Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Security Council, Open Debate on
The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
New York, 29 April 2019
The Holy See wishes to thank the German Presidency for convening today’s Open Debate to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
In his briefings to this Council, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, frequently paints a bleak picture of the situation in which tensions fester and where intercommunity violence has the potential to flare up at any moment. In Gaza, a disastrous humanitarian situation feeds the despair among the Palestinian population, at times manipulated by extremist groups who resort to violence, while fear for Israeli security increases. Too many innocent civilians, on both sides, have paid the price of the indiscriminate use of violence and force.
The formation of a new Palestinian government, however, offers a glimmer of hope amid the shadows of despair that for far too long have characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, unity is essential for a politically stable and economically viable Palestine. In this regard, the Holy See commends the tireless efforts of neighboring countries for forging talks with the various Palestinian factions and facilitating dialogue among them. These efforts remain important to respect the inalienable rights and to achieve the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people as well as to attain lasting peace and security for Israel.
Real challenges, of course, remain. The increasingly fragmented Palestinian land will, with the passing of time, only make the two-State solution more difficult to realize. Difficulty, however, does not mean impossibility; it is therefore incumbent on the parties themselves, on regional actors and on the rest of the international community, to make every effort and use all their political and diplomatic persuasion to prevent this difficulty from becoming an impossibility. If the two-State solution is to become a reality, the cycle of violence needs to be broken and both parties must resolve to avoid unilateral actions that would undermine the two-State solution, as so often we hear repeated in this Chamber.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is experiencing a growth in demand for its services, continues to play an essential role not only in providing basic services for Palestine refugees but also as a critical component for wider regional development and security. The Holy See commends those countries that have increased their donations to enable the Agency to carry out its work to ensure that the refugee population, in particular the children in the refugee camps, can live with dignity.
Moves to change the identity of Jerusalem and its status quo, not only affect the already fragile populations who live there, but also have potentially detrimental effects on peace and stability in the region. In his recent visit to Morocco, Pope Francis and His Majesty King Mohammed VI made a joint appeal on the importance of preserving the Holy City of Jerusalem “as the common patrimony of humanity and especially the followers of the three monotheistic religions, as a place of encounter and as a symbol of peaceful coexistence, where mutual respect and dialogue can be cultivated.” They expressed their hope that “full freedom of access to the followers of the three monotheistic religions and their right to worship be guaranteed, so that in Jerusalem/Al-Quds Acharif they may raise their prayers to God, the Creator of all, for a future of peace and fraternity on the earth.”
I wish to conclude with a passage from the Easter message of Pope Francis for the Middle East: “May the light of Easter illumine all government leaders and peoples in the Middle East, beginning with Israelis and Palestinians, and spur them to alleviate such great suffering and to pursue a future of peace and stability.”
I thank you, Mr. President.
1. Appeal by His Majesty King Mohammed VI and His Holiness Pope Francis Regarding Jerusalem / Al-Quds: The Holy City and a Place Of Encounter, Rabat, 30 March 2019.
2. Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi Message, Easter, 21 April 2019.