UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Wednesday 25 July 2012
The Situation in the Middle East
Statement by H.E. Gary Quinlan
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you for convening this debate. And thank you to Special Coordinator Robert Serry for his report.
I would first like to join others in expressing Australia’s strong condemnation of the appalling bombing in Bulgaria on 18 July. Such terrorist attacks are not acceptable under any circumstances, and we express our condolences to the people of Israel and Bulgaria.
Like many, Australia is greatly concerned at the current stand-still in the Middle East Peace Process.
The world has called repeatedly for a two-state solution which allows a secure Israel and a viable and independent Palestinian state to live side-by-side. But mere repetition of this essential goal – which remains the only credible solution to the conflict – will not achieve results on the ground.
2012 has seen some modest progress towards negotiations, led first by Jordan’s King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Judeh, and then later by the parties themselves through an exchange of letters between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. But these encouraging signs have not been followed by what is the only path to realising a just solution to the conflict – an immediate resumption of direct negotiations on the basis of the 1967 boundaries with agreed land swaps.
To achieve this, both sides must refrain from actions which are damaging to the peace process. In particular - and as nearly all who participate in these debates, including ourselves, have consistently said - the expansion of Israeli settlements must end as it is counter-productive to the peace process and so obviously damages confidence between the two sides.
Australia is also especially concerned that all violence against civilians – including rocket attacks from Gaza which target Israeli civilians - must cease immediately.
We must also continue to support Palestinian efforts to build their institutions and to enhance their governance capacity. Progress made in this area must not be wound back. To this end, last year Australia signed a five-year A$120 million partnership agreement with the Palestinian Authority as a means of promoting a degree of certainty to Palestinian finances. And on 28 May, we signed a A$90 million multi-year partnership with the UN Relief and Works Agency. UNRWA’s focus on education and health programs for Palestinians is a vital investment in the human capital essential to building a successful Palestinian state.
The final realisation of the two-state solution is in the long-term interests of both parties – in achieving the Palestinians’ inalienable right to self-determination; and in providing for Israel’s long-term security.
The terrible and worsening situation in Syria is of grave concern.
The violence has moved to a new level of brutality. It is Syrian civilians – including women and children - who have borne the brunt of this violence and who must remain at the forefront of our collective efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Like others, Australia was greatly disappointed by the Council’s failure to adopt a Chapter VII resolution which would have fulfilled the call from the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League, Mr Kofi Annan, to ensure there were real consequences for non-compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 2042 and 2043. It is incumbent on all of us not to protect a brutal regime which has lost all legitimacy. President Assad must reverse course, live up to his obligations under Mr Annan’s peace plan and end the violence immediately, including the use of heavy weapons against civilians.
The humanitarian dimension of the conflict looms particularly large, including the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced. The regional implications of this conflict are serious, and we acknowledge the heavy burden borne by Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan in providing assistance. To help alleviate this burden, as well as to address the humanitarian needs of Syrians affected by the violence, Australia is providing a total of $16 million in assistance to humanitarian agencies and NGOs.
To conclude, Mr President, we have seen elsewhere in the region - including most recently in Libya - that the most effective means for balancing the competing interests inherent in any society is for the establishment of fair and inclusive democratic processes that enable all citizens and groups to give voice to their views and to select a government that can represent them. Similarly, our collective efforts on Syria must be directed towards an immediate end to violence and the realisation of a political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of all of Syria’s citizens.