The Permanent Mission of Iceland
to the United Nations
Security Council open debate
The Middle East including the Palestinian Question
H.E. Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson
25 January 2018
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
First allow me to thank the Presidency of Kazakhstan for convening this quarterly meeting on the Middle East, including Palestine question.
The Middle East region faces ongoing major conflicts and multiple humanitarian crises. The humanitarian situation in Syria remains “marked by unparalleled suffering, destruction and disregard for human life” as OCHA describes it. It is just over a year since the General Assembly adopted resolution 71/248 on establishing a mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes in the Syrian Arab Republic. This resolution demonstrates the determination of the General Assembly to ensure justice in the long term. In the meantime, as the Secretary-General has said, peace “is a moral and political imperative for the Syrian people and for the world”.
What the Secretary-General has called “a stupid war” has devastated the lives of millions of Yemenis. It has been called the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe – entirely manmade. We should pay more attention to this conflict, where civilians are paying a huge price in a senseless war that has been overshadowed by other conflicts in the region. One has to wonder about the humanity of those responsible.
Compared with other conflicts in the Middle East region, the Israel/Palestine conflict should be soluble. There is a clear objective, the two-state solution, under which both Israel and Palestine will live side-by-side in peace.
We must avoid actions that take us further way from the two-state solution, or that have the potential to further undermine trust, enflame passions and spark violence. This applies equally to violence by Palestinian individuals or organisations targeting Israelis and the disproportionate Israeli military response, as well as to ongoing Israeli settlement policy. We also appeal to powerful sponsor countries to work for the conditions and environment conducive to conducting peace negotiations.
Meanwhile, the precarious existence of many Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, is a humanitarian and security concern. Failure to address the ongoing humanitarian needs of the Palestinian refugee population has the potential to create a breeding ground for extremism among young people who would be out of school and out of hope. On behalf of the UN, UNRWA is carrying out vital work, under the principled leadership of Commission General Krahenbuhl. Undermining UNRWA now, undermines peace and stability in the Middle East.
Iceland believes that international law and multilateral institutions, even though not always perfect, must underpin relations between states and their peoples. The alternative is the rule of “might is right”, which almost always leads to violence and conflict. As the Secretary-General said a few days ago “we need more dialogue and deeper international cooperation”.