Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Open debate in the Security Council
The situation in the Middle East 18 December 2008
First allow me to congratulate Croatia on assuming the Presidency of the Council for the first time and for giving me the opportunity to address the Council in this open debate on the situation in the Middle East.
It is distressing, in the year of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, to witness the dire humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and to see that the self-determination of the Palestinians has not yet been realized and that the occupation has intensified.
While we await results from the continuing negotiations, changes must take place on the ground. This includes the lifting of the access restrictions on the Gaza strip and the closure regime established in the West Bank, which puts severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians and also affects every aspect of their lives, including their right to education, health and employment as well as their property rights.
This also includes the cessation of all settlement expansion and the creation of other such stumbling blocks on the ground that are contrary to international law and make it more difficult to realise a two-state solution. Mr. President, On the Palestinian side the clashes between Hamas and Fatah must end. There must also be a total cessation of rocket attacks from the Gaza strip, attacks which mainly target civilians and create terror among the Israeli population. We urge both Hamas and Israel to maintain the ceasefire and avoid resumption of hostilities.
Mr. President, As strong supporters of Security Council Resolution 1325, Iceland believes in the importance of womens´ participation in peace processes. I would like to draw the attention of the Council to the International Womens´ Commission for Just and Sustainable Israeli Palestinian Peace, the IWC, a tripartite body involving Israelis, Palestinians and prominent international women leaders with experience in diplomacy and political negotiations. The IWC operates under the chairmanship of UNIFEM. The main parties in the Peace Process would benefit, not only from the substantive input the IWC could give to the process, but also from the effective working methods the women have developed to reach agreements among themselves on the major issues.
The importance that women have given to what role a just and sustainable two-state solution could play in the process, cannot be overstated. The solidarity among women across the lines of conflict can offer inspiration and hope for their societies as a whole.
A just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to peace and security throughout the region and worldwide. The main role of the Security Council is the maintenance of international peace and security. Accordingly, Council Members have a responsibility to do their utmost to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The resolution adopted by the Council today provides for the continuation of bilateral negotiations. We welcome the Council’s resolution. However, the lack of progress in these negotiations, parallelled with a deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, demands changes in approach towards the negotiations.
In this regard, I call attention to the remarks made by the Nobel Peace Price laureate, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, during the recent Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo where he called for “high priority” and a “serious commitment” from the Quartet and the international community as a whole to this “most challenging peace-building project ahead of us”.
I thank you, Mr. President