On 18 October, the EU delivered a statement at the Security Council Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, which addressed all the complex dimensions and consequences of the Israel Palestine conflict. Last week, we also outlined our position on UNRWA during the general debate of the 4th Committee on this particular matter.
Please allow me to focus today on the following points.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, align themselves with this statement.
Firstly, the EU is deeply concerned by the situation in Gaza. Gaza is home to 2 million people who struggle to have access to basic services, sufficient water and electricity supply.
In the past months, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed and over 21,000 have been injured, most injuries coming from live ammunition and gas inhalation. As living conditions continue to worsen, the ongoing protests and violence at the Gaza border fence, fuelled by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have intensified and expanded in nature; they have further worsened the already volatile situation in and around the Strip. Launching of incendiary kites and balloons has now continued for over half a year. It has caused severe damages in Israeli communities near Gaza and must stop.
We expect the de-facto authorities in Gaza to do their utmost to prevent further escalation. The EU urges all actors concerned to act with utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life, to prevent any escalation, to not encourage resort to violence, and to not exploit the demonstrations for other means. While recalling Israel’s right to self-defense, we expect the Israeli authorities to respect the principle of necessity and proportionality in its use of force. Serious questions have risen about the proportionate use of force which must be addressed through independent and transparent investigations. The European Union takes note of the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism established by the Israel Defence Forces to review its own actions and specific incidents that have taken place on the Israeli-Gaza border since 30 March 2018. Facts must also be established regarding reports about violent attacks against Israel under the guise of the protests.
The European Union will continue its support for the work undertaken by UN Special Coordinator for the Peace process, Nickolay Mladenov. We commend his efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the fuel-delivery deal. We call upon the parties to cooperate with the Special Coordinator as well as on the wider international community to support the Special Coordinator in the operationalisation of the proposed humanitarian and economic interventions for Gaza, in continued close coordination with the Palestinian Authority to secure and coordinate amongst others, the provision of lifesaving healthcare needs, to increase the access to clean water and energy supplies, to improve the overall economic conditions and to improve conditions that enable intra-Palestinian unity. The immediate priority must be to reduce the tensions and avoid another conflict in Gaza. The return of the PA to the Gaza strip is indispensable to improve durably the conditions and the humanitarian situation.
Additional financial efforts by the international community are needed. But to ensure lasting results, a fundamental change of the situation in Gaza is crucial. This should include an end to the closure and the full opening of crossing points, while addressing Israel's legitimate security concerns. In this light, we welcome the continued opening of the Rafah crossing. In the meantime, the EU will continue to support UN and Egyptian efforts towards the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under one single and legitimate Palestinian Authority. The EU will continue to work towards that end with our partners, the Israelis and the Palestinians, with regional actors, and with our partners within the Middle East Quartet to that end. We hope that the US peace plan for the Middle East will be another contribution in this regard.
Twenty five years after the signing of the Oslo Agreements, a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians is still sorely missing. While Oslo has not accomplished its overall goal, one of its major achievements is that Palestinian institutions are in place. It is in the interest of both the Palestinians and the Israelis that their stability is preserved.
The EU will continue to urge both parties to refrain from unilateral actions that undermine the relaunch of the negotiations or imperil the viability of the two-state solution. There is no justification for incitement and violence. We follow with great concern the situation on the ground, in particular the pending demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, including its school, in a location of strategic interest for preserving the contiguity of a future Palestinian state, as well as the recent decision by the Israeli authorities to advance plans of settlement expansion in Hebron. The EU has repeatedly urged Israel not to execute its decision to demolish the community or to displace its citizens and reiterates its strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, including demolitions, and confiscation - including of EU funded projects -, evictions, and forced transfers. Settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two State solution impossible.
We must work together to reverse the current negative developments on the ground that lead us away from a negotiated two-state solution with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states. 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 remains the only viable and realistic way to end the conflict and achieve just and lasting peace. The EU will continue to work towards that end with both parties, and its regional and international partners, starting from the Middle East Quartet.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.