July 25, 2017
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

Statement of Monsignor Simon Kassas
Chargé d’Affaires a.i.
Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations

United Nations Security Council Open Debate on
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

New York, 25 July 2017
Mr. President,

The Holy See commends the Presidency of the People’s Republic of China for bringing today’s topic to the attention of the Security Council and to the international community.

Four times a year, the Palestinian Question is discussed in an open debate in this Council. It has become so recurrent that many Statements on the theme already sound like broken records. These broken records will play on, unless a viable solution to the Palestinian Question is found. And play on they must, since, notwithstanding the multiple challenges facing the Middle East today, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process cannot be allowed to slip out of the top priorities of the international community and this Council.

The Holy See wishes to reiterate its firm support for the two-State solution, with the State of Israel and a Palestinian State existing side by side in peace within internationally recognized borders. If both Israel and Palestine are to enjoy security, prosperity and peaceful co-existence, there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement leading to a mutually agreed solution directly negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with the firm and even-handed support of the international community.

For this process to happen and succeed, Israelis and Palestinians must agree on substantial steps to lower tensions and de-escalate the violence on the ground. Both sides must refrain from actions, including with regard to settlements, that contradict their stated commitment to a negotiated solution. Recalling the 2014 joint visit in the Vatican of the late Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Pope Francis once again exhorted all to pray for peace and promote a culture of dialogue, so that we can “bequeath to [our children] a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion.”

The two-State solution will also require all the Palestinian factions to show a united political will and work together to address the needs of their people. A united Palestinian front would prove the commitment of the Palestinians to a peacefully negotiated settlement and would be key to the economic prosperity, social cohesion and political stability of a Palestinian State.

We must also not forget Jerusalem, a city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The historical status quo of the holy sites is a matter of profound sensitivities. The Holy See confirms its position in line with the international community and renews its support for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of the City of Jerusalem, reiterating, in this regard, the importance of a special status, internationally guaranteed, in order to ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of all its inhabitants, as well as the secure, free and unhindered access to the Holy Places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities.
Only last Sunday, during the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis, who is deeply concerned about the situation in Jerusalem, made a strong appeal for moderation and dialogue, praying that all may be inspired by the resolve to work for reconciliation and peace.
Mr. President,

The Holy See deeply regrets the loss of lives and properties in many parts of the Middle East caused by wars and conflicts, particularly in Syria, Yemen and in the northern region of Iraq, where the dramatic humanitarian situation calls for renewed commitment by all to arrive at a political solution to these conflicts.

Pope Francis deeply appreciates the tireless efforts of those toiling to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria. He encourages all actors to work toward a Syrian-led political process leading to a peaceful and inclusive transition, based on the principles of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012.  A peaceful settlement agreed upon by the Syrian parties will bring stability back to their country, allow for the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons, foster durable peace and reconciliation, create the necessary environment for effective counter-terrorism efforts, and maintain the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian State.

Christian communities have existed for over two thousand years in that region and have peacefully coexisted with the other communities. The Holy See urges the International Community, through the Security Council, not to forget them. The Holy See believes that the rule of law, including respect for religious freedom and equality before the law based on the principle of citizenship and regardless of one’s race, ethnic origin or religion, is fundamental toward the achievement and maintenance of the peaceful and fruitful coexistence among individuals, communities and nations in the whole region and beyond.

Mr. President,

The cessation of politics based on the force of arms and a peaceful settlement of the conflicts in the region, including a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will immediately restore our faith in political processes and negotiated solutions. Politics will again be seen by the people of the region and beyond as the art of governing well for the common good of all, and not as an instrument of dominance of one political or religious interest over the rest.

Thank you, Mr. President.