Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing 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, 15 May 2018, New York.
Thank you, Madam President.
I want to start by thanking Special Coordinator Mladenov for his sobering briefing. As the open debate was held only some two weeks ago, I will focus my remarks today on the immediate situation that we are facing in Gaza.
We are appalled by the violence that we have witnessed in Gaza since 30 March, and, in particular, the sharp escalation yesterday. Every lost live is a tragedy, but the numbers killed was the highest in a single day since the beginning of the protests. Indeed, it was the bloodiest day since the last conflict in Gaza in 2014.
Yesterday, at least 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces and over 2,000 were wounded. Yet again, the Israeli security forces used live ammunition, including when shooting at children.
There are reports that several children under the age of 18 were amongst those killed yesterday, in addition to the seven children killed in the preceding weeks. We condemn the killings and we express our condolences for the tragic loss of life.
As we have stated repeatedly, Israel has a right to protect itself and the people within its borders. That said, Israel, as the occupying power, has a responsibility to protect Palestinian civilians and must fully respect the right to peaceful protest, protect civilians and ensure that the use of force, and other measures taken, are strictly proportional. Lethal use of force should be exercised with maximum restraint, and only as a last resort. These incidents raise serious concerns as to their compatibility with international law and there must be an independent and transparent investigation, as called for by the Secretary-General among many others.
We urge all parties to act with the utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life and to protect civilians, particularly children. This means never making children the target of violence as well as not putting children in harm's way or encouraging them to participate in violence.
We urge the Israeli security forces to refrain from the use of force against unarmed civilian protestors and representatives of the media. We also call on Hamas, and those organising the demonstrations, to avoid any provocations and ensure that protests remain non-violent and peaceful.
In addition, we must not forget that the people of Gaza have lived in intolerable conditions for far too long, in a humanitarian situation that is now deteriorating even further. To tackle this situation and to enable Gaza to recover, movement and access restrictions must be eased. We support the proposal just made by the UK on the need come forward with concrete ideas in this regard.
During these days, Israelis and Palestinians commemorate defining moments in their history that serve as important reference points for both peoples.
The position of Sweden and the whole European Union on the status of Jerusalem as a final status issue is clear and will not change. All three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – have strong bonds to Jerusalem that must be preserved. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states, in line with relevant UN resolutions.
In line with longstanding policy of the European Union, we will continue to respect the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem embodied in, among others, Security Council resolution 478, including on the location of diplomatic representations until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved.
As was stated in December last year, we regret the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It runs counter to international law and this Council's resolutions.
Our immediate priority must now be to defuse the current tensions on the ground, as more demonstrations are expected today and in the coming days. The lethal violence cannot be allowed to continue.
All parties must take immediate steps to de-escalate and this Council has a responsibility to actively promote such efforts. We regret that the press statement proposed by Kuwait yesterday could not be adopted, and we hope that a way forward on an appropriate public expression can be found without further delay.
There is unanimity around this table, I believe, in calls for restraint, for de-escalation, to break the cycle of violence, relieving the dire situation in Gaza and for a resumed serious negotiation towards peace. Increased regional instability must not contribute to a marginalization of the Israeli-Palestinian question. We must, more than ever, urgently engage to bring the parties back to negotiations to advance the two-state solution. Intra-Palestinian reconciliation and the Palestinian Authority's reestablishment in Gaza are also needed. A halt to settlements and an end to the ongoing Israeli occupation are fundamental.
It is time for a relaunch of the Middle East peace process.