Statement by Sweden at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East
National Statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East, 18 October 2017, New York.
Merci beaucoup Monsieur le Président,
Firstly, I would like to thank Mr Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, for the useful briefing today. I would also like to thank the representatives of Israel and Palestine for their participation and contribution here today.
I would also like to align myself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, including with regard to the Iran nuclear deal later on today.
Recent months have been extremely busy for this Council. However, despite the proliferation of new – and re-emerging – crises, we must also maintain our commitment to resolving one of the longest standing conflicts on our agenda. We must continue to seek an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by reviving the Peace Process.
In this regard, we welcome the efforts by the United States to achieve a return to meaningful negotiations, based on relevant UN resolutions, international law and prior agreements. This is the only path to realising a two-state solution, ending the occupation and resolving all final status issues.
A unified Palestinian leadership is critical for a return to meaningful negotiations. We, therefore, commend the efforts in recent weeks to further intra-Palestinian reconciliation.
We welcome the agreement signed by Fatah and Hamas in Cairo on 12 October and Egypt's crucial engagement in this regard. This is an important step in enabling the full return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza. We encourage all parties to seize this opportunity and to fully implement agreed provisions in order to re-unite Gaza and the West Bank.
The people of Gaza have lived in intolerable conditions for far too long. The population continues to suffer from the impact of having electricity only a couple of hours per day and a lack of access to basic services, including water and sanitation – as we have just heard this morning.
The return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza should swiftly lead to actions that improve the grave humanitarian situation.
In addition, an immediate end to the Israeli policy of closure and a full opening of the crossings, in line with Security Council resolution 1860, is needed, while addressing Israel's legitimate security concerns. We also underline the need for unimpeded humanitarian access as well as access for all international donors to Gaza.
My country is the sixth biggest donor to Palestine, including Gaza, in order to support the strip's growth and stability, both within the EU framework and through our own development co-operation with between 40 and 50 million USD per year.
Last month, we heard from Special Coordinator Mladenov that 'Israel's illegal settlement activities have continued at a high rate, a consistent pattern over the course of this year'. More than 10,000 settlement units have been announced so far this year – more than twice as many as during the whole of 2016. We reiterate that settlements constitute a flagrant violation of international law and are contrary to numerous Security Council resolutions, including 2334.
The Israeli government announced yesterday, and even today, its decisions to advance thousands of settlement units, including in East Jerusalem and area C, deep inside the occupied West Bank.
The fact that two days ago, for the first time in 15 years, the Israeli authorities issued permits for 31 new settlement units in the Palestinian city of Hebron is of particular concern. This represents a new, deeply worrying, trend in a place where tensions are already running high.
Settlements are resulting in the gradual fragmentation of the West Bank and have a negative impact on Palestinians' enjoyment of human rights, including freedom of movement, thus severely impeding the right to education, health, work and family life.
Our position and that of the European Union remains clear: we strongly oppose Israel's illegal settlement policy. Settlements dangerously threaten the viability of the two-state solution and destroy hopes for peace.
This is why we condemn these Israeli decisions and we urge the Israeli government to reverse them.
In the context of achieving a two-state solution, we would like to recall that Security Council resolution 2334 'calls upon all States [...] to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967'. In line with this, the European Union has a policy regarding settlement products. Furthermore, all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the occupied territories. This policy does not constitute a boycott of Israel. We hope that the UN will be able to report on developments regarding this in the next reporting period related to the implementation of resolution 2334.
Next month marks the 70th anniversary of the adoption of General Assembly Resolution 181 that recognised the two-state solution. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lasted for far too long. Countless Palestinians and Israelis have lost their lives. Fortunately fatalities on both sides are at lower levels so far this year. Yet, a few weeks ago, an attack in a settlement in the occupied West Bank led to three Israeli fatalities. Sweden unequivocally condemns this attack and all other acts of violence.
The international community must do everything in its power to realise the two-state solution. The peoples of Israel and Palestine deserve no less.
Je vous remercie Monsieur le Président.