Statement by Ambassador H.E. Olof Skoog at the Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East
Statement by H.E. Mr. Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN, at the Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, 17 January, 2017, New York. As delivered.
First, I would like to thank Special Coordinator Mr Mladenov for his tireless work and that of the entire UN staff on the ground.
The shared commitment of the international community is two states: an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel in peace and security, and with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.
However, that two-state solution is becoming more distant by the day. The constant deterioration of the situation on the ground, with continued settlement expansion, demolitions and violence, is destroying hopes for peace. We must avoid a move towards a one-state reality and perpetual occupation.
Sweden's long standing engagement on the Middle East Peace Process is based on international law, including human rights and international humanitarian law. It was our support for the two-state solution and our desire to make the parties less unequal that led us to recognise the State of Palestine in 2014.
The international community has an important role in moving from words to action by helping to break the current deadlock and finally ending the occupation that started 50 years ago. We welcome the adoption of Security Council resolution 2334, which is a milestone towards resumed efforts to save the two-state solution. We must now encourage the parties to swiftly implement its provisions, as has been said by everyone in this chamber today.
More than 70 countries met in Paris last Sunday in order to save and promote the two-state solution. We commend France for its initiative, a much needed recommitment to the peace process. We welcome the adoption of the Middle East Conference Joint Declaration, especially the recommendation to refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final status issues, including the future status of Jerusalem, and the stated readiness of interested parties to meet again before the end of the year to review progress.
As part of the French initiative, Sweden convened a working group on civil society, which heard the voices of 150 civil society organisations in Israel and Palestine. We thank all those countries and international organisations who have supported this work, and we welcome that other countries now want to join. In these consultations it was made clear that many in the post-Oslo generation, on both sides, had lost hope that the two-state solution is attainable. We need to engage civil society to revive a public debate on the prospects for peace and the two-state solution. We need to show the young women and men that there is an alternative to violence, a depressing status quo and continuously negative developments on the ground. Sweden, therefore, will host a Civil Society Forum later on this spring.
Sweden fully supports the efforts of the UN, the Quartet and the Arab League. The UN and its presence, through different UN bodies on the ground, play a very important role to support the Palestinian people. We support a reinvigorated Quartet that moves forward to support swift implementation of the
recommendations in its report of July last year. And we want to highlight the importance of the implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.
Finally, I would like to recognise the outgoing U.S. administration for its efforts, including Secretary Kerry's remarks on 28 December. We look forward to continued U.S. engagement in support of the two-state solution.
On Lebanon, Sweden welcomes the election of Michel Aoun as President on 31 October last year and the formation of a government of national accord, led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in December. We hope that these positive developments will now pave the way for parliamentary elections. We commend Lebanon for hosting over 1.1 million Syrian refugees and call for implementation of the shared commitments on refugees made at the London Conference on 4 February 2016. We support UN-led efforts on the ground.
Finally, the situation in Syria is the crisis of our time, with a devastating toll in human suffering. Sweden welcomes the unity in the Council in December that led to the adoption of resolution 2336.
Despite reduced levels of violence resulting from the ceasefire, humanitarian access remains dismal. All parties to the conflict, not least the Syrian government, must ensure full, timely, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers countrywide.
We look forward to a resumption of the UN-led intra-Syrian talks in Geneva on 8 February in line with resolution 2254, and hopes that the Astana meeting can help create the right conditions for this. Syrian women must be fully involved in the process.
We must also work together to ensure accountability for the atrocities committed during this conflict, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.