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Statement by Ambassador Riyad Mansour, before the United Nations Security Council, 18 December 2008: One Year After Annapolis

Statement by H.E. Dr. Riyad Mansour, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, 18 December 2008:

Check against Delivery

Mr. President,

I reiterate our thanks to you for your able stewardship of the Security Council this month, and express our appreciation to Mr. Robert Serry for his comprehensive briefing to the Council.

Mr. President,

We come before the Security Council two days after adoption of resolution 1850 (2008), the first resolution adopted by the Council regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in more than 4 ½ years despite the many serious issues and crises that have arisen in that time period requiring the Council’s urgent attention and action. The Council’s inability to pronounce itself on the situation has prevented it from playing its rightful Charter role to address this issue of central relevance to the maintenance of international peace and security, harming its credibility and depriving us of its contribution, to the detriment of our collective efforts to achieve peace.

Thus, the Security Council’s efforts to address current developments - including the intensification of illegal Israeli settlements, attempts to deliver humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population in the besieged Gaza Strip, the rise of settler violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the status of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process - are welcome and signal reassertion of the Council’s authority and its intention to play a more active role in advancing a peaceful settlement.

We have always appealed for the Security Council’s engagement and called upon it to shoulder its responsibilities. Therefore, despite serious misgivings about the exclusionary process and limited scope, we welcome the adoption of resolution 1850 (2008). Moreover, we again urge the Council to not only remain seized of the matter but to actively follow-up and implement its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and now 1850 (2008), in order to tangibly contribute towards achievement of the two-State solution of a sovereign, independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders. This must remain among the Council’s priorities for a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while foremost benefiting the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, will also vastly enhance the prospects for regional and international peace and stability.

In this regard, we join the Arab Ministers, the Quartet and the many Council members who emphasized the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative and of seizing the historic opportunity it provides to make peace and coexistence a reality in our region. Along with the Security Council resolutions and Madrid principles that constitute the basis of the peace process, this Initiative and the Road Map are integral to the Annapolis process, which has received wide international support and the irreversibility of which the Council has affirmed. All efforts and practical measures must be exerted to advance this process in a way that justly resolves all core issues, including the issues of Jerusalem, borders, the Palestine refugees, the settlements, water, security, and prisoners, leading to the conclusion of a peace treaty and the end of decades of statelessness, occupation and suffering of the our people.

The Palestinian people, under the leadership of their sole, legitimate representative, the Palestine Liberation Organization, remain determined to achieve justice and to live in peace and security in their homeland, side by side with their neighbors. Indeed, since the Declaration of Independence 20 years ago, the Palestinian leadership has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to negotiations aimed at ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and achieving the two-State solution for peace. Accordingly, the Palestinian Authority has upheld its obligations in good faith under all agreements reached and exerted all efforts within its capacities to fulfill its Road Map and Annapolis commitments.

Mr. President,

We all know what is needed to make peace and yet that peace has for too long eluded us. Any impartial examination of the situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and of the peace process in the past year leads us to the same conclusion: Despite high hopes and momentum generated by the Annapolis Conference and despite some progress in certain areas, the situation has continued to deteriorate and minimal progress has been made towards peace.

Once again, the intertwined, mutually reinforcing nature of developments on the ground and the peace process has been harshly confirmed. Negative developments on the ground continued to undermine efforts to advance the peace process. At the same time, the failure to adhere to peace process commitments and to undertake steps for building confidence and improving the situation on the ground, continued to exacerbate already-difficult conditions and stoke tensions.

As we reflect on this reality, it is incumbent upon us to ask the following: Why - despite the international presence and promises of Annapolis, despite U.S. leadership, despite commitments made, despite reaffirmation of the Arab Peace Initiative and the various efforts exerted to support the peace process - have we been unable to make the required progress? What has happened in the year since Annapolis that has prevented us from concluding a peace treaty by the target date of the end of this year?

We need a moment of truth, a reality check and serious answers. Only this will enable us to pinpoint what has gone wrong and to determine what needs to be done henceforth to avoid the pitfalls and repeated failures and deterioration of the past and to put the process on an accelerated track towards achievement of its stated goals.

In this connection, we agreed to the Quartet proposal for U.S. supervision and monitoring of the process and developments on the ground. It is our understanding that a report has in fact been prepared by U.S. General Fraser, yet we have not seen this report. We believe that, at minimum, it should be shared with the Quartet and the Council, not for the purpose of pointing fingers or blaming anyone but for the purpose of knowing what the obstacles before us are so that they can be removed from the path of this process. The following must be determined: 1. Who is upholding obligations and who is not; and 2. What needs to be done to create appropriate conditions on the ground and between the parties to advance the process towards attainment of the two-State solution based on U.N. resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map.

Mr. President,

While we continue to await such a report, we are, of course, all aware of what has transpired in the year since Annapolis. Despite commitments made, the repeated calls of the Quartet and its very clear obligations under international law, Israel, the occupying Power, continues to behave on the ground as if there were no peace process and no prior agreements reached and as though it immune from the laws that govern international relations, including situations of foreign occupation.

Even as the international community reveled in the high of Annapolis, Israel continued its deviant behavior, persisting with its illegal policies against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. However, the Security Council and the Quartet have remained incapable or unwilling to act to bring an end to such Israeli policies and to constructively support the parties to do what must be done to truly achieve peace.

Mr. President,

In the run up to Annapolis and continuously thereafter, Israel persisted in tightening its siege of the Gaza Strip, in massive collective punishment of the Palestinian civilians there, and continued, particularly in the early 2008, to use excessive force against the population, deepening the tragic humanitarian situation in Gaza. Here, we repeat that there is no justification whatsoever for such illegal collective punishment of a people.

We have appealed to the Council on several occasions to act to compel Israel to cease its military attacks and ensure protection of the civilian population and to cease the illegal, punitive measures by which it is deliberately causing a human catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. This has included repeated calls for opening of the border crossings and implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access. But the international community has only been able to provide desperately-needed humanitarian assistance - which the occupying Power also continues to obstruct with impunity - and has failed to act decisively on the political front to address this crisis and bring Israel into compliance with its obligations under international law, including humanitarian and human rights law.

Immediately after Annapolis it was also revealed that Israel was pressing on with its colonization campaign in grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention. In deed, contrary to U.N. resolutions and despite repeated calls by the Quartet for respect of the Road Map obligation to freeze settlements and dismantle “outposts”, and the commitments made at Annapolis, Israel has done the exact opposite, escalating construction and expansion of settlements and the Wall, particularly in East Jerusalem.

This obviously requires a concrete response by the Quartet, which should put in place a mechanism to bring Israel into compliance with the call to freeze all settlement activities, including natural growth. The inability to do so has sent the wrong message to the occupying Power, allowing it to intensify settlement activities on the one hand and providing fertile ground for escalation of settler terror, violence, harassment and intimidation against Palestinian civilians and properties, as recently witnessed in the appalling recent events in Al-Khalil.

Another area where the absence of such a mechanism has undermined the process is the issue of the checkpoints and movement and access restrictions. Despite the Annapolis commitments and the Quartet’s numerous calls for easing of movement and access, we have witnessed an intensification of Israeli restrictions under the pretext of security - with an increase of at least 100 more obstacles in the West Bank and the isolation of East Jerusalem in particular.

Paradoxically, this has occurred at the very same time that reports from all concerned parties are praising Palestinian Authority efforts to promote law and order, particularly in cities like Jenin, in fulfillment of our obligations, and underscoring the importance and benefits of such progress and cooperation on the security front. Also, even as this cooperation continues, Israel is still carrying out raids and arrests, which undermine our efforts and which, despite recent release of some prisoners, ensures the continued imprisonment of at least 11,000 Palestinians.

On the ground, all of this has resulted in further fragmentation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory; imposition of deeper socio-economic deprivation on the Palestinian people; heightening of frustrations and tensions; and weakening of hope and belief in the peace process.

With persistence of such complexities and behavior completely contradictory to that required for a just resolution, it is imperative to ask: How can we bring the peace process to a successful conclusion in the year 2009? We believe that that responsibility falls upon the Quartet and the Security Council to devise a practical mechanism to address this situation where one party repeatedly fails to respond to calls and to fulfill its obligations, miring us in a cyclical process with no end in sight. Such a mechanism is necessary to help us overcome the current obstacles and stagnation, avoid the same mistakes and deterioration, and allow the peace process to advance to a successful conclusion.

Mr. President,

We have tried to be constructive by identifying what has prevented us achieving a peace treaty in 2008 and by calling for serious efforts to address the issues that have repeatedly hampered the peace process. This will be the greatest contribution in support of the peace process and assisting the parties to advance their ongoing bilateral negotiations. This is what we believe will enhance our chances for avoiding the disappointment, failure and despair the continuation of this conflict will bring and for finally realizing peace in 2009.

Thus, even during the current transitional period, while we maintain our high expectations and hopes for the Annapolis process, we expect the Security Council and the Quartet to uphold their responsibilities and to exert the needed practical measures to ensure that obligations are met and that the parties refrain from any steps undermining confidence or prejudicing the outcome of negotiations.

In this regard, we reiterate our hope that the ceasefire will continue to be upheld and will be extended to the West Bank. Moreover, we express appreciation to our Egyptian brothers and also for the latest Arab Ministerial meeting for the efforts exerted to help us achieve Palestinian reconciliation. We will continue to work cooperatively with our Egyptian brothers to regain Palestinian national unity in all its aspects, which is so essential for our just cause.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, I express our deep hope that 2009 will indeed be the year that we bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the tragedy of our peoples with the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace, the cornerstone of which is the two-State solution. We look forward to that day when the Palestinian people will exercise their inalienable rights, including their right to self-determination and to live in freedom and dignity, in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and when we can together open a new chapter of peace, security and coexistence in our region.