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Statement by Ambassador Pieris at the 10th Emergency Special Session of the UNGA on Israel-Palestine

Wednesday, 01 November 2023
H.E. Mr. Mohan Pieris
New York

Statement delivered by H.E. Mohan Pieris, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
at the10th Emergency Special Session of the UNGA
1st November ‘23

It was the great Mahatma Gandhi who told us that “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” — is that what we seek to achieve? He didn’t stop there, he asked us the question, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” Mr. President, Liberty and democracy, the Mahatma said, become unholy when our hands are dyed red with innocent blood.
Mr. President

Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Sri Lanka offers these words of gentle persuasion to our fellow beings who are at war, a war that neither will win but would surely leave a loser, and that is humanity. Is that the legacy, I ask that we desire to leave to our future generations? Is this the agenda we intend to prosecute for peace? Do we really believe we can achieve the SDGs in such a hostile environment?

Mr. President,

It was only in the latter half of last September, that our leaders met in this august assembly to lay the foundation for a better world. We deliberated upon what remedial measures should be taken, as the euphemism suggested, to get back into the game that did  not look promising at half time . We comforted ourselves in the thought that many games are won in the second half. It was on that optimistic note that we resolved to take upon the challenge. We discussed the vital role of financing for development. We discussed the climate catastrophe confronting the planet. We adopted three declarations on the main health topics concerning our countries. Our Ministers adopted the scope and elements of what would be a Summit of the Future next year.

The supreme irony is that in contrast, we are compelled to witness death and destruction, violent attacks on civilians, kidnappings and hostage-taking, retaliatory attacks on civilian life and property, and the threat of a wider conflict. All this, predictably will ensure the game will be lost at full time if the hostilities and military misadventures we witness in Palestine and Israel do not stop now, as the PGA was pleased to observe in his opening statement of this emergency special session. The war drums must stop beating.
Sri Lanka is deeply concerned by the ongoing escalation of violence and military action in Gaza, which is causing deaths and injuries to many innocent civilians and children resulting in a grave humanitarian situation. The legitimate security concerns of both Israeli and Palestinian peoples have to be recognized. We observe that indiscriminate actions that cause civilian casualties will only make the realization of an enduring peace a distant reality. Sri Lanka supports diplomatic efforts to find a lasting solution to the conflict and requests both parties to engage in a dialogue to achieve durable peace.

Since the adoption of the resolution entitled ‘Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations’ last Friday by this Assembly, the situation in Gaza has worsened manifold. Death and destruction continue unabated. According to UNRWA, over 1 million people have been displaced. The UNICEF has reported that out of the total dead, 3450 are children. The United Nations last Sunday held a memorial for 59 UNRWA staff killed in Gaza. Millions are suffering without basic essentials and face a lifetime of trauma. Will such trauma solve any problem?
We reiterate our call to keep open a humanitarian corridor to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the civilians in Gaza and are committed to supporting the efforts and activities of the UN Secretary-General in his endeavor to mitigate the suffering of the people, the loss and damage to life & property and to bring about a ceasefire.
Sri Lanka calls for the free movement of essential items and humanitarian aid including food, fuel, medicine, and electricity and water supply to Gaza. We call on all sides to immediately halt violence and take steps to prevent further civilian casualties.
We also call upon the international community to redouble their support to the UN Relief and Works Agency. The UNRWA is playing a commendable and courageous role in helping vulnerable populations under extremely challenging circumstances.

Mr. President

In the light of the ongoing hostilities, it is therefore important to address the situation with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to finding a peaceful resolution.

We have a plea to the leaders and people of Israel and Palestine. We acknowledge the deep pain, loss, and suffering that both sides have experienced as a result of the ongoing hostilities. We urge you to prioritize the well-being and security of all individuals involved and to work towards a lasting peace that ensures the safety, dignity, and rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.

We understand that finding a solution to such a complex and longstanding conflict is not easy. However, we strongly encourage meaningful dialogue and negotiations, with the aim of reaching a comprehensive and just agreement that addresses the core issues at hand. This includes addressing concerns related to borders, settlements, security, Jerusalem, and the right to self-determination.

We believe that it is crucial to recognize and respect the aspirations and rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. Mutual understanding, empathy, and compromise will be essential in building trust and creating a conducive environment for peaceful coexistence. We urge you to listen to one another's concerns and perspectives, and to engage in constructive dialogue that promotes understanding and reconciliation.

We also call upon the international community to play an active role in supporting the peace process. Mediation efforts, diplomatic initiatives, and the provision of humanitarian assistance are all crucial in helping to de-escalate tensions and create an environment conducive to peace.

Mr. President

Ending hostilities and achieving a just and lasting peace will require courage, leadership, and a genuine commitment to finding common ground. However bleak the prospects may look today, we believe that with dedication, goodwill, and a shared vision for a better future, it is possible to achieve a peaceful resolution to this longstanding conflict. Let us foster social cohesion, make

available lifelong learning opportunities, promote reconciliation and healing, rebuild infrastructure, promote economic recovery, strengthen institutions and governance, engage civil society and promote participation and finally invest in peacebuilding and conflict prevention at the community and national levels.

It is our prayer and hope that together we can build a future where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace, security, and prosperity by committing our resources and cooperation from and all our governments, international organizations and the whole of our global community.  Let us seize upon this opportunity to break the cycle of violence and work towards a future that upholds the values of justice, equality, and respect for human rights.

Thank you.

Link to the Video : https://youtu.be/XALjgVdNFuo