17 January 2017 - The Arab-Israeli conflict: a top priority [fr]
Open debate on Middle East - Statement of Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 17 January 2017
On Sunday 15 January, more than 70 countries and international organizations met in Paris to speak as one for the revival of the Middle East peace process. On behalf of the President of the Republic, Mr François Hollande, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, I would like to reiterate France’s gratitude to all partners who participated in that meeting and contributed their ideas to and encouraged a process that was initiated by French officials nearly a year ago. That same process, which was marked by the international conferences held on 3 June and 15 January, had three main goals that are reflected in the joint communiqué adopted in Paris this past Sunday.
The first goal was to urgently reinsert the Arab-Israeli conflict into the list of the international community’s top priorities. Failure to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict poses a permanent threat to international security. It is true that the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been the most deadly conflict in the Middle East in recent years, but the elements that have already led to three wars over the course six years continue to be present today and could, at any moment, lead once again to a flare up either in Jerusalem, Gaza or the West Bank. Owing to its highly symbolic importance, the conflict, which has remained unresolved for more than 70 years, amply extends beyond Israeli borders and Palestinian territories, and every escalation carries a risk of uncontrollable regional destabilization. That is why we cannot accept the status quo — a euphemism that, in reality, underlies the daily deterioration of the situation on the ground and in attitudes.
The second goal of the French-led process was aimed at reaffirming a common understanding of the key component, namely the commitment to the two-State solution that is inextricably linked to the condemnation of settlement policy and the unequivocal condemnation of terrorism and violence. The reaffirmation of the preeminence of the two-State solution is at the heart of the joint statement made on 15 January and is more than ever our unique common goal. It is all the more important and urgent to reaffirm that common priority as the realization of the two-State solution is increasingly faced with the threat of disappearing like a mirage in the desert, while no credible alternative exists that can satisfy the aspirations of the two parties. Let us not forget that the best guarantee for Israel’s security — to which, as everyone knows, France is committed — is a just peace with the Palestinians through the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian State and, therefore, the two-State solution.
In that context, the Paris joint declaration recalls the fundamental principles to which we are all beholden: an international framework for all future agreements, the pre-1967 borders and the relevant Security Council resolutions. The preservation of the two-State solution is also the goal of resolution 2334 (2016), which is an important resolution that the ongoing advances in settlement policy have made urgent and necessary.
The third objective of our initiative was to take a positive and encouraging approach towards the resumption of talks. To that end, we have engaged with all the concerned steak holders to work meaningfully together towards defining positive incentives with all our voluntary partners. I thank in particular Sweden, Germany, Norway and the European Commission for their tireless commitment in that regard. Those incentives are based on three main aspects: first, an economic component, including a special privileged partnership with the European Union and the enhanced participation of the private sector, which is absolutely key; secondly, building the institutional and State capacities of the Palestinian side; and thirdly the rapprochement of Israeli and Palestinian civil societies, in order to improve necessary dialogue between the parties, to revive the public debate and to bring together two societies that are destined to coexist. The goal of those incentives is to remind the parties the extent of their interest in obtaining peace and to what degree the international community can and wants to help them to that end.
The joint declaration of the Conference of 15 January is the result of long-term effort and great collective mobilization. It has benefited from the efforts of all parties, including the Quartet, the Arab Peace Initiative, the initiatives of Russia and Egypt and the essential role of the United States. There has been complete transparency towards all of the parties. Therefore, the parties must show their commitment to the two-State solution through specific action on the ground.
As has been stated time and again by the French authorities, it has never been a question of dictating the terms of the peace agreement. Only direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine can lead to peace. Nonetheless, the international community has an irreplaceable role to play in creating, by means of guarantees and encouragement, an appropriate framework and favourable conditions for negotiations to start once again. That is the thinking behind the French initiative and the Paris conference, which is a friendly hand held out to the parties. In that context, the joint declaration of 15 January is not the end of the road. It is a necessary and important step towards relaunching the peace process. The situation on the ground demands that we remain more than ever active in helping the parties move quickly towards a settlement.
The heinous attack on Jerusalem on 8 January, which cost the lives of four young Israeli soldiers and which France strongly condemned, shows us the extent to which the situation on the ground remains precarious. As the joint communiqué of Paris states, we must demonstrate a spirit of responsibility and vigilance, and must avoid any unilateral act because that would only further exacerbate the situation on the ground in Jerusalem and elsewhere.
We must remain active with a view to resuming negotiations and that is why the participants in the Paris conference have committed to meet again during the year to review the progress being made and to move forward. The objective is to re-establish a positive political dynamic founded on the two-State solution, which is the only way to respond to the legitimate aspirations of both parties and to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis are able to live side by side in peace and security. We call for the unswerving commitment of all our partners, in particular the members of the Security Council, in order to press on together along this rocky road.
Let us take on together the historic responsibility that falls to us in the service of peace in the Middle East.