Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the
Holy See to the United Nations
Security Council Open Debate on
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
The Holy See commends the Presidency of Japan for bringing the difficult situation in the Middle East once more to the attention of the International Community, in light of the release of the Quartet’s July 1st “Report on the Middle East” and in the context of the continuing violence in Syria, the deadly sectarian violence in Iraq and the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The Palestinian Question has remained without an answer that is satisfactory to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Almost sixty-nine years after its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly, Resolution 181 remains only half-fulfilled. Decades of negotiations have failed to achieve the creation of a Palestinian State. The time is long overdue to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has become increasingly unacceptable as it becomes increasingly intractable.
My delegation would not miss this occasion to underline once again that, for the Holy See, the two-State solution holds the best promise. Durable peace will remain a distant dream and security will remain an illusion if Israel and Palestine do not agree to exist side-by-side reconciled and sovereign within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders. Let the two States be created now, for the sake of the Israelis and Palestinians who, in the depths of their hearts, desire nothing greater than peace and security. It is time to act on the recommendations of the 1st July 2016 Report of the Quartet by bringing peace and security to the citizens of Israel and the State of Palestine and to the people of the world.
The situation in Syria continues to be one of unspeakable suffering for the Syrian people who are killed, forced to survive under bombs or flee to less-ravaged areas. My delegation feels the duty to call anew the attention of this Council to the continued persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minority groups by non-State actors in parts of Syria and Iraq.
Pope Francis denounces in the strongest possible terms all those responsible, from whichever side of the conflict in Syria they may come, for the senseless slaughter of civilians. The Pope also denounces those who supply substantial amounts of money and weaponry to the fighters who kill and maim the innocent population and destroy civilian institutions and infrastructure. One cannot but lament the duplicity of simultaneously talking peace while supplying arms to those who kill, on every side of the conflict. Pope Francis has asked: “How can you believe in someone who caresses you with the right hand and strikes you with the left hand?”
My delegation avails itself of this opportunity to plead once more to weapons-producing States strictly to limit the supply of arms to client States and to monitor their use. In particular, my delegation asks the International Community to stop the illegal supply of arms to non-state actors, who have been lately responsible for crimes against humanity and other forms of mass atrocities and egregious violations of human rights.
Statistics have clearly shown that it is the civilian population that is disproportionately victimized by ever more technologically sophisticated weapons. Remote-controlled assassinations without due process of law and the “collateral damage” to civilians by Lethal Autonomous Weapons System (LAWS) brings to the fore ethical and legal questions that merit careful review and perhaps even a challenge on the basis of international humanitarian law.
The Holy See believes that peace processes do not depend solely on formal negotiations, no matter how indispensable these may be. As a cradle of great civilizations and the birthplace of the three main monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Middle East has the cultural, intellectual and religious resources that make it a fertile ground for civil society and track II diplomacy, including faith-based “informal diplomacy”, to play their role in promoting the values of encounter and mutual acceptance, thereby equipping all citizens to become active protagonists in peacemaking and peacebuilding in the region.
Religions and believers, in particular, must prove themselves worthy of their rightful place in the whole process of pacification in the region. They must put an end to any form of mutual hatred that could lend credence to a “clash of civilizations.” My delegation believes that the more religion is manipulated to justify acts of terror and violence, the more religious leaders must be engaged in the overall effort to defeat the violence that attempts to hijack it for purposes antithetical to its nature. Spurious religious fervour must be countered by authentic religious instruction and by the example of true communities of faith. It is only then that faith-based “informal diplomacy” can fruitfully compliment the formal diplomacy of States and multilateral bodies.
Thank you, Mr. President.