Created: Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Statement by Ambassador H.E. Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN
UN Security Council Open Debate
“The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”
15 October, 2012
My delegation thanks you for arranging this discussion on this critical issue.
Sri Lanka associates itself with the statement made by Iran on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is undoubtedly at the heart of the tensions in the Middle East and must be resolved urgently in order to achieve a meaningful peace, including in the wider region. Peace between Israel and Palestine will be an answer to a long standing wish of the international community. As things stand, this conflict saps resources, makes life a continuing and hopeless nightmare for many Palestinians; fuels desperate responses and keeps the world on nervous toes. Unfortunately, the peace process, which was so enthusiastically embraced, is at an impasse and tensions continue to escalate.
It is an essential condition, that tension provoking activities be ceased by all parties. Israel’s continuing settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are a critical sticking point. The resumption of talks has become tied to this issue. The Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council the Economic and Social Council, as well as the International Court of Justice, have called for an end to settlement activity and have highlighted their illegality. Israel’s practice of demolishing Palestinian homes is a matter of concern and fuels resentment. The continuation of this practice cannot contribute to confidence building or the peace process. It should be emphasized that Israel must not undertake actions that are contrary to the established rules of international law.
The humanitarian situation of the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is of great concern. The large scale detention and imprisonment of Palestinian civilians, including children, often under flimsy excuses is disturbing. In the briefing this July, in my capacity as the Chair of the UN Special Committee on Israeli Practices in the Occupied Territories, I detailed some of the unacceptable practices. The detaining and mistreatment of children, particularly administrative detention, can only add to the tension. The frustration and resentment that this generates detracts from the peace process.
The most pressing humanitarian situation is in Gaza where conditions are unsustainable. It remains politically separated from the West Bank. We will continue to encourage political rapprochement between Gaza and the West Bank. In Gaza, the blockade, which is now entering its sixth year, has created an aid dependent economy and has reinforced a sense of helplessness and extremism. The principal result of Israel’s blockade has been to make almost 80% of Palestinians in Gaza dependent on international humanitarian aid. Despite some easing of restrictions, businesses in Gaza have been particularly affected by the blockade, with imports remaining at a low level compared to the pre-blockade situation. Israel’s restrictions on exports, with limited exceptions, has stifled economic activity and made job opportunities scarce. Between 30 and 40% of Gazans remain unemployed. The UN is required to keep most of the people in Gaza supplied with their minimum necessities. Even a modest improvement in the situation in Gaza will require the lifting of the blockade and the full implementation of resolution 1860.
With a view to ultimately establishing an independent State of Palestine, existing in peace, side by side with Israel, both parties must actively pursue every possibility for peace, taking into consideration the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the Roadmap, the agreements previously reached by the parties and the Arab Peace Initiative. A climate conducive for peace will be encouraged by ending of the settlement activities, release of more Palestinian detainees, and strengthening the Palestinian government mechanisms. It is also necessary to contribute to this process by ceasing attacks on Israel.
We welcome the progress made by the Palestinian Authority in institution-building, despite the severe political and economic constraints imposed. We also hope that the members of the United Nations will continue to support the Palestinian people as they seek membership of the Organization.
We would also wish to underline our strong support for the work of United Nations agencies in the occupied Palestinian territory, including UNRWA and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Sri Lanka remains committed to the attainment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to statehood and a two State solution.
Thank You, Mr. Chairman.