Meeting following last weeks failure to agree on a presidential statement on the Middle East situation and in the wake of a suicide bombing today in Tel Aviv, the Security Council today heard from some 30 speakers, many of whom expressed alarm at the recent escalation of violence and urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to exercise restraint and do their utmost to curb attacks and counter-attacks that could undermine a return to the peace process.
The first speaker this afternoon, the Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that since his last address to the Council, Israel had continued and intensified its military campaign, committing flagrant and grave violations of international law. While Israel tried to portray its latest military escalation simply as a response to violence emanating from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, its actions were, in fact, clearly intended to inflict maximum pain, suffering and loss on the Palestinian people while entrenching the occupation and continuing the theft and colonization of Palestinian land, especially through its illegal settlement campaign and construction of its expansionist wall.
Israel’s representative said that the Palestinian Observer had made no mention of Hamas. The Council deserved to hear who he represented — President Abbas or Hamas, which had justified and celebrated this morning’s suicide attack in Tel Aviv. He stressed that without the capable and sophisticated efforts of its security forces and the effectiveness of the security fence, Israel would be witnessing scenes of horrific death, bloody streets, limbless children and widespread fear. Since January, 11 major suicide terrorist attacks had been prevented and 90 potential suicide bombers had been arrested. On the very first day of Israel’s national parliamentary elections a Palestinian terrorist organization had for the first time fired a Katyusha rocket into Israel. Israel would not compromise the safety and security of its citizens and would not passively allow human bombs, Katyushas or Qassams to penetrate its territory, kill Israelis or put them at risk.
Pakistan’s representative told the Council that, while the new Hamas-led Palestinian Government had been well advised to respond to realities on the ground, especially the existence of Israel, and to eschew violence, recognition of realities was obviously a mutual process and neither Israel nor the international community could ignore the Palestinian reality. He said that if the Hamas Government was to emerge as a responsible player in a negotiating process, Israel and its newly-elected Government must equally be persuaded to desist from plans to impose a unilateral “solution”. It was a supreme irony, he added, that the recent democratic Palestinian elections — encouraged by the international community — had led to a situation whereby the prospects for a peaceful settlement had dimmed almost to darkness.
Malaysia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Palestinian people’s choice of representatives through a free, fair and secure democratic process should be respected and not used as a pretext to end international assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather than being punished, they deserved much better treatment and it was the duty of Member States to ensure that they got it. In that connection, the Non-Aligned Movement called upon Israel to disburse without delay all the tax and customs revenues that rightfully belonged to the Palestinians. He added that the Non-Aligned Movement remained concerned at the failure of repeated efforts to revive the peace process and deeply regretted that the “Road Map” had yet to be implemented. It was incumbent upon both Israel and Palestine, in their own interest and with the assistance of the international community, to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of the negotiations.
The United States delegate emphasized that the Palestinian Authority must be held responsible for enforcing law and order, as well as for taking immediate action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism. Not only had there been no action to prevent the launching of Qassam rockets from the northern Gaza Strip into Israel or to prevent terrorist attacks, but such murderous and barbarous attacks had actually been defended. The United States had been willing last week to support a balanced presidential statement calling on both sides to refrain from steps that could escalate the situation. Unfortunately, the Council had been unable to achieve a balanced statement that acknowledged the critical role that both sides must play in fostering the environment needed for progress along the Road Map. Israel had a right to defend itself, and to condemn it for doing so while failing to acknowledge either the provocation of persistent Qassam rocket attacks or the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for stopping those attacks was unworthy of the Security Council.
Several delegates expressed regret over the Council’s failure to agree on a presidential text, while insisting that the Security Council must play a central role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only the United Nations could serve as a mediator, facilitator and peacemaker in the Middle East, they said.
Most delegates condemned this morning’s suicide bombing which killed nine people and injured many more in Tel Aviv.
Other speakers today included the representatives of Argentina, Qatar, France, Russian Federation, Japan, Ghana, Peru, Denmark, Congo, United Kingdom, Greece, Slovakia, United Republic of Tanzania, China, Bahrain (on behalf of the Arab Group), Yemen (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Turkey and Venezuela.
Also making statements were the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States to the United Nations.
The meeting began at 3:20 p.m. and ended at 7:20 p.m.
Acting on a request from the Permanent Representative of Bahrain as the Chairman of the Arab Group for the month of April 2006 (also on behalf of the League of Arab States), the Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Middle East.
Bahrain requested an immediate meeting last week (document S/2006/227) in order “to consider the recent developments in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”. The request was reiterated in letters from the Permanent Representatives of Yemen on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) (document S/2006/239) and Malaysia in his capacity as Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (document S/2006/240).
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that, today, the Palestinian people were celebrating a day of solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Over 9,500 Palestinians were being held as political prisoners by Israel, including some 350 children and 120 women. Demonstrations were being held throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, demanding the release of those prisoners. In that connection, he expressed his grave concern regarding the harsh treatment and deplorable living conditions of Palestinian prisoners and detainees and called upon the occupying Power to release them, in accordance with relevant provision of international humanitarian law.
The Council had a clear responsibility vis-à-vis the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he continued. Today’s open debate, given the deteriorating situation on the ground, was relevant and important. Thanking the members of the Arab Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the OIC for their requests to convene the meeting, he also thanked the members of the Council for demonstrating their flexibility and understanding during last week’s negotiations on a draft presidential statement on the latest violence in the region. It was unfortunate that the Council had failed to respond appropriately to the latest dangerous developments.
Since his latest address to the Council, the occupying Power had continued with, and intensified, its military campaign against the Palestinian people, he said. Flagrant and grave violations of international law were being committed against the Palestinian civilian population every single day, every hour, “even at this very moment”. The latest aggression and escalation of military attacks by Israel against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in the Gaza Strip, had begun on 7 April, when over the span of just three days the occupying Power had killed at least 21 Palestinians, including two children. That latest crime against the Palestinian people had been committed with the use of military war planes, F-16s, helicopter gunships, tanks and other heavy weaponry. Scores of innocent Palestinians bystanders had been wounded. It had become common practice for the occupying Power to carry out its open and declared illegal policy of extrajudicial executions in densely populated civilian areas. Those attacks had come on the heels of the Israeli attacks on 5 April.
The Government of Israel had continuously been trying to portray its latest military escalation simply as a response to violence emanating from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he continued. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, what the Israeli Government was doing, and what it had been doing throughout its nearly 39-year-old military occupation, was clearly intended to serve its political objectives of inflicting maximum pain, suffering and loss on the Palestinian people, while it entrenched its occupation and continued with its theft and colonization of Palestinian land, especially through its illegal settlement campaign and construction of its expansionist wall. However, President Mahmoud Abbas continued to condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including suicide bombings. In particular, he had strongly condemned today’s bombing in Tel Aviv, stating that such acts harmed the high national interests of the Palestinian people. In that connection, he restated his condemnation of the loss of innocent civilian life on both sides, Palestinian and Israeli, calling on the occupying Power to do the same.
Israel was committing its crimes against the Palestinian people with complete impunity and on a repeated basis, he said. That must be condemned by the international community. Measures should be taken to halt the latest escalation of military attacks by the occupying Power, as well as its illegal practices and policies against the Palestinian civilian population. The international community needed to show more resolve in dealing with the situation, whether on the ground or in the political sphere.
Double standards concerning the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could not be accepted, he added. Such a double standard could be perceived in the silence of the international community as the occupying Power was indirectly permitted to kill Palestinian civilians and continue its illegal policies, while the Palestinian people were being killed and collectively punished through political and economic isolation for democratically electing their Government. Any calls on the Palestinian side would only be viewed as hypocritical, if they were not met by equal pressure on the occupying Power to put an end to its harsh military measures, to end its subjugation of the Palestinian people and accept their rights to live in freedom and security, under the protection of international law. He continued to hope that the Security Council would take the necessary measures to stop the dangerous deterioration of the situation and shoulder its responsibilities.
DAN GILLERMAN ( Israel) said the Palestinian Observer had made no mention of Hamas. The Council deserved to hear who he represented — President Abbas or Hamas, which had justified and celebrated this morning’s suicide attack in Tel Aviv. In the midst of the holy week of Passover, a Palestinian suicide bomber had murdered nine people and wounded more than 60 others in yet another horrific act of terrorism. The Palestinian terrorist organizations Islamic Jihad and Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs had immediately claimed responsibility for that horrendous attack. How had the newly elected officials of the Palestinian Authority responded to this morning’s abominable act? Official Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri had not bothered to condemn the attack, but had claimed instead that the Palestinians had every right to use all means to defend themselves. That reaction should not come as a surprise; just two weeks ago the same individual had stated that Hamas was committed to all forms of “resistance”, including suicide bombings. Today’s horrific terrorist act and the preceding ones were the direct result of the new axis of terror already described.
He recalled that, last Saturday in Tehran, during a well attended Convention on Terror, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, who usually sat in Damascus, another capital of the axis of terror, had said: “The new Government in Palestine will never recognize Israel and there is no other way than resistance to drive out the enemy from our lands.” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, the newest addition to the axis of terror, had stated after his bid for leadership: “[Hamas’] Government ministers are all potential shaheed”, — martyrs. On Saturday, the President of Iran, who had been calling for Israel’s annihilation while acquiring nuclear capabilities to do so, and denying the Holocaust while preparing for the next one, had continued his calls to wipe Israel off the map, stating: “The Zionist regime is on the road to being eliminated.” He had referred to Israel as a “rotten, dried tree” that would collapse in “one storm”. It was particularly troubling that the same Iranian regime had announced just last week that it had enriched uranium, indicating a likely intention to perpetrate that very storm.
Those words spoke for themselves and needed no interpretation, he said. They represented the stated goal of the axis of terror. Every day, extreme fundamentalist leaders were inciting more acts of terrorism. A dark cloud was looming above the region and it was metastasizing as a result of the statements and actions by the leaders of Iran, Syria and the newly-elected Government of the Palestinian Authority. Those recent statements were clear declarations of war and Israel urged every Member State to listen carefully and take them at face value. Those words, coming from the corridors of the new axis of evil and terror, were echoed constantly by deeds of murder and terror, homicide bombings and brutal killings, with over 80 daily terror alerts of terrorism in Israel. The international community and the Security Council were urged to take swift actions to try and prevent the next murder that was already on its way.
He stressed that without the capable and sophisticated efforts of Israeli security forces, and the effectiveness of the security fence, there would be scenes of horrific death, bloody streets, limbless children and widespread fear. Since January, 11 major suicide terrorist attacks had been prevented and 90 potential suicide bombers had been arrested. Those attacks would have taken place in crowded areas of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, causing mass fatalities. Fortunately, security forces had prevented or pre-empted the worst of them. Yet, the mounting number of terror attacks continued. Since September 2000, Palestinian terrorists had perpetrated nearly 26,000 terror attacks against the Israeli people.
On the very first day of Israel’s national parliamentary elections a Palestinian terrorist organization had for the first time fired a Katyusha rocket into Israel, he said. Israel would not compromise the safety and security of its citizens and would not passively allow human bombs, Katyushas or Qassams to penetrate its territory, kill Israelis or put them at risk. While Israel regretted any loss of life, any attempt to equate the loss of life caused erroneously by Israel acting in self-defence with a terrorist bomber specifically targeting women and children, was morally wrong and false. Terror was terror was terror. It could not, and must never be, justified.
JOHN BOLTON ( United States), noting that the Council was meeting in the aftermath of a vicious and despicable act of terrorism in Tel Aviv, said that the burden of responsibility for preventing such attacks rested with the Palestinian Authority. The United States had noted reactions by several terrorist groups, including Hamas, that defended — and even applauded — the Tel Aviv attack, as it had noted President Abbas’ quick denunciation of it. Defence or sponsorship of terrorist attacks by Palestinian Cabinet officials would have the gravest effects on relations between the Palestinian Authority and all States seeking peace in the Middle East.
The Palestinian Authority must be held responsible for enforcing law and order, as well as for taking immediate action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, he emphasized. The Council was meeting in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that the Palestinian Government had, despicably enough, actually supported. Not only had there been no action to prevent the launching of Qassam rockets into Israel, or to prevent terrorist attacks such as that launched today, but such murderous and barbarous attacks had actually been defended.
While regretting the loss of innocent life, including in Gaza, he said the United Nations must play an even-handed role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, encouraging both parties to take the necessary steps to make progress along the “Road Map”. While the Organization could not be seen to favour one side over the other, it had repeatedly denounced terrorism and should do so again now. Unbalanced resolutions or statements that criticized one side or the other, but failed to address the actions or inactions of the other side, undermined the credibility of the United Nations and its ability to be an honest broker.
He said the United States had been willing to support a balanced statement during last week’s consultations aimed at adopting a presidential statement calling on both sides to refrain from taking any steps that could escalate the situation. Unfortunately, the Council had been unable to achieve a balanced statement that acknowledged the critical role that both sides must play in fostering the environment needed for progress along the Road Map. Israel had a right to defend itself and to condemn it for doing so while failing to acknowledge either the provocation of persistent Qassam rocket attacks or the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for stopping those attacks was unworthy of the Security Council.
The United States also remained concerned about the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and had long supported them through substantial contributions of its foreign assistance funds, he said. On 7 April, the United States had announced that it would increase humanitarian aid to help Palestinians in need. Basic human assistance — including health, food, and education — would increase by 57 per cent, to a total of $245 million. The United States would also provide $42 million to strengthen civil society and independent institutions. Assistance would be administered through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other non-Palestinian Authority actors, including local and international non-governmental organizations.
CESAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) said that in recent weeks, both Israelis and Palestinians had continued to suffer as a consequence of a new cycle of violence, revenge and reprisals. The mutual accusations between the parties on the immediate causes of such violence were very familiar. “We cannot but ask ourselves how much suffering Palestinians and Israelis would have to endure before some of their leaders abandon the dead-end road of mutual negation and set off irreversibly in the journey towards peace, reconciliation and recognition”, he said.
To put an end to that vicious circle, it was essential that the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority recognize the legitimate aspirations of the other party to security, self-determination and the right to dignity and take concrete measures to address them. The Israeli right to live in peace and security entailed that the Palestinian Authority should take decisive measures against individuals or groups that carried out attacks against Israeli targets. The new Palestinian Government should take a clear stance against violence and immediately act to halt Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, as well as suicide bombings. It should also dismantle the terrorist infrastructures, as envisaged in the Road Map. Argentina condemned in the most energetic terms the terrorist attack committed a few hours ago in Tel Aviv and conveyed its sincere condolences to the families of the victims. There was no justification whatsoever for the killing of innocent civilians. Likewise, the new Government of the Palestinian Authority should fulfil the three conditions set forth by the Quartet and endorsed by the Council.
The Palestinian right to dignity and self-determination could not be achieved unless Israel put an immediate end to military operations in the Occupied Territory and to extrajudicial executions and other practices that contravened international law, he continued. In the same vein, Israel should cease all settlement activities and halt the construction of the separation barrier in the Occupied Territories. If the prospect of a Palestinian State was seen to dwindle and become a distant dream due to constant Israeli unilateral actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it would be increasingly difficult to persuade the Palestinians that it was imperative to accept the path to compromise. Peace could not be imposed unilaterally, or by force. On the contrary, any just and definitive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be achieved through good-faith negotiations between the two parties. All territorial modifications to the line of 4 June 1967 should be agreed upon in the framework of those negotiations and not be the outcome of fait accompli in the field.
The Palestinian right to dignity also related to the restrictions on the freedom of movement, he said. The isolation of the Gaza Strip contributed to the suffering of the population of that territory and to a further deterioration of the already dire humanitarian situation. He reiterated Argentina’s call on Israel to take measures to keep the Karni Crossing permanently opened. Both parties should attach priority to the implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access of November 2005.
That was, in essence, the message that he would like to convey to Israelis and Palestinians, he said. He regretted that the Council had been unable to transmit a similar message last week and that the negotiations on a draft presidential statement had failed. In his view, the final version of the draft had been balanced and would have constituted a good basis for an adequate and timely reaction to the current events in the region. The best way to avoid a security and humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was through good-faith negotiations with the aim of establishing a viable, sovereign, democratic and contiguous Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER ( Qatar) said that his country was convinced of the need to settle differences through peaceful means. Continued violence and repressive practices by the Israeli army were in flagrant violation of international legality and the decisions of the Council. Violence, oppression and extrajudicial killings had exacerbated the situation. The elections to the Palestinian Parliament had been carried out through a democratic process and the free choice of the Palestinian people must be respected. Repressive measures and illegal acts, including the building of settlements and the separation barrier, as well as isolation, were further obstacles to peace and worsened the humanitarian crisis of the Palestinian people.
The changes in the Palestinian Government had placed the Palestinian people at a crucial juncture for the future, he continued. Since the Council had on several occasions called for a sovereign, democratic and viable Palestinian State that would live side by side with Israel in peace and security, the international community should do more to make the peace process resume on the agreed basis. In that connection, he emphasized, among other things, the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the League of Arab States Summit in March 2002 in Beirut. He appealed to the parties to come back to the negotiating table and called on the Israeli Government to consider the peace process and return to 4 June 1967 boundaries. The primary reason for continued conflict was that Israel continued to occupy Palestinian land.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, condemned the deadly suicide attack in Tel Aviv, which no cause whatsoever could justify. France was shocked by the Hamas spokesman’s reaction to the attack, but welcomed President Abbas’ clear-cut condemnation.
Noting that his country had often expressed its concern over the increasing violence in the Gaza Strip, he said Israel’s use of force directly threatened the safety of civilians there. France called on Israel to exercise the greatest restraint, particularly with regard to the extrajudicial killings. Recent incidents also demonstrated the importance of keeping open channels between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and he deplored the recent closure of crossing points. Israel must discharge its obligations under the Geneva Conventions and honour its commitments under past agreements. It must also reimburse fully all tax revenues that it had collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
France and Europe wanted to avoid punishing the Palestinian people, he said. European assistance had been only partly and temporarily suspended and the European Union remained the main donor to the Palestinian Authority. It must retain humanitarian assistance and projects in vital areas such as health. However, direct budgetary assistance had been temporarily suspended in order to determine how it would be channelled. The Palestinian Authority must renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist and abide by previous agreements with Israel.
Emphasizing that the recent escalation called for a strong political response from the international community, he expressed regret that the Security Council had been unable to agree on a presidential statement last week, which France had supported. France welcomed the position of President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert favouring a resumption of peace talks. France solemnly appealed to the two sides to refrain from actions that could compromise final status issues and remained particularly concerned by Israel’s pursuit of settlements, especially in East Jerusalem, as well as its construction of the separation wall and its imposition of obstacles to Palestinian access to the Jordan Valley.
KONSTANTIN DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) said that, recently, the international community had witnessed rocket fire by Palestinian extremists and response attacks by the Israeli Defense Forces. All that led to increased tensions. Today’s meeting was taking place against the backdrop of a terrorist act in Tel Aviv. Russia firmly condemned the latest extremist attacks against innocent people. There could be no justification for it. President Abbas had condemned the attack. The intent of the perpetrators was clear: they intended to worsen the situation and unleash a new round of violence. In those conditions, it was necessary to show self-restraint and avoid direct confrontation. It was necessary to send a clear message to both sides to refrain from the use of force and resume a dialogue based on the Road Map. He called on the Palestinian Authority to prevent anti-Israeli acts, including terrorist attacks, and ensure monitoring of the situation in the Palestinian territories. It was important to abandon violence and promote respect and compliance with previous arrangements, including the Road Map.
He also called on the Government of Israel to demonstrate restraint, despite the difficult circumstances. Israel should also refrain from unilateral acts, particularly with respect to settlements and the construction of the separation barrier. It was also necessary to stop extrajudicial killings. It was important to stop the cycle of violence and resume contacts between the parties as soon as possible through negotiations.
He added that, taking into account the worsening humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people, it was necessary to continue assistance to the Palestinian Authority without political preferences. Any rejection of such assistance could have a serious impact and could only lead to a new confrontation. Under the current circumstances, the role of the international community was to prevent the worsening of the already difficult situation. For its part, the Russian Federation intended to provide $10 million in the near future in assistance to the Palestinian Authority. That could prevent a further deterioration of the situation.
KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said that the peace process in the Middle East was now facing complex challenges, which required delicate handling and the utmost restraint on both sides. Japan stressed its grave concern over the continued violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the week before last, which included rocket attacks launched against Israel from Gaza and the escalation of Israeli military operations, especially the shelling of Gaza. He strongly condemned the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv today and expressed his deepest condolences to the victims and their families. He could not but remain deeply concerned that this renewal of attacks and counter-attacks could seriously impair future efforts for dialogue and cooperation towards peace. He called on both sides to exercise the utmost self-restraint to prevent a further escalation of violence and restore calm.
He expected the new Government of the Palestinian Authority, led by Hamas, to adopt a policy that would advance the peace process in accordance with existing agreements and the Road Map. At this most delicate time, political wisdom and courage, as well as self-restraint, were needed more than ever. His country placed high hopes on the new Palestinian Government, which had been elected through the democratic process, trusting that it would exercise commensurate responsibility in full cooperation with President Abbas and that it would unequivocally repudiate violence and follow a path of peace, coexistence and mutual prosperity with Israel. At the same time, the international community should continue to send a strong, positive message to the new Government, in order to encourage it to initiate the necessary moves to restart the peace process. The international community must also encourage Israel to make greater efforts to realize peace through dialogue with the Palestinian side. Japan hoped that both sides would take steps to initiate direct talks between President Abbas and interim Prime Minister Olmert as early as possible.
Regarding Palestinian assistance, he said that Japan, as one of the major donors to Palestine, would carefully monitor the policy development of the new Palestinian Government on key issues. In the meanwhile, it would continue to provide humanitarian assistance through United Nations agencies, to avert a deterioration of the living conditions of the Palestinian people. A year ago, his Government had announced an assistance package of some $100 million for the immediate future, in support of the President’s efforts toward peace. To date, more than 70 per cent of that pledge had been implemented. Japan would continue to work with all stakeholders for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace respecting relevant Security Council resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, the principle of land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the League of Arab States Summit in March 2002 in Beirut.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG ( Ghana) said that this morning’s appalling suicide bombing clearly demonstrated the futility of the recourse to violence by both sides in place of a negotiated settlement of the Palestinian question. Ghana deplored the mounting death toll on both sides and reiterated its condemnation of all acts of violence and destruction. Ghana recognized the urgent need for Palestine and Israel to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from violence, which meant that both sides should not resort to unilateral measures that could exacerbate tension and undermine efforts to achieve peace in the region. The great human suffering resulting directly from that cycle of violence was intolerable and it was now more imperative than ever that the international community, particularly the Quartet, assist in bringing the two sides back to the negotiating table.
Reiterating that the Palestinians had a right to their own independent State that would guarantee the free movement of its citizens with real prospects for sustainable development, he said Israelis equally had the right to their own State within well-defined and secure borders. While Hamas was being encouraged to rethink its position on Israel and commit its Government to respect all existing agreements with Israel, including the maintenance of the ceasefire between Palestine and Israel, Ghana noted with concern reports of the stoppage of aid to the Palestinian Authority. Those who would suffer from that cut-off were the Palestinian workers denied salaries to care for their families. Greater care must be taken not to cause undue economic hardships to Palestinians, many of whom, through no fault of theirs, were already deprived of some of the basic necessities of life.
OSWALDO DE RIVERO ( Peru) expressed serious concern over the continuing violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the rocket attacks against Israel and the use of artillery against Gaza. It was more important than ever that both sides avoid the escalation of the conflict. The new administration of the Palestinian Authority should take measures to prevent suicide terrorist acts and rocket attacks, while Israel should refrain from the use of excessive force and respect the Fourth Geneva Convention.
He said his country supported the conditions that, on 30 January, the Quartet had presented to the elected administration of the Palestinian Authority headed by Hamas. It had been requested to renounce terrorism and violence, to recognize Israel and to assume the commitments accepted by the former Palestinian Authority administration, including the Road Map. The new Palestinian administration had not given answers to those crucial requirements of the Quartet, which were also reflected in a Security Council presidential statement.
The uncertain situation impeded the negotiation between the two parties, he said, noting that there was no recognition of the State of Israel, on the one hand, nor recognition of a Palestinian counterpart for direct negotiations, on the other. That lack of recognition, the non-renunciation of violence and the non-acceptance of previously agreed commitments were the main obstacles to the resumption of negotiations and left the door open to unilateral acts of violence. Given those circumstances, Peru considered it necessary to maintain humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people and to consider how best to channel and optimize it.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark) associated herself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union and said that the situation in the Middle East continued to give rise to serious concern. She condemned today’s attack in Tel Aviv and conveyed her heart-felt condolences to the families of the victims. It was a serious setback that could spur a new cycle of violence. While acknowledging that President Abbas had condemned the attack, she said she was outraged that Hamas had called it an act of self-defence. That meant that Hamas still considered violence and terror as a way of achieving its political goals. She was also troubled by the rocket attacks on the territory of Israel and retaliation acts by Israel. Both sides should demonstrate self-restraint.
Regrettably, the Palestinian Government had not yet committed itself to the principles laid out by the Quartet and recently reiterated by the European Union, she continued. All members of the Palestinian Government must be committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and all agreed principles, including the Road Map. She called the new Government to implement the commitments undertaken by the Palestinian Authority and dismantle the infrastructure of terror. Denmark and the European Union wanted to preserve the democratic functioning of the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, and she underlined the role of President Abbas in that respect. At the same time, under no circumstances could the Union risk that its funds could be diverted to terrorist or illicit activities. The Union had stopped its assistance to the Hamas, but its humanitarian assistance through international institutions and agencies would continue.
Following the elections of 10 March, the new Government would be formed in Israel in the next weeks, she said. It should work towards a negotiated solution based on agreed principles and relevant resolutions. Both Israel and Palestine should adhere to their obligations and refrain from unilateral actions. Israel should stop its settlement activities and construction of the barrier. Moreover, it must take steps to improve the humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinians. Resumption of Palestinian tax and customs revenues would be a welcome step in that regard. She hoped that both sides would return to the negotiating table to advance the negotiated two-State solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peaceful coexistence.
BASILE IKOUEBE ( Congo) supported the position of the Non-Aligned Movement and said that recent developments challenged the international community at the time when one could have hoped for a decline in violence. The attacks in Tel Aviv today tragically demonstrated the unacceptable nature of widespread violence in the volatile region. During a recent debate in the Council, his country had urged both parties to undertake negotiations based on the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, as well as agreed principles, which should lead to the establishment of two States living side by side in peace.
He regretted that the Council had been unable to agree on a presidential statement last week, for the draft contained all the needed elements, he said. The tragic realities had again resumed with their litany of deadly acts, attacks and other reprehensible and pointless acts of provocation that often led to reprisals. The two parties had just provided the Council with a full list of those acts of violence. However, the hardening position of both sides caused great suffering for civilians. Those were people who already encountered great difficulties due to the acts of Israel and suspension of aid by donors. There was a possibility of a great humanitarian crisis and deterioration of the security situation in the region. It was important to make sure that the Palestinian people did not get the impression they were being punished for making a free political choice. He urged both parties to bring about the conditions for dialogue and conduct negotiations on the basis of well-known agreed rules.
In conclusion, he said that it was incumbent on the international community to get resolutely involved in the settlement efforts. Particular responsibility lay on the Quartet and the Security Council. Resolute implementation of international law with balanced treatment of both sides was needed.
ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom), endorsing the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said that today’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv was a terrible reminder of remaining challenges. Deploring the senseless and totally unjustifiable attack and condemning those responsible, the United Kingdom called on the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary steps to bring the perpetrators to justice and to prevent any further attacks. It was very disappointing that the new Government had not condemned the attack, as had President Abbas, but had sought instead to justify it. With the democratic mandate that Hamas had obtained came responsibility.
At the same time, the Palestinian people could not be punished, he stressed. The United Kingdom had been among the largest bilateral donors to the Palestinians and wished to be sure that such funding was not supporting terrorism. Deeply concerned by recent violence, particularly rocket attacks and threats of Israeli re-entry into Gaza, the United Kingdom believed that civilian casualties were unacceptable. While Israel had a right to defend itself, any such self-defence must be proportionate and within international law. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority must take steps to prevent terrorist attacks and to reform its security services. The United Kingdom also remained concerned by Israeli actions in East Jerusalem, including settlement activity, and increasingly restricted access to the city for Palestinians living to the east of it, which risked reducing the possibility of reaching agreement on the final status of Jerusalem. Above all, the United Kingdom remained committed to a negotiated solution to the conflict. For that to happen, both parties must remain committed to fulfilling their obligations under the Road Map.
ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS ( Greece) said it was with grave concern that he had noted the escalation of violence in Israel and the Occupied Territory in the last few days. Greece unconditionally condemned all forms of terrorism, including rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza and senseless suicide bombings like today’s in Tel Aviv. He called on the Palestinian Authority to take firm action against such unjustifiable acts. He recognized Israel’s right to defend itself and protect its citizens. That right, however, had to be exercised within the boundaries of international law. Greece deplored the disproportionate nature of Israeli military activities which cost or endangered the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians and called on Israel to fully respect the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Continuing, he called on both parties to exercise maximum restraint and demonstrate political maturity and refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric. As tensions ran high, both parties must do their utmost to curb attacks and counter-attacks so as not to allow a return to the vicious circle of violence that had long beset the region. Greece remained committed to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East and to the realization of a two-State solution. In that context, the Road Map remained the framework of international efforts. Both parties should strive to fulfil the relevant respective obligations and commitments.
Over the past couple months, both Israelis and Palestinians had the opportunity to exercise their democratic right and elect their representatives, he added. It was in the interest of the new Palestinian Government to commit itself to the three principles set out by the Quartet on 30 January. He believed both peoples had a true desire for peaceful coexistence and that their leaderships would respond to that desire. The international community should stand ready to encourage steps in that direction.