United Nations Security Council Briefing on ‘The situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question’
Statement by H.E. Mr. Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on ‘The situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question’
I thank you for organising this emergency meeting, and I thank the Special Coordinator, Nikolay Mladenov, for his clear briefing. We requested this meeting, together with seven other members of this Council, Bolivia, Egypt, France, Italy, Senegal, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
Sweden took this step due to the repercussions that the statement made by US President, Donald Trump, on Jerusalem on 6 December will have.
We clearly disagree with the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and with the plan for a move of the US embassy to Jerusalem for a number of reasons, which I will now outline.
Firstly, it contradicts international law and UN Security Council resolutions.
Jerusalem is a final status issue and can therefore only be resolved through negotiations agreed between the parties.
Already in 1947, the UN attributed to Jerusalem a special legal and political status as corpus separatum.
In 1980, when Israel attempted to declare Jerusalem as its capital, this Council stated, in resolution 478, that this was a violation of international law. The Council further declared that attempts to change the character and status of Jerusalem were 'null and void' and called upon all states to accept this decision as well as to withdraw their missions from Jerusalem. All states, up to now, abided by the Council's call.
It was only one year ago, in 2016, that this Council, again, in resolution 2334, stated that it 'will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations'.
The European Union has a clear position on Jerusalem, which explains why all EU Member States on this Council were united in requesting today's meeting. We consider Jerusalem to be the future capital of two states. We have never recognised Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and we thus consider it part of occupied territory. And we believe that the future status, as I said, of Jerusalem can only be resolved through negotiations.
The statement by the US President goes against the plea of many friends of the United States and Israel. However, it does not affect the position of Sweden, the European Union or the wider international community – which is the, up to now, international consensus – on the status of Jerusalem.
Secondly, it is fuelling tensions and increasing instability in an already volatile and turbulent region.
The question of Jerusalem has an impact far beyond the region and there are already strong reactions to this decision around the globe. Clashes have taken place, as we have just heard, yesterday and today, resulting, already, in over a hundred people injured. We call on all parties to maintain calm, show restraint and refrain from violence.
This conflict must not be turned into a religious one. Jerusalem is a holy city for the three Abrahamic religions. More than ever we need respect, tolerance and dialogue to prevail over division and antagonism.
We should not forget the strong ties to Jerusalem of both Israelis and Palestinians and that approximately 40 percent of the inhabitants of Jerusalem are Palestinians.
Thirdly, it risks, despite its stated intention to the contrary, prejudging the outcome of negotiations on final status issues, such as Jerusalem, and thus it threatens the peace prospect itself.
As the Secretary-General has repeatedly stated, there is no alternative to the two-state solution and there is no plan B. Yet that vision is more threatened than ever.
Sweden has a long-standing and firm commitment to the two-state solution. 70 years ago, we were one of 33 member states of the UN that voted in favour of resolution 181, which paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel. In 2014, Sweden decided to recognise the State of Palestine as a logical consequence of our support for the two-state solution.
The United States has for decades played a key role in the quest for peace in Middle East. We note the US Administration's stated intention to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to facilitate a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Now words need to be followed by deeds and ideas by proposals. We encourage the United States to follow up its statement with action towards a two-state solution.
Now is the time to move forward with a detailed peace plan that enables the State of Israel and the State of Palestine to live side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states. This Council also has a responsibility and all stakeholders must engage more than ever on a path to peace in the Middle East.
Thank you very much.