Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

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December 29, 2023


We thank the UAE for calling this meeting.

We thank our briefers – Khaled Khiari, Marwan Muasher, and Itay Epshtain – for their informative briefings.

We follow with concern the unrelenting tension in the West Bank, where, against the backdrop of Israel’s deadly cleansing of the Gaza Strip, no less brutal attacks by extremist settlers and forceful raids by Israeli security forces are taking place. That threatens not only to expand the scale of the humanitarian disaster in the OPT but also to spread the crisis to the entire region. The security of Lebanon and Syria is at risk. Besides, violence around the enclave provokes tensions in Iraq and Yemen, whereas Egypt and Jordan are facing unprecedented risks of a mass exodus of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank.


According to the UN data, 304 Palestinians, including 79 children, have been killed by the Israeli military and settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since October 7 this year. That makes 60% of all Palestinians (504 people) who have been killed in the West Bank in 2023. Thus, 2023 was the deadliest year on record for West Bankers. The number of those wounded by the Israeli military, as well as settlers, stands at almost 4,000 Palestinians, including 576 children.

Speaking of violence in the West Bank, we would like to underscore on a separate note that Israel’s numerous security operations in that part of the occupied Palestinian territories began long before the terrorist attack of 7 October, which, I wish to stress once again, we strongly condemn. Beginning of those raids was not linked in any way to the terrorist threat, on which pretext the Israelis have embarked on an unprecedented (in terms of casualties and destruction) cleansing of Gaza, where the number of victims has already exceeded 21,000, and the number of casualties among the UN personnel has reached 144, including UNRWA, WHO and UNDP staff. In addition, 311 healthcare workers and 103 journalists had become victims of Israeli attacks.

Against that backdrop, the confiscation of Palestinian property and the demolition of their homes continue, while West Jerusalem pursues its illegal policy towards expanding Israeli settlements in violation of the provisions of Security Council resolution 2334.


We believe the primary task is to stop the bloodshed and create conditions for the provision of necessary humanitarian assistance to all those in need in the occupied Palestinian territories. Unfortunately, numerous attempts (that we made together with like-minded delegations), to secure the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire everywhere, at least for humanitarian purposes, have been met with stiff opposition from the United States. Such a line by Washington stems from its one-sided and selfish position aimed at usurping any Middle East settlement processes and covering up for any steps of its regional ally, Israel. In fact, the United States today remains the only state in the world, apart from Israel, that opposes the international consensus, according to which there is no alternative to a humanitarian cessation of hostilities in Gaza.

As a result, since the beginning of the crisis, the Council has adopted two “toothless” resolutions, 2712 and 2720, which Washington had left emasculated and lacking a direct demand for the parties to cease fire – something that heads of international humanitarian agencies and Secretary-General Guterres called for repeatedly. Without a hint of hesitation, the United States blotted out any such passages from UNSC documents when the delegations first got down to negotiations. The Americans allowed only extremely weakened language that would in no way prevent the continuation of Israel’s military operation in Gaza. As a result, through the fault of the United States alone, the Security Council, the main UN body for maintaining international peace and security, turned out unable to fulfill its direct mandate for three months now. This unacceptable situation reveals the obvious double standards of our American colleagues with regard to the crises in Gaza and other regions of the world.

The Russian Federation abstained on both resolutions, responding to appeals of Palestinian and Arab representatives. At the same time, we cherish our historically close relations with both Palestinians and Israelis and reaffirm our unchanged approaches. We condemn the terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October, but that should not and cannot justify the ensuing collective punishment of Palestinian civilians. The Permanent Representative of Israel has just named all the remaining Israeli hostages in Gaza. I would like to remind, as my colleague from the United Arab Emirates has already said, that we call for their immediate release in all our statements and the Security Council calls for that in all its products. This being said, I would like to ask a question: how many hostages have been released during Israel’s operation in Gaza? How many were killed by friendly fire and how many – during the seven-day humanitarian pause? The answer is obvious. How does the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian women and children in Gaza help the task of releasing the hostages?

Therefore, we have consistently advocated an urgent ceasefire as a prerequisite for ensuring the safety of the civilian population, unimpeded humanitarian access to all those in need, release of detainees including hostages, and the return of this conflict’s resolution process to the political and diplomatic track.

Unfortunately, the political horizon that many are talking about is not in sight yet. But it is important to work now to restore that political horizon in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process on a universally recognized international legal basis that provides for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, coexisting in peace and security with Israel. Only this balanced and unbiased approach based on international law, rather than attempts to achieve economic “truce” between a number of Arab states and Israel without a just solution to the Palestinian problem, can secure a sustainable peace in the Middle East.

Thank you.

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