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, 20 September 2018, New York.
Thank you, Madam President, and thank you very much Special Coordinator Mladenov for your clear briefing today and also your reminder of the urgency and the volatility of the situation on the ground and in the region.
Last week, it was 25 years since the historic Oslo Accords were signed and we need to have a serious and frank discussion about the obstacles to peace and the threats to the two-state solution, which represents the international consensus. I want to address three elements of resolution 2334: settlements, violence and differentiation.
The Israeli settlement policy continues unabatedly despite repeated international condemnations. Over the reporting period, the Israeli authorities have announced plans and tenders for thousands of new settlement units in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, while Palestinian homes are being demolished and people are at risk of being forcibly transferred.
We second the calls from both the UN and the European Union to the Israeli authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar in area E1. It would have serious consequences for its residents, a majority of which are children, as well as for the contiguity of the Palestinian state and Palestinian access to East Jerusalem.
Israel’s settlement policy is illegal under international law as are actions taken in this context, including the demolitions of Palestinian communities and possible forced transfers of population. This policy undermines prospects for peace and the viability of the two-state solution. We therefore urge the Israeli authorities to reconsider and reverse these policies.
We call for steps to prevent acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terrorism, provocation and destruction.
In line with resolution 2334 and well-established EU policy, we call for the distinction between Israel within pre-1967 borders and occupied territory. As is obvious from the Special Coordinator’s briefing today, progress on implementing this part of resolution 2334 is lacking. We urge all states to act in this regard.
Since our last meeting in August, we welcome that the situation in and around Gaza has stabilised somewhat thanks to international efforts, not least by the Special Coordinator and Egypt. But as we heard the situation remains tense and fragile. For the sake of long term stability, we underline the importance of all relevant parties, including the PLO, taking part in these efforts.
While another devastating conflict between Israel and Hamas may have been averted, it is imperative to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Interventions with quick, direct and immediate impact of daily lives are possible and urgently needed for the population in Gaza living under very dire circumstances.
We look forward to discussing this in greater detail at the AHLC meeting next week, but let me here underline that it is crucial to see a lifting of the Israeli closure regime, an end to acts of violence and acts of provocation, progress in intra-Palestinian reconciliation and a return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza.
We are all aware that UNRWA plays a critical role on the ground. It provides education, health and other essential services to Palestine refugees, but it also constitutes a key factor for the stability in the region, including in the neighbouring countries, until the final status issue on refugees has been settled.
We therefore regret the United States’ decision to not provide further funding to UNRWA after decades of political and financial support. The US has traditionally been the largest donor and its support has been much appreciated.
This decision has contributed to a serious financial crisis of UNRWA with a funding shortfall of currently 186 million US dollars. A few weeks ago, UNRWA’s schools for more than half a million Palestinian children opened. However, the agency’s funding beyond September is not secured. The remaining financial gap needs to be filled for schools to remain open.
Sweden is among the top donors to UNRWA and in August we signed a multiannual partnership agreement worth over 200 million US dollars. We are fully committed to supporting UNRWA at this critical juncture. Together with our partners, including Jordan – whose commitment to UNRWA we commend – we have sought to mobilise political and financial support over recent months. We will also use the occasion of the high-level week of the General Assembly to this end. We call on all countries to step up support since the shortfall is unprecedented and, as mentioned, risks to spur instability and violent radicalisation in both Gaza, and the wider region.
The Oslo Accords did unfortunately not bring the peace that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve. We reaffirm our support for an end to the occupation and [the realisation of] the two-state solution, based on international law, relevant UN resolutions, and previous agreements. There is simply no viable alternative to the two-state solution, which is the only way the legitimate aspirations of both peoples can be attained. Yet, as we have heard today, it is getting increasingly distant by the day.
We therefore need to redouble our collective efforts to salvage the two-state solution. The international community and regional stakeholders have a key role to play in revitalising meaningful peace negotiations, which require the full participation of women. This Council too has a role to play, as it did when resolution 2334 was adopted.
We often speak in this Chamber of how important it is that decisions of this Council are respected. That is why we are gravely concerned by the clear lack of implementation of resolution 2334 and that is why we were surprised that no SG report was circulated prior to this meeting. We recall that written reports is standard practice in the Council and stipulated by Note 507. In June, a report was circulated, in line with the request made by ten members of this Council. We encourage this practice to continue and we look forward to receiving a written report for the next quarterly period.
I thank you very much Madam President.