National Statement by Sweden at the Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
National Statement by Sweden, Ambassador Olof Skoog, at the Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question. Thursday, 20 April 2017, New York
Let me begin by thanking Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, for his briefing. The United Nations and its agencies deserve to be commended for the increasingly challenging work they are undertaking in the field across this region.
I would like to start with three issues relating to the Middle East Peace Process.
Firstly, Madam President, the Palestinian question has been on the United Nations' agenda since the organisation was founded. Today, 70 years later, after decades of violence and suffering that has affected both sides, and after 50 years of occupation, it seems clear to all that the parties alone are unable to resolve the matter and reach the solution this Council is striving for: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in peace and security.
Reaching this final status agreement would have several positive regional side-effects. It would enhance regional cooperation, diminish regional tensions and remove some of the arguments used to recruit and radicalise youth in the region and beyond. If the Arab Peace Initiative were part of the solution, then these positive side-effects would be multiplied, creating a whole new regional dynamic that would benefit all constructive actors. This highlights the importance of maintaining the Middle East Peace Process and the Palestinian question on the agenda of the Council.
Together with Israelis and Palestinians, the international community and this Council have a responsibility to remain engaged, in order to find a just, comprehensive and sustainable resolution to the conflict. Regional partners have a key role to play.
Secondly, there is now a real sense of urgency regarding the issue of settlements. Developments on the ground continue to take us further away from the two-state solution. The idea of 'status quo' is an illusion. The increased number of settlement units and increased incidence of demolitions of Palestinian homes and infrastructure will only lead to further suffering. This will spark continued and recurring outbursts of violence, which, of course, must be condemned. It will also have severe repercussions for regional peace and stability. Settlements, the separation barrier - where built on occupied land - , the demolition of homes, and evictions are illegal under international law, negatively impact the human rights of Palestinians and seriously threaten the two-state solution. Indeed, the viability of the two-state solution could soon move beyond our reach. Israeli settlements expansion in the West Bank, therefore, has to come to an end.
In line with EU policy, Sweden strongly condemns the so-called "Regularisation law", which intends to allow confiscation of privately owned Palestinian land. This - as well as Israeli announcements regarding thousands of illegal settlements units on occupied land and the decision to establish the first new settlement on the West Bank in over 20 years - constitute flagrant violations of international law, as stated in UNSCR 2334, and undermine peace as well as the viability of the State of Palestine.
Security Council resolution 2334 on settlements, violence and the distinction between Israel and occupied land was also in line with the important recommendations in the report of July last year by the Quartet. The resolution has clear messages for both parties, and both parties have a duty to implement its provisions.
Thirdly, the situation in Gaza remains tense and unsustainable. All parties must act responsibly and in the interests of the inhabitants of Gaza. Steps must be taken to produce a fundamental change to the political, security and economic situation. This includes intra-Palestinian reconciliation, accelerated reconstruction and an end to the Israeli closure policy. The full and sustainable opening of the crossing points for humanitarian organisations and state representatives, while addressing both Israeli and Palestinian security needs, is key.
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I would like say a few words on Syria and Lebanon.
The conflict in Syria has entered its seventh year with devastating human suffering. The repeated use of chemical weapons in the conflict is appalling and must stop immediately. We support the full investigation of the attack on Khan Sheykhoun on 4 April and the work by the OPCW in this regard. We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific attack in Rashidin on 15 April that killed 126 people, including many children. We welcome the readiness of the United Nations to scale up support to evacuees and call on all parties to protect civilians as is their obligation under international humanitarian law.
Intensified efforts to achieve a real nationwide ceasefire are urgently needed. A political agreement, on the basis of resolution 2254, including a credible political transition, is the only path to sustainable peace in Syria. Key stakeholders must intensify efforts to facilitate progress of the next round of UN-led intra-Syrian talks in Geneva under the leadership of our Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura.
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We welcome recent progress in Lebanon and it is now important to reach an agreement on a new electoral framework and to hold timely parliamentary elections.
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In conclusion, solving the Middle East Peace Process and reaching the two-state solution is first and foremost in the interest of Israel and Palestine. But it is also in the interest of wider regional peace and security, as it will create better conditions to deal with other regional conflicts and tensions.
A two-state solution must meet the security needs of both parties, and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, and end the occupation, and resolve permanent status issues. The two-state solution is seriously at risk, and we must now avoid any prejudging of the outcome of future negotiations, such as the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.
The parties hold the key to finding a final status solution, but the international community, including regional actors, must also meet their responsibility by enabling them in their efforts to break the current dead lock. We welcome the efforts by the United States to move this issue forward. The Council too has an obvious role in shouldering this responsibility and to move forward with concrete and constructive ideas on how to solve the conflict. We have an important task ahead of us.