European Union Statement delivered by Mr. Thibault Camelli, Chargé d’affaires a.i., Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the ‘Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question’

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27 July 2023

Thank you Madame President,

The European Union and its Member States are deeply concerned by the increasing violence and extremism in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, which are leading to appalling numbers of civilian casualties.

The EU deplores the increase in violence that not only results in tragic loss of lives, but also fuels tensions and animosity. It calls on all sides to genuinely recommit to reaching a two-state solution in order to enhance stability, increase prosperity and strengthen security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

We continue to call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to de-escalate the situation and to refrain from actions that will increase tension.

The status quo of the Holy Sites must be upheld in line with previous understandings and with respect to Jordan’s special role. Peaceful coexistence between Christians, Jews and Muslims must be maintained.

The EU strongly condemns the indiscriminate launching of rockets by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups into Israel. The EU recognises Israel’s right to self-defence and to protect its civilian population, while underlining that this right must be exercised in a proportionate manner, and in full respect of international humanitarian law.

We firmly condemn recent terror attacks in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as all forms of terrorism, and deplore the tragic loss of lives. We remain committed to Israel’s security and the prevention of and fight against terrorism and violent extremism. There must be an immediate end to terror attacks, which everyone should condemn, and to practices that support them.

We reaffirm our commitment to implement previous Council conclusions, resolution 2334, as well as the applicability of international human rights and humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory. We reiterate our strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and activities, including in and around East Jerusalem. Such actions as evictions, forced transfers, demolitions and confiscations of homes will only escalate an already tense environment and threaten the viability of a two-state solution.

Israel must stop settlement expansion and legalisation, prevent settler violence, and ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable.

The EU will not recognise changes to the 1967 lines, unless agreed by the parties.

The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip requires further easing of restrictions, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

Madame President,

The EU reaffirms its commitment to a just and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, based on the two‑state solution, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign, and viable State of Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security and mutual recognition, and with Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both states.

It is vital to restore a political horizon towards a two-state solution. Only a negotiated agreement offers a chance of security and peace for all.

There is an urgent need for a new perspective for peace. On February 13, the EU High Representative/Vice President, Saudi Foreign Minister, and Arab League Secretary-General agreed to explore ways to revive and safeguard the prospect of the two-State solution and to achieve a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. The EU reaffirmed its proposal of an unprecedented package of economic, political, and security support in the context of a final status agreement, as endorsed in the Council conclusions of December 2013. In this effort, we look forward to working closely with other Arab and international partners.

The EU will continue to call upon the Palestinian Authority to hold free, transparent, and inclusive national elections without further delay. It urges all Palestinian factions to engage in good faith in the reconciliation process, adhere to previous agreements, renounce violence and terrorism, recognise Israel’s right to exist, and commit to democratic principles, including the rule of law. Democratic Palestinian institutions, based on respect for the rule of law and human rights, are vital for the Palestinian people, and, ultimately, for the two-state solution.

Palestinian civil society must be allowed by all parties to carry out its important task freely, while freedom of expression must be upheld. The EU is proud of its continued support to civil society that contributes to peace efforts and confidence building between Israelis and Palestinians.

In preparation for the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in the margin of UNGA in September, the EU calls for implementation of the commitments made at the previous meetings.

Until there is a just, fair, agreed and realistic solution to the refugee issue in accordance with international law, UNRWA remains crucial for providing the necessary protection and essential services for Palestine refugees, and supporting peace and stability in the region. The EU will continue to support UNRWA in all its fields of operations, including in East Jerusalem.

The EU will closely monitor developments and their implications on the ground, and remains ready to contribute further to the protection and the viability of the two‑state solution.

Madame President,

Syria continues to be a high priority for the European Union and its Member States.

At the seventh Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the region, hosted and chaired by the European Union last June, the international community pledged 5.6 billion EUR for 2023 and beyond, including 4.6 in 2023, for supporting people inside Syria and the neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees. The European Union pledged 70% of the total grants, or 3.8 billion EUR, with 2.1 billion by the European Commission and 1.7 by the EU Member States. In addition, international financial institutions and donors have announced 4 billion EUR in loans (in concessional terms), bringing the total of grants and loans to 9.6 billion EUR, an increase of 800 million compared to what was achieved during last year’s conference.

This is a tangible demonstration that the international community stands by the Syrian people and those hosting them. The conference reiterated the political, humanitarian and financial commitment of the international community towards the Syrian people and renewed the continuous and steadfast support of the international community to Syria’s neighbours in addressing the immediate and long-term challenges brought upon them by the conflict.

The European Union and its Member States continue to be the largest donor and have mobilised over 30 billion EUR to support Syrians in Syria and in the region to meet the needs arising from the Syrian crisis since 2011.

The only path to sustainable peace for Syria is a political solution in line with Resolution 2254, with the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women and in line with the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. In the thirteenth year of the conflict, it remains essential that the international community continue to pursue a sustainable and comprehensive political solution in Syria. The EU stands firm in its commitment towards this goal, supporting the continuous efforts of UN Special Envoy Pedersen to advance on all aspects of Resolution 2254, including his “steps‑for‑steps” approach in furthering the political process and resuming the work of the Constitutional Committee.

The EU has taken note of the sovereign decision of the League of Arab States to readmit Syria. Our position has not changed: we reiterate that no normalisation, lifting of sanctions, or reconstruction will be possible until the Syrian regime engages in a credible, sustainable, and inclusive political process, in the framework of resolution 2254. The EU notes, however, that, in light of the recent earthquakes, the Security Council adopted humanitarian exemptions to UN sanction regimes in resolution 2664. While EU restrictive measures do not stand in the way of humanitarian relief efforts, food or medical supplies, the EU has decided, in the same spirit, to apply temporary exemptions to its own autonomous sanctions regime for Syria. This will facilitate the speedy delivery of humanitarian assistance and aid, and help respond to the continuing urgency of the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Accountability and justice for victims is essential for a stable, peaceful Syria. All parties responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights including sexual and gender-based violence, must be held accountable. We reiterate our call to have the situation in Syria referred to the International Criminal Court.

In the absence of international processes for justice, the prosecution of war crimes and other serious crimes under national jurisdiction where possible, now under way in several EU Member States, represents a crucial contribution towards securing justice, as does the Dutch‑Canadian initiative to hold Syria to account for breaching the UN Convention Against Torture. We will continue to support efforts to gather evidence with a view to future legal action, including by the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria and the work of the Commission of Inquiry.

The European Union commends Syria’s neighbouring countries for hosting large numbers of refugees for more than a decade. We recall that the underlying causes of the refugee and displacement crises must be addressed under resolution 2254. The European Union continues to warn against any further displacements, in any part of Syria, as well as against the potential exploitation of such displacements for the purpose of social and demographic engineering. Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries are still unable to go back home as the conditions for safe, dignified and voluntary return, in line with the parameters defined by UNHCR and in accordance with international law, are not fulfilled. It is the responsibility of the Syrian regime to remove these obstacles and we will only be in a position to support returns once these conditions are satisfied.

The Syrian regime must fully cooperate with the OPCW and its investigations on the use of chemical weapons in the conflict, including the attack in Douma, as well as on the completion of the dismantling of its chemical weapons programme. The European Union, as a member of the International Partnership against impunity for the use of chemical weapons, will continue to work towards ensuring full accountability.

Madame President,

The European Union deplores the veto the Russian Federation cast, on July 11, on the renewal of Resolution 2672 regarding cross-border delivery of humanitarian assistance in Northwest Syria. This veto will further exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in the region, and will gravely disrupt the delivery of life-saving humanitarian supplies to millions in need. We call on the Security Council to undertake every effort to find a solution that will enable cross-border assistance to continue.

Civilians must be protected at all times. The European Union echoes the calls made by the Security Council for the implementation of a nationwide ceasefire. Türkiye’s security concerns stemming from northern Syria need to be addressed through political and diplomatic means, and in full compliance with international human rights law.

Early recovery projects are important to support resilience, community capacity-building, and self-reliance of the Syrian people and for their future. EU-funded projects in this regard are intended for those in genuine need, and designed to strengthen the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of the humanitarian response. The European Union will not, however, fund early recovery efforts that could support social and demographic engineering.

Syria has one of the highest numbers of detained, abducted, and missing persons in the world due to the ongoing conflict. We therefore welcome the adoption of the GA resolution for the establishment of a new Independent Institution on Missing Persons in the Syrian Arab Republic. The new Institution will address a clear humanitarian imperative: it will not only clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons in Syria; it will also provide adequate support to meet the needs of the victims, survivors, and the families of those missing. The European Union stands ready to support this new Institution.

We also salute the ongoing work of the other actors on this issue, including Syrian civil society, the International Commission on Missing Persons, the ICRC and the OHCHR and emphasise the need for enhanced cooperation. We look forward to engaging constructively in the upcoming discussions to establish the new mechanism.

The EU remains committed to the unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Syrian state, and will continue to call on all parties to the conflict, particularly the Syrian regime and its allies, to advance a credible, sustainable, and inclusive political solution, based on the full and comprehensive implementation of resolution 2254. It is the only route to sustainable peace in Syria.

I thank you Madam President.

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