The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol was held in the sunny city of Durban, South Africa.


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Statements and Speeches

Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations, On the Situation in the Middle East Including the Palestinian Question

12 July 2016

Mr. President,

At the outset, we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you and your country for assuming the Presidency of the Security Council for the month and for ensuring sustained attention on the debate on the situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question.

South Africa fully supports regular open debates of the Security Council on this matter as it allows all Member States an opportunity to express our views and to inject greater impetus into the negotiations, as this has been one of the most protracted matters on the agenda of the Council. 

We also express our appreciation to your predecessor, the Republic of France for the manner it lead the deliberations of the Council during the month of June as well as its continued commitment to finding a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. President, 

While we reiterate that the central responsibility for peace is primarily in the hands of Palestinians and Israelis, the international community does have a responsibility to support and encourage the parties towards this endeavour.

South Africa is of the opinion that the basis of the negotiations, which has been the two-state solution, is being threatened by the increasing construction of illegal settlements in occupied territories as well as heightened tension and sporadic acts of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. 

The French initiative endorsed by the international community in Paris in June is welcomed as an effort to resuscitate the peace process and thereby preventing the two-state solution from slipping away. As South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation stated at the Paris meeting: “This initiative is like a first raindrop after a long drought and we hope it will nourish the Peace Process”.

South Africa would like to highlight the views of the participants in Paris, stressing that both sides should demonstrate their commitment to the two-state solution and resolve all permanent status issues through direct negotiations based on Resolutions 242 and 338. We also welcome the Paris Communiqué recalling relevant UN Security Council resolutions and furthermore highlighting the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, the key role of the Quartet and welcoming the French offer to coordinate an international conference before the end of the year. It is essential that United Nations General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap constitute the international legal framework for these negotiations.

Mr. President,

The Quartet report released last week was eagerly anticipated to provide leadership and direction for moving the peace process forward. While the report does rightfully call upon each side to “independently demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution” and to “refrain from unilateral steps that prejudice the outcome of the final negotiations,” the reaction by the parties, and in particular the Palestinians, is indicative of some level of disenchantment with the Quartet.

For a long time our responsibility has been deferred to the Quartet with the UN providing the Quartet with its moral legitimacy.  In light of its recent report the international community must assert its moral and legal weight by insisting that the Israeli/Palestinian peace process take place in accordance with international legal frameworks and in which the UN plays its role as neutral arbiter.

The international conference proposed at Paris is an opportunity for the international community to play such a role. The UN Security Council in turn must play its part in support of these international efforts. The Council has been known to support other peace processes with resolutions demanding compliance with international obligations. This approach has lead to successful conclusions of conflicts as parties to the conflict recognised that non-compliance would result in punitive measures. The same is needed in the Israeli/Palestinian context.

We deplore that four days following the release of the Quartet report, Israeli authorities announced plans to build additional housing units in the West Bank. This has detracted from any progress in the resolution of the conflict and as the Secretary-General has stated that the continued settlements “raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank”.  The fact that Israel is able to make this announcement, immediately following the call by the Quartet report for a halt in settlements, further undermines the effectiveness of the Quartet.

Mr. President,

The message emanating from Paris 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. The UN Security Council must also play its part in dissuading unilateral measures that may impede the realization of the two-state solution that has eluded the peoples of this region for too long. It is high time, Mr President that the Security Council assumes its full responsibility on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I thank you.