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The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
The situation in the Middle East continues to deteriorate.
The Gaza Strip has been like a pressure cooker for some time and is on the verge of explosion. Two million people have limited access to basic services, and shrinking hopes that their own lives and the lives of their children can be improved.
This is the backdrop to tensions, which have escalated in past months.
Since the end of March, we have seen protests and violence at the Gaza border fence. Continued provocation and unacceptable violent action by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad represents a real and concerning threat, with communities in Southern Israel paying the consequences. In past weeks, we have seen multiple rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel, followed by Israeli air strikes on targets in Gaza. The incendiary kites and balloons that have been launched from Gaza for over 100 days now must stop.
The response by Israeli security forces, often using live ammunition, resulted in over 135 Palestinian fatalities, including minors, journalists and a health worker. More than 14 000 were injured, which put a massive strain on the Gaza health sector. The EU urged Israel to refrain from the excessive use of force against unarmed civilians when protecting its legitimate security interests, while respecting the right to peaceful protests. The use of force taken must be proportional at all times.
Equally, Israel should reverse its punitive measures and work with the international community to ease conditions in Gaza, including opening movement and access for all humanitarian actors.
In order to prevent further escalation of violence, we strongly urge all relevant parties to respect international law, de-escalate tensions, exercise restraint, and prevent incidents that could jeopardize the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.
We welcome the truce and the planned re-opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing. The EU fully supports the efforts by UN Special Coordinator Mladenov, in close relation with the Palestinian Authority, to enhance the UN capacity in Gaza in order to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and reduce tensions in Gaza.
But to prevent the crisis from worsening, further action is needed to bring about a significant change to the political, humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza. The EU sees that five steps are urgent and necessary:
- While addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, the EU calls for an end of the closure and a full opening of the crossing points in order to reinvigorate the Gazan economy;
- UN Special Coordinator’s proposals to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza should continue to be supported by the international community;
- Current efforts under Egyptian auspices to reunite Gaza and the West Bank under one single and legitimate Palestinian Authority through progress in the intra-Palestinian reconciliation must also be supported by the international community;
- UNRWA must remain able to carry out its important function and services with the international community stepping up its support and its financial commitment to plug the funding gap;
- Finally, serious efforts must be made towards a resumption of meaningful negotiations aimed at a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders that meets Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation and resolves all final status issues in order to end the conflict.
The EU stands ready to contribute to these efforts. Our intention is to continue to work with our partners, the Israelis and the Palestinians, with regional actors, such as Jordan and Egypt, and with our partners within the Middle East Quartet to that end.
Meanwhile in a changing environment, the European Union is committed to ensure that all its instruments continue to serve best its policies. That’s why it has launched a review of the modalities for the EU engagement on the ground, to make sure that all the financial support and other policy activities from the EU have an impact on the achievement of the political goal of the two states, without reducing the level of funding. This process has moved forward with the taking place of consultations with both the Israeli and Palestinian partners in the beginning of July.
The peace process is at a stalemate, the situation in Gaza is not sustainable, and reality on the ground undermines the prospects of a two-state solution.
Beyond Gaza, we cannot ignore the continued demolition of Palestinian property being carried out by the Israeli authorities. As High Representative Mogherini made clear last week, these issues have our full attention – in particular, the pending demolition of the Palestinian village of Khan al Ahmar located in a sensitive location in Area C, which is of strategic importance. Its demolition and displacement would severely threaten the viability of the two-state solution and undermine prospects for peace. The EU expects the Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision.
More generally, the EU reiterates its strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions, including demolitions, confiscation, evictions and forced transfers. Settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two State solution impossible.
The status of Jerusalem is a final status issue. The aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem must be fulfilled, and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.
There is pressing need for a political horizon to be restored.
This is why the EU and its Members States in past months have been so vocal in reconfirming their united, consolidated position in support for the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as future capital of both states. We simply do not see any other viable option, while any alternative would play into the hands of extremists and potentially cause unrest and instability throughout the region.
The European Union reiterates that there can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict. The EU repeats that Syria needs a political solution and a political transition in line with UN Security Council resolution 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communique negotiated by the Syrian parties within the UN-led Geneva process.
Yet, the Syrian regime, supported by its allies Russia and Iran, has intensified its military operations without regard for civilian casualties and has continued violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
The EU deplores repeated violations of de-escalation agreements and urges the Astana guarantors, Russia, Iran and Turkey, to ensure cessation of hostilities and unhindered, safe and sustainable humanitarian access throughout all of Syria.
The EU also deplores the Russian-backed regime offensive in the South West of Syria which has led to widespread displacement again. The EU condemns in the strongest terms all attacks against civilian populations, and civilian infrastructure, aid workers, hospitals and schools. The protection of civilians, which is the primary responsibility of the Syrian regime, is a legal obligation, a moral duty, as well as a matter of urgency.
The EU calls upon all parties to the conflict, especially the regime and its allies, to implement a cessation of hostilities to enable safe, unimpeded, and sustained delivery of aid consistent with applicable international law, as demanded in UNSC Resolution 2401.
The EU calls on all parties to respect the terms of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as to allow UNDOF to properly fulfil its mandate and ensure the safety and security of its peacekeeping personnel.
Accountability for war crimes will remain a high priority for the European Union and we will continue to support the IIIM mechanism as well as other organisations contributing to its efforts. In this context the EU welcomes the adoption at the Special Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention on 27 June of a decision condemning the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and by Daesh and mandating the OPCW to identify those responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
The EU is concerned about the potential consequences which the law 10 adopted by the Syrian regime may have on the future return of Syrian IDPs and refugees. This law may also contribute to a change in the social, political, economic, and sectarian landscape of Syria.
The EU intends to host a high-level event on Syria at UNGA73 to reaffirm its strong commitment to a political solution to the Syria conflict, sustain international engagement to address humanitarian and resilience needs of people inside Syria and in the region through the pledges made at the two Brussels conferences, and reiterate its support for refugee-hosting countries and for regional recovery from the impact of the Syrian crisis.
The EU has been following closely the popular protests in Iraq. The right of citizens to assemble freely and protest is fundamental. Citizen’s unhindered access to information must be guaranteed. Protests should remain peaceful and Iraqi security forces must exercise maximum restraint.
We would like to signal our offer to hold a side event on Iraq at the 73rd UNGA as a follow up to the February International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait.
Iraq has the potential to become a success story in the region for its post-Da'esh transition, ongoing stabilisation and democratic consolidation. However, as we are currently seeing, Iraq still faces major challenges entailing important risks. It is therefore essential to consolidate progress made so far and to ensure basic services delivery in the whole country and to address the legitimate expectations of the Iraqi people, including combatting corruption.
Thank you Mr President.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.