UN General Assembly Open Debate: The situation in the Middle East

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

New Zealand statement delivered by Justin Fepulea’i, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations.

Mr Vice President, Madam Deputy Secretary General, and colleagues,

Aotearoa New Zealand welcomes the opportunity for the General Assembly to focus on this important matter.

As this Assembly 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 – innocent victims of a senseless conflict.

Aotearoa New Zealand is gravely concerned by the escalating violence and hostilities. We are appalled by the rising civilian death toll. The numbers in Gaza are especially shocking.

The violence has seen more than 75,000 people internally displaced in Gaza alone. Healthcare facilities, already under stress from COVID-19, are now under increased pressure – with many damaged in the conflict. Essential civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including electricity networks and water installations, has been irreparably damaged. The delivery of urgently-needed humanitarian staff and supplies has been impeded by the continued violence.

We condemn the actions of both sides when the result is the loss of innocent civilian lives, especially children. We have serious concerns about whether Israel’s actions are proportionate in the circumstances. In addition, there are serious doubts as to whether both sides have fulfilled their obligations under international humanitarian law to distinguish between military targets and civilians. The indiscriminate firing of rockets on Israel by Hamas is unacceptable and must stop.

There can be no military solution to this conflict. That is why we are also deeply concerned that repeated calls for a ceasefire have been rejected. This is not a time for political posturing, it is a time for urgent de-escalation. We therefore look forward to confirmation of the breaking news that a ceasefire may have been agreed.

As the current conflict rages on, prospects for a genuine peace are bleak – worse than at any time in recent memory. The viability of the two-state solution – the only basis to achieve sustainable peace – appears to be a distant prospect if both sides are unwilling to call a ceasefire.

Aotearoa New Zealand remains committed to a two-state solution and a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike. We call on the international community to take urgent action to preserve the two-state solution and advance the Middle East Peace Process.

Without tangible progress towards a two-state solution, the violence we are witnessing will simply reoccur later down the track. More lives will be lost, more seeds of discord sown, and a region already beset by instability and conflict will become ever more complex, volatile and fractured.

Mr Vice President, Aotearoa New Zealand continues to call for the United Nations Security Council to take urgent action to help end the violence and bring about a lasting ceasefire. We stand ready to assist in any constructive way we can to support these efforts.

Thank you.


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