Statement by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK Mission to the UN at the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
Thank you Mr President for convening this emergency meeting, to my Jordanian colleague for requesting it and to Assistant Secretary-General Zerihoun for his briefing. It is vital that this Council responds urgently and effectively to escalating situations such as the one we are witnessing in Jerusalem and elsewhere.
The British Government is deeply concerned at the terrorist attacks and violence that we have seen so far this month. Whether in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza or Israel, whether committed by Israelis or Palestinians, the British Government condemns all acts of terrorism and all acts of violence.
As others have said, this violence is doing untold damage to people on both sides. So far this month, 7 Israelis and 32 Palestinians have been killed. Over 4,400 people have been injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. These figures should give us all cause for grave concern.
The immediate priority must be a swift end to the violence and a rapid de-escalation in tension. I’m pleased that Council members have sent this clear and unambiguous message today. The Israeli and Palestinian people deserve to live in peace and security, without fear of attack. Those breaking the law, on either side, should be subject to prosecution. Innocent civilians must be protected. Let us all call on the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to take immediate steps to de-escalate the tensions and avoid any action which could threaten to exacerbate the situation.
The current violence began following the heightened tension we saw last month around Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount. This is a sombre reminder of the delicate balance in Jerusalem and the need to respect sensitivity over holy sites. It is vital that the longstanding status quo in respect of access to Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount, and other historic sites, is preserved. The British Government remains in close touch with the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian authorities on this point and we value Jordan’s important role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem. We have stressed that security restrictions must be lifted immediately. We will continue with these calls and hope other Council Members will join us.
If we are to find a long term solution to this crisis, the Israeli and Palestinian people need to believe, really believe, that there is an alternative to conflict. The current cycle of violence points to a much deeper despair at the lack of prospects for a political end to the conflict, one that sees two states living side by side in peace and security. The violence takes us further away from that goal.
Political leaders on all sides, and this Council, must make clear that the two-state solution is not just desirable, but essential. There is an urgent need for practical improvements on the ground if we are to sustain the viability of the two-state solution and deliver peace, prosperity and security for all.
As ever, the UK stands ready to work closely with this Council and with our other international partners to address the current crisis, through private diplomacy, through statements and resolutions, and through any other route that could help achieve a meaningful, lasting solution.
Such a solution is long overdue. Next week is the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. For 68 of the past 70 years, the UN has been trying to find the answer to the situation in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories. We must keep striving to achieve a two-state solution. The alternative is the violence and despair that we are addressing today.