Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement -- United Nations Security Council: Open VTC on the Situation in the Middle East

New York, 21/07/2020 - 17:35, UNIQUE ID: 200721_27
Statements on behalf of the EU

21 July 2020, New York -- Statement by H.E. Mr. Olof Skoog, Head of Delegation, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open VTC on the Situation in the Middle East

Mr President,

Members of the Security Council,

I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the European Union.

The European Union remains united in its commitment to achieving a two-state solution that meets Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues in order to end the conflict.

The EU recalls that a lasting solution to the conflict must be achieved on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid principles including land for peace, the Roadmap, the agreements previously reached by the parties and of the Arab Peace Initiative, 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 EU reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to current and emerging threats in the region.

The EU strongly opposes all actions that undermine the viability of the two state solution and urges both sides to demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to a two-state solution in order to rebuild trust and create a path back to meaningful negotiations.

To this end, the EU will continue to closely monitor developments on the ground and their broader implications and will consider further action in order to protect the viability of the two-state solution, which is constantly eroded by new facts on the ground.

As the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, wrote in his letter to the current members of the United Nations Security Council on 23 June:

In recent days, I have had open, friendly and constructive conversations with a number of senior Israeli interlocutors, including alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. In addition, I am in close contact with the Palestinian leadership, with other key Arab representatives and, together with EU foreign ministers, I also held a useful discussion on the Middle East Peace Process with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In these discussions, I emphasized the EU’s opposition to any unilateral steps by the parties and in particular the possible annexation by Israel of any parts of the West Bank. I am firmly convinced that such steps would endanger the continuous efforts of the Security Council and the wider international community, to achieve the vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders.

In March this year, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the EU delivered a statement to this effect, noting clearly that “any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law”. Indeed, a core legal provision of international law, including the UN Charter, is that the acquisition of territory by force is prohibited.

Importantly, unilateral annexation would cause real damage to the prospects for a viable two-state solution”

Recalling that settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible, the EU reiterates its strong opposition to Israel's settlement policy and actions taken in this context, such 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 and restrictions of movement and access. The EU calls on Israel to halt continued settlement expansion, including East Jerusalem, especially in sensitive areas such as Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and E1, which severely threatens 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. Recent rocket fire by militant groups is unacceptable and underlines again the danger of escalation. All stakeholders must commit to non-violence and peace.

The EU reaffirms its readiness to work towards the resumption of meaningful negotiations to resolve all permanent status issues and to achieve a just and lasting peace.  It urges both sides to demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution as the only realistic way to end the conflict.

Mr President,

Please allow me to turn to the situation in Syria.

In Idlib, the offensive by the Syrian regime and its backers, including Russia, has created untold human suffering and has provoked the worst humanitarian crisis since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.

The EU reiterates, in the strongest possible terms, its call on all parties to keep in a sustainable ceasefire, to guarantee the protection of civilians on the ground and from the air and to enable the unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance by the international community.

While the European Union recognises the presence of UN-designated terrorist groups in the region, indiscriminate attacks and the destruction of civilian infrastructure including health facilities, schools and settlements for displaced persons by the Syrian regime and its allies cannot be justified under any circumstances and must stop. We reiterate the EU position that all the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity should be held accountable.

The EU has condemned Turkey’s unilateral military action in North East Syria, which causes unacceptable human suffering, undermines the fight against Daʼesh and threatens heavily European security. 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 North-East Syria should be addressed through political and diplomatic means, not with military action, and in accordance with international humanitarian law.

In response to the findings of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) report of 8 April, the Executive Council has just taken a crucially important decision on addressing the possession and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. This decision has been carefully drafted in accordance with the Convention. It sets clear and verifiable parameters for action that the Syrian regime needs to take in order to return to full compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. The European Union strongly supports the decision and urges the Syrian regime to take all the measures required to redress the situation in the specified timeframe. As set out in the decision, it will now be the duty of the Conference of the States Parties to decide the further course of action, in accordance with Art XII of the Convention. We call on all States Parties to fulfil their responsibility and uphold the credibility of the Convention.

Mr President,

The EU urges the Syrian regime to return to the negotiating table and repeats that any sustainable solution to the conflict requires a genuine political transition in line with UNSCR 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communique negotiated by the Syrian parties within the UN-led Geneva process and remains committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian state.

The EU is addressing as a matter of priority the humanitarian situation. Deliveries of humanitarian assistance are being made to address the emergency needs for shelter, medical and food support of some one million persons displaced, and of all other Syrians in need in the Idlib region. Safe, sustained and immediate access to populations in need must continue to be enabled, in full compliance with international humanitarian law. As stated by High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič on 12 July 2020:

“On 11 July, the United Nations Security Council adopted a much-needed resolution on cross border assistance that is crucial for helping people suffering from the conflict in Syria. However, it is a matter of deep concern that the resolution adopted after repeated vetoes by Russia and China authorises only one crossing point out of the two previously available to the UN. The unconstructive approach of certain members of the Security Council is all the more regrettable at a time when needs have never been greater and in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Only the Bab al-Hawa crossing point is now left for the UN to provide essential humanitarian assistance. The authorisation of only one crossing will hamper the delivery of life-saving emergency supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in need in North West Syria.”

The EU will be ready to assist in the reconstruction of Syria when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, in the framework of UNSCR 2254 and the Geneva process, is firmly under way.

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