Delivered by: His Excellency Khalifa Shaheen, Minister of State
I would like to thank His Excellency Sergey Lavrov for chairing this high-level debate. I also thank the Special Coordinator, Mr. Tor Wennesland, for his briefing and his continued efforts to de-escalate tensions.
I would also like to wish a happy Eid al-Fitr to Muslims around the world. We are relieved that thousands of worshipers were able to perform the Eid prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque in peace and calm, unlike the painful events that took place during the month of Ramadan, when the Israeli police forces attacked those praying, in violation of the sanctity of places of worship and the freedom to practice religious rites.
As we repeatedly affirmed on many occasions, we emphasize again today: the special status of the holy city of Jerusalem must not be compromised. The historical and legal status quo as well as the Hashemite Custodianship of the holy sites must be respected – both in word and in practice.
We believe that Israel’s decision to prevent settlers from storming Al-Aqsa Mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan has prevented further confrontations.
However, we regret the resurgence of unrest in the City of Jerusalem following yesterday’s attack, which reflects the continued deterioration of the situation since the beginning of this year.
We are deeply concerned regarding the continued violence and the increase in raids, demolitions, and displacement of Palestinians, which have further inflamed the situation. The number of Palestinians killed in the first three months of this year alone accounts for around half of the total deaths in the previous year; this is the deadliest death toll in nearly two decades.
The heinous attack on the village of Hawara also raised alarm over the trajectory of current events, especially if Israel continues to embolden settlers, provide them with legal immunity, and exploit them as a tool to help confiscate more occupied Palestinian land while continuing their settlement activities.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that there are almost 700,000 settlers in 279 illegally built settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, of which 147 are outposts, according to the United Nations.
These numbers represent alarming facts on the ground and highlight the urgent need to protect the two-State solution. This solution represents the vision agreed upon by the international community and this Council to end the conflict. This is also the only solution in order to ensure that the two States of Palestine and Israel live side by side in peace, security, and mutual recognition.
Therefore, we reiterate our call on Israel to immediately cease all its settlement activities, reverse the negative trends on the ground, and uphold its responsibilities in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law.
Mr. President, distinguished members of the Council,
It is clear that this conflict is going through a very delicate and dangerous phase. This is evident as we witness the continued violations of the fragile truce in the Gaza Strip as well as the recent expansion of violence through the exchange of missiles between southern Lebanon and Israel. These clashes and increased tensions reflect the regional dimensions of this conflict and the fragility of the security and stability of the situation.
Therefore, it is no longer possible for the international community to deal with this conflict with the complacency we have witnessed in the past years. The current situation requires maintaining pressure to reduce escalation on all fronts, continuing calls for exercising maximum restraint, and avoiding unilateral steps.
We must not waste this opportunity to build on the momentum generated by the Aqaba and Sharm El-Sheikh meetings, where the two parties were able to reach mutual understanding following a break in serious talks since 2014. As such, we must ensure that the parties commit and implement these understandings and intensify efforts to restore confidence. This will pave the way towards resuming direct negotiations on final status issues.
The main responsibility for ending violence lies with the parties that instigated it in the first place. As an international community, and as a Council responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security, we also have the responsibility to reject any violations of international law and Security Council resolutions. As confirmed in the recent Presidential Statement issued by this Council, this includes all acts of violence directed against civilians.
We look forward to the international community continuing to express its categorical rejection of rhetoric that incites escalation. The current tensions cannot bear additional incitement of violence and hatred. What hangs in the balance is not only the fate of two peoples who deserve to live in peace and security, but also the fate of the security and stability of the entire region.
In turn, the UAE will continue to support all regional and international efforts aimed at achieving these goals. We will continue our unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people and their legitimate right to establish their independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Finally, Mr. President, the ongoing challenges and crises in our region, including the latest developments in Sudan, make it imperative to focus on amplifying the voices calling for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. We must employ all available diplomatic means and open communication channels to resolve tensions and foster stability across the region. We hope that multilateral action will prove its ability to avoid the deadly conflicts looming on the horizon.
Thank you, Mr. President.