UN Security Council Open Debate: Middle East

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

New Zealand statement delivered by H.E. Jim McLay, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations.

While there are, sadly, a number of regional issues that deserve consideration of this Council, I want to take this first opportunity to outline our position on five points that guide New Zealand’s approach to the Middle East Peace Process.

First: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has endured for too long, and its resolution is overdue.

It has devastated Palestinians and Israelis alike; it contributes to insecurity and instability in the region and beyond; it is a threat to international peace and security.

New Zealand therefore believes this Council doesn’t just have a responsibility to remain seized of the issue – but that it should also to go further and actively promote a just and sustainable long-term peace agreement.

Second: A two–state solution is the only real basis for an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Although final status issues can only be agreed by the parties, New Zealand believes that a two-state solution should be based on -

  • Israel and a Palestinian state existing side by side, in mutually agreed and accepted peace and security;
  • pre-1967 borders with agreed land swaps;
  • a solution on the status of Jerusalem;
  • mutual recognition; and
  • agreement on security arrangements and refugees.

None of that will startle; the parameters are well known; most of them, over the years, supported by this Council – indeed, the two-state solution is almost universally supported, not least by the parties themselves.

New Zealand has therefore supported initiatives towards those ends; and particularly acknowledges the recent, unstinting efforts of Secretary Kerry.

Third: New Zealand believes the two-state solution should be achieved by a negotiated agreement between the two parties; and regrets that, currently, there are no such negotiations, despite sustained efforts by others, notably the US.

The parties themselves have previously supported and agreed many of the elements of a peaceful settlement.

Fourth: Without a re-commitment to negotiations, the prospects for a lasting, two-state peace will further diminish. 

Both sides need to cease provocations that impede peace-making; provocations that lead to Israelis facing threats to lives and communities from missile and rocket attacks; provocations that led to the devastation most recently wrought upon Gaza in July and August 2014. 

Israeli settlement activity also inflames the situation, and is now rapidly closing the window of opportunity for a two state solution.

Settlement activity must stop; it is illegal under international law, and it’s prejudicial to any peace.

Fifth: The status quo is unsustainable - doing nothing is not viable -

  • more time – time-out – will not, by itself, resolve matters - delay only breeds further hostility;
  • tensions are rising, driven by a cycle of violence and loss of hope and reducing prospects of a settlement;
  • increased radicalisation within some Palestinian communities prompts responses from Israel;
  • all of which means an ever-growing risk to regional and international peace and security.

For all these reasons, New Zealand believes that failure of the UN Security Council to bring leadership to this issue, at this time, amounts to an abdication of its responsibilities.

Arguments that this Council doesn’t have a role, or that it can’t add value, can no longer be justified, particularly as other ways to find a solution haven’t succeeded.

Indeed, with its “primary responsibility for maintaining “international peace and security”, if this Council doesn’t have a role in the current circumstances, it’s hard to envisage when it might have a role.

None of this diminishes in any way the ongoing efforts of the United States to resolve this issue.  US leadership is indispensable. 

But, as recent events have demonstrated, only the coordinated and focused efforts of the whole of the international community can bring the momentum that is required.

So, while it’s for the parties to reach final agreement, this Council can promote and support negotiations, and it can legitimise any resulting agreement - to use its moral and legal authority, and the practical tools at its disposal, to shift the dynamics back to productive negotiations.

We acknowledge the acute sensitivity of this conflict; we acknowledge the roles of multiple stakeholders; we acknowledge the difficulty both sides have in talking; all of which justifies this Council taking a proactive role in supporting the peace-making process.

This present debate isn’t the time to promote approaches that might be initiated or supported by this Council. But that time will come very soon.

There are a number of possibilities that might, at least, lend momentum to the negotiations; that might draw on the United Nations’ legitimacy and convening power; that might also draw on the authority of this Security Council; that would require that the Secretary General’s monthly Middle East report be more specific and action-focused; all those are possibilities that could support the parties (working with their major stakeholders) in reaching an agreement.

New Zealand commits to exploring those options, in an effort to inject new momentum into negotiations, once elections are concluded in Israel in March.

Any resumed negotiations will be no less difficult than before; but at least the Council would be better placed to play its part in moving the process forward, with momentum hopefully maintained through the good offices the United Nations; supported by this Council’s authority, and by its determination to support a lasting settlement.

Against that background, Mr President, New Zealand supports in principle the idea of a suitably balanced Security Council resolution touching on the final status issues - possibly also promoting specific steps to support a resumption of negotiations.

And, if peace-making is to proceed with reasonable expedition, it might also be appropriate to establish a realistic time-frame for completing that process.

For this Council to support such a timeline does no more than others have before.

Mr President: New Zealand staunchly supports the existence of the State of Israel; and supports its right to defend that existence in accordance with international law; and we accept that security arrangements will be fundamental to any final agreement. 

We will remain alert to Israel’s security needs.

New Zealand likewise acknowledges that both states comprising the eventual two state solution will be entitled to sovereignty, to security, and to membership of this Organisation; and, consistent with that view, we supported the Palestinian request to be an Observer State in the General Assembly.

And we have told both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority that New Zealand would positively consider contributing to any third-party presence that secures the sovereignty and security of both states; just as, since 1982, in the Sinai, we’ve supported the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace.

Mr President: New Zealand has strong friendships with both Israelis and Palestinians; and, in the spirit of that friendship, and as an elected member, we will seek and support initiatives for this Council to speak on this issue with a more credible and authoritative voice, and to use its legal powers and authority to engage proactively towards a sustainable Middle East peace; and call on this Security Council to live up to its responsibility to seek an enduring solution to this conflict.


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