Address by Minister Mauro Vieira at the Security Council debate on the Middle East

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October 24, 2023

I thank the Secretary General, António Guterres, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Tor Wennesland, and Deputy Special Coordinator/ Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Ms Lynn Hastings, for their briefings.

We are witnessing unprecedented levels of violence in the region: since October 7th, more than 5.000 lives have been lost on both sides, and more than a million people have fled their homes in the Gaza Strip.

Allow me to quote President Lula on his appeal to reason: “Hamas must release Israeli children who were abducted from their families. Israel must cease bombing so that Palestinian children and their mothers can leave the Gaza Strip across the border with Egypt. There needs to be a minimum of humanity in the insanity of war.” [END OF QUOTE]

What President Lula is underscoring is that we are dealing with both a hostage and a humanitarian crises.

The acts of terrorism carried out against civilians in Israel resulted in over a thousand victims and the abduction of hundreds of innocent people, including children and the elderly. Three Brazilian citizens have been confirmed dead, victims of Hamas’ attacks. As we deeply mourn their passing, we cannot condone acts of terrorism. Violence only breeds further violence. I want to make an appeal therefore for the immediate and unconditional release of all civilian hostages in safety, in particular of women and children.

Acts of terrorism are heinous and criminal, and international law is clear on the ways to address it. The Security Council has created a significant body of counterterrorism norms. When counterterrorism efforts disregard basic norms and principles, including on the use of force, they reinforce rather than counter the narratives of terrorist groups. Hence, as an effective strategy to address the terrorist threats, it is imperative to ensure full respect for human rights, humanitarian law and refugee law. Children must always be treated primarily as victims, in a manner consistent with their rights, dignity and needs.

The escalating violence in Gaza is also unacceptable. So is the demolition of civilian infrastructure, which resulted in the destruction of 42% of civilian housing. We cannot tolerate the loss of over 2 thousand Palestinian children. As the occupying power, Israel has a legal and moral obligation to protect the local population under international humanitarian law. The recent events in Gaza are particularly concerning, including the so-called “evacuation order”, which is leading to unprecedented levels of misery for innocent people.

The number of trucks with humanitarian aid that crossed the Rafah border is utterly insufficient to meet the basic needs of the local population. The entire territory continues without power supply, impacting the work of health personnel. Hospitals are operating beyond full capacity. Access to drinkable water has been impeded. And many are resorting to improper sources of water.

Civilians must be respected and protected at all times and everywhere. All parties must strictly abide by their obligations under International Humanitarian Law. And I highlight, in this respect, the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality, humanity, necessity and precaution, which must guide and inform all actions and military operations.

Distinguished delegates,

We must not lose sight of the root causes of this conflict: oppression, social and economic inequalities, recurring violations of human rights.

2023 marks 75 years since the beginning of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is disheartening to see the lack of progress in the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis.

The stalemate in the peace process has been fueling an unsettling rise in violence. Even before the crisis in Gaza, 2023 was already the year with the highest death toll since 2005. The situation in the West Bank remains tense, with successive harmful incidents escalating into violence and leading to civilian casualties. The surge in settler-related violence is also alarming.

Achieving peace requires strict adherence to international law, as well as working towards realizing the two-state solution. As clearly stated by this Council, the continued occupation of the West Bank is unlawful and undermines the prospects for peace. Israel must stop all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. Difference of treatment towards settlers and locals is unacceptable. The current and projected expansion all but erases the viability of a future Palestinian state and engenders violence and hatred.

We also underscore the importance of preserving the historic status quo at the Holy Sites in Jerusalem and acknowledge the significance of the Hashemite Custody. Brazil urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint and abstain from provocations, including the use of extremist rhetoric.

Intra-Palestinian reconciliation is also pivotal. We acknowledge the meetings in Egypt focused on exploring reconciliation efforts among Palestinian factions. We encourage the continuation of diplomatic engagements to regional peace processes.

Brazil praises UNRWA’s invaluable humanitarian work for one of the world’s most vulnerable refugee populations, the Palestinians. And we mourn UNRWA`s brave workers who lost their lives in the line of duty since the beginning of current hostilities. Our commitment to UNRWA is reflected in our availability to hold the vice-chairmanship and the chairmanship of the Agency’s Advisory Commission from July 2024 and July 2025, respectively.

Distinguished delegates,

The broader Middle East has long been entangled in a web of conflicts. These conflicts lead to immeasurable suffering, grief, loss, hardship and, worst of all, hopelessness. They also severely destabilize the region. Now we see the very concrete risk of the crisis in Gaza spilling over to other parts of the region.

Amid all these daunting challenges, diplomacy and dialogue remain as our most powerful assets. The maritime dispute between Israel and Lebanon has been peacefully settled through negotiations. Similarly, the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran underscores the potential of good-faith engagement. The establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab countries also show the willingness to engage and cooperate. Such endeavors bring hope on peace in the region.

The League of Arab States plays a vital role in this context, by working tirelessly to mediate and foster dialogue between conflicting parties.

Distinguished delegates,

The Council has a crucial responsibility in the immediate response to the unfolding hostage and humanitarian crises. Much of the reputation of the United Nations depends on its approach to the ongoing crisis.

Since 2016, the Council has not been able to pass a resolution on the situation in the region. Obstructive strategies have been impeding that crucial decisions on international peace and security be taken. As a result, the situation in the Middle East is by far one of the most thwarted issues in the Security Council. This Council must be up to the challenge before us. We will likely be tried – and found guilty – by future generations for our inaction and complacency.

We must find ways to unlock multilateral action. Focusing on disagreements will not lead us to the direction of a much-needed solution to the unfolding dire human crises.

The Security Council should not shy away from its responsibility of calling for the liberation of the innocent people abducted from their families, as well as for their safety, well-being, and humane treatment.

There is a broad political call for the opening of urgently needed humanitarian corridors. A decision on the humanitarian aspects of the current crisis is within a hand’s reach of Council members, on condition that we refrain from politicization of the already complex situation on the ground.

Brazil will continue to promote dialogue among members and action on the part of the Council through the opening of possible avenues of negotiation. In this spirit, President Lula instructed me to attend the Cairo Peace Summit, the past Saturday, with an unequivocal message: to add Brazil’s voice to all those who are urging calm, restraint, and peace in the region. Despite the various positions of the member States there represented, consensus was possible on four major aspects, as follows: the end of violence, the implementation of cease-fire, the establishment of a humanitarian corridor, and the full endorsement of the two-State solution.

Enough of strife, suffering and instability. We need all stakeholders to see their own interests through new lenses, with long-term and far-sighted perspectives. We need solutions, no matter how politically difficult they may be. A peaceful and prosperous Middle East is to the benefit of all of us.

Thank you.

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