Swedish statement on ‘The situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question’
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on ‘The situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question,’ 20 February 2018, New York.
Thank you very much Mr President.
I want to thank the Secretary-General and the Special Coordinator for, as always, a detailed and sobering briefing to the Council. We fully support the challenging work of Mr Mladenov and his team that is done every day on the ground in the search for peace in the Middle East. We were also pleased to see President Abbas in this chamber today and hear his message.
For many years, we have spoken about the Middle East peace process as being at a crossroads. This statement has never been more accurate than it is today. And at every crossroads there is a choice to be made.
At this moment in time, there are a number of worrying developments in terms of the choices we see being made. Accelerated illegal settlement expansion, harmful Israeli legislative measures, resurgent violence including rocket attacks, the grave and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza – which we dealt with in detail last week – and a threat to the specific status of Jerusalem, as it is embodied in, inter alia, Security Council resolution 478, are amongst the many examples.
At the same time, our commonly agreed destination is as clear as ever: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
In order to contribute to the two-state solution, we must acknowledge the fundamental root cause of this conflict and that is the occupation. To be able to reach a sustainable peace, humanitarian, economic and political actions are all needed, but their full engagement will not suffice if the occupation of Palestine does not end. As we work on the steps ahead, this perspective must be kept in mind.
Sweden remains fully committed to the two-state solution, based on international law, known parameters and relevant resolutions of this Council, including resolution 2334. Respect for international law and UN resolutions remains at the core of the peace process. It is thus more important than ever to be principled and that we base our decisions and actions on international law. This Council is central to upholding the rules-based system. Indeed the debate tomorrow will focus on the significance of this system and the respect for the UN Charter.
The aim remains two states living side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. This is also the policy of the European Union. There is no alternative. And that is why no action should be taken that prejudges the final status issues. Such issues can only be taken off the table as part of negotiations between the parties. That includes Jerusalem and refugees. In this regard, this Council has a duty to uphold its resolutions on the special status of Jerusalem.
We were pleased to see President Abbas in the Security Council today, as I said before. Sweden recognised Palestine in 2014 and fully supports Palestinian state-building. For sustainable progress, efforts towards the re-establishment of Palestinian Authority control in Gaza and intra-Palestinian reconciliation are crucial, as are continued efforts to strengthen inclusive and democratic institutions and processes in Palestine.
As Special Coordinator Mladenov said, the peace process needs to be inclusive in order to advance and achieve sustainable results. Women's fair representation and full and meaningful participation in the peace process is a prerequisite for progress. The younger generations must also be included and given hope of a better future and an alternative to the current situation. The private sector also has a role to play. In both Palestine and Israel, civil society plays a crucial role in advancing peace. This is why Sweden engages closely and widely with civil society, in particular women's groups and youth, in both countries.
As previously stated, including in this Council last week, a significant reduction of funding for UNRWA is deeply worrisome and must be urgently and sustainably resolved. Failing to resolve the funding situation will have serious humanitarian and security consequences in the region. For this reason, Sweden has already made our payment of 59 MUSD for 2018 to UNRWA and we urge others to step up their funding, including by making their payments as early as possible. Furthermore, Sweden, Jordan and Egypt, together with UNRWA and the Secretary-General, have decided to co-host a ministerial conference in the spring on the Agency's pressing financial situation.
We are indeed at a crossroads. Our final destination – the two-state solution – is getting further away by the day. The political – and even physical – space for a two-state solution is drastically shrinking. The choices we all make – Israelis, Palestinians and as members of this Council – will determine where we end up. This Council also has a responsibility to act, including by supporting the parties to move from words to action. Difficult choices need to be made. What is needed now is political leadership and courage to make the bold choices and pick the right path to break the long-term deadlock and restart a genuine peace process. Only this way can we reach our commonly agreed final destination.
I thank you Mr President.