Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States delivered by H.E. Mr. Olof Skoog, Ambassador, Head of the 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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24 October 2023

Our thoughts today are with all the innocent victims – Israelis, Palestinians, citizens from many other countries, as well as staff members of the UN and other humanitarian organisations. We commend all humanitarians who continue their invaluable work under dire circumstances and at a great sacrifice.

There is no justification for terror. The European Union has condemned in the strongest possible terms Hamas’ brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks across Israel.

We call on Hamas to immediately release all hostages without any precondition. Human suffering cannot be a bargaining chip.

We have also strongly emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself in line with international law including international humanitarian law, particularly the Geneva Conventions, in the face of such violent and indiscriminate attacks.


International humanitarian law is clear: protection of all civilians must be ensured by all parties to the conflict.

We condemn all acts directed against civilians and call for their protection, especially of children, and urge the parties to exercise restraint and remind them of their obligations under the universal principles of International Humanitarian Law.

We call for the protection of medical facilities, schools and UN premises, as well as other infrastructure meant to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. All civilian infrastructure must be protected.


The UN has been clear: the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza is about to reach a breaking point. We need to prevent an even bigger human catastrophe. The civilian population is in desperate need of food, water, fuel, electricity, and medical care, as well as safe shelter. Access to these necessities must be urgently restored.

This is why the EU supports the Secretary-General’s call for safe, full and unimpeded access throughout Gaza and a sustained effort to deliver vital, lifesaving assistance to the vulnerable population.  What is needed now is the establishment of humanitarian corridors and pauses, to ensure the release of hostages, and to allow the safe passage to Gaza of relief supplies and humanitarian personnel, in conditions of full protection, while ensuring that such assistance is not abused by terrorist organisations but ends up in the hands of those in need.

We welcome the opening of the Rafah crossing. It is crucial that the delivery of assistance is ramped up to meet the high level of needs.


The provision of urgent humanitarian assistance is vital and the EU, together with our partners, is ready to continue supporting those civilians most in need in Gaza.

The EU has already stepped up its emergency assistance to the Palestinian people, tripling it to a total amount of over €75 million to support civilians in need in Gaza, and triggered the full activation of the EU Integrated Political Crisis Response to ensure fast and coordinated humanitarian response. Individually, EU Member States have also increased their financial support. The EU has also launched an EU Humanitarian Air Bridge with flights to Egypt to bring lifesaving supplies to humanitarian organisations on the ground in Gaza.

It is also essential to allow citizens of third countries to leave Gaza. We call on all sides to allow safe passage for those who wish to leave Gaza and return to safety in their home countries.

Mr. President,

It is also crucial to prevent regional escalation including a deterioration of the situation in the West Bank. The EU is actively discussing with partners and key stakeholders, and we call on regional actors to refrain from any action that can further aggravate the situation. We underline the need to engage broadly with the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli authorities, as well as regional and international partners who could have a positive role to play in preventing further escalation. We welcome the cooperation of regional actors aimed at opening humanitarian access to Gaza.

We remain committed to a lasting and sustainable peace based on the two-state solution and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, through reinvigorated efforts in the Middle East Peace Process, including the Peace Day Effort.

Allow me to turn to the situation in Syria.

The European Union upholds its firm conviction that the only path to sustainable peace for Syria is a political solution in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and in line with the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. The European Union stands firm in its commitment towards this goal, supporting the continuous efforts of United Nations Special Envoy Pedersen to advance on all aspects of UNSCR 2254, including his “stepsforsteps” approach in furthering the political process and an early resuming of the work of the Constitutional Committee.

The European Union position on Syria has not changed and will not change until requisite progress has been achieved on the implementation of UNSCR 2254. For the EU, as for a number of other partners, there will be no normalisation; no lifting of sanctions and no reconstruction until the Syrian regime engages in a credible sustainable and inclusive political process.

Civilians must be protected and international law respected 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 respect for international law.

Accountability and justice for victims will be essential for a stable and 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 is under way in several EU Member States, and it represents a crucial contribution towards securing justice, as do the proceedings brought by Canada and the Netherlands before the International Court of Justice concerning Syria’s breaches of the UN Convention Against Torture.

The European Union welcomes the creation of the Independent Institution on Missing Persons in the Syrian Arab Republic which will clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons in Syria and provide adequate support to meet the needs of the victims, survivors and the families of those missing; and stands ready to support the new institution.

14 October 2023 marked the tenth anniversary of Syria becoming a State party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Syria joined the CWC in the aftermath of the horrific chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the Syrian regime on 21 August 2013 in the Ghouta district of Damascus, which killed more than 1,400 people. The European Union reiterates its call on the Syrian authorities to 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.

Mr President,

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 crisis must be addressed under UNSCR 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.  In this regard the EU takes note of the commitments expressed by Syrian Permanent Representative at the UNHCR Executive Committee on 10 October and expects the regime to actively work on their concrete implementation.

The European Union deplores the veto by the Russian Federation in the UN Security Council on 11 July 2023 on the renewal of the United Nation Security Council Resolution 2672 (2023) regarding cross-border delivery of humanitarian assistance to people in Northwest Syria . Uninterrupted and principled delivery of UN cross-border humanitarian assistance remains vital for 4.1 million Syrians living in Northwest Syria, including 2.8 million internally displaced. Their lives depend on this humanitarian assistance. While we welcome the continuation of cross-border humanitarian assistance to Northwest Syria, efforts for a sustainable solution need to continue. After the termination of the cross-border mechanism, we also encourage the Secretary General to continue reporting to donor countries on the delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria and to ensure full transparency.

At the Seventh Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, hosted in June 2023 by the European Union, the international community pledged EUR 5.6 billion for 2023 and beyond for supporting people inside Syria and the neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees. The European Union and its Member States continue to be the largest donor and have mobilised over EUR 30 billion to support Syrians in Syria and in the region to meet the needs arising from the Syrian crisis since 2011.

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

Mr President,

The European Union 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 UNSCR 2254 as the only route to sustainable peace in Syria.

Thank you.

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