Statement by UK Ambassador Lyall Grant to the Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East
Thank you Mr President,
And I would like to thank Mr Feltman for his briefing this morning.
The United Kingdom warmly welcomes the return to direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders since our last open debate here in July. We extend our appreciation to the United States – particularly Secretary Kerry and Special Envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, Martin Indyk – for their steadfast commitment. This determination has enabled the parties to return to the table.
We welcome the Parties’ commitment to intensify negotiations in the coming weeks and applaud the bold leadership demonstrated on both sides.
The United Kingdom welcomes the Palestinian Economic Initiative - we are taking a leading role in fostering private sector-led, sustainable economic growth in support of Palestinian state-building efforts.
We look to Israel to take the necessary steps to further ease restrictions on both the West Bank and Gaza to enable the step change in the Palestinian economy that Secretary Kerry is rightly advocating.
It is important to build confidence among the Palestinian and Israeli peoples that their common goal of peace is within reach. Over the last few weeks there have been a number of concerning events including:
The murder of three Israelis – including 2 serving Israeli Defence Force soldiers in the West Bank. We condemn this unreservedly.
The rise in ‘price tag’ attacks across East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including setting fire and vandalising Palestinian property. Those responsible for these crimes must be brought to justice.
We are also troubled by the rise in tensions around the Holy Sites of Jerusalem – sites that hold religious importance and are politically sensitive. We call on all parties to maintain the status quo and engage in dialogue to ensure calm.
Going forward, the international community must do it all can to support both Parties towards our common goal of reaching the negotiated two-state solution that ends the conflict once and for all.
Mr President, on Syria….
For the first time, with the adoption of resolution 2118, the Security Council imposes binding and enforceable obligations on the Syrian regime, with the threat of action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in the event of non-compliance. Resolution 2118 – the first on Syria in 17 months – requires the full implementation of the Executive Council decision by the OPCW, in which Syria’s chemical weapons must be verifiably eliminated within the first half of next year. The voluntary destruction of these chemical weapons, which until recently the Assad regime denied it possessed, is a huge step forward on this issue.
Security Council Resolution 2118 also formally endorses the Geneva Communiqué of last year, calling for a transitional governing body with full executive powers. Today, my Foreign Minister hosted a meeting of the London 11 Foreign Ministers and a senior delegation from the Syrian National Coalition led by President Jarba. The communiqué, issued after that meeting, welcomed progress on preparations for Geneva II, which could take place this November. Participants underscored that Geneva II should lead to a Transitional Governing Body with full executive powers agreed by mutual consent. They agreed that once this body is established Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands, will have no future role to play in Syria. The United Kingdom will continue to work closely with the Syrian National Coalition, who are committed to the Geneva Communique, an inclusive and democratic Syria and who reject extremism.
Well over 100,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians continue to suffer from the regime’s brutal use of conventional weapons and gross human rights violations committed on a daily basis. The United Kingdom calls on all Member States to support the 3rd Committee resolution on the human rights situation in Syria. We must send a clear message to the Assad regime that the international community is united in its condemnation of the human rights violations.
We’ve seen UN Security Council come together on humanitarian access with the adoption of a Presidential Statement - this now needs to be translated into visible change on the ground. The humanitarian situation remains dire. More than 6.8 million people are displaced and every 15 seconds a Syrian becomes a refugee – that’s almost 5,000 people every day. The United Nations estimates that up to 2.5 million people in areas under siege cannot be accessed by humanitarian agencies. The use of siege by regime forces in Moadamiyeh, Homs, Aleppo and Hasakah is unacceptable and I echo Valerie Amos’ call for an immediate pause in hostilities in Moadamiyeh to allow humanitarian agencies unhindered access to evacuate the remaining civilians and to deliver life saving treatment and supplies. The United Kingdom recognises the scale and despair of the humanitarian crisis. During the UN General Assembly week, we announced a further $160 million in humanitarian assistance, which now brings the UK’s total Syria-related humanitarian funding to $800 million, this is the largest total sum that we have ever committed to a single humanitarian crisis. The international community, as a whole, pledged over $1 billion in new funding during September. This is a welcome step, but more needs to be done.
Mr President, turning to Lebanon….
As July’s Security Council Presidential Statement and the recent International Support Group’s meetings demonstrated, there is genuine international unity in support of Lebanon’s stability. The United Kingdom has tripled our own humanitarian and security assistance to Lebanon this year. We call on the Lebanese parties to take urgent steps to form a new consensual government to tackle the significant challenges that they face.
We are at a critical juncture on both the Middle East Peace Process and the Syria conflict. Both crisis require bold, responsible leadership from the parties to the conflict and active engagement from the international community, to secure an end to conflict and a better future for the people of the region.