I have the honour to submit this statement on behalf of the member states the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, in my capacity as chair of the OIC Group.
At the outset, I thank Germany for its successful presidency of the Security Council this month. I would also like to thank the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, for his comprehensive briefing.
When we had our last open debate on this topic in April 2020, we were optimistic regarding the positive responses around the world to the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire to confront the COVID-19 pandemic. We hoped the international community would take this moment to focus on this unprecedented global challenge. However, countries in the Middle East continue to face security issues that hinder our efforts to respond effectively to the pandemic.
An acute example is the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). At a time when there is a worrying rise in COVID-19 cases, Israel’s plan to unilaterally annex vast swathes of the OPT remain a looming threat. OIC member states are deeply concerned about these developments, which pose health, economic, social, and security challenges in the OPT. On 24 June 2020, Mr. Mladenov informed the Security Council that “…there is still time to avert chaos. It will require a concerted effort by all stakeholders and the will to take political risks to achieve peace.” We are determined to support the Palestinian people and protect the two-state solution, with a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace, security, and mutual recognition.
To achieve these goals, the OIC calls on the Security Council and Member States to pursue the following priorities:
First, we must salvage the prospects of peace. As a priority, the international community must continue to exert pressure on Israel to prevent annexation plans, which violate international law, the UN Charter, and relevant UN resolutions. OIC member states have repeatedly stated their rejection of annexation. We reiterate that such unilateral actions undermine the peace process and would have grave consequences for the stability and security of the region and beyond. In this vein, OIC member states demand that Israel stop all its illegal actions, including wall and settlement construction, land confiscation, and the demolition of homes and properties. Israel must also end its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, which imposes severe humanitarian consequences for the Palestinian people.
Additionally, we reiterate our concerns about Israeli restrictions on access to Islamic and Christian holy sites in city of Jerusalem. In this regard, OIC member states commend the efforts of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein, the custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Al-Quds Al-Sharif, in defending, protecting and preserving the city and its Islamic and Christian identity. We also commend the continued efforts exerted by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, Chairman of the Al-Quds Committee and welcome the appeal signed by His Majesty King Mohammed VI and Pope Francis in Rabat on 30 March 2019 as it bears a call of making Al Quds a city of peace, fraternity and tolerance, considering the city as a symbol of coexistence of the followers of the three monotheist religions.
Second, we need to break the deadlock in the political process. OIC member states encourage the Quartet and other key international actors to work towards launching a credible, time-bound, and multilateral-sponsored political process, in accordance with the established terms of reference. Additionally, the Security Council has a crucial role to play in supporting a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict.
Third, we should assist the OPT in responding effectively to the pandemic. Support should focus on enhancing the capacity of the health system, particularly in the Gaza Strip, in addition to mitigating the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. We strongly encourage funding the UN COVID-19 Response Plan for the OPT and UNRWA’s Flash Appeal for the COVID-19 response. Equally important is ensuring the access to essential medical supplies and humanitarian aid for those in need.
Finally, we must address the deterioration of the humanitarian and economic situation in the OPT. OIC member states are concerned about the fragile economic situation in the OPT, which is further exacerbated by COVID-19 and the occupation. Around a quarter of Palestinians already live below the poverty line. This percentage could increase given that the World Bank predicts the economy will decline: “…at least 7.6 percent, based on a gradual return to normality from the containment, and up to 11 percent in the case of a slower recovery or further restrictions due to another outbreak.” The international community should not ignore such alarming trends that severely impact the livelihood of Palestinians and the peace effort.
In closing, we reiterate our call to support the Palestinian people in exercising their legitimate rights, including their right to self-determination and sovereignty over the territory of the State of Palestine, based on the 4 June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Additionally, we call for Israel’s full withdrawal from the Occupied Syrian Golan to the borders of 4 June 1967 in accordance with Security Council resolutions. We further affirm the need to preserve the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and social harmony of Syria, and reiterate our support for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, consistent with Security Council resolution 2254.