YISHAN ZHANG (China) said recent developments in the Middle East were a cause for concern. One year after the issuance of the ICJ opinion, Israel had announced that it would accelerate construction of the wall in East Jerusalem, something which was bound to exacerbate discord. The final status of East Jerusalem should be resolved through negotiations based on United Nations resolutions. He hoped both parties would continue efforts for reconciliation.
He expressed concern over recent violent clashes. He noted, however, that Palestinian leader Abbas had gone to the Gaza Strip to bring the situation under control and that Israel had refrained from military action there. This year, he said, the situation had seen an easing of tension rare for the past four years. The year 2005 was a year of opportunities, but those opportunities must be based on mutual trust. Any lessening of caution on either side would impede the peace process. He called on both sides to display political courage and wisdom, in order to achieve the peaceful coexistence of two States.
KENZO OSHIMA (Japan) said that, while welcoming the start of the Gaza disengagement, he had concerns about the recent resumption of violence by Palestinian militant groups and the Israeli army. It was important that President Abbas exercise strong leaderships. Israel and the international community should provide President Abbas with effective support. The withdrawal should be conducted undisturbed and should open the way for the resumption of the Road Map. Vigorous efforts were needed on the Palestinian side to drastically improve security measures. He supported the coordination efforts of Mr. Wolfensohn to secure transport and communication routes between Gaza and the outside world. He hoped that Israel would adopt a more flexible attitude that would ensure the safety of movement of Palestinian people and of goods. His country had announced new assistance to Palestine of $100 million to facilitate disengagement and rehabilitation in Gaza and the West Bank.
As for the issue of the wall, he said in February there had been a positive development when a considerable part of the wall in the southern area was rerouted. The Palestinian Authority must make the utmost efforts to suppress terrorism, as a large number of innocent Israelis had lost their lives. However, the construction of the wall inside the green line continued. It affected adversely the livelihood of Palestinians and was prejudicial to the outcome of the final status negotiations. He deplored the wall construction inside the green line. The issues of the wall and the settlements could only be resolved through steady implementation of the Road Map. That was another reason to make the Gaza disengagement a success. As Lebanon faced many difficult challenges, which would require delicate handling, he welcomed the formation of the senior Government in that country.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), aligning herself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said the successful withdrawal from Gaza by Israel could be an initial stage towards achieving a fair, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The withdrawal must be consistent with the Road Map, complete and coordinated with the Palestinians, as well as with the international community. She hoped that, with only one month to go, coordination between Israel and the Palestinians would be intensified, especially with regard to key issues such as access to Gaza. She encouraged the Palestinian Authorities to accelerate reforms and Israel to put in place the conditions essential to a viable Palestine economic growth. The Quartet and its Special Envoy for disengagement, Mr. Wolfensohn, deserved all possible support from the international community. It was essential for progress that ongoing contacts, including at high level, between Israel and the Palestine Authorities improve both in substance and frequency.
She said it was of great importance that both parties renew their efforts to implement the commitments made in Sharm el-Sheikh and that the parties refrain from unilateral measures that might prejudice the outcome of negotiations on the final settlement. Her country remained concerned, in that context, about the continued construction of the separation barrier on Palestinian land. She reiterated that Denmark would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties. The way to achieve peace was a viable two-State solution achieved through the full implementation by both parties of their commitments under the Road Map. In order to avoid a return to the cycle of violence, she urged Israel to exercise maximum self-restraint and the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and effective action against those involved in the attacks.
MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said that, sadly, over the past few weeks, acts of violence between Israelis and Palestinians had once again escalated. Israelis and Palestinians should spare no effort to advance together towards the realization of the vision of two States, which could only be achieved if the parties proceeded without delay to the full implementation of their obligations under the Road Map. The Palestinian Authority must take effective action against terrorism and dismantle the associated infrastructure. Israel must cease settlement activities, which were contrary to their obligations under the Road Map, and avoid taking measures that could prejudge the final result of negotiations. The construction of the barrier remained of great concern. While playing an effective role in protecting Israel, the erection of the barrier inside the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories could not be regarded as in compliance with international law.
He said the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and certain parts of the West Bank was a courageous move. The parties concerned must cooperate and coordinate closely before, during and after the disengagement, especially with the aim of creating the necessary conditions for the economic recovery in Gaza. He encouraged leaders on both sides to continue to pursue their contacts and broaden the agenda of the meetings taking place at various levels. The final goal should be the resumption of peace talks in order to reach a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the conflict. Regarding Lebanon, he said that the full implementation of resolution 1559 was a prerequisite to fulfil its long-standing aspiration for full independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. He called upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully in that process and to support the independent international investigation commission into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
CÉSAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said recent developments in the Middle East were a further indication of the extreme fragility of the situation in the region, particularly in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian track. Unfortunately, levels of violence had increased significantly affecting, in particular, the civilian population from both sides. Argentina condemned all terrorist acts that resulted in the death of innocent civilians. He expressed unequivocal condemnation of the suicide bombing on 12 July in Netanya and the Qassem rocket attacks fired from the Gaza Strip.
While acknowledging the challenges faced by the Palestinian Authority, Argentina believed that a clear message must be conveyed to Palestinian extremist groups that violence could not and would not be tolerated, and that attacks against Israel should cease immediately. Israel had a legitimate right to self-defence, but it must be exercised in conformity with the principle of proportionality and in accordance with international law. Argentina requested that the practice of extrajudicial killings not be resumed and that the human rights of civilians be respected at all times.
Argentina had repeatedly expressed its opposition to the construction of the barrier in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories. The decision of the Israeli cabinet of 9 July to accelerate the construction of the barrier in East Jerusalem was manifestly contrary to the reiterated calls of the international community and should be revised. Argentina also believed that all settlement activities should immediately cease and the settlement outposts should be dismantled.
The plans for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank should be pursued and should be the first step towards putting an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The commitment of both sides to cooperate in that initiative was essential. He welcomed the recent formation of a new government in Lebanon, and hoped that it would have a positive impact in stabilizing the situation in the country.
WILLIAM BRENCICK (United States) reiterated his country’s serious concern regarding the challenges faced by the international community and the parties in bringing about a more peaceful and democratic Middle East. It had been three years since President Bush had put forward his vision of two democratic states living side by side. Since then, a strong international consensus had developed behind the vision and the Road Map to implement it. Both parties had clear obligations under the Road Map. Progress could not be achieved by rhetoric and blame. The focus of efforts should be on working towards the successful implementation of the Gaza disengagement plan. The United States Security Coordinator, General Ward, had been on the ground since 9 March, and Mr. Wolfensohn was working closely with the parties. While overall progress had been made, much needed to be done, he said. The disengagement had the potential to achieve genuine progress. The United States believed that existing mechanisms were the best avenues for moving the parties forward. A central challenge remained in improving the security situation and creating the conditions conducive to the plan’s success. While President Abbas had taken some steps, overall, the Palestinian performance had been far from satisfactory and must remain an area of concern.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said, at a meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the Union in Brussels, Belgium, on 18 July, foreign Ministers had discussed the situation in the Middle East. The Union supported the Gaza withdrawal. Its High Representative, Javier Solana, had emphasized the commitment to keep both parties engaged in the peace process and in the implementation of the Road map, and that Union action should be coherent, focused and coordinated with the Quartet and the international community. The Union was gravely concerned at the recent escalation in violence in Israel and the OccupiedTerritories. It had condemned the recent terrorist attacks on Israel and the violence by Palestinian militants against Palestinian security personnel. While recognizing Israel’s right to protect its citizens, the Union had consistently opposed extrajudicial killings. The Union emphasized that Palestinians and Israelis must not return to the cycle of violence. It urged Israel to exercise maximum self-restraint and the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and effective action against those involved in attacks.
He said the Union had stressed the importance of a successful disengagement and reaffirmed the need for both parties to make every effort to take advantage of the opportunity presented by disengagement. It urged Israel to ensure that withdrawal was complete and coordinated with the Palestinians and the international community. The Union emphasized the urgent need for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate effectively with each other and with Mr. Wolfensohn to support Palestinian institutional and economic development. It wanted the Palestinian Authority to accelerate reforms and put in place the conditions essential to viable Palestinian economic growth. Ongoing contacts between Israel and Palestinian Authority should be improved in both substance and frequency and to take place at all levels.
The Union called on both sides to renew their efforts to implement the commitments made in Sharm el-Sheikh and urged both sides to avoid any action likely to undermine mutual confidence, he said. No party should take unilateral measures that might prejudice the outcome of negotiations on the final settlement. On law and order, the Union urged the Palestinian Authority to step up its efforts to ensure a secure environment, in which its citizens’ own needs for law and order were met. On the final status issues, he said that the Union would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties. The Union continued to believe that the way to achieve a permanent peace was a viable two-State solution achieved through the full implementation by both parties of their commitments under the Road map.
He said that, while the Union recognized the right of Israel to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, it demanded that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the barrier inside the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory, including in and around East Jerusalem, which was in contradiction to the relevant provisions of international law.
JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said he was pleased with the decision of the Knesset to oppose any postponement for the disengagement plan. He supported the mission of the two special envoys and welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to give Mr. Wolfensohn all assistance required to establish an office in Jerusalem. The Quartet’s efforts demonstrated the international community’s will to assist in implementing disengagement, which was a stage of implementing the Road Map. It was unfortunate that those efforts were being countered by the renewed outbreaks of violence in advance of the pull-out. He was concerned by the new crisis, which had forced the Palestinian Authority to declare a state of emergency in the OccupiedTerritory. The agreements achieved at the Sharm el-Sheik summit gave hope that the sound of weapons would cease, and dialogue return.
In that regard, he said he did not understand the obstacles that continued to undermine freedom of moment in the OccupiedTerritory. He regretted the destruction of Palestinian property and the resumption of the practice of extrajudicial killings, and called on the occupying Power to end them. For their part, the Palestinian Authority must take all appropriate measures to prevent attacks targeting civilians. The separation wall was a real challenge to the international community. He called on the Israel Government to convincingly implement the decision of the ICJ regarding the dismantling of the wall. He was also concerned by the continued settlement in the OccupiedTerritories, which remained the undisputed point of reference for the peace process. Disengagement from Gaza would be an important step in the right direction. He called on the parties to do their utmost to bring the process to a successful conclusion.
BAYANI S. MERCADO (Philippines) said he was concerned about the recent outbreak of violence. He condemned the suicide bombing by a Palestinian, nine days ago, and the resulting cycle of violence and counter-violence which threatened to shatter the peace process. He recognized Israel’s right to
self-defence against terrorist attacks, but appealed to Israel that it should not take extrajudicial action. He also deplored the retaliatory action of Palestinian militants and their fighting in northern Gaza. He called on both parties to implement their commitments under the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.
He commended President Abbas for ordering his security forces to prevent militants from conducting attacks on Israel. He also welcomed efforts by the Quartet and commended Egypt in facilitating agreement between President Abbas and Hamas, which had ended bloodshed. While welcoming the disengagement in Gaza and parts of the West Bank, he said such disengagement must be complete if it were to contribute to a solution. He called on Israel to stop settlement activities and urged the country to stop construction of the separation wall.
In his national capacity, ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece) said that today’s open debate came at a most critical juncture on the long and difficult road towards achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region. Over the past few months, a strong and solid commitment had been manifested by both sides. Their respective leaderships had taken bold decisions, often with great political cost, in order to advance the process. They had resisted sizeable internal pressures, and on numerous occasions they had publicly declared that they would honour and proceed with their commitments.
He said that the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank, when completed, would constitute an important milestone. It should be seized upon as a momentous opportunity to revitalize the Road Map and move the process a step closer towards lasting peace. The success of Israeli disengagement was of paramount importance, and all parties had an important stake in it. Several issues should be addressed and resolved immediately in a way that ensured a successful outcome. Both sides should make every effort to work directly with each other and to cooperate in finding the optimum solutions to the various issues involved in a coordinated, peaceful and smooth handover.
The Israeli disengagement would be judged in the long term, he said. As such, provisions for the day after disengagement should be put into place. The viability of a successful disengagement should be consolidated by developing the necessary conditions — political, economic and security — to ensure, to the extent possible, that there would be no reversal of the progress. The economic revival of the PalestinianTerritories was crucial. Notwithstanding Israel’s legitimate security concerns, immediate steps must be taken to relieve the economic hardships facing the Palestinian people and to facilitate rehabilitation and reconstruction by easing the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza and the West Bank.
At the same time, he said he was concerned by the recent upsurge in violence, which threatened to upset the delicate truce of the past few months. With tensions running high, both parties must do their utmost to curb attacks and counter-attacks, including extrajudicial killings, so as not to allow a return to the vicious cycle of violence that had beset the region for so long.
Confidence-building between the parties was key. As such, both sides should proceed, without delay, with implementation of the understandings reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit on 8 February. Also of concern were the continued Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the continued construction of the separation barrier, a well as the Israeli Cabinet’s decision to immediately complete its construction in and around East Jerusalem, with the apparent dire humanitarian consequences on a large number off the city’s Arab inhabitants.