Security Council Open Debate on
The Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
New York, 23 July 2019
The Holy See wishes to thank the Presidency of Peru for convening today’s Open Debate to discuss the Middle East including the Palestinian question.
Last month in his briefing to the Security Council, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, noted a dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza as well as continued violence in the West Bank. Lack of unity on both sides as well as internal divisions are abetting an environment of distrust. Fueled by dangerous rhetoric and extremist ideology, this lack of trust can sadly and rapidly devolve into violent acts that put the lives of innocent Palestinians and Israelis alike at risk and negatively impact the tense wider region. Such a situation cannot permit this Open Debate to remain merely a rehearsal of well-known facts and commentary on troubling setbacks and impediments to reaching the much sought after two-State solution within internationally recognized borders. It must lead to action.
Through generous donations mainly by means of UNRWA, the international community continues to ensure that education, health care and other basic services can be provided for Palestine refugees lest the situation on the ground become untenable. There is already high unemployment and limited prospects for the younger generations, alongside an ever-increasing demand for food and water. Yet while humanitarian and economic support remain vital for creating the environment for negotiations, they cannot replace negotiations. Political will and constructive dialogue are required to establish the conditions for lasting peace and a comprehensive and sustainable solution. An important contribution Member States can make at this time is to encourage parties to return to the negotiating table and offer them the space and resources to commit to dialogue as protagonists of their own peaceful future, side by side.
In our consideration of the Middle East, we cannot overlook the still unstable areas in Syria, where the risk of a worse humanitarian crisis remains high. We cannot be deaf to the cries of those lacking food, medical care and schooling, or to those of orphans, widows and the wounded. Yesterday, in his letter to President Bachar El-Assad, Pope Francis expressed his profound preoccupation for the humanitarian situation in Syria and, in particular, for the dramatic conditions faced by the civilian population in Idlib. He renewed his call for their protection and for respect of international humanitarian law. The worsening humanitarian situation in Yemen is also a cause for grave concern, in particular when those most in need are deprived of food and medical attention. The Council’s unanimous adoption on July 15 of Resolution 2481 to renew the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Support of the Hodeidah Agreement was a needed step to strengthen the implementation of the ceasefire in the governorate and to facilitate access to provisions and essential supplies. There is a need for coherence, however. How can we make eloquent appeals for peace in the Middle East and even commit to humanitarian action while at the same time continuing to permit the sale of arms in the region?
Iraq, after the unspeakable crimes that ISIL inflicted upon its population, especially members of religious and ethnic minorities, offers some hope as it moves forward along the way of reconciliation and reconstruction “through the peaceful and shared pursuit of the common good on the part of all elements of society.”1 In addition, it is essential that the international community continue to encourage and seek out every possible opportunity for negotiations and peaceful solutions to current crises in the Gulf region.
This is a critical moment in which all countries of the region must not squander peaceful advances by falling back into hostilities sparked by the simmering conflicts of the regional powers. 2 Rather it is essential to promote even more “dialogue for a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully; in this way, they can contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity.” 3
I thank you for your kind attention.
1 From the Address of his Holiness Pope Francis to the participants in the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), 10 June 2019
2 cf. idem.
3 Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, 4 February 2019