UN Security Council: the situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

  • Peace, Rights and Security
Statement as delivered by Hon. Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, 16 December 2016

Mr President and members of the Security Council,

The situation in Syria is bleak. Aleppo has fallen. The fate of tens of thousands of civilians is unclear. Despite the strong calls from members of this Council and others, civilians continue to suffer.

New Zealand has used strong words in this chamber to describe the actions of Russia, and we stand by them. Indeed, Russia, Iran and the Syrian Government bear much of the responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians.

They must allow the UN to do its job to get aid to those who need it, and to ensure the safety of those who stay and those who wish to leave.

The Security Council will meet behind closed doors shortly to talk about how the UN might get more involved in eastern Aleppo. To date the Security Council has been unable to meet its responsibilities. Unless that is going to change, it is our view that an Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly is an appropriate next step.

In thanking His Excellency the Secretary-General for his final briefing on the Middle East, it is difficult not to be struck by the depressing familiarity of much that he has imparted:

  • a continuation of incitement and violence against ordinary Israelis and Palestinians;
  • a continuation of the settlements programme that undermines the prospect of a viable Palestine and challenges the credibility of any commitment to the two state solution.

In listening to today’s briefing and to recent briefings by the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator, it is difficult to understand how this Council can be silent when the space for a two state solution is being so clearly undermined.

Since 1947 the Council and the international community have embraced the notion of two states living peacefully side by side, as the only acceptable basis for resolution of this issue, reinforced in Oslo, Madrid and in a number of Security Council resolutions.

But we have been told in words of one syllable that developments are taking place on the ground that now threaten the viability of the two state solution, and that people on the ground are losing hope in the two state solution, with all of the consequences that follow.

Since the last briefing to the Council we have seen the situation compounded by legislation before the Knesset that could lead to the legalisation of settlements and outposts, including on privately owned Palestinian land.  Since the last briefing we have seen opportunities missed to advance Palestinian reconciliation.

In the past we have participated in these debates and expressed frustration with the challenges and shortcomings from all sides, but also expressed optimism that we will somehow see parties find their way back to the negotiating table.   And that has been difficult. But we are now moving beyond difficult.

We are moving into a space in which the plain facts are telling us that the forces currently in play will irretrievably undermine the prospect of two states living peacefully, side by side.

It is difficult to see the legislation now before the Knesset as other than a direct challenge to the notion of a two state solution, and a direct challenge to the resolutions previously passed by this Council.

So where does it leave this Council?

It is eight years since this Council last passed a resolution on this question.

And over that time a good number of reasons have been advanced why further Council pronouncements might be counterproductive or premature.

But when the Secretary-General and his representatives tell the Council that not only are people on the ground losing hope in the two state solution, and that the facts on the ground are being altered to render a two state solution unviable, it seems to me that the Council must either reassert on behalf of the international community, a firm commitment to the two state solution, or it should start to turn its attention to its responsibilities in the event there is one state not two.

A one state future clearly takes us into territory that no friend of Israel wishes to contemplate.

So my country has been engaging with fellow Council members on the type of text that would reassert the two state solution, and call clearly for a halt to the violence and the settlements that threaten to undermine this process.

And we very much welcome the advice that Arab colleagues are working on text for this purpose.

It is time Mr President, for us, the collective membership of this Council, to stop being bystanders, and to act as the custodians of the two state solution that we should be.

Thank you.


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