Statement by Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon at the United Nations Security Council meeting on the Middle East

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We must collectively create the opportunity for more pauses in Gaza: Lord Ahmad’s statement at the UN Security Council

29 November 2023

Thank you, Mr President. Your Excellencies, may I begin by thanking Secretary-General Guterres and Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland for their detailed briefings.

As we look towards the Middle East, a tragedy is unfolding in front of our very eyes. Israel has suffered the worst terror attack in its history and Palestinians are experiencing a devastating and growing humanitarian crisis as a result of the ensuing Israeli military action.

Mr President, every life matters. Israeli or Palestinian. Every innocent civilian life lost, Palestinian or Israeli, is a tragedy. Indeed, we also collectively mourn the loss of all innocent, innocent lives lost, including those of UN personnel delivering vital life saving aid in Gaza.

Yet the past week has provided much needed respite in hostilities. The agreement was an important opportunity for providing hope and relief to the families of the hostages, and for allowing vital humanitarian assistance into Gaza. But this should not be a one off. We must collectively build from it and create the opportunity for more. Including follow up and ensuring more humanitarian grounds for such cessation. Hostages must be released. Aid must get in and civilians must be protected.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit Qatar recently to discuss this very conflict and take the opportunity to recognise their pivotal role in this agreement, together with that of Egypt and the United States. Just last week, the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where he met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. During their meetings, they discussed the importance of securing the release of hostages, addressing the humanitarian crisis, which included the British Foreign Secretary announcing a further $38 million in UK humanitarian aid, and also emphasising the need to find a long-term political solution to this conflict based on the two-state solution. In Israel, he discussed the need to immediately de-escalate in the West Bank, where tragically more than 200 Palestinians have been killed, and to prevent further escalation, which disrupts regional peace and security – concerns we all share. And whilst we welcome statements condemning settler violence, the United Kingdom is clear there must be justice and Israel must hold those responsible to account.

Equally, the UK’s position on Israeli settlements is also clear and long standing. They are illegal under international law and contrary to the cause of peace. The UK is also clear that Iran poses an unacceptable threat to the region through its destabilising activity and long term support for its proxies and partners in the region, including Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. We condemn the unlawful seizure of the MV Galaxy Leader and call for the immediate and unconditional release of the ship and its crew.

On our part across the region, the United Kingdom is working intensively with all partners on this particular issue, on the importance of humanitarian relief, on the importance of hostage relief, on the importance of preventing further escalation. The UK also further echoes UNIFIL’s call for a cessation of hostilities across the Blue Line and for renewed commitment to implementing UN Security Council resolution 1701.

The UK, from the start of events through the Hamas attack on Israel on the 7th October, has been clear that Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism. But in doing so, Israel must act in accordance with international law. Of which safeguarding civilian life is key and pivotal. Frankly, tragically too many innocent civilians, including many children, have lost their lives. And we must work collectively to find solutions to this long-standing conflict.

Ultimately, we must find that pathway to peace and ensure, yes, events like October the 7th never happen again. And therefore equally, let us commit ourselves to ensure we deliver sustainable peace. The United Kingdom believes in a negotiated settlement in line with Security Council resolutions, leading to a safe and secure Israel, living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. A vision but to which we must now all work together to turn that vision into a reality. A reality of ensuring security. A reality of ensuring justice. A reality of ensuring peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike. This must be our shared, long term, deliverable objective. Peace may seem difficult, but, Mr President, peace is achievable. Peace is attainable. And we must work together to deliver that noble goal.

Thank you, Mr President.

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