Swedish Statement 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 situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, 18 October 2018, New York.
Thank you, Madam President.
I would like to start by thanking Special Coordinator Mladenov for his briefing and for his tireless efforts. The UN and its agencies deserve to be commended for the work that they are undertaking on the ground day-to-day in a challenging environment. We stand fully behind their efforts as well as their continued close consultations with the parties.
I thank Mr Hagai El-Ad for being here today and for sharing your honest assessment and valuable perspectives, and more importantly for the integrity and bravery of B’Tselem and many other civil society organisations in both Israel and Palestine. We commend your consciousness and courage Mr. El-Ad, speaking up as an Israeli citizen. Personal insults have no place in this chamber.
We align ourselves with the statement to be delivered by the European Union later today.
Sweden has a long-standing engagement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our friendship is steadfast with the peoples of both Israel and Palestine. As a member of this Council, we have consistently based our position on international law, including international human rights and international humanitarian law.
While the proliferation of new and re-emerging crises in the Middle East require our attention, we must maintain our active commitment to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. The situation is increasingly urgent, as new generations grow up in a reality stained by conflict.
The shared vision of the international community remains unchanged. It is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the future capital of two states and home of three world religions.
We now need to return to a meaningful and inclusive peace process, ending the occupation and resolving all final status issues.
To achieve a just and sustainable peace, it is critical that any future peace plan is based on international law, relevant UN resolutions and previous agreements. Final status issues can only be taken off the table when resolved through negotiations between the parties.
The continuous and rapid deterioration of the situation on the ground is destroying hopes for peace. The two-state solution is regrettably becoming more distant by the day.
Israelis and Palestinians alike have a responsibility to urgently reverse these trends.
We are deeply concerned about the continued and rapid settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This includes the decision by the Israeli authorities to advance plans of new settlement units in the city of Hebron. We are also deeply concerned about demolition of homes, including the imminent threat of demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and the forcible displacement of its inhabitants, a majority being children. The village is located in Area E1, a location of strategic interest for preserving the contiguity of a Palestinian state. Settlements are illegal under international law, and the demolition of homes and evictions to enable the continuation of this policy seriously threatens the prospects for peace.
We strongly condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terrorism. The use of disproportionate, lethal violence in recent days and weeks is a tragedy. These crimes must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable.
A peace process cannot merely be about ending the occupation and the conflict. It must also be about building peaceful and inclusive societies. A vibrant civil society, particularly with meaningful inclusion of women and youth, is critical for sustainable peace.
The shrinking space for civil society and the possibility to promote human rights are a source of great concern on both sides. On the Palestinian side, laws are used to curtail freedom of expression. On the Israeli side, representatives of civil society organisations are delegitimised, thereby limiting them from carrying out their important work. We call on both the Palestinian and the Israeli leaderships to support, respect and allow the civil society to operate and express their views freely.
In the so-called post-Oslo generation, on both sides, few have hope that peace is still possible. We must show the youth that there is an alternative to conflict, violence and to a constant deterioration of the situation. And the voices of the young Israelis and Palestinians must be heard, in line with resolution 2419.
Both Israel and Palestine have been vocal advocates for the full implementation of the ‘Women Peace and Security’ agenda and the meaningful inclusion and engagement of women in the peace process. We remain committed to supporting such efforts in every way we can.
Mr. Mladenov has today rightly put this Council on high alert. Gaza is on the verge of collapse. The situation remains untenable and increasingly desperate. Millions of people are caught between Hamas and other militant groups on one hand and the Israeli policy of closure on the other. The People of Gaza must not pay the price for this long-standing crisis.
We continue to witness tragic events leading to regrettable loss of life. All parties must exercise maximum restraint, avoid confrontation and take immediate steps to de-escalate.
We must also step up efforts to avoid humanitarian disaster. There is an urgent need for humanitarian interventions with quick, direct and immediate impacts on the daily lives of people in need. All actors have a responsibility in this regard.
While respecting the legitimate security concerns of Israel, Palestine and Egypt, there is an urgent need to lift the restrictions, secure full and sustained access and movement to and from Gaza and ensure unimpeded access for all humanitarian actors.
The efforts to achieve the full return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza must be redoubled. We support the Egyptian-led efforts to achieve reconciliation and call on all Palestinian factions to revitalise genuine efforts to this end. Only reconciliation will lead to a unified Palestinian leadership and a reunification of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
UNRWA was established by the General Assembly and mandated to provide assistance and protection to Palestinian refugees across the region until a negotiated, lasting and just solution to this issue was reached. UNRWA not only delivers critical services and education but plays a crucial role to ensure stability in a region seriously affected by conflict, terrorism and turmoil.
During the high-level week of the General Assembly, Sweden together with Jordan, Turkey, Japan, Germany and the European Union hosted a ministerial meeting to mobilise political and financial support to UNRWA. Together we managed to mobilise 122 million US dollars, thus significantly reducing the deficit of UNRWA and enabling the Agency’s schools to remain open throughout 2018. Having now overcome the most immediate crisis, we must shift our focus to the coming year. Much work remains to secure funding for 2019.
We must maintain the recent positive momentum and end the perpetual crisis mode and find solutions for more predictable and sustainable funding. UNRWA is not part of the problem – it is part of the solution.
Madam President, in conclusion,
We cannot allow the viability of a two-state solution to move beyond our reach. We must act or we risk moving rapidly towards not only perpetual occupation, but a one-state reality. This should not be in the interest of anyone. This Council and every member on it has a responsibility. Our faith in a negotiated, just and fair two-state solution led us to recognise the State of Palestine in 2014. It is not too late to solve this conflict. We must do everything in our power to make sure that the hope of two states is kept alive and that the vision of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East is realised. We owe this to many young Israelis and Palestinians. They deserve no less from us.
I Thank you, Madam President.