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Security Council discusses Middle East situation

In daylong debate, Security Council discusses deteriorating Middle East situation

20 August – Responding to the escalating tensions in the Middle East, the United Nations Security Council today held a daylong open debate on the situation in the region, including the Palestinian question.

The meeting came at the request of Mali and Qatar on behalf of the States members of the Islamic Group. In a letter to the Council President, they stressed the need to consider the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, following Israel's "unwarranted and illegal seizure" of the Orient House, its closure of the Palestinian Authority's political and security offices and other actions.

Addressing the meeting, in which representatives of over 40 countries took part, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said the Council must act in response to the dangerous situation in the Middle East by adopting "the necessary resolution in order to provide the positive impetus we all need." He pointed out that since the recent violence began last September, the Israeli occupation forces had killed 572 Palestinians, many of them children, and had "committed many atrocities against our people, some of which are undoubtedly war crimes."

Noting that the origin of the conflict was the existence of Israeli occupation, he stressed that any attempt to ignore this or circumvent it, would "only lead to failure in finding the necessary solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Middle East crises." The Palestinian Authority condemned bombings in Israel and all acts against civilians, he added.

Mr. Al-Kidwa emphasized that the Palestinian side had accepted the report of the Committee headed by former United States Senator George Mitchell, while Israel had obstructed the full implementation of the document's recommendations. He said the Palestinian side was committed to negotiations based on Security Council resolutions, taking into consideration the developments in previous discussions between the two sides, with the aim of reaching a final agreement on all issues, including Jerusalem, refugees and the borders. "We call upon the Israeli side to declare the same commitment," Mr. Al-Kidwa said. He also expressed hope that the Council would adopt a draft resolution on the matter.

For his part, the Permanent Representative of Israel, Ambassador Yehuda Lancry, said the Palestinians "have no scruples" about convening a Security Council meeting while Israel endured orchestrated terrorist attacks, which had killed scores of people, including many children. "What would any Government do in the face of ongoing daily acts of terrorism that spilled blood on the streets and denied its citizens a sense of security?" he asked. "Obviously, terrorism has become the Palestinian Authority's preferred way to deal with the peace process." He said the Security Council and the international community should send a clear message that terrorism was unacceptable.

With regard to "alleged violation of international norms," he stressed that Palestinian suicide bombings "cannot be regarded as perfectly judicial" and did not comply with international human rights. Israel's actions were not only in accord with agreements signed between the parties, but also with established principles of international law, including the right to self-defence, he said.

Reacting to a proposed draft resolution, he rejected it as "biased and one-sided" in its portrayal of Israel as the unique source of violence while implicitly absolving the Palestinians of the killing of 156 Israelis and the injuring of hundreds more. Israel was ready to start talks once the terror ended, Ambassador Lancry said. "Let us lay down our arms and return once more to the process of building the future based on respect, coexistence, cooperation and peace," he added. Criticizing the Palestinian side's approach to the Mitchell Committee report, he called for the document's full implementation.


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