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Middle East: Security Council continues debate on escalating crisis

Middle East: Security Council continues debate on escalating crisis

UN Security Council in session
The United Nations Security Council this evening resumed its open debate on the Middle East following an intensive discussion that ended late Tuesday night after 30 speakers had taken the floor to express concern over the perilous escalation of violence in the region.

Speaking yesterday at the outset of an almost five-hour open discussion, the Deputy Permanent Observer for Palestine, Marwan Jilani, voiced support for Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s recent statement to the Security Council, in which the UN leader expressed “what we believe to be an international consensus: that there is no military or security solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and there is no alternative to a political solution through the negotiation process.” Mr. Jilani said there was also international consensus that the core of the solution depended on addressing three key problems: the Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories, lack of security, and economic deprivation.

“This solution is based on ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967 and on the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, to coexist in peace and security with the State of Israel within secure and internationally recognized borders,” the Palestinian representative stressed. “What remains is for it to be accepted by the Israeli side. Herein lies the question of the failure or success of the international community in shouldering its responsibilities through this Council.”

For his part, Israeli Ambassador Aaron Jacob said Israel was committed to negotiating a peaceful settlement to the conflict in the Middle East. “This is a commitment that is unshakeable and rooted in our fundamental belief in the right of all the peoples in the region to live in freedom, peace and security,” he said. “We remain committed to the agreed terms of reference of the peace process, which require the sides to engage in direct face-to-face negotiations on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).”

He said that the Palestinian leadership purported to condemn terrorism “while legitimizing and supporting” the practice, in part by glorifying martyrdom in Palestinian Authority schools and textbooks and embracing members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups as national heroes. An immediate, complete and unconditional cessation of violence was essential to restarting the process and rebuilding trust between the parties, Ambassador Jacob said. “The only constructive action to be taken here,” he noted, “is for the international community to exert pressure on the Palestinian leadership to abandon its campaign of terror and embrace a peaceful solution to the conflict.”

“We must free the peace process from the hellish cycle of violence, fuelled by political impasse and diplomatic immobility,” said Papa Louis Fall, the Chairman of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “We solemnly call on the protagonists and stakeholders to undertake a salutary return to the negotiating table and exhort the donor community to mobilize significant economic assistance and large-scale emergency help for the Palestinian people in its extreme distress.”

Peace, he said, would require the end of the Israeli occupation and the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian State coexisting with the State of Israel. A comprehensive, just and lasting settlement agreement, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), “remains linked to the partition of Jerusalem and its declaration as an open city and capital of the two States of Israel and Palestine, as well as to a solution that is fair and equitable for all to the problem of refugees and their right of return.”