Statements and Speeches
Statement by the Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations, Dr. Wouter H. Zaayman (Counsellor), for the Security Council Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East Including the Palestinian Question
19 October 2016
We join other Member States in expressing our appreciation to the Russian Federation for convening this open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
We trust that the debate will assist in mobilizing the international community, in particular the Security Council, to support the Palestinians and the Israelis in finding a lasting solution to the conflict.
My delegation aligns itself with the statement delivered earlier by the distinguished representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
A few weeks ago, President Jacob Zuma addressed the UN General Assembly during the General Debate and expressed South Africa’s concern over the lack of progress in finding a durable solution to the Palestinian question and stressed the importance of the UN in carrying out its historic mission of ensuring that this issue is resolved once and for all.
The Palestinian people have lived under Israeli occupation for almost half a century. The occupation remains untenable and threatens the two-state solution. The West Bank continues to experience heightened tension and sporadic acts of violence between Palestinians and Israelis as we have seen in Jerusalem and Hebron recently. Illegal Israeli settlements continue unabated and have led to a fragmentation of the West Bank and continue to threaten the feasibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. The illegal blockade of Gaza has led to a dire humanitarian situation, which is both unconscionable and unsustainable. The Israeli occupation violates not only the collective and individual rights of Palestinians, but also poses a threat to the security and the very existence of Israel.
South Africa reaffirms that the central responsibility for attaining peace is primarily in the hands of Palestinians and Israelis themselves. We, as part of the international community, should support and encourage the parties towards this endeavour.
In this regard dialogue and negotiation remains the only way forward to finding a lasting solution. The guidelines for these negotiations has to be based on the already established international legal framework, which include United Nations General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Plan and the Quartet Roadmap to name a few.
The United Nations Security Council must live up to its Charter obligations and play a more active role in resolving this conflict. Meetings of the Security Council, like this open debate are important, but it needs to be followed-up with meaningful concrete action as the Council does in other cases on its agenda. In other cases, this Council has asserted the moral and legal weight of the UN and coerced action by the parties through threats and action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
Surprisingly, in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, responsibility for facilitating the peace process has been deferred to the Quartet with questionable results. My delegation has long held the view that there should be a broader international framework to assist the parties towards a negotiated settlement and in which the UN assumes the role of neutral arbiter.
In this context, we welcome the French initiative. The common message flowing from the participants at the Paris Conference is that the time has come for the parties to resume negotiations with the full support of the international community, based on the existing international legal framework and to work towards a two-state solution.
South Africa recently co-hosted, in partnership with the United Nations an International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East. This Seminar was held for the first time in Sub-Saharan Africa and helped in heightening awareness of the situation in Palestine, we believe in a balanced and objective manner. It also provided an opportunity for civil society and the media to contribute towards an atmosphere conducive for dialogue.
In conclusion, Mr President, we wish to reiterate that the situation on the ground cannot be allowed to continue unchanged as it will continue to be an impediment to the peace, security, stability and development of the wider Middle East region. In our view, ending the occupation is in the interest of Israel and Palestine alike and we would encourage all member states to direct the parties towards attaining a lasting solution to the conflict.
I thank you.