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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

 

Israel Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Ambassador Ron Prosor addressed the UN Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East on January 20, 2014 – Martin Luther King Jr. birthday – a US holiday. In his speech Ambassador Prosor  attacked the Palestinian leadership’s continuous incitement against Israel and discussed the violence and instability afflicting the Middle East region.

 

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

 

 

Before I begin, I want to express Israel’s condolences on the death of United Nations personnel in Friday’s terrorist attack in Kabul.  There is no excuse for targeting civilians and UN workers.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate Jordan on its election to the Security Council.  We thank the Secretary-General, Foreign Minister Judeh, Mr. Jean Asselborn, and Vice Minister Cho Tae-yul for being here today.

 

 

 

We also congratulate the new non-permanent members of the Security Council – Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria. You as Ambassadors have the privilege of representing your countries – good luck.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

The Middle East is known as the cradle of civilization – the birthplace of history’s greatest empires and three world religions.  The region was once admired for its stirring art, striking architecture and significant innovations.

 

 

 

Today, the world looks at the Middle East and sees a region shaken by violence.  From the Arabian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, not a day goes by when we do not read about brutality and bloodshed or new threats looming on the horizon.

 

 

 

Amidst this sea of hostility, Israel is an island of stability and democracy.  It is a nation in which the majority governs, but the minority enjoys equal rights; a nation that embraces diversity and welcomes diverse opinions; and, a nation that leads the world in human rights and encourages women to be leaders.

 

 

 

Israel is proud of its democracy and yearns for peace with its neighbors and security in its borders.  The people of Israel are still mourning the loss of their legendary statesman and soldier, Ariel Sharon.  He was a fearless leader who knew the heavy price of war and was willing to take bold steps for peace. 

 

 

 

The State of Israel is still willing to take courageous steps for peace and is committed to serious and meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the United States and Secretary Kerry, in particular, for his tireless devotion to promoting peace in our region.

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Twenty years ago, I recall watching King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin meet in the Arava desert to sign the historic peace treaty between our two countries.  At the signing, King Hussein said (and I quote), “This is peace with commitment. This is our gift to our peoples and the generations to come.” 

 

 

 

Fifteen years after his death, King Hussein’s legacy of peace lives on. Israelis from across the political and religious spectrum still admire King Hussein’s towering morality and his profound belief in the sanctity of life and the dignity of every human being. 

 

 

 

I and most Israelis will never forget the sight of King Hussein consoling the Israeli families whose children had been killed in a terrorist attack.  After learning that a Jordanian soldier had murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls, King Hussein traveled to Israel to visit the homes of the bereaved families.  One by one, he sat with the grieving parents, held their hands, offered words of condolence and hugged and kissed them.

 

 

 

King Hussein told them (and I quote), “I feel that if there is anything left in life, it will be to ensure that all the children enjoy the kind of peace and security that we never had in our times.”  This is the legacy that his son, King Abdullah, proudly continues today.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Contrast this picture, with a picture from just a few weeks ago. In December, Israel once again made the heartbreaking decision to release convicted Palestinian terrorists in an effort to advance the peace process. 

 

 

 

The released terrorists were given a heroes’ welcome by the Palestinians and embraced by President Abbas.  Murderers were met with fireworks and festivities and showered with candies and congratulations.  The Palestinian Authority is rewarding terrorists with tens of thousands of dollars. The motto of the PA’s pension plan seems to be ‘the more you slay, the more we pay.’ 

 

 

 

This is coexistence? This is tolerance? This is mutual respect?  Grieving Israelis watched as Palestinians celebrated men like Abu Harbish who threw a firebomb at a bus, murdering 26-year-old Rachel Weiss and her three young children. 

 

 

 

To everyone in this room I ask – how would you feel if you had to watch your family’s murderers being celebrated?  Would you call into question the so-called ‘peaceful’ intentions of your neighbors? President Abbas could learn a great deal from King Hussein of Jordan about demonstrating his commitment to making peace.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Since peace talks began in July, there have been hundreds of examples of Palestinian incitement against Israelis and Jews.  From cradles to kindergartens and from schools to soccer stadiums, Palestinian children are besieged by messages of hate. 

 

 

 

They are born in hospitals named after violent Palestinian groups, attend schools named after terrorists, and are taught from textbooks that describe Zionism as racism.  In their free time, Palestinian children play on sports teams named after murderers and watch television programs that teach that Jews are “our enemies and should be killed.”

 

 

 

Rather than condemning this incitement, the Palestinian Authority is amplifying the messages of intolerance.  President Abbas’s Fatah party regularly displays maps that erase Israel. In one map, for example, the Palestinian flag flies over the entire geographic area of the State of Israel.  This map extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and is entitled “Palestine.” 

 

 

 

In a speech on Christmas Day, President Abbas declared that Jesus was a (quote) “Palestinian messenger” and suggested Israel was to blame for the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land.  This is a blatant attempt to rewrite history and erase any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.  Today we are witnessing a mass exodus of Christians from the Palestinian territories and the Arab world because of the constant persecution and discrimination that they face by the Arab states.

 

 

 

Abbas’s made-up maps and mythical accounts could join the fables of One Thousand and One Nights.

 

 

 

We have already lost an entire generation to incitement.  How many more children will grow up being taught hate instead of peace; violence instead of tolerance; and martyrdom instead of mutual understanding?  The international community must finally confront Palestinian leaders and publically demand an end to the incitement.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

The glorification of terrorists combined with unrelenting messages of hate are having deadly consequences.  In 2013, there were 1,500 attacks against Israelis, 700 of which occurred after peace negotiations began in July.  In recent months there has been a sharp increase in terrorist attacks including the murder of five Israelis.

 

 

 

Just last month, a Palestinian sniper murdered 22-year-old Saleh Abu Latif, an Israeli Bedouin civilian.  Two day earlier, a bomb exploded on a civilian bus in a suburb just outside Tel Aviv.  Had it not been for the quick thinking of the bus driver and an alert passenger, dozens of people could have been killed.  A successful attack could have had disastrous consequences for the peace talks.

 

 

 

In the face of this violence and bloodshed we have yet to hear President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, utter a single word denouncing these attacks. They even remained silent when it was revealed that one of the bus bombers was a member of the Palestinian police force.  While most police forces have officers that uproot terrorism, this police officer was busy planting bombs.

 

 

 

The Palestinian leadership has yet to learn that real peace requires real commitment. You cannot condemn terrorism to international media and congratulate terrorists on Palestinian media.  You cannot victimize others and then insist you are the victim.  And you cannot use this forum to spread destructive messages and expect constructive results.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

How many times have you heard that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the major conflict in the Middle East?  ‘You solve this conflict, you solve all the conflicts in the Middle East.’ Some in this Chamber have even repeated this fiction.

 

 

 

Really?  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the major conflict in the Middle East? Wow. People who say this need an eye doctor to help them see clearly – beginning maybe with the ophthalmologist from Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, who is butchering his people every day.  I’m sure that’s connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

 

 

 

Shiites fighting Sunnis fighting Alawites; extremist groups battling one another in Libya, Yemen and Tunisia; Al-Qaeda forces overrunning major cities in Iraq – all of this is caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? That’s a revelation.

 

 

 

The truth is that Israel is an island of stability in a sea of tyranny.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose legacy is being celebrated today, once described Israel as (quote): “one of the great outposts of democracy in the world and a marvelous example of what can be done – how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”

 

 

 

I think it should be obvious that the violence and instability afflicting the Middle East has nothing to do with Israel. We must solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its own merits because it’s important for us. Solving this conflict isn’t a prescription to cure the epidemic of violence plaguing the Middle East.

 

 

 

Despite what you constantly hear, the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never been about borders or settlements. The major obstacle to peace remains the refusal of Palestinian leaders to accept the Jewish State in any border. You will never hear President Abbas or any Palestinian leader utter the phrase “two states for two peoples.”

 

 

 

Let me understand this – the Palestinians call for an independent Palestinian state, but want millions of their people to flood the Jewish state?  It will never happen.  It is a complete nonstarter.  Many in this Chamber are vocal about telling Israel what to do, but begin to stutter, mumble and fall silent when it comes to telling the Palestinians what they must do.  

 

 

 

Each and everyone here must tell the Palestinians that there will never be peace as long as they refuse to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and insist on a so-called right of return.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Despite what many may believe, Israel dedicates a great deal of its energy and resources to assisting the Palestinian people.  Today, more than 100,000 Palestinians earn their living in Israel and their income constitutes more than 10% of the Palestinian GDP. 

 

 

 

Israel helps generate solutions to energize the Palestinian economy.  We transfer millions of dollars in electricity, water and natural gas to power Palestinian homes, schools and hospitals.  When a giant storm struck last month, Israel delivered humanitarian aid and water pumps and facilitated the passage of fuel and cooking gas to Palestinians in need.

 

 

 

Yet for every truckload in the name of coexistence, we seem to be feeding a Palestinian opposition that challenges our very existence.  It is time for Palestinians leaders to lead.  It is time for them to set a course towards coexistence.  And it is time for them to build the Palestinian people up rather than tear Israel down.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

The Middle East is plagued by a reign of tyrants and a drought in leadership.  Millions of people have taken to the streets demanding better lives, better economies and greater opportunities.  The first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalizes it citizens and throws innocent people into jail. 

 

 

 

Many in the international community believed that the new Iranian president would set a new precedent.  It has been almost six months since President Rouhani took office and Iran is still persecuting minorities, imprisoning journalists, and targeting political adversaries.  The Iranian government has executed more of its citizens per capita than any other government. Last year alone, the regime executed almost 600 people, including 367 since President Rouhani took office in August. 

 

 

 

Iran does not confine its violence and extremism to its own borders.  From Buenos Aires to Burgas, Iran is the world’s primary sponsor of terror.  Just this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif paid tribute on behalf of the Islamic Republic at the grave of one of Hezbollah’s most notorious murderers.

 

 

 

Rather than cleaning house, the new president believes he can sweep Iran’s atrocities under the Persian rug by introducing UN resolutions that condemn violence and extremism. Iran’s WAVE resolution may have made a splash at the UN, but messages of intolerance and violence continue to trickle down from the top.

 

 

 

Behind Iran’s smiling façade, President Rouhani and Ayatollah Khamenei continue to preach hatred and provoke hostility.  Ayatollah Khamenei recently appeared on state television and delegitimized Israel using disgusting profanity that doesn’t bear repeating.

 


The ink is barely dry on the interim nuclear agreement and Iran is already showing its true colors. This is a regime that crosses red lines, produces yellow cake, and beats its citizens black and blue.  Meanwhile, some in the international community are willing to serve Iran its yellow cake on a silver platter.  Permitting Iran to keep its enrichment capabilities today means that Iran will retain the ability to breakout and build a nuclear bomb tomorrow.

 


Mr. President,

 

 

 

Violence is encoded in the Iranian regime’s DNA.  It doesn’t take a crime scene investigator to see Iran’s fingerprints on the violence erupting in parts of the Middle East. 

 

 

 

In the Gaza Strip, Iran backs the Hamas terrorist organization that uses Palestinian schools, hospitals and mosques to launch rockets at Israeli citizens.  We are barely three weeks into the new year and Hamas has already launched 17 rockets at Israel – attacks that have closed schools and kept tens of thousands of children in Southern Israel at home.

 

 

 

The international community has yet to find the time to utter even a single condemnation of these attacks – attacks that could derail the peace process.  It has also yet to condemn Hamas for deliberately exploiting children.  Schools in Gaza have become the training ground for the next generation of terrorists. Last week, Hamas graduated 13,000 students from paramilitary camps geared at training children to fight Israel.

 

 

 

In Lebanon, Iran has helped Hezbollah hijack the Lebanese state and transform it into an outpost for terror.  For years, Hezbollah insisted it needed a private army to defend Lebanon against Israel. Today, that army has sent 2,000 fighters to butcher the Syrian people and shoot rockets into Israel.

 

 

 

Hezbollah has positioned 60,000 missiles and rockets in the heart of Southern Lebanon’s civilian population.  General Hajizadeh, a senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards recently boasted that Hezbollah has improved its missile capabilities and can now “hit and destroy any target” in Israel.

 

 

 

Hezbollah intentionally hides these missiles in the basements of homes, in the playgrounds of schools, and in the back rooms of hospitals.  In doing so, Hezbollah is committing a double war crime – first by using Lebanese civilians as human shields and second by targeting Israeli citizens.

 

 

 

The Government of Lebanon cannot continue to ignore what is happening in Southern Lebanon and it can no longer ignore its international obligations under resolution 1701.  Throughout December, armed terrorists fired shots across the Blue Line into northern Israel.  In one incident, a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces shot Israeli, Shlomi Cohen, in a ruthless and unprovoked attack.

 

 

 

It is time for this Council to hold accountable all those that arm, train and harbor terrorists. It is time to speak out against those who callously disregard human life.  As we have seen in Syria, the failure to do so has disastrous consequences.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

The war in Syria is approaching its fourth year and the death toll continues to climb.  The Syrian government has resorted to new depths of brutality by dropping “barrel bombs” packed with explosives, nails and other shrapnel on markets and hospitals. In just a few days, more than 700 people were killed and over 3,000 were injured. 

 

 

 

The State of Israel and the Jewish people are deeply troubled by the suffering of the Syrian people and are reaching out to help them.  While some in the region are aiding the murderous Assad regime, Israel is providing medical aid. 

 

 

 

Sunnis, Alawites and Shiites are running to Israel – the so-called “enemy” because they know that Israel will treat anyone without prejudice and regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender. And we will continue to lend humanitarian assistance to the victims with open arms and an open heart.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Today, the Middle East stands at a critical juncture.  There are two roads before us.  The first is the future offered by Iran and Syria – a future of more extremism and greater violence.  And the second is the road towards equality, reform and stability.  

 

 

 

Study after study has shown the clear connection between advancing peace and advancing equal rights.  When a woman receives an education, her children are healthier and more likely to get an education. And when a woman generates her own income she reinvests 90% in her family and community.  But women can only help drive a nation’s economy if they are allowed into the driver’s seat.

 

 

 

As we begin this new year, the international community must call upon Arab leaders to choose the path of progress and abandon the road of repression.  Tell them that tyranny will fail; tell them peace is built on tolerance; and tell them that every man and every woman is entitled to equal rights and equal opportunities.

 

 

 

As Winston Churchill said: “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom… honor…hope.”  The international community must stand on the side of human rights and human dignity. You must speak up and speak out so that the people of the Middle East can finally enjoy freedom, honor and hope.

 

Thank you, Mr. President.

======================================

 AND FROM THE UNITED STATES:

 

01/20/2014 02:46 PM EST

 


 

 

 

Thank you, Mr. President, thank you for joining us here today and for chairing this critical session. Thank you Secretary General Ban, Mr. Deputy Secretary General. And thank you also Foreign Minister Judeh for your remarks.

Mr. President, ministers, colleagues, the Middle East has often been prey to the turbulence of conflicting forces, but rarely have we seen efforts toward peace and the staggering human costs of war so vividly and simultaneously evident.

This contrast is especially striking in Syria, where diplomatic initiatives have intensified against the backdrop of an ever more brutal civil war. The best way to begin to end that war is through the Geneva II talks scheduled to start in Switzerland on Wednesday. My government has been working closely with the international community and the Syrian Opposition Coalition to prepare for that conference. We welcome the Coalition’s courageous decision this past weekend to participate in the talks, the purpose of which is implementation of the Geneva Action Group Communiqué. That document calls for the establishment, based on mutual consent, of a transitional governing body with full executive authority, including over military and security entities. It is vital that all participants in the opening ministerial and subsequent talks support that core goal. As of this morning, Iran still has yet to demonstrate its willingness to explicitly and publicly subscribe to the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué that is a minimum requirement for participation in this peace process.

Mr. President, the Syrian government’s recent and deadly bombing campaign — including the use of SCUD missiles and “barrel bombs” — in the Aleppo and Damascus suburbs provides a further demonstration of the Asad regime’s cruelty and of the fact that there is no military solution to this conflict. That is why we are so focused on a negotiated political transition of the type to be discussed in Geneva.

The urgency of diplomatic progress is highlighted by the deepening of the humanitarian crisis created by the war and by the Syrian government’s failure to implement the Council’s October 2 presidential statement. In recent days, the Syrian regime has seemingly agreed to improve humanitarian access to besieged areas, but we haven’t seen evidence of meaningful implementation on the ground. For months, communities including Yarmouk, East Ghouta, Darayya, Old City of Homs, and Mouadhamiya have been besieged and cut off from food and medical supplies. And it is not just the case that food can’t get in. People, starving people, desperate people, can’t get out. And in the very rare occasions that evacuations from besieged areas are organized, the regime has taken inhabitants away to be screened. In many cases the whereabouts of those individuals are unknown and remain unknown today.

East Ghouta is an egregious example of Syrian obstruction. This is an area where international chemical weapons inspectors were allowed access, but 160,000 civilians remain cut off from humanitarian aid. Pro-Assad snipers regularly target residents attempting to travel through checkpoints. The government has blockaded fuel supplies and residents have electricity for only a couple of hours a day. A young child even died of carbon monoxide poisoning because his family had been compelled to burn firewood inside their house to keep warm. Let us be clear: if inspectors can obtain access to East Ghouta, so too should the providers of medicine and food.

Yarmouk provides another tragic example. It has been under constant siege since July 2013. Recent reports of more than a dozen malnutrition-related deaths among children and other Palestinian residents are horrifying and should shock the conscience of all of us. We received reports from the UN in recent days that UNRWA was able, finally, to carry in a small amount of food parcels: 200 parcels that will feed 1,000 people for one month. There are 18,000 people in Yarmouk who are under siege, lacking food and medicine. It is devastating to imagine how starving people will divide up the food parcels. Humanitarian providers who managed to deliver these parcels literally had to dodge sniper fire.

Although the regime is primarily responsible for denying humanitarian assistance, some opposition groups have also been culpable in such communities as Nubl, Zahra and Fuo. This is unacceptable. The deliberate blocking or withholding of life-giving aid by any party cannot be justified and must stop now – before more innocent people die.

Mr. President, the plight of Syrian civilians and refugees is heartbreaking and makes last week’s conference in Kuwait all the more important. The United States pledged $380 million in new funds to help tackle the crisis, bringing our total commitment since the fighting began to more than $1.7 billion. We welcome the new pledges from other donor nations, as well as the international community’s renewed commitment to assist the Syrian people and the neighboring countries that are providing a safe haven for refugees.

In the brief period before Geneva II, and as the talks go forward, it is critical that we make concrete progress on humanitarian access issues. We must also do everything that we can to halt the violence. To that end, we call urgently on all parties to agree on local ceasefires and to move ahead with prisoner releases.

We commend, Mr. President, your country of Jordan for sheltering some 600,000 refugees and we recognize the enormous economic and social toll the conflict has taken on your country. Jordan has opened its doors for an emergency situation and we know that that is draining its domestic resources. The international community has an obligation to ensure that Jordan’s generosity does not become an unsustainable burden on its population.

In Lebanon, the situation has grown even more perilous, as the Syrian war has exacerbated the security, financial, and social pressures faced by the nation’s leaders. More than 1,600 Lebanese communities bear the burden of hosting more than 900,000 refugees from Syria. My government continues to help Lebanon tackle its massive challenges via the recently-established International Support Group (ISG), and we urge other donors also to provide aid that is consistent with ISG priorities.

A stable and united Lebanon, with strong democratic institutions, is in the best interests of the Lebanese people and of citizens throughout the Middle East. In that context, we encourage formation of a new cabinet to address the country’s security, economic and humanitarian challenges and to meet its international obligations.

The Syrian civil war has contributed to rising sectarian violence and political friction inside Lebanon. As has been said, the December 27 assassination of the widely-respected former finance minister, Mohammad Chattah was an outrage. The January 2 suicide bombing in southern Beirut’s Haret Hreik neighborhood killed five people and wounded many more. Meanwhile, sporadic violence has continued for weeks in Tripoli and near the Syrian border. To that end, we note Saudi Arabia’s commitment – announced last month – to provide generous amounts of additional aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces. We will continue to partner closely with Lebanon’s security services, which have a pivotal role to play in support of Lebanon’s security and its sovereignty.

We condemn the violence and urge all parties to exercise restraint, and commend the LAF for their efforts to stem the violence. The Lebanese government’s policy of disassociation from the Syrian conflict, as enshrined in the Baabda declaration, must be upheld.

It is equally vital that all relevant Security Council resolutions be implemented, including numbers 1559 and 1701, which call for the disbandment and disarmament of all militias in Lebanon. The United States strongly condemns the December 29 rocket attack that was launched from Lebanese territory into Israel.

Finally, we welcome the start of the trial before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon of four persons charged with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others who were killed in the bombing. This trial is a positive step toward justice and away from the acceptance of impunity for political violence. We commend the Lebanese Government and other donor countries for supporting the court.

Turning to the subject of Middle East peace, the United States is continuing its efforts to assist the Israelis and Palestinians in reaching a final-status agreement that recognizes two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in peace and security. Secretary of State Kerry returned to the region earlier this month in support of a proposed framework that addresses all core issues. As the parties consider the difficult decisions ahead, the United States remains convinced that the benefits of peace – for both sides – can best be achieved through the kind of process in which we are presently engaged.

Accordingly, the United States reiterates its view that all parties should refrain from actions that might undermine the atmosphere required for ongoing negotiations. Steps that diminish trust, such as continued settlement activity, only feed skepticism on both sides.

Further, we are deeply troubled by the escalation of violence leading to civilian casualties and condemn rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and the attempt to kill civilians by placing a bomb on a public bus in Tel Aviv.

We are also seriously concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and urge all parties to cooperate in expanding access for people, goods, and humanitarian supplies.

The consistent support of peace efforts by key partners is essential. We particularly welcome the European Union’s generous pledge last month to provide “unprecedented” political and economic support for Israel and the Palestinians in the context of a final status peace agreement. We are gratified, as well, by the decision of the Arab League, whose representatives met with Secretary Kerry in Paris on January 12, to reaffirm its commitment to these negotiations.

Finally, Mr. President, on Iraq, I thank the Secretary General for reporting on his recent visit and would like to commend the United Nations Assistance Mission and the High Commissioner for Refugees for their efforts to ensure the delivery of aid to the people of Anbar Province. The U.S. strongly condemns the attacks carried out by forces affiliated with Al-Qaida in Anbar and elsewhere in Iraq. Their brazen attempt at destabilization cannot be allowed to succeed. As this Council, in its recent statement made clear, “No terrorist act can reverse the path towards peace, democracy and reconstruction, which is supported by the people and Government of Iraq and the international community.” In that spirit, we are encouraged by the cooperation being shown by Iraq’s government, its national security forces, and local tribal leaders in trying to restore stability, resist terrorist aggression, and ease the hardships faced by Iraqi civilians.

Mr. President, I too note that, in the United States, today is a national holiday. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught the citizens of my country and people everywhere to pursue justice and the resolution of differences by peaceful means. In his words, “returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” The wisdom in that warning is always and everywhere relevant, but never more so than now in the Middle East, where peace initiatives demand our support amid the anguish of continued conflict.

Thank you.

==============================================================

Statement by UK Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant to UN Security Council on Situation in the Middle East – 20 January 2014  

 

 

 

Thank you, Mr President.

 

I welcome your Foreign Minister’s attendance in the Security Council today. And I would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his statement and the representatives of Palestine and Israel for their contributions to this debate.

 

 

 

As we enter 2014, we are at a moment of opportunity for the Middle East Peace Process. Entering back into direct negotiations last year was a bold step forward. It was a welcome move toward peace in a troubled area. It is the responsibility of all of us here to support the parties, led by the United States, to capitalise on this opportunity.

 

 

 

My government continues to put its full support behind Secretary Kerry and his team, and we urge the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to continue their admirable focus and commitment.

 

 

 

This year started on a positive note with the implementation of Israel’s brave decision to release the third tranche of Palestinian prisoners. The United Kingdom firmly believes that such steps, despite their difficulty, are important to achieving a lasting peace and security.

 

 

 

However, we are very concerned by Israel’s decision to announce further settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. My government condemns these announcements and considers such actions as a serious a threat to peace. We urge Israel to avoid any further illegal settlement activity and to reverse the advancement of plans.

 

 

 

The United Kingdom has also been clear that for this process to be a success, people on the ground – both Israelis and Palestinians – need to see the real and tangible benefits of peace. We remain deeply concerned about the 663 Palestinian-owned homes and livelihood structures demolished in Area C and East Jerusalem in 2013. Demolitions and evictions are harmful to the peace process; and, in all but the most limited circumstances, are contrary to international humanitarian law.  Reports of “price-tag” attacks, including on a mosque in Deir Istiya village on 15 January, are also of serious concern. We condemn such acts and urge the Israeli authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

 

 

 

We are also concerned about rocket fire from the Gaza strip into Israel and in particular condemn the rockets fired at Ashkelon on 16 January in violation of international law.  All parties must respect the November 2012 ceasefire agreement in full. The people of Gaza and Israel will only lose from further violence.

 

 

 

There will be difficult decisions in the months ahead, but we urge all those involved to keep their shared goal in mind – a negotiated two state solution leading to a sovereign, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside a safe and secure Israel. The United Kingdom stands ready to do its part. That is why we strongly back the European Union’s readiness to offer an unprecedented package of political, economic and security support to both parties in the event that a final status deal is reached.

 

 

 

Mr President, on Syria,

 

The United Nations Secretary-General has made clear that the aim of this week’s Geneva Conference on Syria is to “assist the Syrian parties in ending the violence and achieving a comprehensive agreement for a political settlement, implementing fully the Geneva Communiqué, while preserving the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria”.  As the permanent members of this Council agreed on 30 June 2012, and was endorsed by the whole Council in Resolution 2118 last September, this means agreeing a transitional governing body in Syria with full executive powers, formed by mutual consent, to meet the aspirations of the Syrian people. 

 

 

 

Yesterday, the Secretary-General announced that he was extending an invitation to Iran to attend the opening of the conference at Montreux on the basis that they acknowledge that the conference’s purpose is the full implementation of the original Geneva Communiqué. If they are to attend, it is now vital that the Iranian government confirm publicly and clearly that they share this understanding.

 

 

 

We have also urged the United Nations, as mandated by the Security Council in many resolutions, including resolution 2122 of October 2013,  to ensure a full role for women in the Syrian peace negotiations. 

 

 

It is important to remember these negotiations  will be a process – not a single event . We should not underestimate the formidable challenges ahead and we must not lose sight of the desperate situation Syrian civilians are facing on a daily basis. 

 

 

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights now puts the death toll at over 125,000 people.  In Aleppo and across all of Syria, we have seen the regime continue to attack its own civilian population with barrel bombs.  This indiscriminate bombardment is yet another war crime on the part of the regime and Assad and those around him should be in no doubt that the world will hold them to account.   The situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

 

 

 

Mr President,

 

The humanitarian crisis has reached catastrophic proportions.  11 million Syrians are in desperate need of urgent assistance, particularly in besieged and hard to reach areas.  This is an unparalleled crisis and the world needs to respond accordingly.  We welcome the $2.4 billion in pledges made at the Kuwait Pledging Conference last week.  My government announced a further pledge of $163 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing our total contribution to nearly $1 billion – the largest sum that the United Kingdom has ever committed to a single crisis.  This funding is going towards meeting the basic lifesaving needs of Syrians affected by the conflict, both inside Syria and in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. 

 

 

 

We pay tribute to those neighbouring countries, including Jordan, for the burden that they are carrying to help alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

 

 

 

But increased funding can only make a difference if there is progress on access and protection for humanitarian actors in Syria – where 21 UN staff members remain in Government detention and 47 humanitarian workers have now been killed.  Progress on implementing this Council’s Presidential Statement of 2nd of October remains extremely limited.  It is unacceptable that humanitarian organisations are being deliberately obstructed by the regime from delivering aid. The regime has shown it can facilitate access for chemical weapons inspectors – it needs to show the same commitment to ensuring aid reaches those most in need. 

 

Thank you, Mr President.

 

 

 

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