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Statement by Ambassador Günter Sautter in the Security Council VTC meeting on the Situation in the Middle East, November 18

18.11.2020 - Speech

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Let me start by extending our sincere condolences on the passing of Saeb Erekat. He was a champion for Palestinians’ rights and self-determination, and a passionate advocate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict with Israel through negotiations. We call on all political leaders in Israel and Palestine to honor Dr. Erekat’s legacy by continuing to actively pursue a peaceful and negotiated two-state solution.

Unfortunately, latest developments and negative trends on the ground imperil the prospect of a negotiated two-state solution on the basis of international law, relevant UN resolutions and internationally agreed parameters. These developments are increasingly entrenching a one-state reality.

We reiterate our grave concern regarding the publication of tenders for the construction of housing units in an entirely new settlement in East Jerusalem, namely Givat Hamatos. After the recent decision by the Israeli authorities to advance the construction of more than 4,900 settlement building units in the occupied West Bank, this is another counterproductive move at a critical point in time. Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories 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 with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states. As we have emphasized jointly with our European partners in numerous discussions with the Government of Israel, these steps also weaken efforts to rebuild trust and confidence between Israelis and Palestinians, with a view to resuming dialogue. We call on Israel to reverse these negative decisions and to immediately cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in sensitive areas around East Jerusalem, such as Givat Hamatos, Har Homa and E1.

We are also concerned by increasing seizures and demolitions of Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The demolition of Palestinian housing in the village of Khirbet Hamsa al-Foqa in the northern Jordan Valley, which has left eleven families homeless in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been the most recent incident in a worrying trend of confiscations and demolitions since the beginning of the year. We call on Israel to observe its obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular those contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians, in the occupied Palestinian territories and to halt all such demolitions.

The suspension of plans to annex parts of occupied Palestinian territories must become permanent. We re-emphasize that we will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. Also, we remind all states to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967 in accordance with their obligations under international law, in particular resolution 2334.

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, in dignity and with equal rights. And reaching a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also the only path to achieving sustainable peace, security and stability in the Middle East. We therefore call on both sides to refrain from unilateral action and recommit to their signed agreements. In this regard, we welcome yesterday’s announcement by the Palestinian Authority to restore cooperation in adherence to those agreements. It is an important step to build confidence. We hope and expect that Israel will also take steps to underscore its commitment to the two-state solution and signed agreements, seizing the positive dynamics of the normalization agreements of the recent weeks.

Together with Egypt, France and Jordan, we will continue our efforts and offer our active support in facilitating a path back towards cooperation, credible dialogue and serious, meaningful and effective negotiations on all final status issues.

We reiterate our call on both sides to fully implement resolution 2334 with all its provisions, i.e. not only with regard to settlement activities, but also with regard to all acts of violence against civilians, acts of terror, settler attacks, destruction, incitement, provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric.

Let me also 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.

Intra-Palestinian reconciliation and reuniting Gaza and the West Bank under a single, democratically elected government remain essential for achieving a two-state solution. We therefore hope that parliamentary and presidential elections in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza will take place soon. The EU is ready to support the holding of elections and we call on Israel to do its part, too.

UNRWA is a major provider of stability in the occupied Palestinian territories. Therefore, Germany is very concerned about UNRWA’s substantial funding gap, amounting to 70m USD until the end of this year. Reduction of salaries of 28,000 UNRWA teachers, doctors and nurses is imminent and will lead to further distress among Palestine refugees. We call on all other countries to do more and appeal to their solidarity. Germany is the largest donor to UNRWA with 200m USD in this year alone.

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