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Statement by Mr. Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Deputy Permanent Representative, at the 10th Resumed session of the 10th Emergency Special Session of the UNGA

Wednesday, 20 December 2023
Mr. Sugeeshwara Gunaratna
New York

Statement by Sri Lanka
10th Resumed session of the 10th Emergency Special Session of the UNGA
under Agenda Item “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory

20th December 2023

Mr. President

We meet again under very grim circumstances where a besieged population continues to suffer under deprivation and bombardment, despite the collective voice of an overwhelming majority of the international community calling for a ceasefire and the provision of humanitarian aid.

While recognizing the legitimate security concerns of both Israel and Palestine, Sri Lanka is appalled by the deplorable humanitarian situation in Gaza.  We are deeply conscious of the immeasurable pain, loss, and suffering that both the Israeli and Palestinian people have and continue to experience as a result of the ongoing hostilities.

The adoption on 12th December of resolution L.27 with an overwhelming majority of 153 countries voting in favor of an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages held by all parties shows clearly where international opinion is on the matter. Many countries and international organizations have expressed their disappointment and concern over the inability to reach a consensus at the Security Council on a ceasefire. While noting that discussions are still underway, it is hoped that consensus will not be blocked further to bring about a sustainable ceasefire, halt the violence, protect civilians, and facilitate humanitarian aid in the affected areas.

Mr. President

Despite the adoption of resolution A/ES-10/L.27 on 12th December; the resolution ES-10/21 at this august assembly on 27th October and the adoption of the UNSC resolution 2712 on 15th November, we have only seen the situation continuing to deteriorate with grave consequences for the civilian population.

The resolution adopted on 12th December focused on the UN Secretary-General’s call invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter, the letter of 7th December by the Head of UNRWA, and expressed concern at the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, emphasized the need for the protection of civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian; called upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint, demanded an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of hostages held by all parties and reiterated the demand for all parties to comply with their obligations under humanitarian law. Previously, the resolution adopted in October with 120 votes in favor at this forum called for an “immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities”. The resolution adopted in November at the Security Council called for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors”. It further called for the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups, especially children, as well as ensuring immediate humanitarian access” as well as a call “on all parties to refrain from depriving the civilian population in Gaza of basic services and aid”.

However, it is regretted that all these calls have only fallen on deaf ears. We call for the immediate implementation of the resolution adopted at this forum.

Mr. President

Continued inaction as well as the inability to reach consensus at the UN-mandated body dealing with peace and security translates into loss of human lives, especially the women and children of Gaza. This inaction, even in the light of the UN Secretary-General invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter, has no justification whatsoever. The Secretary-General in his letter addressed to the Security Council termed the situation being “at a breaking point” noting that “there is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza, which would have devastating consequences.” He particularly stressed that “there is clearly, a serious risk of aggravating existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Mr. President

134 UN staff have been killed so far, the highest ever in a single conflict and within the span of a little over 2 months. The Commissioner-General of UNRWA Philippe Lazarini called this “the darkest hour in the Agency’s 75-year history” and informed you by letter, Mr. President, that the “humanitarian situation is now untenable.”

The suffering faced by the helpless Palestinian civilians in Gaza, especially children and women must stop now.

Calling for a ceasefire and the provision of humanitarian assistance to the population of Gaza is in no way condoning the attacks of 7th October on Israeli civilians. Sri Lanka condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. We recall that the UN Secretary-General in his message for the International Day of Solidarity for Palestinian People this year stated that he has

“….been very clear in my condemnation of the terror attacks by Hamas on 7 October. But I have also been clear that they cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people” Unquote.

Mr. President, the terror attacks of 7th October by Hamas cannot justify the constant bombardment of civilian infrastructure and the continued killing of women and children.

Mr. President

It is in this context that Sri Lanka cosponsored draft resolution A/ES-10/L.27. We reiterate our call for the need to avoid double standards and urge the international community to present a united front and a collective voice at this critical juncture and prevent any further expansion of hostilities. We must prioritize the well-being and security of all individuals involved, and work towards a peace that ensures the safety, dignity, and rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Sri Lanka calls for an immediate halt to violence and urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint to prevent further civilian casualties. Finally, Mr. President, let me reiterate that Sri Lanka remains committed to supporting a negotiated settlement in line with relevant UN resolutions, , leading to two states living side by side based on the 1967 borders.

Thank you. 

Link to the vedio : https://youtu.be/R7pVPFyKPXU