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

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October 24, 2023


Esteemed Minister Vieira,

We thank Secretary-General Guterres, Special Coordinator Wennesland, and Ms.Lynne Hastings for substantive briefings on the situation on the Middle East.

We believe it is important to underscore that in this hard time Secretary-General headed to the region in order to take personal efforts for the purpose of settlement and humanitarian response.

Unfortunately, this debate is taking place not simply on the UN Day, but against the backdrop of an unprecedented outbreak of violence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone which has triggered a dramatic increase in casualties on both sides. According to the latest updates, armed confrontation that started on 7 October resulted in deaths of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis. Approximately 18, 000 people have been injured. Among the victims, there are 19 nationals of the Russian Federation. I will not be reciting statistics, for we have heard the most accurate data already from Mr.Wennesland. From what he said it clearly follows that the scale of a humanitarian disaster in Gaza goes beyond all thinkable limits.

Colleagues, violence and killings that peaceful Israelis were exposed to on 7 October cannot be justified. We extend our deepest heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed and injured. Hostage-taking is unacceptable, and all hostages must be set free. Yet unfortunately, this is not an isolated episode. This horrendous action and the tragic events in the region that followed were the result of Washington’s longstanding destructive role and policy. Washington sabotaged resolution of fundamental issues pertaining to this long-standing conflict, sought to replace responsible participation in the Middle East settlement with palliative economic measures, which life has shown us do not meet the objectives of establishing peace and stability in the Middle East. Among other things, unilateral steps that West Jerusalem had been taking for many years in violation of UNSC decisions also played a role. This includes intake of Palestinian territories by settlers and undermining the status of Jerusalem’s Holy Sites. Look at our statements on the issue of Middle Eastern settlement process. Alongside with many others, we have been warning for years that the situation was escalating and prone to explode soon. And explode it did.

This crisis has confirmed that without a just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in accordance with UNSC and UNGA resolutions on the basis of the internationally endorsed two-state formula, stabilization in the region will remain an unattainable goal. Russia has been and remains committed to a principles and coherent position – we need a sustainable negotiations process taking place on a UN-endorsed platform, which should result in establishing a sovereign Palestinian state in 1967 borders and with a capital in East Jerusalem that should live side by side with Israel in peace and security.

The Council must take heed of this, otherwise this situation will recur. However now we all have a more urgent task to deal with – put an end to violence and open humanitarian access to Gaza who have suffered indiscriminate strikes by Israel and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law.

For these purposes, we initiated a draft UNSC resolution demanding to take urgent measures that were meant to put an end to violence, ensure immediate release of hostages, prevent a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, and keep the conflict from spreading itself in the region. About 30 countries acted as co-sponsors of our draft resolution, including 17 Arab states.

Unfortunately, because of Washington’s negative position on the Russian and then on the Brazilian draft resolutions, the Council once again failed to realize its main purpose as defined by the Charter, which is to maintain international peace and security. The result is obvious – continued escalation, accompanied by an increase in civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. After our draft resolution was not adopted, there was a terrible attack on the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza.


As the Security Council worked on draft resolutions on Gaza, a “common denominator” was identified that we can build on to elaborate a much-needed collective position of this Council on the events in Gaza. This is a set of humanitarian demands to the sides to this conflict, which UN humanitarian agencies and other humanitarians on the ground need implemented. We are convinced that the main demand of all is a ceasefire. To fail to incorporate this one in a UNSC product would be a step in a different direction which could be interpreted as Security Council’s support for Israel’s plans to start an ground operation in Gaza.

We believe that such a scenario is unacceptable, and this conviction is based on the positions not only of Arab and Islamic states but also of the main body of countries in the Global South. We understand the emotional state of the people of Israel who feel rage and indignation at the loss of so many of their compatriots. However, the history of the Middle East unmistakably shows that violence begets nothing but violence. This vicious circle must be disrupted. Israel’s prospective forceful operation in Gaza, carried out in the manner that we are seeing now, with gross violations of IHL and massive loss of civilian life, risks provoking a larger conflict that could encompass the entire region and even go beyond its borders. We would like to believe that none of the Security Council members is interested in this.

However, recent steps by our American colleagues cast doubt on this. For example, having vetoed Brazil’s humanitarian draft resolution, which was going to have the required support, the US delegation tries to advance a new draft that is full of politicized, inappropriate and highly questionable provisions. In order to make it easier for the US allies in the Security Council to swallow the “bitter pill” and vote in favor of the US-proposed text, authors have packed it with a set of haphazard humanitarian measures that Israel could agree to in the course of its ground operation. Besides, they made sure that nothing in the draft resolution would prevent West Jerusalem from carrying out an operation.

Colleagues, we are certain that the main signal that the world now expects from the Security Council is a demand for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire by the conflicting parties. And that is exactly what the American draft resolution does not contain. That is why we see no point in it and will not be able to support it. We trust that the majority of our colleagues on the Security Council will do the same.

And in order for the UN Security Council to be able to fulfil its purpose after all, we have prepared an alternative draft resolution, based on endorsed humanitarian language and incorporating important elements from the American, Brazilian and the first Russian drafts. Frankly speaking, we see no reason why members of the Security Council may fail to give it a green light, unless a ceasefire and putting an end to this new round of violence is not part of their plan at all.

We request the Brazilian Presidency to put our draft to a vote immediately after the American draft (unless, of course, our US colleagues prefer to withdraw their text) and open it to co-sponsorship by UN members. We count on your support, which would allow the UNSC to send a necessary signal and prevent further spread of the conflict.

Thank you.

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