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, 18 December 2018, New York.
Thank you, Mr President and thank you again Special Coordinator Mladenov for your briefing today and for your tireless efforts which we very much appreciate. The UN and its agencies deserve to be commended for the work that you are undertaking on the ground in what we understand to be a challenging, and indeed sometimes explosive, environment.
This is the last time that Sweden will speak on this issue in this chamber during our two years as a member of the Security Council, so I would like to to begin with some broader reflections in the same vein as Nikki Haley did. And I would like to thank her for providing us with insights into the current US thinking on how to pursuit peace in the Middle East, and say that for us the United States is a key partner in that pursue.
When Sweden joined the Council, there was a moment of hope for Middle East peace. This Council had just adopted resolution 2334. France was organising its international conference on the two-state solution. And the new US administration had announced its commitment to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Today, it is with heavy hearts that we conclude that hopes are evaporating, with no peace process in sight.
The two-state solution is rapidly moving beyond our reach, as realities on the ground trend towards an expansion of Israeli settlements.
The desperate situation for the people in Gaza has further deteriorated into a humanitarian crisis, making Gaza increasingly unliveable, on the verge of social and economic collapse.
The spread of violence on the ground is leading to tragic loss of life on both sides, instilling fear among Israelis and Palestinians and destroying hopes for peace for young people, the so-called post-Oslo generation.
The idea behind resolution 2334 was for the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility and reverse this negative trend. Two years on, the resolution remains as relevant as ever. Its core components – demands for ceasing all settlement activities and an end to the violence – reflect the gravity of the situation on the ground.
We are deeply concerned over the deteriorating security situation and escalation of violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. We strongly condemn the acts of violence against civilians that has led to tragic loss of life in recent days. Terrorism can never be tolerated. We call on all actors to de-escalate and stop attacks against civilians. Security forces on both sides must exercise restraint, to avoid escalation and further loss of life.
We reiterate our grave concern over continued Israeli settlement expansion. Israel’s settlement policy is illegal under international law. We condemn Israeli decisions to advance additional settlement units, including in Hebron and East Jerusalem. The illegal settlement expansion seriously undermines the two-state solution and clouds all hope for peace.
We are also concerned about the demolition of Palestinian homes and that the Palestinian population are at risk of forcible transfers in area C. We urge the Israeli authorities to not proceed with the demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar. It would have serious consequences for its residents, including children. The village is located in the E1 area, a location of strategic interest for preserving the contiguity of the Palestinian state.
Against this dismal backdrop, the international community must act. Otherwise we risk ending up with perpetual occupation and a one-state reality. Resolution 2334 was a milestone and its implementation is key to the return to a path of peace.
We are therefore disappointed that no written report on the implementation of the resolution was circulated prior to this meeting, as is standard practice for any other issue. This is a question of the credibility of the Council, on how we conduct our work, and neglecting its reporting only serves to distance the Council from its responsibilities. Resolution 2334 was adopted by this Council and it cannot be disregarded. The oral report we just heard is a long list of events and incidents, each leading to a personal calamity and despair. Along with many others, we wish to see regular reports from the Secretary-General in the future, so that these meetings can be properly prepared and focus on the dire realities on the ground and how to improve them.
Individually, we as member states also need to step up our implementation of the resolution. It calls upon us all of us to distinguish, in our relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. The EU has clear policies with regard to such differentiation. Settlement products cannot be promoted as Israeli products and all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must explicitly indicate inapplicability to the occupied territories. This does not constitute a boycott and is fully in line with resolution 2334. We encourage other member states to adopt similar policies.
We are as committed as anyone to peace in the Middle East. During our two years as a member of this Council, we have witnessed challenges to the international consensus on peace as well as attempts to take final status issues off the table.
We therefore wish to reiterate – once more – our support for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace, based on international law, relevant UN resolutions and previous agreements. Our position and of the whole European Union reflect the continued broad international consensus on a two-state solution, as expressed in the recently adopted resolution tabled by Ireland in the General Assembly.
Any peace plan that fails to recognise these internationally agreed parameters would have little chance to succeed and would run counter to the fundamental positions of the EU. There cannot be any clean slate. Final status issues can only be taken off the table when resolved through negotiations between the parties.
Implementing resolution 2334 is not a matter of taking sides. Sweden has a long-standing friendship with the peoples of Israel and the peoples of Palestine.
This is about the responsibility of the international community to save yet another generation of young Israelis and Palestinians from growing up in a reality of constant tension, mistrust and conflict.
This is about making sure that the objective of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states and home of three world religions, is kept within reach.
And this is about keeping hope of peace in the Middle East alive.
I thank you, Mr President.