National Statement by Sweden at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Middle East Peace Process
National Statement on behalf of Sweden, Ambassador Carl Skau, at the Security Council Briefing on the Middle East Peace Process. Tuesday, 20 June 2017, New York.
Let me begin by thanking Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, and Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi for your briefings and for your tireless efforts striving for peace. Thank you also to Mr. Michael Doran for sharing your expertise and perspective with the Council today.
This month marks 50 years since the 1967 Six-Day war, which resulted in the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan. Since then, the Palestinian question has rarely been far from the top of this Council's agenda, with the Council, in successive resolutions, calling for the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, which includes the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories.
The hardships faced by generations of Palestinians during Israeli occupation are numerous, not least for those forced to leave their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, has supported Palestinian refugees since 1950. It now faces a chronically difficult financial situation. As a major donor to UNRWA, Sweden fully supports the recommendations in the Secretary-General's recent report on the sustainable funding of UNRWA. To mobilise much needed political and financial support to the Agency, we look forward to hosting a high-level meeting, together with Jordan and the OIC, on 21 September during this year's General Assembly.
Today, I would like to make three points on what we now believe is needed to move forward.
Firstly, the international community remains clear in its stance on the occupation and the need for a two-state solution. But we must act before it is too late; otherwise, the solution this Council is striving for: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in peace and security will move beyond our reach; resulting in a one-state reality and perpetual occupation, which should not be in the interest of any of the parties.
A renewed peace effort between Israelis and Palestinians is needed. After decades of violence and suffering that has affected both sides, this anniversary reminds us that the parties alone are unable to resolve the conflict. The international community must therefore help break the current deadlock and revive the peace process.
Together with Israelis and Palestinians, the international community and this Council have a responsibility to remain engaged to end the occupation and achieve peace. The United States has always played a leading role in efforts to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. US leadership to revive the peace process is key, and we welcome the efforts by the US administration in this regard.
Regional partners have a key role to play. The Arab Peace Initiative, as Secretary-General Aboul-Gheit has outlined today, is essential. Any regional effort should build on this initiative, as it could contribute to a whole new regional dynamic benefiting all actors.
The support and active engagement of the people directly affected, particularly of the youth of Israel and Palestine is much needed. Generations have grown up shaped by recurring cycles of violence and retribution. People-to-people contacts are now at a record low. Sweden, actively engaged with civil society in both Israel and Palestine, calls for a re-engagement with the youth, in line with resolution 2250, and a revival of a public debate on the prospects for peace and a two-state solution. We must show the post Oslo generation that there is an alternative to violence and occupation – after all it's their future that is at stake. The purpose of Sweden's recognition of Palestine was to contribute to making the parties less unequal and to give hope and belief in the future to young Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Secondly, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is deteriorating by the day. The civilian population – particularly women and children – are bearing the brunt of the suffering. The decision of the Israeli government, with the consent of the Palestinian Authority, to further reduce electricity supplies to Gaza is adding to the suffering and risks leading to a dangerous escalation. A new conflict in Gaza would be in no one's interest and we must prevent it from happening. We continue to call on all Palestinian factions to engage, in good faith, in a reconciliation process that will lead to a unified Palestinian leadership and a reunification of Gaza with the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Thirdly, we welcome the Secretary-General's quarterly report on the implementation of resolution 2334. This resolution contains clear messages to both parties, and both parties have a duty to implement its provisions, including by ensuring accountability for acts of violence against civilians. The continued construction and expansion of settlements as well as violence and acts of provocation will, if not reversed, render the two-state solution impossible.
It is vital that the issue of settlements is addressed without delay. As clearly stated by this Council, settlements in occupied territory constitute a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution. Furthermore, in resolution 2334 the Security Council reiterated its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities. The recent Israeli announcement of construction of 3000 new settlement units, many of which are located deep in the West Bank, is profoundly worrying. It brings the number of new homes approved in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to almost 9000 in 2017 alone, which contradicts Israeli's commitment to the two-state solution. In line with 2334, we also call on all states to distinguish between the territory of the state of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967 in their dealings.
Ending the occupation will improve the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as contributing to wider peace and security in the region. This must be our common goal. We must not spare any effort and this Council must stand ready to assist.