23 April 2012Statement by Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, to the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East
I’d like to thank Mr Lynn Pascoe for his briefing and express appreciation for the contributions to today’s debate made by the representatives of Palestine and Israel.
Before I turn to the situation in Israel/Palestine, I would like to reiterate the United Kingdom’s deep concern about the crisis in Syria, which is entering its fourteenth month. On 21 April, this Council, through its unanimous adoption of resolution 2043, took the important step of authorising a UN Supervision Mission in Syria of 300 unarmed military observers with an additional substantive civilian component. It did so despite the failure of the regime to meet its commitments under resolution 2042, and the absence of a sustained cessation of violence.
The Mission that we have authorised, and Mr Kofi Annan’s six-point proposal, offer the last opportunity for the Syrian regime to reverse course and allow a peaceful solution to the crisis. It is essential that the Syrian regime now meets its commitments on troop movements and heavy weapons, and ensures the conditions that will allow the Mission to operate effectively, such as unhindered freedom of movement and access. This Council will be receiving regular and frequent reports – starting tomorrow. Failure of the regime to meet its commitments or any attempt to hinder the work of the Mission must be met by real and robust consequences.
Much of the international community’s attention is rightly focused on the crisis in Syria. But we must not forget the ongoing plight of the Palestinian people who have struggled for too long for their rights and dignity. Our shared goal remains a two-state solution. We all firmly believe that negotiations toward such a solution are the best way forward and that any such negotiations should be based on 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps, a just solution for refugees, security arrangements that respect Palestinian sovereignty and protect Israeli security, and Jerusalem as a joint capital of both states. We remain fully committed to this goal and welcome the Quartet statement released on 11 April.
Despite an almost universally shared understanding of the objective and the parameters of the solution, there remains a depressing lack of progress. With every day that passes, the very notion of the two-state solution is undermined. I have three points on the way forward.
First, in the immediate-term, we must collectively guard against further threats to the two-state solution and act to prevent deterioration on the ground. We are therefore disappointed by the announcement on 4 April of renewed Israeli settlement activity. As the Occupying Power of the Palestinian Territories, the Israeli government has an absolute requirement to uphold international law and fulfil its commitments.
We and our European Unioon partners are clear: systematic, illegal Israeli settlement activity poses the most significant and live threat to the viability of the two-state solution. We condemn the decision to publish tenders for 872 units in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa, across the Green Line in East Jerusalem. The Israeli government's policy is illegal under international law. It is counter-productive, de-stabilising and provocative.
Although we welcome the difficult decision taken earlier this year by the Israeli government to evacuate the single-house settlement of Beit Hamachpela in Hebron, what is required of the Israeli government is of a significantly greater order of magnitude. The UK urges the Israeli government to desist from further settlement announcements, to revoke previous announcements and to remove - not legalise - illegal outposts from across the West Bank, as required under international law and the Roadmap. If it fails to do so, it will further damage the prospects of a two-state solution and undermine the long-term security that this would deliver for Israeli and Palestinian people alike.
Similarly, Palestinians too must play their part in ensuring conditions conducive to a peaceful settlement. Rocket fire from Gaza, such as that which led to the crisis last month that left 8 Israelis injured, 26 Palestinians dead and dozens more injured, and caused widespread disruption to normal life, must stop.
Second, over the longer-term, we must continue our full support to the Palestinian Authority. The United Kingdom will continue to be one of the principal supporters of Palestinian state-building efforts, assisting them to tackle poverty, build institutions and boost their economy. We welcome the focus of the Quartet statement on area C. Increasing Palestinian’s autonomy in Area C, and throughout the West Bank, is necessary to move the Palestinian economy away from aid dependency and toward self sustainability.
And third, a sustainable solution requires a sustainable approach to Gaza. Gaza should have a thriving economy. Yet it is one of the highest per capita recipients of aid in the world. Israel must ease the movement and access restrictions that make life so difficult for the people of Gaza and which are doing ongoing damage to its economy. Such restrictions do not help the Peace Process. We understand Israel’s security concerns, but for any peace deal to be sustainable, Gaza must be economically viable.
There is no doubt that a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians would bring enormous benefits to both of them and to the region. We will continue to urge both sides to show the political leadership and courage needed to make progress towards this goal.
I thank you.