimed that its recent actions were in response to the firing upon civilian targets from northern Gaza, the indiscriminate nature of that response and the scale of the innocent civilian toll it had inflicted bore no relationship to the rockets fired into its territory. In addition, that Israeli action was illegal and in violation of international humanitarian law.
The situation was delicate and the road to peace cluttered with all kinds of challenges, he said. Among those problems was the financial crisis currently buffeting the Palestinian Authority as its legitimate funds derived from taxes collected by the Israeli authorities had been withheld following the recent Palestinian elections, which had been widely acknowledged as fair, transparent and democratic. As a result of that situation, the Palestinian Authority, unable to pay its 150,000 employees, was on the verge of collapse. Another problem was the blocking of food commodities. Such a collapse, if that was Israel's objective, could only escalate the insecurity in the area and make peace a more distant dream.
Towards enhancing the prospects for peace, Indonesia had expressed the view that Israel should remit to the Palestinian Authority tax and custom revenues, he said. In addition, members of the international community holding back on financial commitments to the Authority should also fulfil them. Otherwise, the situation would impede the Authority not only from providing basic services to the Palestinian people, but also from providing the necessary administrative structure within which to continue to explore the road to peace. Stopping humanitarian assistance at this time, or permitting Palestinian civil servants to fall into unemployment, would only destabilize the situation on the ground. Indonesia urged the international community, therefore, to give the new Government a chance.
JAVAD ZARIF (Iran) said that the realities on the ground abundantly proved that the systematic pattern of human rights violations and massive breaches of international law and humanitarian law by Israel had been continuing unabated, resulting in the killing of almost 4,000 Palestinians since September 2000. Recent military operations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, had but added to the misery of the Palestinian people. Israel's deadly air strikes and shelling of Gaza were part of a larger policy marked by State terrorism, expansionism, aggression and oppression. Increased military operations in densely populated areas, indiscriminate use of force, the practice of collective punishment, extrajudicial killings, targeted assassinations, expansion of settlements and the criminal attack by Israeli forces on Jericho Prison to attack some Palestinian prisoners on 14 March represented clear breaches of basic international standards and law.
The impunity with which Israel had been allowed to carry out its crimes had emboldened it to continue its policies and practices, he continued. It was high time for the international community to take effective measures to protect and enforce the basic rights of the Palestinian people. The Council should live up to its duty by preventing Israel from continuing to commit atrocities and flout the will of the international community, incorporated in numerous United Nations resolutions. Regrettably, the Council had thus far failed to take any tangible actions, or even attempt to implement its own modest and limited decisions on the Palestinian question, due to the unconditional support extended to Israel by a permanent member of the Council. Recent opposition of the same permanent member to the adoption of two presidential statements on the Palestinian issue in the course of the past five weeks could not but be regarded as an explicit support for the war crimes and unlawful activities pursued by Israel. In fact, the Council could not retain its credibility and authority when it was labelled as "an exercise in group therapy", and while it had been ineffective and inactive in addressing the Israeli crimes in Palestine.
The Palestinian Legislative Council elections reflected the free will of the Palestinian people, he said. The democratic choice of the Palestinian people deserved to receive the respect and support of the international community. The Israeli decision to halt the transfer of taxes due to the Palestinian elections was considered to be blackmail. The restrictions applied by certain countries regarding the aid to the Palestinian Authority amounted to punishment of the Palestinians for choosing their own representatives. Israel should disburse, without further delay, the full amount of the monthly tax and custom revenue which rightfully belonged to the Palestinians. The international community should continue to provide financial and economic grants and assistance to the Palestinian Authority, so as to avoid any dangerous impact on the daily lives of the Palestinian people.
He added that, in the context of Israel's defiance, particular reference should be made to the Israeli nuclear weapons programme. Nuclear arms in the hands of a regime with an unparalleled record of State terrorism, aggression and the threat of force against other countries presented a real threat to regional and global peace and security, as well as the non-proliferation regime. That threat needed to be urgently and decisively addressed by the international community.
FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said the suffering of the Palestinian people was a tragic result of the non-implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions on the question of Palestine, as well as the occupation of Palestinian territories, the Syrian Golan and the Lebanese Shaba'a Farms. The violence and bloodshed in the region were dominated by the Israeli obsession with security, as well as Palestinian despair. Israel had always resorted to its military superiority as it was convinced that force rather than justice would settle the conflict in its favour. It had continued to hinder the peace process and sidestep all its commitments under various pretexts, and to change the normal character of occupied lands. Israel continued to reject Security Council resolutions and to perpetrate aggression, while giving the impression that it was above any condemnation or criticism.
At the same time, Israel was trying to get around any body that sought to find a solution, he said. There had never been any question as to whether or not Israel had a negotiating partner. It killed any potential partner economically, politically and militarily in order to eliminate the Palestinian question by provoking the Palestinians to commit violent acts and then labelling them terrorists. Israel had committed a great deal of injustice and had been strengthened by the assistance it had received and by the application of double standards. However, justice would eventually triumph and Israel must understand that it would pay the price if it continued to reject the peace initiatives offered by the Arabs, including their guarantee of total peace and security in return for its withdrawal from all Arab lands occupied since 1967, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of Palestine refugees.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba) said that, once again, history was repeating itself. The international community was witnessing the escalation of Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people, terrorizing the civilian population and causing death and destruction. Israel continued to pursue its illegal policy of extrajudicial killing in violation of international humanitarian law. It continued to violate the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people, and it was no secret that Israel would continue to openly challenge the will of the international community as long as the passivity of the Security Council persisted and the hypocrisy and double standards of some prevailed. The United States had already exercised the power of veto 29 times on the question of the Middle East in the Security Council, and that's not counting the movements in closed consultations. The least one could expect from the Council was to condemn the new escalation of violence and demand that Israel stop its illegal actions immediately. Cuba demanded that the Government of Israel implement its legal obligations on the protection of civilians in the time of war, and comply with numerous texts on the Middle East adopted by the Security Council and the Assembly.
BAKI İLKIN (Turkey) said that he was distressed to hear today that a number of innocent people had lost their lives and were seriously injured in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. He condemned that horrendous act. His country was equally saddened to see innocent civilians being killed or maimed by punitive military operations. Resorting to violence and force were no remedy to political problems. Resorting to violence and force only bred further violence and force. The lack of confidence between the two sides and the surging acts of violence and use of force were inevitably leading to a vicious circle, which needed to be arrested and reversed.
While the outcome of democratic elections should not be contested, it was equally important for the Governments assuming power through such elections to adopt well-defined and established principles of democratic regimes and adhere to them. At this decisive moment in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Turkey strongly encouraged both sides to pursue pragmatic policies. The Palestinian people and the Israeli leaders had responsibilities and obligations for the well-being of their respective peoples, as well as for regional peace, security and stability. He urged both the Palestinian Authority and Israel to take tangible steps to re-establish the platform of dialogue for the resumption of the peace negotiations based on relevant resolutions, the Road Map and the vision of two States, as well as the principle of "land for peace". Both parties must also refrain from unilateral actions that might prejudge a final settlement.
In conclusion, he said that the long-awaited peace, security, development and overall progress in the Middle East could not be attained unless the Palestinian question was resolved through a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement. Turkey stood ready to work with the international community towards enabling meaningful progress in the Middle East peace process.
IMERIA NÚÑEZ DE ODREMAN (Venezuela) endorsed the Non-Aligned Movement statement and stressed the importance of adhering to the United Nations Charter. The future of the Palestinian people could only be determined by the Palestinians themselves and their democratic choice could not be judged by anybody. There would be no peace in the region while the occupation continued, as the people would always reject occupation.
She said that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution must be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice endorsed by the General Assembly and the recognition of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and development. Venezuela did not believe in a redrawing of the borders between Israel and Palestine, which would aggravate the problem. Also, suspension of financial aid was completely wrong. Such coercive and inhuman measures only hurt the people. It was to be hoped that negotiations would be carried out to bring about a settlement to the conflict.
PAUL BADJI (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted that the violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was escalating at an alarming pace. The Israeli Defense Forces had intensified its military action, stepping up extrajudicial killings and the firing of missiles and artillery rounds at Palestinian targets. The number of Palestinian civilian casualties was mounting, with children among those killed and injured. Despite the deaths of innocent civilians, the Israeli Defense Forces continued to shell targets in the Gaza Strip, undoubtedly causing more deaths and destruction.
At the same time, the firing of Qassam rockets from northern Gaza into Israel showed no signs of abating, provoking a violent response by the Israeli Defense Forces, he said, stressing that there was no justification whatsoever for any of those acts, which violated international law. For the same reason, the Committee condemned in the strongest terms possible the suicide bombing attack in Tel Aviv that had killed at least nine people and wounded dozens of innocent civilians. The escalation of violence was reaching dangerous levels and that perilous situation could sink into an uncontrollable quagmire unless reason and calm prevailed.
The tragic developments destroyed what little hope remained for the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government to explore ways to re-open dialogue and return to peace negotiations, he said. The Committee called on Israel to halt military operations and the excessive use of force. It also called on both sides to cease all acts of violence, exercise the utmost restraint and allow calm to return. The Security Council should live up to its responsibility by helping to end the bloodshed and misery in the Occupied Territory.
Expressing the Committee's concern about recent decisions by some major donors to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority, he said the assistance had been critical in providing the most basic provisions to millions of Palestinians. The suspension or redirection of aid would cause disruption and hardship and the Committee appealed to the international donor community to ensure that the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people did not worsen.
Against that background, the illegal Israeli policies of expanding and annexing settlements and the continuing construction of the separation wall continued in violation of international law, he said. They also deprived the Palestinians of their just aspiration for a contiguous independent State of Palestine. The international community had continued to call on Israel to end its policies that unlawfully seized Palestinian lands and created new facts on the ground. The Committee called on the Security Council and the States parties to the Geneva Convention to pressure Israel to end and reverse its illegal land grab.
YAHYA MAHMASSANI, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, said that the Council was meeting to discuss Israel's policy of escalating violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. At the same time, the Israeli authorities were continuing their expansion of illegal settlements and building the separation barrier.
In particular, Israel had escalated its military activities against Palestinian people in the wake of the democratic elections leading to the formation of the new Government in Palestine, he said. The policies to punish the Palestinian people for their democratic choice were manifesting themselves in the prevention of the transfer of tax and customs revenues belonging to the Palestinian people. That was a blatant contravention of international law. The extrajudicial targeted killings in violation of international law led to more tension and further exacerbated the situation on the ground. He appealed to the Council to call on Israel to stop its violations and demand that it renounce the policy of military attacks and imposition of the de facto situation on the ground.
The financial and economic situation in the Palestinian territory was indeed tragic, he continued. Stopping assistance to the Palestinian people, as well as the blackmail of Israel through the prevention of the transfer of tax and customs revenues could result in a humanitarian disaster. Half a century of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had proven that a solution could not be reached by military means. The League of Arab States rejected targeting and violence against any civilians, wherever they were. Ending the conflict and reaching a just, comprehensive and lasting peace required return to serious negotiations by the parties concerned in accordance with relevant resolutions, as well as the Madrid terms of reference, the principle of land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the League of Arab States Summit in March 2002 in Beirut.
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