Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question, 24 July 2018, New York.
I want to thank the Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, for his briefing to the Council and also for his tireless efforts on the ground.
We align ourselves with the statement to be delivered by the European Union later in this meeting.
A year and a half ago, in resolution 2334, this Council reaffirmed the steps needed to achieve a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Council demanded that both parties stop all activities impeding such progress. Since then, unfortunately, the situation has continued to deteriorate. Israeli settlement expansion has continued, and there is an imminent risk of further violent escalation.
In Gaza, in recent months, violence has killed over 152 Palestinians and injured more than 16 499, including many children. We have repeatedly demanded that any use of force must be proportionate. The firing of rockets, and incendiary balloons and kites from Gaza into Israel, by Hamas and other militant groups, is absolutely unacceptable. We welcome the recent truce and the planned re-opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Efforts to achieve a lasting peace and an end to the occupation must be intensified. There is a humanitarian imperative to alleviate the suffering of the two million Gazans. Interventions with quick, direct and immediate impacts on daily lives are urgently needed. This must be given utmost priority whilst recognising that the causes of the humanitarian crisis are political in their nature. We call for a lifting of the Israeli closure regime, Palestinian reconciliation and the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza.
I will focus on three issues today: the important role of women in peace and security; children and the engagement of youth; and the negative developments on the ground.
Firstly, on Women Peace and Security. Globally, too often women are excluded from efforts to resolve conflicts to the detriment of solid and sustainable peace. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unfortunately no exception. This must change. A peace process cannot merely be about ending the occupation and the conflict. It must also be about building peaceful, vibrant, inclusive societies that are less susceptible to the threat of extremism. Empowering and including women and girls is an essential part of this.
Through our extensive international development cooperation programme with Palestine, we will continue to work for enhanced political influence and the full enjoyment of human rights for women, youth and children. The same work is being undertaken through dialogue with civil society and other actors in both Israel and Palestine.
Secondly, on Youth and Children: The conflict between Israel and Palestine negatively affect children on both sides. Many in the "post-Oslo generation", both Israelis and Palestinians, have lost hope in the realisation of the two-state solution. We need to show these young people that there is an alternative to violence and oppression.
Last month, this Council adopted resolution 2419 on Youth Peace and Security. An increased role of youth in negotiating and implementing peace agreements was called for. The voices of the young Israelis and Palestinians need to be heard.
Ensuring a safe childhood for all children is essential for peaceful and prosperous societies. UNRWA – which inter alia secures the right to education for young Palestinians – plays a crucial role in this regard, not least in Gaza. UNRWA is now facing an unprecedented financial crisis, due to the lack of contributions. We call on all donor countries to step up their efforts and meet their pledges and we reiterate our call on other countries to contribute financially to UNRWA at this critical juncture. Sweden is the third largest contributor to UNRWA and we remain committed. Ensuring care, safety, health, education and protection of children today is essential to laying the foundations to prevent further conflict in the future.
Finally, Israeli policy and actions in the occupied West Bank are severely undermining a contiguous Palestinian state. Such actions include:
(i) The demolition of homes, notably the imminent threat of demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, and recent demolitions in Abu Nuwar and other places in area C. Demolitions further increase risks of forcible transfers of the Palestinian population which is illegal under international law;
(ii) The current Israeli settlement policy, which continues despite repeated condemnation by the international community. We reiterate that settlements are a flagrant violation under international law.
(iii) The recent Israeli legislative changes and proposals, and their implications, which raise concerns about the right to self-determination, and the right to non-discrimination.
(iv) Economic hindrances, restrictions and limitations towards Palestine that make a viable Palestinian economy unattainable.
We must reinvigorate efforts for a two-state solution based on international law, UN resolutions, previous agreements and well-known parameters, with Jerusalem as future capital for two states and three religions. We must redouble our support for a contiguous Palestinian state, including the return of the Palestinian government to Gaza, and we must urgently act together for the people of Gaza.
Colleagues, to sum up, there is an urgent need for a credible peace plan and the two sides have to prepare for peace in a completely different way, in what they say, in what they do and how women and youth are involved. Confidence between the parties must be built now: both Israelis and Palestinians have to realise that either peace is gained together – or both will lose.
The situation in and around Gaza is untenable. Millions of people are caught between Hamas and other militant groups on the one hand, and the crippling Israeli closure regime on the other. Mediation has temporarily put a band-aid on the wound, but it will never heal unless there is real solution. As that solution is explored, urgent measures are needed to alleviate the humanitarian situation. We are working with all Council members to see how this can be achieved.
I thank you very much.