Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at the UNSC Meeting on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question

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November 29, 2023


We thank Chinese Presidency for hosting this meeting. We commend the input of Beijing in multilateral efforts aimed at resolving the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone.

For more than two months now, a conflict of biblical proportions has been raging in the Middle East. It is no exaggeration to say that it has become one of the deadliest regional conflicts in decades. The casualties count sets monstrous records. In less than two months, 1,200 Israelis and about 15,000 Palestinian civilians (half of them children) have been killed. An unprecedented 1.7 million Gazans have been internally displaced since 1948. More than 111 staff members of the United Nations humanitarian agencies have died.

We extend condolences to all the civilians killed and injured in Israel and Palestine, as well as to the families of the fallen humanitarian workers. We are very grateful to all humanitarian personnel who continue to courageously fulfil their duty on the ground despite risks to life that they face nearly every hour.

As bitter as it is to admit, I will say it bluntly that their contribution to mitigating the consequences of this escalation for ordinary people is far greater than that of the UN Security Council. This is a good time to ask ourselves how this was possible.

Responding to the overall reasonable calls for the unity of this Council, I would like to touch upon a few points that turn out very unhandy for our Western colleagues and that are crucial for understanding the current situation.

The first of them is the blatant double standards of Western delegations as regards the Palestinian people. Let me give you a few very telling examples. How many times have Western delegations requested Security Council meetings on Ukraine? At least twice a month. The United States and Albania express their concern about the political aspects of the crisis, while France and Ecuador position themselves as champions of the humanitarian track.

How many times have the mentioned delegations requested Security Council meetings on the Middle East issue? Not a single one. Colleagues, why so timid? Or is the fate of the Palestinian population not as interesting for your capitals in terms of scoring domestic political points?

We have already observed these same double standards in all their glory in the situation with the migration crisis in the EU, when Ukrainian refugees receive all sorts of benefits and preferences just because they are supposedly “accustomed to this way of life” back at home, whereas refugees from Africa and the Middle East have to stay in camps in horrifying conditions.

By the way, yesterday a huge scandal broke out in Ukraine after Sergei Leshchenko, an adviser to the Office of the President of Ukraine, posted a video where he was seen in a nightclub in Kiev that was packed full with partying young people. Ukrainians were outraged by this story because it happens against the backdrop of an all-out conscription in Ukraine. But I want to ask you about something else. Two years into our special military operation, there are nightclubs in Kiev that work just fine and obviously are rather popular. How many entertainment establishments are there working in Gaza? Even asking this sounds blasphemous against the backdrop of the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, food enterprises and civilian infrastructure in general. Residents of Gaza are not up for parties now.

Next up is the issue of children. When on camera, Western states express enormous hypocritical “concern” about Ukrainian children not disdaining to spread absolutely ridiculous and disgusting rumors about their “abduction” in order to denigrate Russia. Despite the fact that Russia is doing everything possible to protect children from the consequences of the West-inspired Ukrainian crisis.

What about the Palestinian children? Secretary-General Guterres said that Gaza has become a graveyard for children. These words make any sane person shudder. After just one month of the escalation, more children have died in Gaza than in all conflicts over the past few years. Every day, dozens if not hundreds of children are killed and maimed in the enclave. Schools and hospitals are being targeted by the IDF. The child’s basic rights to life and health have been violated. Dear Western colleagues, where are your requests to the ICC for arrest warrants? Where are your efforts to create boards of inquiry and tribunals?

Another indicative aspect is the situation of women. Western delegations are very vocal about equality, demanding that the mantra about the need to ensure “meaningful participation of women in the political decision-making process” be added to literally every Security Council product. They demand that the gender aspect be taken into account even in those topics that objectively have nothing to do with it, e.g. nuclear disarmament.

So what women are you worrying about? Surely, not the Palestinian women who have been deprived even of a very basic right to life and security. You all heard the blood chilling reports from the Executive Directors of UN-Women, Sima Bahous, and the UNFPA, Natalia Kanem, at the recent briefing about the suffering of women in Gaza, which is a suffering of a kind that, due to physiological reasons, cannot be experienced by men. Palestinian women in the enclave have to give birth in unsanitary conditions under falling bombs and undergo abdominal surgery without anesthesia or medications. Western delegations on the Security Council prefer to remain bashfully silent on this matter. How can you be called champions of “women, peace, and security” agenda then? We only see hypocrites and unscrupulous opportunistic players who can, if politically feasible, turn a blind eye to whatever crimes or, on the contrary, look for crimes where there are none.

Esteemed colleagues,

Over these weeks, one extremely unsightly fact has become clear. For the West, the Palestinians are second-class people, whose interests it is simply not interested in protecting. This is the main reason for the problems that the Security Council has faced in its decision-making.

For almost two months, the international community, humanitarian agencies, NGOs and ordinary people have been calling on the Security Council to demand an immediate ceasefire from the parties. Russia has been talking about this from the very beginning of the escalation. We were the first to propose a draft resolution to the Council. That was back on October 16. A few days later, we put forward a second draft. But this call has not been implemented to this day. A sustainable ceasefire is not just a moral imperative but the only guarantee of an effective humanitarian response, which simply cannot be provided amidst hostilities.

The most that the Council has been able to produce in all this time is the toothless resolution 2712 on humanitarian pauses without any mechanism for monitoring its implementation. It is not surprising that the resolution is not being observed. Through the efforts of the United States, its initially correct message was extremely emasculated. Now it does not contain a demand for a ceasefire, nor does it provide for practical measures to ensure wide and unimpeded access and provide assistance to those in need. The resolution left out Israel’s military raids in the West Bank and arbitrary air raids against Syria, as well as growing tensions on the Blue Line with Lebanon, which are fraught with further expansion of the crisis in the Middle East. Unfortunately, representatives of the Israeli leadership took full advantage of the rift in the Security Council (that had been provoked by the United States) and were quick to call the adopted resolution “pointless,” declaring an intention to ignore it and continue to “cleanse” the Gaza Strip, which was followed by more bombings of schools, hospitals, mosques, churches and UNRWA facilities.

Colleagues, you are well aware that this is an explicit violation of a Security Council resolution and Article 25 of the UN Charter. However, you did not utter a word of condemnation, which you obviously would have spouted generously in some other country-specific situations. This is another demonstration of your blatant double standards.

Of course, it is gratifying that the recent humanitarian pause and hostage exchange helped to save lives. But these steps resulted from an agreement between regional actors and have nothing to do with the mentioned decision of the Security Council. Although this agreement offers some glimmer of hope, it is neither sustainable nor comprehensive, in particular it has not allowed Palestinians to return to the north of the enclave and does not cover Syria and Lebanon.

So the main question is what awaits the long-suffering Gaza and other occupied Palestinian territories tomorrow. Risks are high that in the absence of a clear and verifiable decision by the Security Council on a ceasefire, this short respite will be followed by a new round of violence, and the people of Gaza, who received assistance during the humanitarian pause, will be dying again under a new shelling. The worst-case scenario is very likely, which is confirmed by unequivocal statements of representatives of the Israeli leadership about plans to continue the intensive “cleansing” of the Gaza Strip after the pause is over. Therefore, it is important that humanitarian pauses and resolution of Gaza’s pressing humanitarian issues should pave the way to a ceasefire rather than give a de facto green light to Israel to continue the bloodshed in Gaza.

There is but one recipe. The UN Security Council needs to adopt decisive measures in this regard to be secured, unlike any bilateral agreements, by a mechanism of international monitoring. As a first step, we expect that the Secretary-General, as prescribed by resolution 2712, will present proposals as soon as possible on specific options to establish a mechanism for monitoring implementation of the resolution. Today we heard him speak about a working group to look into this issue. But how long will we have to wait for the results of its work? We believe one of the options could be to expand the mandate of the UN Truce Supervision Organization. This body has more than two hundred military observers, which number can be increased given an increase in resources. We demand that the Secretary-General work on this option or propose an alternative.


Speaking about the tomorrow of this conflict, it is time to think about the day after too. There are many questions about the path to reconstruction of Gaza and, in general, about the future long-term solution to the Palestinian problem. And without its solution, it is impossible to ensure a truly sustainable security for Israel.

Russia is working actively at this track. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently held a meeting in Moscow with members of the Committee, which had been created by the decision of the extraordinary joint summit of the League of Arab States (LAS) and the OIC on the situation in the Gaza Strip on November 11 in Riyadh. While strongly condemning terrorism in all its manifestations, the participants unanimously spoke out in favor of the early establishment of a sustainable ceasefire and ensuring the protection of civilians.

We should also focus on preparations for restarting the peace process on an internationally recognized basis, approved within the UN and backed by the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which was put forward by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and found support of all members of the League of Arab States and the OIC.

We are talking, first of all, about the creation of an independent integral sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, which will coexist in peace and security with Israel. It is clear that in order to move towards this goal, along with efforts that involve resolving the most pressing humanitarian issues I mentioned, we need to establish a collective diplomatic mechanism. We are convinced that the countries of the region, Arab and Islamic states should play an important role in this mechanism.

The “Quartet” of international mediators, essentially dissolved by the decision of the United States (as we know, the US refused to work in this format), unfortunately, did not include representatives of the Arab and Islamic world. It included Russia, the US, the EU, and the UN. To compensate for this shortcoming, we advocated (long before the current events) for the Quartet to work in full coordination with the League of Arab States. Our Western partners were not too enthusiastic about this, to put it mildly. The UN, unfortunately, has not shown proper initiative in this matter. As a result, the Quartet was never allowed to fulfil the tasks assigned to it by the UN Security Council.

A renewed external support mechanism for elaborating terms for a lasting and sustainable settlement based on a two-state solution must be truly representative and include the regionals who do understand (no worse, or even better than the others) how to achieve a fair solution that will be based on an agreed international legal framework. We are ready for such work after the fire of the current regional escalation is put out. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go.

Thank you.

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