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Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen in the Security Council VTC Meeting on the Middle East, October 26, 2020

27.10.2020 - Speech

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First I would like to welcome the signing of normalization agreements between Israel on the one side and United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan on the other. These developments are an important step towards more stability and peaceful relations between Israel and the Arab world. As the Israeli Ambassador said earlier, these developments offer new opportunities for further agreements. From our perspective, they also provide the unique momentum to stimulate the resumption of cooperation and peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

We remain convinced that sustainable peace, security and stability in the Middle East can only be reached with a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of international law, relevant UN resolutions and internationally agreed parameters. Just because international law and Security Council resolutions have come of age, it doesn't mean that they are less important or less relevant.

This conflict can and must finally be resolved, not just sought to be managed. Without this, we will only see a continuation of enmity, violence and bloodshed, as evidenced by the recent missile attacks from Gaza against Israel. Let me reiterate Germany's condemnation of all attacks and threats against Israel by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including the repeated firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel has the right to defend itself against such acts in a proportional manner. I regret that the Palestinian Foreign Minister has not criticized this, nor said anything about hate speech against Israel.

We are deeply concerned by the most recent decision taken by the Israeli authorities to advance, and grant permits for the construction of more than 4,900 settlement building units in the occupied West Bank. This is a counterproductive move. Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories are and remain illegal under international law. They severely undermine the prospects for ending the occupation and for a viable and contiguous Palestinian state within the framework of a negotiated two-state solution. I very much regret that the Israeli Permanent Representative has not mentioned anything about this regrettable illegal development. As we have emphasized directly with the Government of Israel, this step also undermines efforts to rebuild trust between Israelis and Palestinians, with a view to resuming dialogue.

We call on Israel to immediately halt all settlement constructions, including in East Jerusalem and sensitive areas such as Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and E1, as well as confiscations, evictions and demolitions of Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. We trust that Israeli annexation plans are truly and permanently suspended and call upon Israel to end the expansion of settlements. We emphasize that we will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, unless agreed to between the parties.

Germany remains committed to a negotiated two-state solution, where two sovereign, democratic and independent states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders on the basis of the 4 June 1967 lines. This is the only viable path to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis for a life in peace, dignity and with equal rights. We call on both sides to refrain from any unilateral action, recommit to their signed agreements, restore their cooperation and resume a credible dialogue. We are convinced that confidence-building steps on both sides would provide a path towards such a credible dialogue and eventually towards serious, meaningful and effective talks on all final status issues.

Together with Egypt, France and Jordan, we will continue our efforts and offer our active support and good offices in facilitating a path back towards cooperation, credible dialogue and a negotiated, peaceful settlement. Serious, meaningful and effective negotiations must be based on international law and agreed parameters and either be conducted directly between the parties or under an international umbrella, including the Middle East Quartet. The Palestinian proposal to convene an international conference is a proposal that is worth exploring in this context. We invite Special Coordinator Mladenov to consult with all relevant parties and to inform this Council about the feasibility of such a conference.

We call on both sides to fully implement Resolution 2334 with all its provisions.

We welcome the agreement among Palestinian factions to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza. We hope that such elections will take place soon, offer our support and call on Israel to enable the holding of elections in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Mr. President, in closing, I would like to commend the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem for treating the Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organization due to a life threatening COVID-19 infection. We wish Mr. Erekat a speedy and full recovery. And we are grateful to Hadassah for living up to its declared mission: “to extend a hand to all, without regard for race, religion or ethnic origin.” This is a spirit that is so sorely needed in the Middle East and, indeed, in the whole world.

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