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Special Coordinator Urges Israel, Palestinians to Contemplate Future Carefully amid Extremism, Displacement in Middle East

16 FEBRUARY 2017

Only Two-State Solution Can Meet Legitimate Aspirations of Both Peoples, He Stresses in Briefing to Security Council

The Middle East continued to be plagued by extremism, bloodshed and displacement that spread intolerance, violence and religious radicalism far beyond the region, the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today, urging both the Israeli and Palestinian sides to contemplate carefully the future they envisioned for their respective peoples.

“The two-State solution remains the only way to achieve the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples,” Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov emphasized as he briefed the 15-nation Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. Speaking by video teleconference from Jerusalem, he suggesting that Israel could stop constructing and expanding settlements to preserve that prospect, while the Palestinian leadership could tackle the challenges of violence and incitement on their side.

Although the leaders of both sides agreed on the need to continue security cooperation, there was increasing anger on the streets, he said, pointing out that radical views were hijacking the discourse as moderate voices were increasingly vilified and cast aside. “We must never allow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to drift into the abyss of the extremism and radicalism sweeping the region,” he stressed. Both parties, as well as the international community, had a duty to act responsibly, avoid escalating tensions, refrain from unilateral actions, and work together to uphold peace.

However, today’s unilateral actions were returning the parties to a high-stakes collision course, he said, noting that Israel’s parliament had adopted the so-called “Regularisation Law” during the reporting period, which would allow the use of privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank for the construction of Israeli settlements without the owners’ consent. The new law also had the potential to retroactively “regularize” thousands of existing settlement units built on lands owned by Palestinians living under occupation, he said, warning that keeping the law in place would have far-reaching consequences for Israel, while seriously undermining prospects for the two-State solution and Arab-Israeli peace.

He went on to point out that the period under review had also seen Government statements announcing significant settlement expansion, which had been quickly followed by action. Within three weeks, the Israeli authorities had promoted some 4,000 housing units in Area C, he added. “Settlement activities are illegal under international law,” he affirmed, underlining that they constituted the main obstacle to peace. Also concerning was Israel’s trend of demolishing Palestinian-owned structures. Nearly doubling the figure for the previous year, 2016 had seen more than 1,000 demolitions, the largest annual number on record, he noted, urging Israel to cease that destructive practice.

While welcoming the Palestinian decision to hold the postponed local elections, he took note with regret that Hamas had rejected that decision. Urging all factions to work together in good faith to uphold democracy and overcome internal divisions, he said that elections conducted in accordance with international standards could help to advance reconciliation.

Turning to the Gaza Strip, he cautioned that the situation there was not sustainable unless the pressing needs of its people were addressed more systematically, and another escalation was likely. Indeed, challenges related to the crippling closures imposed on Gaza, as well as the persisting political divide continued to exacerbate the volatile situation in the enclave.

Concerning Lebanon, the re-activation of State institutions continued, he reported, adding that the President and Prime Minister had expressed confidence that an electoral law would be agreed with the aim of holding timely elections. Furthermore, relative calm continued in the areas of operational of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and along the “Blue Line”, with the exception of some ground and air violations. In the operational areas of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), meanwhile, the ceasefire between Israel and Syria was holding, albeit in a volatile security environment on the “Bravo side”, he said.

Following that briefing, Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay) emphasized that General Assembly resolution 181, by which Palestine had been partitioned to create an Arab State and a Jewish State, should remain the focus of Security Council action. Reaffirming Uruguay’s support for the two-State solution, he urged the parties to resume direct bilateral negotiations as soon as possible and without preconditions. He underscored the need for third countries to demonstrate moderation and avoid statements that could compromise the prospects for peace. He also deplored the fact that the Council had not expressed a position regarding the 9 February attack in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tivka, in which six Israelis had been injured.

Luis Mauricio Arancibia Fernández (Bolivia) described Israel’s “so-called law” to regularize settlements as an act of provocation vis-à-vis the international community and a blatant violation of resolution 2334 (2016). Israel’s decisions and actions regarding settlements would be detrimental to any international initiative seeking peace and undermine the likelihood of realizing the two-State solution, he warned, urging all Security Council members to shoulder their responsibilities under the United Nations Charter and ensure effective compliance with the organ’s resolutions.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.