Presenter: United Arab Emirates
I have the honour to submit this statement on behalf of Member States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in my capacity as chair of the OIC Group.
At the outset, I thank the Dominican Republic for its stewardship of the Security Council in these difficult times. I would also like to express the OIC’s sincere solidarity with all affected countries and convey our deepest condolences to all bereaved families on the tragic loss of thousands of lives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we commend the positive responses around the world to the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire during this pandemic and call on all parties to take action in line with the efforts of the Secretary-General’s special envoys. The OIC Member States stand ready to provide support to achieve the ceasefire and contribute to maintaining international peace and security.
Just like the rest of the world, Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including occupied East Jerusalem, are working to contain the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that poses unprecedented health, economic, social, and security threats and challenges. Although the number of detected cases is relatively low to date, the UN has warned that the oPt is exceptionally vulnerable to infection and mortality, with a severely impaired health system, high population density, and widespread poverty, particularly in the Gaza Strip where the impact of the illegal Israeli blockade and military aggressions has devastated socio-economic and humanitarian conditions.
The oPt is at risk in the coming weeks and months of a rapidly deteriorating situation. In addition to this health crisis, the oPt simultaneously faces a debilitating fiscal crisis. The oPt is also subject to severe restrictions imposed by Israel, the occupying power, particularly in regard to access to areas in and around occupied East Jerusalem and in crossing to areas west of the illegal wall that limit the country’s ability to respond effectively to the outbreak of the virus. As such, OIC Member States express deep concern about the current situation in the oPt and urge the international community to demonstrate global solidarity with the Palestinian people to cope with the pandemic. In particular, OIC Member States urge the international community to consider taking the following measures:
First, supporting the UN COVID-19 Response Plan for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). This plan appeals for USD 34 million to cover urgent and critical activities in the coming three months with an aim to expand the capacity of the health system, prevent the transmission of the virus, and mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic. We thank the UN for its comprehensive plan, which covers important areas like health, education, and food security, and efficiently builds on its existing work and infrastructure in the oPt.
Second, ensuring that UNRWA continues to have adequate resources to ensure that appropriate preparedness and response measures are in place at UNRWA installations, in particular health and education facilities. In addition to providing regular annual contributions to the Agency’s core budget, Member States can also support UNRWA’s COVID-19 Flash Appeal for Palestine Refugees, which aims to mobilize USD 14 million to cover immediate priorities for health and other services related to the pandemic in the oPt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. In this regard, OIC Member States commend UNRWA’s robust measures to cope with the spread of COVID-19, including by switching to online education and spreading awareness among the refugee communities about preventative measures and social distancing, in addition to the provision of essential health services.
Third, providing bilateral humanitarian and financial assistance to the Palestinians, including essential medical equipment, testing kits, and other types of support to enhance the capacity of the health system in the oPt and the refugee camps, as well as to facilitate the reopening of the economy and basic services. In this vein, OIC Member States note with appreciation the quick and effective response of the Palestinian government and institutions to the outbreak of COVID-19, despite limited resources and the fiscal crisis.
While the international community is working to help the Palestinians in containing this pandemic, we cannot ignore that the deteriorating situation in the oPt is exacerbated daily by the illegal policies of the Israeli occupation. These have continued and even escalated in the recent period, particularly in terms of settlement activities and annexation threats as reflected in the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016). Israel’s ongoing violations of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, continue to cause immense hardship and suffering for the Palestinian people, further deepening their vulnerability in this time of worldwide crisis.
As such, OIC Member States urge the Security Council to pressure Israel to take three immediate steps to help mitigate the situation. First, Israel must stop its inhumane treatment of more than 5000 Palestinian political prisoners, among them 43 women, 180 children, and 700 ill persons. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel needs to release all children, elderly, ill prisoners, and administrative detainees incarcerated in overcrowded Israeli jails where they are at high risk of infection. Second, Israel must end its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, which constitutes collective punishment, is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, is imposing severe humanitarian consequences for the Palestinian people, and is inflicting more hardship and suffering during this pandemic. Third, Israel must ensure that Palestinians have access to the necessary humanitarian assistance and medical equipment needed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Israel is obligated to take all of these steps under international humanitarian law and specifically the 4th Geneva Convention, which governs situations of foreign occupation.
The OIC Member States also remain deeply concerned about the construction and expansion of settlements in the oPt, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem and the Bethlehem area. Additionally, the OIC deplores attacks by Israeli settlers that have escalated in tandem with Israeli officials’ continual threats of annexation. Settlers continue to abuse and intimidate Palestinians, raid Palestinian villages, appropriate Palestinian lands, destroy property, uproot olive trees, vandalize crops, and contaminate ground water through pumping industrial waste and sewage water into Palestinian lands.
Settlement activities gravely violate the rights of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination, and undermine the two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders. Settlement activity embodies a challenge to the will of the international community and is a flagrant breach of international law and relevant UN resolutions, including resolution 2334. Such illegal and destructive activities become even more worrisome in the context of escalating threats by Israel to annex parts or all of the West Bank. These threats are the culmination of Israel’s decades-long settlement colonization scheme and require immediate international attention and action to deter such a breach of the prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force and to salvage the prospects for a two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders.
In closing, the OIC remains firm in its conviction that this august body must act more urgently than ever to put an end to these Israeli violations. The UN must also continue its work to ensure that the Palestinian people achieve their right to self-determination in the form of a sovereign and independent State in the territory occupied since 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as a just solution for the Palestine refugees in line with relevant UN resolutions. Additionally, we call for Israel’s full withdrawal from the Occupied Syrian Golan to the borders of 4 June 1967 in accordance with Security Council resolutions. We further affirm the need to preserve the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and social harmony of Syria and reiterate our support for the political solution of the Syrian crisis, consistent with Security Council resolution 2254.