Delegation of the European Union to Albania

EU Statement – United Nations Security Council: the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

New York, 28/07/2021 - 22:28, UNIQUE ID: 210728_4
Statements on behalf of the EU

28 July 2021, New York – Statement by H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

Mr President,

 

Members of the Security Council,

 

I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

 

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, and Albania*, as well as the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.

 

The EU reaffirms its commitment to a just and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the two state solution, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign, and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition.

 

The European Union remains deeply concerned by the situation in the Middle East. The latest escalation in Gaza led to deplorable civilian deaths and injuries, including a high number of children and women. The EU has condemned the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on Israeli territory; has fully supported Israel’s right to defend itself; and has underlined how this right must be exercised in a proportionate manner and in full respect of international humanitarian law.

 

The EU has welcomed the ceasefire and calls for its consolidation. The EU welcomes the steps that Israel has taken to ease some restrictions on Gaza and calls for the further lifting of restriction to allow for reconstruction efforts and basic service delivery as well as for unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza. The situation in the Gaza Strip has long been unsustainable: only a political solution will bring an endto the conflict. Restoring a political horizon towards a two-state solution, for which the EU reaffirms there is no alternative, remains of utmost importance.  

 

The viability of the two state solution is being constantly eroded by new facts on the ground. The EU urges both parties to demonstrate their stated commitment to a two state solution through concrete actions and to avoid unilateral actions which threaten it. Actions by either side which call into question this commitment must be avoided. The EU will actively support the parties to restore confidence and create an environment of trust necessary to engage in meaningful negotiations as soon as possible.

 

In this regard, the EU has welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and a number of countries, namely the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. The EU believes that these developments represent a positive contribution to peace and stability in the Middle East.  

 

The preservation of the viability of the two state solution is at the core of EU policy and will remain a priority.

 

Settlements are illegal under international law. The EU’s opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, including in East Jerusalem, is well known. Such actions as building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions and confiscation - including of EU funded projects - evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins, illegal outposts, settler violence and restrictions of movement and access, will only escalate an already tense environment. It will be important not to proceed with any planned evictions. The status quo of the Holy Sites must be fully respected, and in this regard the EU recalls the importance of the Hashemite custodianship of Jerusalem’s Holy sites. The EU will continue to closely monitor developments on the ground and their broader implications and remains ready to take further action in order to protect the viability of the two state solution.

 

The EU calls for all parties to take swift steps to produce a fundamental change to the political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip, including the end of the closure and a full opening of the crossing points, while addressing Israel's legitimate security concerns. Rocket fire, launching of incendiary balloons and other attacks by Hamas and other militant groups is unacceptable. All stakeholders must commit to non-violence and peace.

 

The decision to postpone the planned Palestinian elections, including the legislative elections originally scheduled for 22 May, is deeply disappointing. The EU has consistently expressed its support for credible, inclusive and transparent elections for all Palestinians. We firmly believe that strong, inclusive, accountable and functioning democratic Palestinian institutions based on respect for the rule of law and human rights are vital for the Palestinian people, for democratic legitimacy and, ultimately, for the two-state solution. We strongly encourage all Palestinian actors to resume efforts to build on the successful talks between the factions over recent months, to adhere to previous agreements, renounce violence and terrorism, and recognize Israel’s right to exist and to commit to democratic principles, including rule of law. A new date for elections should be set without delay. We reiterate our call on Israel to facilitate the holding of such elections across all of the Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem. The EU continues to stand ready to work with all those involved to facilitate EU observation of any electoral process. Palestinian civil society organisations and actors must be allowed to carry out their important task free from obstruction, harassment and intimidation. The EU is shocked and saddened by the death of activist Nizar Banat following his arrest by the PA security forces, and we call for a full, independent investigation into his death and for those responsible to be held accountable. The EU calls for the fundamental right to freedom of expression in areas under PA control to be upheld.

 

The EU reiterates its deep and genuine appreciation for UNRWA’s work and for its dedicated staff who are working in an extremely difficult and challenging context.  UNRWA is an essential provider of vital services to millions of Palestine refugees, and a stabilising force in the region. Until a just, fair, agreed and realistic solution to the refugee issue in accordance with international law is found, UNRWA remains crucial for providing the necessary protection and essential services for Palestine refugees, and we will continue to support UNRWA in all its fields of operations, including in East Jerusalem.  The EU recalls that together with its Member States it provided 75 percent of last year’s funding to UNRWA, welcomes the additional financial support from other and new donors, including the renewed commitment from the United States, and calls upon all partners, including Arab Gulf states, to increase their contributions to UNRWA.

 

Looking ahead, we need to explore the space for meaningful re-engagement between the parties, develop confidence-building measures, improve living conditions for ordinary people, and open the path towards the potential relaunch of the peace process, and we stand ready to engage with the new Israeli government bilaterally as well as to support efforts to rebuild a meaningful political process.

The EU will renew its engagement with key international partners, including the United States and other partners in the region, as well as with a revived Middle East Quartet. 

 

Mr. President, 

 

Please allow me to turn to the situation in Syria.

 

The European Union welcomes the unanimous adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2585 (2021) on 9 July 2021, which constitutes a considerable relief for the next twelve months for millions of Syrians who rely on the humanitarian assistance delivered through this mechanism for their survival. The renewal of the United Nations Security Council Resolution on cross-border assistance continues to be vital, although by no means sufficient, as long as there is no adequate alternative to meet the immense, and growing, humanitarian needs in northwest Syria.

 

Mr President,

 

After a decade of conflict, a political solution has yet to be reached. Conflict, violence and instability in Syria continue to have profound repercussions for the stability of the entire region, causing enormous human suffering, with millions of Syrians still displaced or living as refugees in other countries. 

 

The European Union remains committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian state, and recalls that any sustainable solution to the conflict requires a genuine, inclusive political transition in line with UNSCR 2254 and the 2012 Geneva communiqué negotiated by the Syrian parties within the UN-led Geneva process, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.

 

The elections that took place in Syria on 26 May met none of the criteria of a genuinely democratic vote, did not contribute to the settlement of the conflict, and the EU considers that these elections undermine efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict. Elections in Syria should take place only within the framework of a genuine political process, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The political process must be fully inclusive to ensure that all segments of Syria’s society are involved in shaping the country’s future unity and reconciliation.

 

The European Union fully supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen towards the full implementation of UNSCR 2254 in a comprehensive approach, including on the issue of detainees and missing persons and the establishment of a safe and neutral environment in order for free and fair elections to be held under UN supervision, and continues to encourage the work of the Syrian-led Constitutional Committee, under UN auspices.  The European Union recalls that a sixth meeting must take place as soon as possible, this time on the basis of a clear understanding of working methodology and objectives.  The European Union insists on engagement in good faith of all parties, and particular of the Syrian regime, in the work of the Constitutional Committee with the aim of achieving meaningful progress on constitutional reform.

 

The European Union takes note with interest of UNSE Pedersen’s proposals for a new political format and for a “step for step” approach to move forward in the political process.

 

 

Mr President,

 

In the northwest of Syria, the situation continues to be highly insecure.  The ceasefire agreed in March 2020 is fragile and must be upheld and strengthened, civilians must be protected at all times, and attacks on civilian objects, including hospitals, must cease.

 

The European Union continues to call upon the Syrian regime and its allies, and indeed upon all parties to the conflict, to fully respect international humanitarian law, and in particular to permanently cease indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling of civilians and humanitarian workers.

 

The European Union also notes with concern the ongoing insecurity in the northeast of Syria.  Military action by any party in Syria renders ordinary life dangerous and intolerable for the civilian population. The European Union once again echoes the call made on a number of occasions by the United Nations and the Security Council for the implementation of a nationwide ceasefire, in line with UNSCR 2254 and 2532.

 

Turkey is a key partner of the European Union and a critically important actor in the Syrian crisis and the region. Turkey’s security concerns in the northeast of Syria should be addressed through political and diplomatic means, not by military action, and in full respect of international humanitarian law.

 

Mr President,

 

Within Syria, violations of international law, including violations and abuses of human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties, particularly the Syrian regime and its allies, remain persistent.

 

The European Union continues to demand an end to repression, the release of detainees, and meaningful engagement by the Syrian regime and its allies towards the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

 

The EU insists further that the Syrian regime must fully cooperate with the OPCW, including in its investigations of the use of chemical weapons in the conflict, and deplores the continued lack of cooperation of the regime with the OPCW

 

All those responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, must be held accountable.  The European Union reiterates its call to have the situation in Syria referred to the International Criminal Court. 

 

In the absence of avenues for international justice, the prosecution of war crimes under national jurisdiction where possible, now under way in several European Union Member States, represents an important contribution towards securing justice.

 

The European Union will continue to support efforts to gather evidence with a view to future legal action, including by the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria and the work of the Commission of Inquiry. We welcome the initiative of the Netherlands, together with Canada, to invoke Syria’s responsibility for human rights violations.

 

Mr President,

 

The Syrian refugee crisis is the largest displacement crisis in the world, with 5.6 million registered refugees and another 6.7 million people displaced within Syria, and with conditions not in place for their safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return in line with the parameters defined by UNHCR and in accordance with international law.  The European Union insists that the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their places of origin will only be encouraged once these conditions are met. The underlying causes of the refugee and displacement crisis must be addressed through the implementation of UNSCR 2254. 

 

The European Union continues to warn against any further displacements in any part of Syria, as well as against the potential exploitation of such displacements for the purposes of social and demographic engineering. 

 

The European Union, in line with European Union Council Conclusions, will be ready to assist in the reconstruction of Syria only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, in the framework of UNSCR 2254 and the Geneva process, is firmly under way. 

 

Mr President,

 

Allow me to reiterate once more: only a credible sustainable and inclusive political solution based on the full and comprehensive implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 can bring sustainable peace to Syria and open the way for Syria to become once again the united, sovereign, prosperous and free country we all want to see. The EU will continue to support the office of the Special Envoy in its efforts to bring about an inclusive political solution.


* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

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