Rejection Of Two-State Solution By Israeli Leadership "Unacceptable," Says Guterres
Top diplomats are debating the deepening crisis in the Gaza Strip and the whole Middle East in the UN Security Council, against the backdrop of Israel’s unrelenting military operation, mounting death toll and escalating global calls for an immediate ceasefire. The UN Secretary-General told ambassadors and foreign ministers during Tuesday's meeting that any refusal to accept a two-State solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, "must be firmly rejected".
Give Palestinians democratic right to self determination: Russia
Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said the Council has yet to provide an adequate response to end the conflict and take steps to prevent further destabilization of the Middle East because of the position of the United States, which vetoes ceasefire resolutions, giving a carte blanche to continue the collective punishment of Palestinians.
Raising concerns about the massive displacement of Palestinians, the environmental impact on Gaza of Israel’s bombardment and the serious lack of humanitarian access amid high risks of epidemics, he said Russia has sent hundreds of tonnes of aid to the Strip and supports efforts of UN agencies on the ground.
The Council’s inability to act has meant the conflict is spreading in the region, representing new risks to international security, including the US and UK’s attacks on Yemen and Israel’s strikes on Syria.
At the same time, calls from Western delegations focus on “the day after” instead of a ceasefire. In this vein, the Council must continue to call for a ceasefire. Until this happens, discussions about “the day after” are pointless.
Palestinians should decide their future for themselves, he said, adding that “I think that’s what our Western colleagues call democracy.”
Every time the United States takes unilateral action in the Middle East, with its separate “shuttle” negotiations ends in “ever bloodier escalation”, he said.
Bring Israel to justice: Algeria
Algeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Attaf, said his delegation’s goal is “to put an end to the outpouring of blood in Gaza”.
As such, humanity must confront three challenges. First, resolutions, laws and legislation must be respected. The second challenge is to ensure that no Member State thinks it has a right to special treatment and immunity.
The third challenge is to compel Israel to uphold international law and put an end to the present crisis in Gaza.
“We need to bring together international judicial bodies to bring Israel to justice,” he said, welcoming South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and initiatives from countries like Chile, which has petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC). “We call on those bodies to implement their mandate.”
Meanwhile, all Security Council members should also shoulder their responsibilities, for there can be no doubt that the immediate priority is to ensure a ceasefire and to act swiftly to achieve the two-State solution.
“To maintain the very foundation of the two-State solution, we call for Palestine to become a full-fledged UN Member State,” he said.
Three principles: France
Stéphane Séjourné, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, which holds the Council presidency for January, spoke in his national capacity, saying that three principles will guide his delegation’s action within this Council in the days and weeks to come.
First, the principle of humanity: “All hostages must be released immediately and unconditionally, and we must act in favour of the civilian population of Gaza and work for a ceasefire,” he said, adding that the second principle is that of plain justice.
“We need to relaunch the peace process in a decisive and credible manner. We know the parameters of the solution: two States living side by side in peace and security, within secure and recognized borders based on the 1967 lines, and both having Jerusalem as their capital.”
The third principle will be the principle of responsibility in the face of risks of escalation, he said, emphasizing that “we must do everything to avoid a conflagration in the region and an extension of the conflict.”
'We will defend our future': Israel
Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan, recalling that Israel withdrew from Gaza 18 years ago, said that since Hamas was voted in, it has turned the enclave into a “war machine”.
Some are advocating for a permanent ceasefire, which would see Hamas remaining in power. That would put Israel at existential risk because Hamas seeks to annihilate Israel, he added.
However, should Hamas turn in those responsible for the 7 October attack on Israel and return the hostages, the war would end right away, he said, adding that “we will defend our future.”
The conflict’s spillover was planned, he continued, holding up a photo of seized arms while emphasizing that without Iran, the Houthis would not have weapons to target vessels in the Red Sea.
Indeed, every country in the region has been affected by Iran, which will stop at nothing to spread its hegemony, he added, noting also that Albania was hit by an Iranian cyberattack.
If the Council continues to provide aid to Gaza without considering the Iranian threat, it will be a very dark future, he concluded.
'Time for accountablity': Palestine
Riyad Al Maliki, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Observer State of Palestine, said the ongoing war is a “premeditated effort to inflict maximum pain on the Palestinian population” by combining three factors.
First, the most savage and indiscriminate bombing campaign in the post-Second World War era; massive destruction and a cruel siege depriving the population of the essentials for its survival - leading to the spread of famine, dehydration, disease, destitution and despair - and the forcible displacement at a scale and speed not witnessed in modern history with virtually the entire Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip.
“No home, hospital, school, mosque, church or UNRWA shelter is safe from Israel’s bombardments; 2,000-tonne bombs dropped with no care whatsoever for civilian lives, more than 25,000 of whom have been killed, including over 11,000 children; more than 63,000 injured, thousands permanently maimed and disabled, and more than 7,000 buried under the rubble,” he said.
The world is calling for a ceasefire, he said. It is time for accountability and for convening an international peace conference with a clear objective: upholding international law and implementing UN resolutions through resolute action by all States, organizations and the UN, he said.
Time for Palestinian recognition
It is also time for recognition and admission of the State of Palestine to the UN.
“We were not granted a veto right over Israel’s admission to the United Nations 75 years ago; Israel does not have a veto right over the admission of the State of Palestine 75 years later,” he said, adding that the international consensus on two States in this land must be upheld in word and deed, there can be no more pretexts for endless delay and obstruction.
“We are running out of time,” he said. “There are two choices: a spreading fire or a ceasefire. The alternative to freedom, justice and peace is what is happening now.
"We must make sure it stops, now and we must make sure it never happens again. Never again.”
Two-State solution, ‘the only way’
Mr. Guterres also voiced concern over the violence beyond Gaza. He noted rising causalities in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem; the exchange of fire across the so-called Blue Line, which separates Israeli and Lebanese armed forces; the escalating situation in the Red Sea; and strikes in Syria and Iran.
In his remarks, the Secretary-General also underscored the vital importance of the two-State solution.
The “clear and repeated” rejection of the two-State solution at the highest levels of the Israeli government “is unacceptable”, he said, noting that this was despite “strongest appeals” even from Israel’s friends and allies.
“This refusal, and the denial of the right to statehood to the Palestinian people, would indefinitely prolong a conflict that has become a major threat to global peace and security.”
He said that Palestinian people’s right to build their own fully independent state must be “recognized by all” and that any refusal to accept the two-State solution by any party must be “firmly rejected”.
“The two-State solution is the only way to address the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.”
He concluded urging unity among the international community to advance a meaningful peace process.
“Over recent decades, the two-State solution has been criticized, denigrated and left for dead time and again. Nonetheless, it remains the only way to achieve lading and equitable peace in Israel, in Palestine, and across the entire the region,” he said.
“Let’s face it. Despite all the efforts I described, no effective humanitarian aid operation can function under the conditions that have been forced on Palestinians in Gaza and those doing everything possible to help them", said the UN chief.
He reiterated the need for safety on the ground alongside telecommunications equipment for convoys, armoured vehicles, spare parts for vital infrastructure, more crossing points, easing verification and the end to denials of aid shipments.
“I renew my appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. This will ensure sufficient aid gets to where it is needed, facilitate the release of hostages, and help lower tensions around the Middle East,” he stressed.
‘Appalling humanitarian situation’
Stating that the entire population of Gaza is enduring destruction at a scale and speed without parallel in recent history, Mr. Guterres stressed that nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
With disease and hunger raging and needs skyrocketing, in the midst of winter, UN humanitarians and partners are striving to deliver despite overwhelming challenges, he said.
Guterres demands hostage release
UN Secretary-General António Guterres once again demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages being held by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
He said nothing can ever justify the deliberate killing, injuring, or kidnapping of any civilians, “the use of sexual violence against them or the indiscriminate launching of rockets” towards them.
He noted Israel was proposing a two month pause in hostilities in exchange for a “phased release” of the remaining hostages in the Strip.
“I will continue, in my limited capacity, to pursue all efforts to contribute to their release", he said.
The meeting is underway, with French foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné in the chair, as his nation holds the presidency for January. The UN chief is sitting to his right. He extended a warm welcome to the Secretary-General saying his presence underlined the gravity of the crisis before the world.
The Council chamber is packed as visiting diplomats and delegates from the New York missions mingle ahead of the start of the meeting, which looks some minutes off.
Secretary-General António Guterres is due to brief the meeting, with senior foreign ministers and ambassadors from the 15 Council members – together with many other nations – due to have their say on the widening war.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, France’s Stéphane Séjourné, Türkiye’s Hakan Fidan and the UK’s Tariq Ahmad are among those who have made the trip to New York to take part in the high level open debate.
Mr. Séjourné is expected to chair the meeting, as France holds the rotating Security Council Presidency for January.
The meeting on peace and security in the Middle East takes place amid a widening of the conflict beyond Gaza, with regular exchanges of fire between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon and increasing air strikes led by the US and UK on Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been attacking shipping in the Red Sea as an act of solidarity with Palestinian militants.
With the humanitarian crisis in Gaza showing no signs of abating and initiatives to see hostages released in exchange for a humanitarian pause struggling to gain traction, calls for an end to the carnage in the enclave are growing louder.
Some 70 names are inscribed on the speaking list and the meeting is likely to continue late into the evening.