Gaza: the humanitarian, political and security equation is particularly alarming [fr]
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 22 May 2019
I would like to begin by welcoming your presence here, Madam President, and the fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia is presiding over our meeting, which reflects the importance of the subject we are discussing today. I thank Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov for his briefing, which was very precise and informative, as always. I also thank the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, whose presence in the Chamber today is very welcome. I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Krähenbühl’s commitment and to UNRWA’s work with Palestinian refugees and its contribution to the stability of the region. I also want to welcome the participation in our work of the Special Representative of the President of the United States, Jason Greenblatt.
I would first like to mention the situation in Gaza, where the humanitarian, political and security equation is particularly alarming. Earlier this month, the Gaza Strip once again experienced an outbreak of violence that runs the risk of tipping into a new conflict, like the other three it has experienced over the past decade. France, which will never compromise Israel’s security, has condemned in the strongest terms the firing of rockets into populated areas of Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip on 4 and 5 May. Those shootings and the ensuing clashes have once again claimed civilian casualties on both sides. The developments since 2014 are of an unprecedented gravity. Israelis and Palestinians alike have the right to live in peace, dignity and security.
The efforts of Egypt and the United Nations Special Coordinator have made it possible to achieve a ceasefire, which must be consolidated and sustained. We call on the parties to exercise the utmost restraint in that regard. Beyond that, however, there will be lasting stability in Gaza only in the context of a negotiated settlement, including the full return of the Palestinian Authority and the lifting of the blockade accompanied by credible security guarantees for Israel.
We also recall that the stabilization of the Gaza Strip requires an immediate improvement in the humanitarian situation in the territory, to which all stakeholders must contribute. In that respect, Israel’s announcement of the expansion of the fishing zone is a step in the right direction. In the Gaza Strip, where two-thirds of the population is composed of Palestinian refugees, the main humanitarian actor is UNRWA. In Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and the region, access to education, health and, for some people, food aid depends entirely on UNRWA.
Beyond the humanitarian dimension, the dignity of Palestinian refugees and their ability to build a future are at stake. It is also a question of the stability and security of a region that has been shaken by crises, to which we cannot allow the addition of yet another factor of fragility. We must therefore respond to Pierre Krähenbühl’s call for us to maintain our level of collective financial engagement this year. UNRWA’s ability to maintain services is not guaranteed beyond summer, and the issue of the reopening of UNRWA schools will arise in August. The mobilization of us all will be crucial in the preparation for the donors conference, scheduled for late June in New York. France, for its part, has doubled its contribution to UNRWA in 2019.
Our support for UNRWA will also require political mobilization for the renewal, in the fall, of the three-year mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly. Until a just, equitable, realistic and lasting solution to the Palestinian refugee problem is found in the context of a peace agreement, the UNRWA mandate will remain necessary, not only for the refugees themselves and their future and the stability of the region, but also for the international community. We cannot collectively afford to leave the refugee camps to themselves, at the risk of making them the ideal recruitment pools for terrorist groups that are active in the region.
The situation in Gaza, with which I began my statement, cannot be dissociated from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole or from the two-State prospect. There will be no viable Palestinian State without Gaza and no lasting and just peace without a Palestinian State. On the ground and in people’s minds, however, the acceleration of settlement activity undermines the foundations of the two-State solution. Today, we are inching ever closer to the point of no return.
In addition to the facts, legal developments have led to the progressive application of Israeli law to the inhabitants of West Bank settlements. That situation does not correspond to the aspirations of either the Palestinians or the Israelis, and it is emerging in violation of international law, including the resolutions of the Council.
As we can see, the issue we are facing collectively is urgent and fundamentally political. We take note of the scheduled holding of an economic workshop in Manama on 25 and 26 June, at the initiative of the United States and Bahrain. France stands ready to support all efforts, including of an economic nature, as long as they are in line with the prospect that we have defined together: the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian State, real conditions for the economic resurgence of Palestine and, beyond that, the construction of a stronger and more integrated regional economy.
We must not hold back from engaging in serious negotiations to implement the two-State solution, with both States living in peace and security within recognized borders, with Jerusalem as the capital. That is what the law says. That is the objective that France is pursuing, as a friend of Israel and the Palestinians, and it is on that basis that we will evaluate the initiatives that can be undertaken.