Statement by Sweden at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East
National Statement delivered by Ambassador Carl Skau on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East, 25 July 2017, New York.
I would like to align myself with the statement to be made later today on behalf of the European Union. I would also like to thank Special Envoy Mladenov for his timely briefing to the Council this morning.
Sweden together with Egypt and France called for yesterday's discussion in the Council because we were deeply concerned by the heightened tensions and violent clashes, including loss of life, in and around the occupied East Jerusalem, particularly at Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. It is critical to avoid any further escalation of the situation, which, as highlighted by Mr Mladenov, could have consequences far beyond the walls of the Old City.
Since the Council met yesterday, we have learnt that Israel has decided to remove the metal detectors at the entrances of the Holy Esplanade, a key demand from the Palestinian side as well as Jordan and many other Arab countries. This is a step that we hope can pave the way for de-escalation. It remains of great importance to uphold the historic status quo at the holy sites.
Jerusalem is home to three religions and it has a special status granted by the United Nations in 1947. The special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and H.M. King Abdullah II, as recognised in the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, is key, and we appreciate the efforts that Jordan as well as many others, are making to find a solution to this crisis.
While we are hopefully close to a solution to the immediate crisis, we must not lose sight of the urgent need to find a just, comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Developments on the ground, unfortunately, continue to take us further away from the two-state solution.
We are deeply concerned about the recent Israeli announcement of the issuing of building permits for 1,500 new settlement units in East Jerusalem. As reaffirmed in resolution 2334, the establishment of settlements by Israel in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. Settlements further constitute a major obstacle to peace, and will, if not reversed, render the two-state solution impossible. We call on Israeli authorities to immediately reverse the decision.
We unequivocally condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror. We condemned the attack on 14 July in the Old City of Jerusalem and welcome the swift and firm condemnation by President Abbas. In line with resolution 2334, we reiterate the call for immediate steps to prevent such violence as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, and for accountability in this regard.
We are extremely worried about the situation in Gaza, particularly the humanitarian consequences of the energy crisis and Israel's policy of closure. Civilians, including women and children, should not pay the price for this long-standing crisis. However, they continue to do so on a daily basis. The energy crisis, which has resulted in lack of access to basic essential services, including water and sanitation, is an assault on their human dignity. Sweden is one of the major donors to Gaza and recently made additional funding available, given the gravity of the situation.
While humanitarian assistance is needed to mitigate the effects on the people of Gaza, it will never resolve the problem. All Palestinian factions must commit to finding a solution to the energy crisis. Furthermore, while fully understanding the legitimate security concerns for Israel and Palestine, full and sustained access for humanitarian actors and all donors is crucial. An immediate end to the Israeli closure policy is therefore necessary.
The question of Gaza should not be separated from the peace process. All Palestinian factions need to engage, in good faith, in a reconciliation process leading to a unified Palestinian leadership and reunification of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
50 years ago, this Council affirmed that the fulfilment of the Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries free from threats and acts of force. Today, 50 years later, we have yet to realise this just and lasting peace.
Ending the occupation and achieving a two-state solution is the only way forward. The two-state solution reflects the consensus of the international community and must not be called into question. However, it is becoming more distant by the day. Unless we act, we are moving rapidly towards not only perpetual occupation, but a one-state reality which should not be in the interest of the State of Israel.
The United States has always played a leading role in efforts to advance peace in the Middle East. We are encouraged by continued efforts by the US administration and welcome the holding of the Quartet meeting of 13 July. We hope that it will constitute the first step towards relaunching a meaningful peace process, leading to the achievement of the two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.