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Statement at the Tenth Emergency Special Session on Palestine

Statement/Explanation of vote by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson,
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Tenth Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly 
45th Plenary Meeting, 12 December 2023. 
Debate on Item 5: Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory


Mr. President,

In light of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza, Iceland has chosen to cosponsor, and consequently vote in favor of the resolution presented by Egypt. Following a much-needed humanitarian pause, the resumption of hostilities has resulted in full-scale escalation of the conflict. Once again, innocent civilians, trapped in unbearable conditions, bear the brunt of this conflict and the civilian death toll is unacceptable.

However, we regret that the two proposed amendments acknowledging the brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attack by Hamas on 7 October and their leading part in the taking of hostages, were not passed. There can be no justification for terrorism. 

Recognizing Hamas’s part in the ongoing conflict does not contradict our strong and urgent call for an immediate and sustained humanitarian ceasefire, full compliance with international law by all parties, protection of civilians, immediate release of hostages and the timely and sufficient provision of humanitarian aid.

Iceland supports the Secretary General’s appeal for a decisive action by Security Council, invoking Article 99, and was one of 102 UN Member States that cosponsored the draft resolution last Friday. The ongoing impasse in the Security Council is deeply regrettable. We call on Council Members to redouble their efforts to avert further escalation and a collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza. 

Mr. President, 

We deplore the immense suffering and unacceptable civilian death toll. We are alarmed by the impact of mass evacuations of civilians in Gaza. These need to stop – there is no safe place in Gaza. 

While increased flow of humanitarian aid through a second inspection point, announced by Israel, is a positive step, much more needs to be done. Lifesaving aid to millions of civilians in need must be delivered now and access to food and water, electricity, and fuel ensured. The vast majority of the population is already displaced, sheltering in overcrowded facilities, including schools that no longer provide education, or simply sleeping on the streets. Healthcare services are in tatters and of growing concern is the high risk of epidemic and waterborne diseases, which would further compound the crisis. 

Iceland has responded to UN emergency appeals with increased contributions to UNRWA - our long-standing humanitarian partner. UNRWA services – the lifeline for over 2.2 million people in Gaza – are now on the verge of collapse, according to Commission-General Lazzarini. If UNRWA fails, the entire humanitarian system in Gaza will follow. We must spare no efforts in preventing this from happening. 

We deplore that more than 130 UNRWA staff members have been killed in this conflict.

Iceland has condemned in the strongest possible terms the brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks by Hamas two months ago. We have repeatedly called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages – as the resolution we have just adopted rightly does. 

All parties to this conflict must adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law. Breaches thereof must be carefully investigated, including of sexual violence. 

Mr. President,

The Secretary-General has rightfully raised the alarm of further escalation of this conflict. Its consequences are being felt throughout the region and beyond. Across the world, people are calling for the hostilities to end. So did the Icelandic Parliament in a unanimous resolution on 9 November.

Even in the midst of crisis, when peace seems unrealistic and distant, we must focus on the long-term, sustainable solution to the conflict which two-state solution, based on international law, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, and mutual recognition. The cycle of violence must stop. 

Thank you.


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