Un Security Council
Debate on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
26 April 2018
Statement by H.E. Einar Gunnarsson, Permanent Representative
First allow me to thank the Presidency of Peru for convening this quarterly meeting on the Middle East, including the Palestine question.
Syria and Yemen cast a dark shadow over the Middle East region – and over the UN, particularly this Council.
The Secretary-General, speaking of the 8 years of war in Syria, referred to the “systematic violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” and of the “utter disregard of the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.” The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government is well documented and constitutes one of the most serious violations of international law.
The latest shocking reports from Douma have yet to be fully investigated – but the Syrian Government has already demonstrated the will and ability to use these cruel and illegal weapons against civilian populations. We urge the Security-Council to find unity on this issue, both for the sake of Syrians, but also to rescue the international non-proliferation regime.
The General Assembly finds itself again in a position where it needs to look for alternatives to action by the Security Council. The Council is not fulfilling its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Iceland applauds the commitments made in Brussels earlier this week to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation in Syria and its neighbors. Iceland has increased its funding with a multiyear contribution and will have contributed close to $9m over the period 2017-2020.
The parties to the conflict, in particular the Syrian Government, and their backers, must show real commitment to negotiating an inclusive political settlement. 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” continues to devastate the lives of millions of Yemenis. We welcome the appointment of Mr. Martin Griffiths as the Secretary-General’s special envoy on Yemen. His clear analysis offers some hope for progress on finding a political solution. But the search for a political settlement must be inclusive, including women, and outside actors must not sabotage talks in the mistaken hope of achieving military advantage.
On the Israel/Palestine question, there is a clear objective, the two-state solution, under which both Israel and Palestine will live side-by-side in peace. Yet there are actions and inaction on both sides which make the two-state solution ever more fragile.
Israeli settlement policy continues to undermine the possibilities of the two-state solution and Gaza remains a powder keg. If this situation is to be defused, Israel must end the isolation of Gaza and adopt proportionate measures in the face of civil unrest. There must also be an end to provocative acts by Palestinians in Gaza.
Finally, a peace process needs to be put on track. There needs to be a viable peace track.