The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by H.E. Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Mr President and I thank the Secretary-General for his briefing this morning.
The major escalation in in hostilities between Israel and militant groups in Gaza in recent days is of course deeply troubling and reminds us of the urgency of all the efforts that are currently directed towards stopping the violence. We are seriously concerned about the growing number of casualties on both sides including many Palestinian civilians, a significant number of Israeli soldiers and several Israeli civilians. Everything possible should be done to prevent civilian casualties, and to limit the suffering of innocent people, including those displaced by the fighting. All sides must respect international humanitarian law.
We strongly condemn Hamas and other militants’ continued rocket attacks on Israel, with the total number of such rocket launches now numbering over 1,850. The decision of Hamas to reject the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire proposals, and its use of civilian facilities such as UNRWA schools to launch attacks on Israel, are inexcusable. We recognise the increased burden on UNRWA as a result of the current crisis.
We support Israel’s right to defend itself in the face of such attacks. No country can be expected to stand by and tolerate such sustained attacks directed at civilian areas. In doing so, Israel needs to take all necessary steps to prevent civilian casualties.
Australia strongly supports efforts to secure an immediate cease-fire. We endorse and welcome the personal efforts of the Secretary-General in travelling to the region and seeking an end to the violence. We also welcome the efforts of US Secretary of State Kerry in seeking to broker a cease-fire, as well as the efforts of Foreign Minister Fabius and others. This sustained high-level engagement reflects the international community’s deep distress at the violence and its absolute determination to assist in ending it, and to build the conditions for a sustainable peace. Hamas must engage with these international efforts to resolve this crisis.
Once a cease-fire is achieved, the international community needs to find a way to help the Israelis and the Palestinians return to negotiations on the two-state solution. The absence of a political dialogue runs the risk of further deterioration in security conditions in the future.
Australia welcomes the Council’s adoption last week of Resolution 2165 on the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria. This was an outcome that reflects the extent of the Council’s determination to alleviate the human suffering in Syria despite the political obstacles that have hampered this Council’s ability to act decisively to prevent this crisis.
By making it clear that UN agencies and their partners are authorised to deliver humanitarian assistance across the four nominated border crossings, and across conflict lines, we hope the estimated additional 2.9 million people can be reached with life-saving assistance. We commend OCHA and the UN system for its quick action in operationalising Resolution 2165, in difficult circumstances. All parties are obliged to respect and protect the safety and security of humanitarian workers in accordance with the Resolution.
This Resolution was only necessary, however, because of the immeasurable failure of the parties to the Syrian conflict – and the Assad regime in particular – to adhere to the decisions of this Council, uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and protect the lives of Syrian civilians. The continued violations of human rights by regime forces and terrorist groups like ISIL are abhorrent. The international community’s determination to see this turned around was expressed in Resolution 2165 and there can be no excuses for continued non-compliance.
This month the last of Syria’s declared precursor chemicals were removed for destruction. We applaud the efforts of the UN-OPCW monitoring mission and those states that have contributed to this outcome. We urge the Syrian regime to complete its declaration and finalise plans for the destruction of its chemical facilities with the OPCW.
A political solution to the crisis is urgently needed. The presidential elections in June – from which many Syrian citizens were excluded – lacked credibility and, as former Joint Special Representative Brahimi told us, have taken us further away from a political solution to the crisis. This is a significant challenge which the Secretary-General’s new Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura will need to address. Australia welcomes Mr de Mistura’s appointment and that of Deputy Special Envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy and looks forward to supporting their efforts to find a way to end the violence in Syria. We urge states in the region to offer him their full support, which will be crucial to the success of any future political track.
It is deeply concerning that large parts of Syria and Iraq are now ungoverned and controlled by a terrorist organisation (ISIL). This will continue to be a major security and political challenge for the international community as well, of course, as for the peoples of Syria and Iraq, who have suffered appalling atrocities at the hands of these terrorists. All UN member states must adhere to their obligations under the UN Security Council 1267 (Al-Qaeda) sanctions regime and cut off funding and weapons to ISIL.
The displacement of close to one million Iraqis, in addition to those fleeing from Syria as a result of the conflict, represents a significant humanitarian crisis. In order to respond effectively to these challenges, it is important that a new Iraqi Government be formed as soon as possible and adopt a unified, national approach. Australia welcomes the nomination of a Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, a constructive first step toward this objective. The UN is uniquely placed to provide assistance to Iraq’s political leaders as they work towards the formation of an inclusive new national government. We strongly support the Secretary-General and SRSG Mladenov in their efforts to assist Iraqis in addressing their current security and political challenges and building a unified and secure country.
Thank you Mr President.
22 July 2014