15 October 2012Statement delivered by UK Ambassador and Chargé D'Affaires Philip Parham at the Security Council debate on the Middle East
Thank you Mr President,
And many thanks to Under-Secretary-General Feltman for his briefing, and I join others in welcoming the new Permanent Representative of Pakistan.
The bloodshed in Syria has now entered its twentieth month. The facts and figures cited by other Council members on the human cost of the conflict have sadly become all too familiar.
In July, we again warned about the consequences of continued inaction by this Council: We said that if the Council didn’t act, there would be further violence and bloodshed, and the deteriorating situation would spill over the borders, drawing in the region, and clearly posing a threat to international peace and security. And that, of course, is exactly what we are now seeing. In particular among recent developments, we strongly condemn Syrian shelling across the border into Turkey. The Security Council press statement of 4 October responding to this outrage was welcome but that alone, of course, has not stopped the activity and is unlikely to stop the regime from pursuing its murderous path.
We are deeply concerned about the humanitarian impacts of the conflict. As winter approaches, there is an urgent need for suitable shelter, fuel and warm blankets. We, the United Kingdom, are doing what we can to address this.
The United Kingdom is the second largest bilateral donor to the international humanitarian response, providing so far $60 million for food, medical care, shelter and other essential support to tens of thousands of people affected by the fighting in Syria and refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, and I echo Under-Secretary-General’s Feltman’s appeal to Member States to appeal to humanitarian assistance.
But, the overwhelming priority remains an end to the violence and full, unhindered access for humanitarian agencies, so that civilians can escape the fighting and aid can get through to save lives in the worst affected areas.
UK Aid is making a difference and is helping to save lives. But we should be under no illusion as to the difficulties faced in delivering it. Civilians have been targeted and killed, medical workers have been attacked and blocked from helping those in need. There is evidence of atrocities committed by both government and opposition in violation of international law. But as the Commission on Inquiry makes clear in its report, the greater responsibility clearly lies with the regime. We urge all parties to comply with their obligations and protect civilians from the scourge of conflict.
We should of course continue to work to assist those affected by conflict. However, this Council has a moral imperative to work to address the causes of the conflict. We are all fully committed to supporting the Joint United Nations and Arab League Special Representative to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, in his work towards a political settlement and political transition.
As a Council we have achieved a lot over the last year on Somalia, on Yemen, and on Sudan and South Sudan. But in each case the Council has been united in making clear that there would be serious consequences if one or other of the parties failed to meet its commitments.
We need to apply this lesson to Syria. The brutal regime has been impervious to the repeated efforts of international actors, including some around this table, to persuade it to follow the route of dialogue. It has ignored its obligations to cease violence under the Six Point Plan in this Council’s resolutions 2042 and 2043; instead the violence has escalated. So this Council needs to apply the firm and consistent pressure which has so far been lacking.
In the meantime, it’s notable that the General Assembly, in August overwhelmingly voted for a resolution which deplored the failure of the Security Council to agree on measures to ensure the compliance of Syrian authorities with its decisions, called on all Syrian parties rapidly to implement the Geneva communiqué and encouraged Member States to support that implementation. As our Foreign Secretary William Hague has said in a statement today, it is utterly unacceptable that the regime continues to attack its own people with brutality and without remorse. No country should shut its eyes to the horrors we are witnessing. History, and the Syrian people, will judge them harshly if they do.
Grave as the situation is in Syria is, we must not lose focus on the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whose resolution remains central to the stability of the region. The frequency with which this issue was raised during the General Debate at the General Assembly last month underlines its continued importance.
Our shared goal remains a negotiated two-state solution based on 1967 lines, a fair solution for refugees, security arrangements that respect Palestinian sovereignty and protect Israeli security, and Jerusalem as a joint capital.
A negotiated end to the occupation remains the best way to allow Palestinian aspirations to be met in reality and on the ground.
A demonstration of political will and leadership is needed from both sides to break the current impasse. We have urged both sides to focus on dialogue, to avoid steps that could undermine the prospects for peace and to work towards the resumption of direct negotiations.
Israeli settlement activity remains the most serious threat to the two-state solution. Settlements are illegal under international law and they undermine the very viability of a two-state solution. Any step which entrenches the presence of settlements in the West Bank risks sending the message that Israel is not serious in its support for a two-state solution. Like others, we also remain very concerned about the increasing number of incidents of settler violence and the fact that many appear to go unpunished.
As Under-Secretary-General Feltman reported, last month, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee highlighted the Palestinian Authority’s continued state-building efforts. But it also focused on the severe fiscal crisis the Palestinian Authority is now facing. The Palestinian Authority will continue to face regular and ever more profound crises unless its finances can be put on a more sustainable footing in the medium term. External factors severely constrain the Palestinian Authority’s ability to help the private sector develop, promote Palestinian livelihoods, and address the fiscal gap.
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.
But a shift in the freedom of movement of goods and people, and in the framework for doing business across the Palestinian territories is also urgently needed.
With our European partners, we call upon Israel to halt demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure in Area C of the West Bank, and the subsequent forced transfer of the population, and to address humanitarian needs. We encourage Israel to accelerate approval of Palestinian master plans and simplify administrative procedures to obtain building permits for Area C of the West Bank. Without Palestinian control over this land, including planning, building and security, the viability of a future Palestinian state – and thus, the two state solution – is reduced.
We also remain concerned about the situation in Gaza and continue to press the Israeli government to ease the restrictions on movement and access. We will never underestimate Israel’s security needs, but for any peace deal to be sustainable there must be an economically viable Gaza.
Rocket attacks from Gaza must also stop. We continue to urge all parties to exercise restraint and prevent civilian casualties and loss of life. The escalation of violence earlier this month only serves to entrench the status quo.
Developments in the wider region underscore the importance of achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to this conflict. A solution that gives the Israeli people peace and security and the Palestinian people the state which they need and deserve. We will continue to urge both sides to show the political leadership and courage required to make progress towards this shared goal of a two state solution.
Thank you Mr President.