On behalf of the Arab Group, I want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude for convening this important session. I congratulate you on your presidency of the Security Council for this month. I would also like to thank the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, on his briefing this morning.
The Security Council adopted, in the aftermath of the Israeli aggression in 1967, resolution 242, which reaffirmed the United Nations Charter’s guiding principle on the indadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force. The resolution also laid the foundation for any acceptable settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which would require Israel’s withdrawal from the Arab territories. This resolution remains the only way to address the Question of Palestine, and the same reasoning that Arab countries referred to when they adopted the Arab Peace Initiative during their summit in Beirut in 2002. The initiative mandated a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Occupied Territories, and the resolution of all outstanding issues in return to establishing peaceful relationships with Israel. The Arab Peace Initiative is just – it was supported by members of the international community in multiple platfroms, except for Israel that has yet to announce its acceptance of this initiative.
The Arab Peace Initiative presents a historic opportunity for Israel to have normal relations not only with its Arab neighbors, but also with other Muslim countries. The Amman Summit has further reiterated, last March, that this Arab initiative is a strategic option for Arab states. Unfortunately, Israel proposes only one alternative: the continuation of its occupation, the perpetuation of its colonization, and its diminishing of Palestinian sovereignty over land. Israel has also succeeded in burying the Oslo Agreement of 1993, and practically ended it by enforcing the brutal apartheid system in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and converting the Gaza Strip into one big prison.
The Israeli government adopted a strategy that aims to make the two-state solution on 1967 borders practically impossible, through executing a systematic plan that includes building illegal settlements on areas that make the establishment of Palestinian State unfeasible. There is no doubt that the Security Council’s historic resolution 2334, which was met with unprecedented consensus, is a step in the right direction towards ending the Israeli occupation, halting the settlement project, rejecting violence and achieving peace through the two-state solution on the 1967 borders. Therefore, and as an international community, we must make the effort and take the necessary measures to implement this resolution, and put pressure on the Israeli government to abandon its settlement project and its obvious colonial intentions.
The core of this conflict is the Israeli occupation, and we will never reach a solution for this issue unless we address it directly and decisively and on the basis of the principle of land for peace. Therefore, any plan that is not built on this central issue is bound to fail, and any attempt to create transitional conditions and temporary measures will only prolong this brutal occupation. Moreover, any serious negotiation must have an agreed upon reference framework. This framework should be built on the basis of international legitimacy, including this Council’s resolutions, General Assembly resolutions, the principle of land for peace, and the Arab Peace Initiative. The issues of borders, security, Jerusalem, and refugees must also be addressed to reach a just, inclusive and sustainable solution.
We hereby address the final status issues, and we reaffirm, as the Arab Group, our firm rejection and strong condemnation of the decision of the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the occupying power, and the decision to move its embassy. We consider this action to be null and void, and a serious and dangerous breach of international law, and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. And even though this policy does not have any legal impact that would change the status of Jerusalem, the Arab Group considers it a clear violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and an attack on both Arab and Muslim nations, as well as on Christians around the world. It is also a dangerous development that undermines the peace process and the two-state solution on the 1967 borders, threatens peace and security in the region and the world, and contributes to the spread of violence and extremism.
The major international consensus in the Security Council and in the General Assembly on the importance of preserving the legal status of Jerusalem is not only intended to save the Peace Process, but also to protect international legitimacy, the resolutions of the United Nations, and the role of this organization in maintaining international peace and security. It is in this spirit that we believe the commitment of Member States – primarily members of the Security Council – in implementing the Council’s resolutions and respecting their obligations under these resolutions will contribute to the achievement of these goals.
It is worth referring to Security Council resolution 478 of 1980 that stressed that any measures aiming to change Jerusalem’s landmarks or status are invalid and must be repealed, and invited countries to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the Holy City. It is also worth referring to the Security Council’s historic resolution 2334, adopted a year ago, which declared that it will not recognize any change in the 4 June 1967 lines, including the status of Jerusalem, unless agreed upon by the involved parties. Moreover, the General Assembly confirmed in its resolution adopted on 21 December 2017 the importance of maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem, complying with all Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem, and not recognizing any actions or measures contrary to past resolutions.
Therefore, based on international law and United Nations resolutions on the Palestine question and Jerusalem, the Arab Group demands the following measures be taken by the Security Council and Member States:
- Do not recognize any unilateral measures or procedures that target Jerusalem’s character or its demographic composition, stressing that these procedures are void, null, and have no legal impact.
- Refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem, pursuant to relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.
- Emphasize that the issue of Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be decided through negotiations between the parties, and refrain from taking any steps that would prejudice the results of final status negotiations.
- Demonstrate the seriousness of unilateral actions that threaten the two-state solution.
- Intensify and accelerate efforts and support activities on the international and regional levels to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions, and the Arab Peace Initiative.
In this context, we would like to express our appreciation for the role played by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in protecting the Holy Places in Jerusalem in their capacity as the custodians. We also appreciate the role played by the Al-Quds Committee, headed by the Kingdom of Morocco. We would also like to take this opportunity to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to all Member States that have voted in favor of the General Assembly resolution during its last emergency session. We also appreciate the role played by all countries that supported efforts and initiatives to address this grave decision and advance the Middle East peace process.
Israel is constantanlty violating the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, which leaves it lacking the minimum conditions to become a member of the Security Council, or even be considered as a candidate for it. Its admission to the Council would be a fundamental blow to the body’s legitimacy, and reinforces the ideologies of Israeli extremists and illegal settlers. We also want to remind the Council that Israel does not miss an opportunity to undermine the credibility of the United Nations, to show contempt for it and for what it represents, and even incite against it. This is evident in the actions of the Israeli Government against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the organization that represents the international commitment towards the Palestinian refugees.
In this contet, we would like to take this opportunity to express our great appreciation for the noble humanitarian work of the UNRWA, which derives its mandate from the General Assembly, particularly during these critical times the agency is facing. We would also like to emphasize UNRWA’s vital role in aiding over 5.5 million Palestinian refugees, including children, women and youth, through providing relief and development services in health, food and infrastructure. The agency also provides refugees with opportunities to secure a better future through the provision of education and employment opportunities, thus aiding them with protection and means to make a decent living until a just solution is found to end their plight.
Therefore, the Arab Group rejects all attempts to erase the issue of refugees from the international agenda. The Group further demands that the international community honor their commitments to Palestinian refugees and their host countries, as well as to UNRWA by providing the necessary support for the agency to fulfill its mandate in accordance with the General Assembly resolution 302.
Now more than ever, it is necessary to take all measures that will put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict that has been going on for more than seven decades. In this context, we reaffirm that stability and peace in the region will not be achieved as long as the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian and Arab territories continues.
Thank you, Mr. President.