Swedish statement at the UNSC 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 situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question, 25 January 2018, New York.
Thank you, Mr President,
And thank you, Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, for your briefing and more importantly for the work that you and your team are doing on the ground every day. Sweden aligns itself with the statement to be delivered later by the European Union.
I want first to reiterate our long-standing and firm commitment to the two-state solution. There is simply no alternative. Only a two-state solution, based on known parameters, international law and relevant resolutions of this Council, can fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians and achieve the security and just peace that both peoples deserve.
Yet, developments on the ground continue to deteriorate. The rapid settlement expansion, challenges to the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem and the shrinking space for civil society in both Israel and Palestine continue to undermine the prospects for peace.
The continued and rapid Israeli settlement expansion, including in East Jerusalem, and the gradual fragmentation of the West Bank, seriously undermine efforts to relaunch the peace process and the viability of the two-state solution. Settlements constitute a flagrant violation under international law and of this Council's resolutions, including its latest resolution 2334.
We are also deeply concerned by Israeli legislative initiatives and policies that risk prejudging future negotiations and undermining the prospects for a two-state solution. This is particularly true when it comes to legislation and policies that would undermine the status of Jerusalem, including the continued policy of revoking the residency rights of Palestinians, in violation of international humanitarian law.
The position of the European Union and Sweden on Jerusalem was stated clearly last month. Jerusalem is the future capital of both states. We call upon all Member States to continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem embodied in, inter alia, Security Council Resolution 478, including on the location of diplomatic representations until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved.
The shrinking space for civil society and the possibility to promote human rights, both on the Palestinian and Israeli sides, is a cause for great concern. On the Palestinian side, we note that laws are sometimes used to curtail freedom of expression, and on the Israeli side we note laws blacklisting representatives of civil society organisations, thereby preventing them from carrying out their important work. A vibrant civil society, particularly the inclusion of women and youth, is critical for democratic development and for a sustainable peace.
This bleak picture leads me to the conclusion that we must increase our efforts to help relaunch a meaningful peace process that enables the State of Israel and the State of Palestine to live side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.
For this we need an appropriate and effective international framework for negotiations. This framework needs to be multilateral and all relevant actors, particularly countries in the region, need to be engaged. This Council also has a responsibility, not least in upholding international law and our own resolutions. The return to a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution needs to be in line with known parameters. Final status issues such as Jerusalem and refugees can only be taken off the table as part of negotiations between the parties.
In 1949, the General Assembly established UNRWA and mandated it to provide assistance and protection to what are today some 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip. UNRWA was mandated to carry out this task until a negotiated, lasting and just solution to the Palestine refugee situation was reached. Sadly we still await that day. It is for this reason that we all must continue to shoulder our responsibility for Palestinian refugees through a functioning UNRWA.
UNRWA delivers critical services for the human development of Palestinian refugees and plays a crucial role to ensure stability in a region seriously affected by conflict, terrorism and turmoil. Given the extreme conditions facing many refugees, UNRWA's stabilising role in providing basic services is imperative. Furthermore, the work of UNRWA is essential to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution, as refugees are one of the final status issues.
With a current shortfall of 243 million US dollars, UNRWA is facing the most acute financial crisis since its inception. Vital operations and programmes are immediately at risk unless extraordinary measures are taken. A reduction or termination of UNRWA operations would have serious and immediate negative consequences on the ground, causing instability.
UNRWA has undertaken key reforms, at unprecedented speed, and as a result has achieved a high level of cost efficiency in its operations and programmes. Through reforms in 2015 and 2016, it last year saved 81 million US dollars.
We therefore call upon all Member States to consider enhancing their support to UNRWA. Our own contributions to UNRWA last year amounted to some 65 million US dollars, making us its fourth largest donor. In light of the acute financial crisis, and at the request of UNRWA, we have advanced our initial payment for 2018 to the Agency. And we urge others to do the same.
Thank you Mr President.