Statement by Ambassador H.E. 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

24 January 2012


Mr. President,

I join other speakers to commend you for convening this important debate. The Sri Lanka delegation associates itself with the statement made by Egypt on behalf of the NAM.

 

The United Nations, from its inception, has pursued the lofty goal of bringing about a peaceful settlement to the Palestinian issue. Over the years, despite many laudable efforts, we have witnessed little tangible progress, while the ongoing conflict has had wide ramifications for regional and international peace and security. It is our hope that this year, against the backdrop of the transformation sweeping through the region, will bring a renewal of hope, trust and constructive thinking among the parties that will lead to much needed progress on this issue.

In this context, my delegation is pleased to note that during the recent months there have been certain developments that bode well for the future. The two sides, since December 2011, have continued their discussions with the Quartet. Hopefully this will contribute to de-escalating tension. The Israeli Government has resumed the transfer of tax and customs revenue to the Palestinian Authority and has gone ahead with the second phase of prisoner exchanges. The blockade of the Gaza strip has been lifted to an extent. The Palestinian Security Forces have made progress with the security situation in the West Bank, including the seizure of unexploded ordnance. There have been no recent incidents of rockets being fired into Israel. The implementation of United Nations projects in Gaza, especially the schools, is proceeding with construction materials entering through the Kerem Shalom crossing. We hope that these positive developments will contribute to confidence building and to further consolidation.

Along with such positive developments, there are also some issues for concern: the incidents of violence in Gaza, the demolition of Palestinian structures in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, Israel’s continuing settlement activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the ongoing blockade of Gaza and the impact the closure has had on economic activity and on the children in the area, as highlighted by DPA in its briefing on the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. These will not help in building confidence and will take the two parties away from establishing a climate conducive to finding a way forward towards the Two State solution. We must not forget the peremptory need to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan and Southern Lebanon. These infractions will add to the mistrust, tension, the frustration, and instability in the region. All sides have an obligation to desist from acts that generate uncertainty, suspicion and intolerance.

We appreciate the ongoing efforts by the international donors, regional organizations and the UN Agencies in alleviating the sufferings of the innocent civilians, especially the children, and in providing protection for them. I would also like to commend the work that has been carried out by the UN Agency for Relief and Works for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in assisting millions of Palestinian people in need, especially the people of Gaza. 

The Member States of the UN also have a critical role to play in upholding the relevant international laws and UN resolutions. We align with the NAM view that efforts by the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure respect for the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, would be a vital contribution. 

Sri Lanka’s position with regard to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian People has been unswerving: We have always supported a peaceful negotiated settlement to the Palestinian issue and called for the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolutions regarding the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to statehood and the attainment of a two State solution. We hope that Palestine’s application for admission to full membership in the United Nations will receive sympathetic consideration.

We remain convinced that the Two State solution is the only sustainable solution for this issue for Israel, Palestine and their neighbours to coexist in peace and harmony. The political unity and economic advancement of the Palestinian people will contribute to the viability of the Two State solution. In this regard, we welcome the holding of the forthcoming Palestinian legislative and presidential elections. The Government and people of Sri Lanka would like to reassure you of our continued support and solidarity.

Thank you Mr. President.

 

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