New Zealand National Statement, UN Security Council Open Debate: Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Permanent Representative H.E. Ms. Carolyn Schwalger.

Thank you to Brazil for organising today’s debate. Thank you to Special Coordinator for the Peace Process Tor Wennesland for his briefing.

President, even as this Council convenes, the deadly violence and bloodshed in Israel and Palestine persists. By day’s end, more civilians will have tragically and needlessly lost their lives, some of them infants and children. It is intolerable to see civilians continue to suffer disproportionately as innocent victims of this conflict.

New Zealand condemns absolutely Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel. We are appalled by their brutality, their targeting of civilians, and the taking of hostages, which are clear violations of international law. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. We support Israel’s right to defend itself, in full compliance with international law, including in respect of actions taken in Gaza. Ultimately though, there is no military solution that will bring about a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

The protection of civilians and delivery of humanitarian assistance is the most urgent priority. New Zealand joins calls for a humanitarian pause to provide neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian organisations an opportunity to provide assistance and protection to those in Gaza who desperately need it.

President, when New Zealand last served on the UN Security Council in 2015-16, we championed Resolution 2286, which demands greater protection for healthcare in armed conflict, including hospitals and medical personnel. Healthcare facilities must never be used for military purposes or the object of attack.

We are also deeply concerned about the significant flows of internally displaced persons. Their safety and security must be protected. We call for the establishment of designated safe areas that are strictly off limits as targets, or for military use, and also call for humanitarian corridors to ensure the vital assistance reaches where it is most needed.  

We expect Israel and Hamas to act in accordance with international humanitarian law, which imposes obligations upon all parties engaged in armed conflict. Israel also has an obligation under international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, to provide basic needs for civilians in Gaza including food, water, energy, and shelter, and to facilitate humanitarian aid. These legal obligations cannot be dispensed with in times of conflict. New Zealand urges all parties, including Israel and Egypt, to rapidly facilitate access for the delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, through the Rafah border crossing. The volume of aid arriving in Gaza must significantly increase from recent levels.

For our part, New Zealand is supporting humanitarian appeals for populations in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. We stand ready to increase our support in the coming weeks.

We deeply regret that the UN Security Council could not adopt a resolution, and discharge its duties under the Charter.

As UN Secretary-General Guterres has said, “We must ensure we advance all efforts to avoid any regional spill-over to the wider Middle East.” We welcome all opportunities to urgently de-escalate hostilities, including initiatives by the UN and other countries in the region and beyond.

This is not a time for political posturing or for using this conflict to advance any cause except bringing peace and security to Israel, Gaza, and the wider region. It is a time for de-escalation. 

Finally, New Zealand remains committed to a two-state solution, which envisions an independent State of Palestine living in peace and security alongside the State of Israel. A new political horizon is essential. We call on the international community to take urgent action to advance the Middle East Peace Process. Without it, the armed conflict may eventually cease, but there will be no winners: we will never be free of the violence, the loss of innocent lives, the hatred, the antisemitism, and the Islamophobia that has erupted in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and around the world since 7 October.

As the UN Secretary-General has said, “Too many lives – and the fate of the entire region – hang in the balance”. We cannot afford to fail. We must act now.


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