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
New York, 19 October 2016
My delegation thanks the Presidency of the Russian Federation for bringing this topic of the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question, to the floor of this Chamber and to the attention of the entire international community.
The gradual movement away from the two-State solution proposed in 1947 by the United Nations for what was then Palestine under the British Mandate is cause for very grave concern. The collapse in April 2014 of the peace negotiations between the two parties has led to negative unilateral actions and acts of violence stoked by inflammatory rhetoric from both parties.
The straying from the Madrid peace process and the Oslo Accords of the 1990’s has served to increase the level of frustration and desperation among the Palestinian polity. A unity government in the West Bank and Gaza is essential to advancing the negotiations and to bringing peace and prosperity to its people, so heavily dependent on international aid for basic needs. Regular briefings in this Chamber inform us of the financial woes of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine), as it faces ever-growing humanitarian needs.
My delegation would like to underline once again that, for the Holy See, the two-State solution holds the best promise. If Israel and Palestine do not agree to exist side-by-side, reconciled and sovereign within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders, peace will remain a distant dream and security an illusion.
While the focus of today’s debate is how to urge Israel and Palestine to stop making unilateral decisions and taking independent actions that engender the resumption of meaningful negotiations, the Palestinian Question cannot but be viewed as part of the Middle East turmoil that impacts the whole region and beyond.
The cradle of civilizations and the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Middle East has become the theater of incredible brutality. The utter disregard of international humanitarian law has reached alarming levels of inhumanity. Schools, hospitals, humanitarian convoys, humanitarian workers and journalists, and entire villages and cities are no longer “collateral damage”: They themselves have become targets of indiscriminate attacks. The corpses under the ruins and the wandering refugees are a clear witness to this cynical contempt and trampling of international humanitarian law.
Pope Francis has reiterated his appeal for an immediate ceasefire in Aleppo and other parts of Syria, saying, “With a sense of urgency I renew my appeal, pleading with all my strength to those responsible for an immediate ceasefire, which is imposed and respected at least for the time necessary to allow the evacuation of civilians, especially children, who are still trapped under the ferocious bombardments.”
We continue to debate in this Chamber and in other United Nations fora, while the Christians and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in the Middle East are on the verge of total annihilation. The intentions of the terrorist and extremist groups to banish them from the region have been unmistakably manifest since the start of this barbaric persecution. Testimonies and traces of the historical rootedness in the region of Christian and other ethnic and religious groups are also being wiped out, as churches, monasteries and cultural monuments and artifacts have been reduced to dust and rubble. In this madness beyond comprehension and belief, so many members of the majority groups have also fallen victim.
Mandated to maintain international peace and security, this Council is called to lead the entire international community to stop the bloodshed and destruction. States supporting client groups must stop the flow of weapons and munitions into the region. Geopolitical differences and the noise of arms must not stop dialogue and negotiations. Madmen preaching hatred and inciting to violence in God’s name must be stopped. All are summoned to do their part in fostering in the region respect for fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion and of expression. All are called to greater solidarity, so that humanitarian assistance and specific programs for the most vulnerable could be assured as much as possible in the context of such challenging situations.
My delegation would like to conclude with a thought of Pope Francis on the fundamental importance of dialogue. “Dialogue,” he said, “is what creates peace. It is impossible for peace to exist without dialogue. All the wars, all the strife, all the unsolved problems over which we clash are due to a lack of dialogue. When there is a problem, talk: This makes peace.”
This dialogue is still possible and must be pursued with urgency, for the sake of the people of Syria and all the inhabitants of the region.
Thank you, Mr. President.
 Wednesday General Audience, 12 October 2016.
 Wednesday General Audience, 21 August 2013.