Delivered by:  His Excellency Mohamed Abushahab, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative

Madam President,

I thank the Special Coordinator, Mr. Tor Wennesland, for his thorough briefing and his efforts in supporting peace in the region.

Madam President,

At this time in the Council last year, Mr. Wennesland expressed his concern about developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, noting that if left unchecked, “not only may the situation in the West Bank deteriorate, but the dynamics could impact the security situation in Gaza Strip”. Here we are now, concluding the deadliest year in the West Bank in nearly two decades, according to OCHA. The Office has also noted that the number of children killed in the West Bank this year is twice the number of the previous year.  As for Gaza, we witnessed another spiral of violence this August that claimed the lives of 17 children. At the same time, the political environment has not seen any serious actions that would indicate an imminent return to negotiations between the two parties since they stopped in 2014.

Reflecting these realities, this Council must rely on intensifying political and diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions and help the parties return to negotiations. Today’s meeting represents an opportunity for this Council to send a unified message about the importance of taking these steps.  What is at stake because of this conflict is not only the future of two nations that deserve to live in peace, but also the entire region that could find itself in a dangerous spiral of violence. Therefore, the UAE will never cease its calls for de-escalation in the region, nor will it stop reaching out for peace and exploring ways to create promising opportunities for youth instead of violence. Accordingly, we believe it is critical to focus on the following messages throughout the coming period:

First, in the context of our discussion today on resolution 2334, we emphasize our demands that Israel must stop its continued settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Settlements constitute a violation of international law and undermine peace efforts. As such, the announced plans to build new settlement units in various locations, and primarily in area “C”, must be reversed. Additionally, and considering recent reports indicating plans to legalize settlement outposts, the UAE reaffirms its rejection of any steps aimed at annexing Palestinian lands as well as attempts to legitimize annexation. Practices of this kind raise many concerns about the future of the two-state solution, and we warn against the danger of its erosion to a level at which it will not be viable anymore.

Second, we highlight the need to refrain from inciting rhetoric and to focus instead on taking steps to reduce violence. These steps include putting an end to the settler-related violence as well as the demolitions and evictions of Palestinian buildings, the number of which has exceeded 700 according to United Nations reports. Such illegal measures fuel anger and despair, exacerbate severe humanitarian conditions, and lead to more confrontations. We stress the need for Israel to assume its responsibilities in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.

Third, there is a need to explore the possible options to revive the Middle East Peace Process. This step requires multilateral support, especially from this Council, relevant stakeholders, and states that have always played the mediation role to resolve this conflict. This does not imply reinventing the wheel; the agreed upon international mechanisms and references are still in place. What we need is to intensify international engagement with the two sides to build confidence. We also must urge them to use of wisdom and show serious political will to return to negotiations, in addition to demanding a commitment to the two-state solution.

Fourth, we note that any unilateral measures that affect the legal status of Jerusalem and the holy sites are a violation of international law and threaten to exacerbate tensions. We are concerned about the threats of forced displacement of dozens of families in East Jerusalem, where settlements continue to expand. We reaffirm the necessity of respecting the custodianship of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan of holy sites in Jerusalem and managing the endowments.

In conclusion, Madam President, we hope that the new year will bring hope for the possibility of improving conditions on the ground and a quick return to negotiations that eventually leads to the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel, in peace, security, and mutual recognition.

Thank you, Madam President.