Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the situation in Middle East, including the Palestinian question
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the situation in Middle East, including the Palestinian question, 26 April 2018, New York.
Thank you Mr President.
We align ourselves with the statement to be delivered by the European Union later this afternoon.
I want to start by thanking Special Coordinator Mladenov for his briefing to the Council and for his tireless efforts, including most recently to de-escalate the situation in Gaza. In these challenging times, the United Nations' strong presence and engagement including in Gaza is of paramount importance and we are fully behind your efforts.
Over the last few weeks, we have witnessed the tragic events in Gaza leading to a regrettable loss of life. Since the beginning of the events on 30 March, 34 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces and thousands have been wounded. The Israeli security forces have used live ammunition, including when shooting at children.
Like the six UN Special Rapporteurs mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, Sweden condemns these killings and we express our condolences.
Israel has a right to protect itself and the people within its borders, but the measures taken must always be proportional. Lethal use of force should be used only as a last resort. These incidents raise serious concerns as to their compatibility with international law and must be swiftly and fully investigated. We support the Secretary-General's call for an independent and transparent investigation.
We continue to urge the Israeli security forces to refrain from the use of force against unarmed protestors and representatives of the media and to respect the right to peaceful protest. We also stress that it is imperative that all actors, including those who organise the demonstrations, to put the protection of children first, never make children the target of violence, and not put children at risk or encourage them to participate in violence.
These deplorable events do not take place in a vacuum. Gaza – roughly half the size of New York City – is on the verge of social and economic collapse. We just heard Mr Mladenov this morning explain how Gaza is coming apart as we speak with very dire consequences. We have a collective responsibility to avoid a humanitarian disaster and further escalation in a very volatile region.
There is an urgent need for changes on the ground. All actors have responsibilities in this regard.
While understanding the legitimate security concerns of Israel, Palestine and Egypt, there needs to be a lifting of the restrictions and full and sustained access and movement. This includes an immediate end to the Israeli policy of closure, which is hampering reconstruction and making economic development impossible. We underline the need for unimpeded access to Gaza for humanitarian actors, which is far from being the case today.
Furthermore, Gaza constitutes an integral part of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian Authority needs to resume its responsibilities there. We call on the Palestinian factions to redouble efforts to achieve reconciliation. Only reconciliation will lead to a unified Palestinian leadership and a reunification of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
I wish to highlight the difficult financial crisis of UNRWA as many other have this morning. We must all support UNRWA, financially and politically, to avoid further severe humanitarian consequences for the people of Gaza. It is of outmost importance that all members of the international community meet their responsibilities, political and financial.
We are heading into a historically charged period in mid-May with important reference points for both Israelis and Palestinians.
It is 70 years since Israel's declaration of independence on 14 May 1948. Sweden was among the first wave of states that recognised the State of Israel in February 1949. We have a long history of friendship with Israel.
We must also acknowledge that the birth of one state, while being a joy to many, brought suffering for others. The Israeli declaration of independence coincides with the Palestinian exodus, also referred to as Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to leave their homes.
In 1947, Sweden voted in favour of resolution 181, which recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states aiming at fulfilling the national aspirations for both peoples. While the establishment of the State of Israel led to the fulfilment of its legitimate national aspirations, those of the Palestinian people, a people living under more than fifty years of occupation, are yet to be realised.
The events in mid-May will also coincide with the planned move of the United States embassy to Jerusalem. The position of Sweden and the whole European Union on the status of Jerusalem as a final status issue and as a future capital for both States, including the location of diplomatic representations, is clear and it will remain unchanged.
With the current violence on the ground and the upcoming period we see a real risk that the situation could spiral out of control. All parties must exercise maximum restraint. All parties must avoid confrontation. All parties must take immediate steps to de-escalate. And this Council should contribute to these efforts, including through an appropriate public expression.
While this must be our immediate priority, we must also drastically increase our multilateral efforts to advance peace. We need to see a resumption of meaningful negotiations on all final status issues leading to the two-state solution. President Abbas' plans for an international conference with a view to establish a multilateral mechanism for peace is well worth exploring.
It is critical that any future peace proposal has the ultimate goal of a two-state solution and that all final status issues are resolved based on international law, relevant UN resolutions, including resolution 2334, and previous agreements.
Let me just make a few brief remarks on Lebanon, where we welcome the holding of legislative elections on 6 May. This is the first time in nearly a decade for such elections and they constitute a milestone in Lebanon's democratic tradition. More broadly, the elections are vital for preserving the legitimacy of Lebanese state institutions. We hope that a new government can be formed swiftly following the elections. We also hope that more women will be elected to the next parliament and serve in the next government. We reiterate our full support for Lebanon's stability, security, sovereignty and political independence.
And finally Mr President, I just want to add in response to the Israeli Ambassador, who unfortunately is not here anymore, that we share the view expressed by the United Kingdom and others about the virtue on JCPOA with Iran as endorsed by this Council and as a means to maintaining international stability and to resolve the nuclear issue with Iran.
Thank you very much.