Friday, 10/4/2020 | 2:01 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Security Council: The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

Statement by Secretary-General

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, expressing his wishes for a happy, peaceful Passover holiday, said that the aim of his visit to the Middle East three weeks ago with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim had been to highlight the need to increase development aid through innovative financing mechanisms for countries like Lebanon and Jordan that had been disproportionately impacted by the conflict in Syria.  During a ministerial conference that he had co-chaired with the Presidents of the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank last Friday, eight countries as well as the European Union had pledged $1 billion for a concessional loan facility, $141 million in grants and $500 million for a guarantee facility.  Other nations had also expressed support for the initiative, he said.

Turning to the political situation, he said that for more than six months, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been gripped by a surge in violence, triggered by individual attacks by Palestinians.  More than two dozen Israelis and 200 Palestinians had been killed.  Condemning all such attacks, he welcomed the joint Palestinian-Israeli efforts that had helped to reduce tensions in recent weeks.  However, the latest killings had only deepened the legacy of divisiveness, hatred and grief, he noted.  Welcoming ongoing security discussions on Area A, he urged both sides to recognize the risks of failing to reach a lasting understanding on that pressing matter.  He acknowledged recent public statements by President Mahmoud Abbas rejecting violence and terror and firmly supporting continued security coordination with Israel.  He said that he and President Abbas had discussed the importance of those and other issues in Amman on 27 March, and encouraged more such statements, backed by concrete actions.

The Middle East Quartet was moving forward on a report that would review the situation on the ground and threats to a two-State solution, while providing recommendations on how to advance peace, he said.  The report intended to inform international discussions on advancing a two-State solution: a sovereign and independent State of Palestine living in peace and security alongside the State of Israel.  Tragically, such a solution seemed more distant than it had done for many decades, he said, pointing out that 20-year-old Palestinians living under occupation had seen no political progress at all during their lifetime.  Israel continued to demolish Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank at an alarming rate, he said, noting that the total number of demolitions in the first three months of 2016 exceeded the total for 2015, and that more than 850 people had been displaced.

Israel deemed most of the demolished structures illegal because they had been built without permits, yet Israel made it almost impossible for Palestinians to acquire permits, he continued.  “These acts raise concerns that Israel intends to implement over 11,000 outstanding demolition orders in Area C of the West Bank.”  He also expressed concern about continuing punitive demolitions of homes belonging to families of alleged Palestinian perpetrators of attacks against Israelis.  Meanwhile, settlement plans and retroactive legalizations continued to advance in almost untraceable steps through the complicated planning process.  That, together with the declaration of “State land” in March — the first in more than 18 months — signalled that Israel’s strategic settlement enterprise continued to expand on land intended for a future Palestinian State.  “I once again reiterate that settlements are illegal under international law and undermine the two-State solution.  “The creation of new facts on the ground through demolitions and settlement-building raises questions about whether Israel’s ultimate goal is in fact to drive Palestinians out of certain parts of the West Bank, thereby undermining any prospect of transition to a viable Palestinian State,” he said.

Turning to the Palestinian side, he voiced regret over the continuing failure of discussions to achieve genuine unity on the basis of non-violence, democracy and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) principles, reiterating that Palestinian factions must demonstrate their commitment to reconciliation, which was integral for statehood and a just, lasting resolution of the conflict.  In Gaza, the security situation had calmed in recent weeks, but three rockets had been fired towards Israel on 14 April, although no injuries had been reported, he said, condemning all attacks and calling upon all parties to avoid further escalation that could jeopardize the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

He went on to state that the Palestinian Authority had set forth an ambitious $3.8 billion agenda for stabilizing Gaza, repairing damage from the 2014 conflict and getting recovery under way, emphasizing the essential importance of economic development and rebuilding critical electricity and water infrastructure.  The Gaza power plant had shut down on 8 April, leaving residents with only enough electricity for hours a day.  More than a year-and-a-half after the conflict in Gaza, such conditions were intolerable, and all Member States were strongly encouraged to fulfil their commitments to support Gaza’s reconstruction and development.  More positively, Israel had expanded the Gaza fishing zone from six miles to nine nautical miles on 3 April, he said, welcoming that development and encouraging Israel to expedite further easing measures to support the enclave’s long-suffering people.

Turning to Lebanon, he said that he had addressed that country’s political and security issues with Lebanese leaders in Beirut on 24 and 25 March, consistent with the Council’s concerns: preserving Lebanon’s model of pluralism and coexistence from regional tensions; electing a President without further delay; the need for all parties to work with Prime Minister Tammam Salam so as to enable effective functioning of the Government; sustaining international support for the Lebanese Armed Forces; and the expectation that both Lebanon and Israel would work to consolidate stability along the “Blue Line” and advance implementation of Council resolution 1701 (2006).  He said he had also discussed the importance of active support for the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), particularly in light of the recent build-up of tensions in Palestinian camps, including the 12 April car bomb that killed a camp official near Ein el Hilweh.

Concerning the occupied Golan, he noted the statements made on Sunday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and said all parties had a responsibility to resolve the long-standing issue, while reminding Israel of its obligation to fully implement Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 497 (1981).  “The path out of the current political deadlock requires commitment, compromise, mutual respect and leadership on both sides,” he stressed.  “It also requires the acceptance — demonstrated by deeds as well as words — that the two-State solution is the only road to peace that meets the national aspirations of both peoples — Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition.”

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, asked when the Council would finally act, emphasizing that the Palestinian people could no longer wait or accept excuses and pretexts.  Israel’s illegal settlement activity had intensified since the 26 January debate, with the confiscation of thousands more dunums of Palestinian land in the West Bank, in addition to an alarming spike in home demolitions.  Bedouin Palestine refugees had been especially affected, he said, quoting the Israeli organization Peace Now as having reported that plans to construct Israeli settlements had increased by 250 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the corresponding period in 2015.  When would the Council hold Israel accountable for those violations and insist on compliance, thus preserving the possibility of a two-State solution?

Palestinian casualties had been growing as a result of daily Israeli military raids and attacks by extremist Israeli settlers, he said, pointing out that more than 200 Palestinians had been killed since October 2015, with children and youth especially targeted and traumatized.  Yet the Council remained silent.  Failure to protect would only foster greater Israeli impunity and disregard for Palestinian life, he emphasized.  “At a time when the situation is boiling, the passivity and silence of the Security Council is truly shocking,” he said, stressing that it could not stand idly by, waiting for the next crisis.  “The crisis is existential and we can no longer wait.”

He went on to stress that the Council should adopt a clear and firm resolution to address the illegality of Israel’s settlement campaign, the rising extremism and violence of Israeli settlers and the need to protect Palestinians, and the urgent need to create a credible political horizon that would establish the conditions that would lead to a comprehensive peace, particularly in the context of the Arab Peace Initiative.  Consultations with Egypt, the Arab representative on the Council, were under way and the efforts undertaken by the Quartet as well as the Government of France were to be commended, but it was time to stop managing the conflict and to mobilize political will, he said.  Regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza, he said the failure to bridge the regrettable political divide in Palestine was no excuse for imprisoning 1.8 million people and forcing them to live in the ruins of war amid mass deprivation.

DANNY DANON (Israel) questioned the Palestinians’ desire for peace, saying his country had been facing Palestinian terrorism for decades.  In the last few months, Israelis had faced a wave of non-stop daily attacks in which 34 people had been killed and hundreds injured.  Instead of condemning the attacks, the Palestinian leadership had encouraged them, rewarded terrorists and their families with monthly salaries and treating them like heroes.  Many in the Council were all too eager to offer justifications for Palestinian terror and excuses for violence, ignoring the basic truth that the endless incitement and glorification of violence was directly responsible for the murder of innocent Israelis.

He went on to says that the Palestinian culture of hate and brainwashing was responsible for the loss of too many Israelis and directly responsible for the murder of Dafna Meir, a young Israeli brutally attacked and killed on 17 January by a 16-year-old Palestinian terrorist while painting the door to her home.  If the Palestinians were truly committed to living in peace with Israel, why were they filling their children’s hearts with hate?  It was time for real answers and for the truth, he said, asking the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine: “Will you condemn Palestinians who commit terror attacks against Israelis?  You can do it right now.  We are being translated into five different languages.  Here is your chance.” 

In the ensuing exchange he said:  “You should stop hatred and stop naming streets after terrorists.”

Mr. MANSOUR, for the State of Palestine, replied:  “We have to fight against incitement… Are you willing to come and participate in these meetings in the presence of Americans?”

Mr. DANON (Israel) responded:  “You glorify terrorism… You cannot say that you condemn terrorism against civilians.  I condemn all acts of terror.  You cannot say ‘I condemn all acts of terrorism.’”

Mr. MANSOUR, for the State of Palestine, said:  “You are oppressing us.  You are sitting on our lives.  Leave us alone.  Let my people be free.  Shame on you; you are an occupier, you are a colonizer.”

Mr. DANON (Israel) concluded by saying it was time for the Palestinian leadership to end their silence and start acting like leaders.

MURRAY MCCULLY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, asked why the Council had not adopted a single resolution on the question in more than seven years.  The international community expected it to reassert a two-State solution as the only path to peace; to support the work of the Quartet, the Arab League and the international conference proposed by France; and endorse a path back to negotiations, potentially through a “parameters” resolution, he said.  In the coming weeks, the Government of New Zealand would resume the conversation about the sequencing and content of a Council resolution, he said, emphasizing that a resolution was essential, and that its timing and relationship to external processes were the only remaining issues.  “Maximalist” positions were likely to fail, he said.  Stressing that there was a vital role for the Council, he said his country would work with others to determine whether a resolution could best support the Quartet, as well as French and Arab ministers, if finalized before or after other initiatives were under way.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said both sides must show genuine commitment to a two-State solution.  Noting that acts of terrorism had taken too many lives, including American lives, he called upon the Palestinian leadership to condemn terrorist acts and bring perpetrators to justice.  He noted with deep concern the shooting in Hebron of a Palestinian assailant by an Israeli soldier now charged with manslaughter, emphasizing the critical need to show restraint, avoid loss of life and de-escalate tensions.  Settlement activity called into question the Israeli Government’s commitment to two States.  In Gaza, the pace of reconstruction was being stalled by the stranglehold that Hamas had over the population, he said.  Regarding the political process, he said the status quo was unsustainable, reiterating that both sides must demonstrate genuine commitment to a two-State solution through policies and actions.

Turning to the situation in Syria, he welcomed the third round of talks, saying an inclusive Syrian-led political process that met the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and a transitional Government was the only solution to the conflict.  The talks in Geneva and the situation on the ground were deeply interwoven, and the stakes were enormous, he said, stressing that more could and must be done.  The cessation-of-hostilities agreement was holding in parts of the country, improving people’s day-to-day lives, but violations continued, with the regime attacking parties to the accord.  The regime must do more to ensure humanitarian access, he said, noting that those in besieged areas denied international assistance were literally starving to death.  He called upon the regime to comply with international law, resolution 2254 (2015) and the demand of the international community to allow assistance to reach all Syrians in need.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that, more than 20 years after the Oslo accords, the creation of a Palestinian State had never been more elusive.  The rift between Palestinians and Israelis was fuelling radicalization of public opinion, and it was worrying that people no longer believed in two States.  “We have to take a long, hard look at the reality on the ground,” he said.  Given the scope of the challenge, collective mobilization of the international community was the only way to move forward.  To that end, France had launched an initiative to create a credible political horizon for the peace process.  It proposed a ministerial meeting to be held in Paris in June, bringing together the Middle East Quartet, the five permanent Council members, the League of Arab States and other stakeholders.  Its goals would include reiterating international support for a two-State solution and defining a timetable, specific goals and a methodology for an international conference later in the year.  Regarding the situation in Syria, he deplored the worsening situation, emphasizing the need for humanitarian access and for effective pressure on the regime.  Turning to Yemen, he said the revival of negotiations there gave rise to real hopes that should be encouraged, even as the humanitarian situation worsened and the terrorist risk grew.

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) called for scaling up efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and resolve the conflict.  As the Israeli Government continued its fait accompli policy of building settlements and confiscating Palestinian lands and homes, thereby jeopardizing chances for a two-State solution, the international community’s intervention was needed now more than ever.  The Quartet’s report would provide an objective analysis of the situation on the ground, he said.  With the humanitarian situation in Gaza remaining grave, it was vital to rebuild the enclave’s infrastructure.  The Russian Federation welcomed efforts in March to re-establish national Palestinian unity, he said, adding that such steps must be clearly calibrated and seek specific results.  Expressing deep concern about the Council’s inability to settle the conflict, he cited the 2011 United States veto against a draft resolution on settlements, and its 2014 abstention and hidden veto of an another draft, so as not to hear the Russian view on the matter.  The Council must do more to resolve the conflict, he said.

Turing to Syria, he welcomed the start of the second round of peace talks, saying his delegation attached great importance to the International Syria Support Group Task Force.  The statement by the representative of the United States on that matter was imbalanced and counter-productive.  There must be a voice for all sections of Syrian society that had not dirtied their hands, including the Kurds.  There must be a comprehensive, objective and depoliticized approach to humanitarian matters.  The new talks on Syria should begin without unjustified delays, and there should be a swift normalization of the situation at entry points.  On Libya, he said international efforts were moving too slowly and exacerbating the situation, he said, calling for better coordination of initiatives.  Citing information that suggested some international partners might have a hidden agenda in Libya, he said the country needed help, but only in the context of international law.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said Israel’s prolonged occupation had served to consolidate settlements on Palestinian land.  The scale and magnitude of the suffering was due to the occupying Power’s criminal actions.  Venezuela condemned retaliatory attacks by Palestinians, but rejected the occupying Power’s disproportionate responses to those acts, such as administrative detentions, he said, noting that a recent report found that 78 per cent of Palestinians in Israeli prisons were there for “security reasons”, and were subjected to harsher conditions than other prisoners.  Another report showed that of the 149 Palestinians murdered by the Israel Defense Forces in 2015, 72 did not represent a security threat and were victims of disproportionate acts by the heavy-handed Israeli authorities.  The Council should heed the petition to establish an international protection system for the Palestinian population, in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention and resolution 904 (1994), which could include the presence of United Nations aid agencies already in the region.  The Council had failed millions of Palestinians, who were victims of one of the most abhorrent tragedies and injustices in modern history, he said, adding that some Council members were directly responsible.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) supported France’s initiative to convene an international conference, saying that should be the immediate priority for the international community and the Security Council.  At the same time, parties to the conflict must foster appropriate conditions for the resumption of negotiations, with Israel rebuilding a climate of trust.  Condemning acts of terrorism, he said both sides must refrain from incitement.  Intra-Palestinian reconciliation was also essential.  Regarding Yemen, he expressed hope that the postponement of negotiations that should have opened today would not be repeated.  Turning to Syria, he said an escalation of clashes threatened to derail the objectives of resolution 2268 (2016).  Calling for full respect of international humanitarian law, he urged the Government of Syria to review its policy on the provision of medical equipment.  As for Lebanon, he paid tribute to its people for accepting an extraordinary number of refugees, while highlighting the country’s constitutional stalemate, which had gone on for too long.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the Council had shown no political will to end Israel’s illegal occupation or to salvage a two-State solution under international law.  Condemning Israel’s extrajudicial killing of a Palestinian youth in Hebron, he said that the Israeli army would have treated the incident as an act of self-defence had it not been captured on video.  The facts showed that it was not an isolated incident.  Rather, it reflected a systematic policy of dehumanizing Palestinians, reinforced by a culture of impunity.  The Council’s inaction had also led to Israel’s illegal settlement expansion, he said, citing a Peace Now report showing a 250 per cent increase in the first quarter of 2016 over the corresponding period of 2015.  Such activities, and the apartheid wall, were fragmenting the territorial integrity of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, he said, calling for an end to the illegal blockade of Gaza and reiterating the need to use all tools to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said a glimpse of hope in the region was a by-product of the Iranian nuclear agreement, adding that great and regional Powers must now build upon that agreement and make it a real “game-changer”.  Regional Powers must set aside their rivalries and take into account the wake-up call of terrorism on their doorsteps.  The Israeli Government’s heavy-handed approach was counter-productive, while the Palestinian divide hampered their ability to engage constructively.  The reality was that Israel was the occupying Power whose activities undermined the possibility of a two-State solution, he said, adding that some members of the Security Council had not been using their leverage over Israel to halt settlement activity.  Since joining the Council in 2015, Angola had seen a number of initiatives on the Middle East, none of which had been accepted or followed through, but it would keep insisting on the need for consensus on policies to end the protracted conflict, he emphasized.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said it was heartening to hear all nine candidates for Secretary-General declare their commitment to a two-State solution.  The United Kingdom condemned all acts of violence and terror, and both sides must do all in their power to calm the situation.  Progress must come from the parties themselves, with the Israeli Government reversing its settlements policy and the Palestinians taking steps to reunite the West Bank and Gaza.  It was vitally important to pursue the development of the Palestinian economy and institutions, he said, adding that he looked forward to the Quartet report as well as further details of France’s initiative.  Recalling resolution 2268 (2016) on Syria’s cessation-of-hostilities agreement, he said failure to deliver would only undermine progress and erode confidence.

MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan), noting that more than 1,000 people were living in evacuation centres in areas of his country affected by the recent earthquake, thanked countries and relief organizations for their offers of aid, and also expressed solidarity with the people of earthquake-hit Ecuador.

On Syria, he said the recent cessation of hostilities had created the conditions to allow humanitarian access to besieged areas.  Japan had provided food, other supplies and vocational training to the Syrians, and last Friday, it had announced an additional $11 million in grant aid through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to rehabilitate three electricity facilities.  The Yemen peace talks in Kuwait must begin as soon as possible, he said, noting that his country had provided $85 million in grant aid to Yemen since 2014.  On the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he said the building of settlements was in direct contradiction of a two-State solution.  Japan would continue its economic aid to the State of Palestine in support of a two-State solution and supported the peace initiative proposed by France.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) called on the Council to move from “theoretical” statements to actually mitigating the suffering of the Palestinians and ending the occupation, emphasizing that not doing so was a stain on the human conscience.  The Palestinians and their right to self-determination and an independent State seemed to have been forgotten.  Council resolution 465 (1980) and others stating that Israel must dismantle its settlements and prohibiting countries from providing aid to them must be implemented.  Exploiting the crisis for political gain could not be tolerated, he emphasized, asking whether the Israeli Government would prefer to continue the occupation and thumb its nose, or work towards a just, comprehensive solution.  Mere words of regret on the part of many were not enough and must stop.  The Council must act to realize the two-State solution and abide by the Oslo peace agreements, he said, adding that it must honour its obligations in accordance with international law, and that Israel must review its position.  Responding to the statement by Israel’s representative that Jordan and Egypt had “laid down their arms” for peace, he stressed that the reason they had done so — to resolve the political situation in the region — had yet to occur.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), emphasizing that a two-State solution was the only option, said the settlement policy could not continue.  Condemning attacks on Israeli citizens and the incitement and glorification of such actions, he took note of New Zealand’s statement and conveyed his willingness to work with its representative.  Regarding Syria, he said efforts for a political solution there were crucial, and appealed to the Syrian Government to enable humanitarian agencies to do their work.  Completely rejecting the use of hunger as a weapon of war, he said all who did so should be held accountable.  Turning to Yemen, he said negotiations would be the exit point for the conflict, but the humanitarian situation remained alarming.  On Libya, he said the arrival of the Government of National Accord’s Presidency Council marked a welcome start of a new phase.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said the failure of the political process was at the heart of a spike in violence in the Middle East.  Disproportionate and systematic use of force was not a solution, particularly in the absence of a political horizon.  The geographic, demographic and cultural changes made to Jerusalem risked turning a political crisis into a religious one, with consequences for the region and beyond, he said, warning also that the blockade of Gaza increased the danger of the Palestinian cause being co-opted by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  Without a doubt, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-State solution, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, would lead to better handling of the Middle East’s security and socioeconomic challenges, he said.  He appealed for the cessation-of-hostilities accord to be upheld in Syria, and for the ceasefire in Yemen to be respected so as to facilitate the negotiations in Kuwait.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that establishing a stable, peaceful and democratic Palestinian State was in Israel’s security interests, and that settlement expansion and legalization of outposts could undermine efforts to advance peace.  Ukraine understood the aspirations of Israelis to live in peace within secure borders, he said, expressing concern about the inability of Palestinian authorities to prevent violence.  Ukraine supported an early resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, with redoubled diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the violence, he said, adding that France’s initiative to convene an international conference deserved consideration.  He also expressed support for the creation of a non-sectarian body to guide the transition in Syria, which would be followed by a new constitution and elections.  Turning to Yemen, he said he was encouraged that the 10 April ceasefire had held, a critically important step that must be followed by meaningful dialogue and intensified efforts to drive back Da’esh and Al-Qaida.

LIU JIEYI (China), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, calling for a comprehensive and fair solution to the Palestinian question, which was in the interest of all sides.  The creation of an independent Palestinian State was the key to resolving the conflict.  Peace talks must continue, and Israel must demonstrate sincerity by taking practical steps to end settlement construction, home demolitions and its blockade of Gaza, he said, emphasizing that the international community must provide vital guarantees.  During his visit to the Middle East in January, China’s Premier had expressed support for the just cause of the Palestinian people, and the country had provided them with aid, both through the United Nations and bilaterally.  Last January, China had announced that it would provide 15 million renminbi in free aid to the Palestinians.  It had also been working actively for a peaceful political settlement in Syria, Libya and other hot spots.  On Syria, the international community should continue to support Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and the relief efforts of United Nations agencies.  China would continue to promote the political process to resolve the Syrian crisis.  On Yemen, he said all parties to the conflict should actively cooperate in the peace talks, and that there should be no double standards on counter-terrorism.

ISABELLA LOVIN, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, pointed out that her country was one of the largest donors to Yemen and emphasized the need to address that country’s massive humanitarian issues.  The talks taking place in Kuwait today must bring the world closer to a political solution.  On Syria, she said the Geneva talks must generate a viable political solution.  It was appalling that medicines and medical equipment were reportedly being removed from humanitarian convoys, costing innocent lives.  Sweden was assisting the Syrian people in various ways, including through increased humanitarian assistance and receiving more than 120,000 refugees, she said.

Pointing out that 2017 would mark 50 years of the occupation of Palestine, she stressed that a fundamental change of settlement policy was needed, particularly in East Jerusalem and Area C.  Such a change would increase economic opportunities, empower Palestinian institutions and enhance stability.  The isolation of Gaza must end, she said, reiterating that all parties must guarantee unimpeded access to the enclave for humanitarian organizations.  Sweden supported the French initiative to convene an international conference as a way for the parties to recommit to a two-State solution, she said, adding that the Security Council had a central role to that end, and must shoulder its responsibility.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) called on the parties to the conflict in Syria to respect the cessation-of-hostilities accord, saying growing violations in the recent weeks could threaten the progress made.  No effort should be spared in working towards a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition, as set out in resolution 2254 (2015).  He expressed concern about the negative humanitarian impact of unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria, saying his country had long regarded them as counter-productive and incompatible with international law.  On the question of Palestine, he said the absence of any positive signs was alarming.  “If left unchanged, this intolerable status quo will continue to destabilize the Middle East and erode the credibility of the Security Council,” he warned, adding that Brazil expected the Council to live up to its responsibilities and act decisively.  On Yemen, he said a sustainable and inclusive political solution was imperative, while noting that Libya had seen a measure of progress towards solving its political and security challenges.

JOÃO VALE DE ALMEIDA, Head of Delegation of the European Union, emphasized the importance of expanding the cessation-of-hostilities accord throughout Syria, saying all Syrian parties and their backers must engage in the peace process while the regime addressed the substantive aspects of a political transition.  It was incumbent upon all parties to respect the agreement of 27 February.  Humanitarian assistance must reach besieged and hard-to-access areas, he said, stressing that the Assad regime had a particular responsibility in that regard as a clear majority of besieged areas were under its control.  He also called for the release of all arbitrarily held persons, particularly women and children.

Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he underlined that there was no alternative to a negotiated two-State solution and that only significant policy shifts on the ground would end the violence and rebuild trust.  While the European Union would continue to play a leading part in the peace process, much of the responsibility fell on regional partners as well as local leaders and societies, he said, adding that the active participation of both sides of the conflict remained a crucial prerequisite for the success of any peace initiative.  Describing settlements as illegal under international law, he said they constituted an obstacle to peace.  Addressing the needs of the Palestinian people should be a top priority of their political leaders, he said, urging Palestinian factions to bring their ongoing reconciliation efforts to a conclusion.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), citing United Nations figures, said Israel had demolished 539 structures in Area C since the beginning of 2016, compared with a total of 453 in 2015, thereby displacing 805 Palestinians, compared with 580 in 2015.  Israel had failed to meet its Fourth Geneva Convention obligation to protect Palestinian civilians, pursuing instead a policy of strangulation, he said, urging the Council to take all necessary measures to ensure their protection.

On Syria, he recognized the support of the Russian Federation and the United States for the cessation-of-hostilities agreement, which had cleared the way for intra-Syrian talks, which in turn should enable Syrians to live in a unified country.  He reiterated the need to provide Lebanon with the means to deal with the more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees residing in his country, emphasizing that it was also crucial to follow on the various donors’ conferences.

He said the Government of Lebanon had sought the Secretary-General’s good offices in delineating the disputed maritime border and exclusive economic zone between Lebanon and Israel because a failure to resolve that issue threatened peace in the region.

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