UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
15 October 2012
The Situation in the Middle East
Statement by H.E. Mr Gary Quinlan
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you for convening this debate and to Under-Secretary-General Feltman for his briefing this morning.
Australia shares the world’s frustration at the standstill in the Middle East peace process. We share the frustration of the Palestinians and their strong and legitimate desire to have their own state. We also share Israel’s legitimate concerns to ensure its own security and the security of its people. That security would be best guaranteed through an effective and genuine two-state solution.
These are the messages we have consistently expressed to Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
It has now been 19 years since the Oslo Accords, and a decade since the historic Arab Peace Initiative, and yet a lasting, fair and just solution to the conflict in the Middle East still evades us.
In a period of tremendous change in the Arab world, the status quo in the Middle East Peace Process is simply untenable. The status quo will not provide the lasting peace and security which Palestinians, Israelis and all the peoples of the region deserve.
The prospects for a negotiated peace based on a two-state solution are disappearing.
It is therefore now more important than ever that direct negotiations between the parties resume as a matter of urgency. While the parties themselves must resolve through negotiations the final shape of an agreement, for meaningful progress to be made those negotiations should take place on the basis of the 1967 boundaries, with agreed land swaps.
Australia is a long-standing friend and supporter of the Palestinian people. We support the Palestinians being able to exercise their right to self-determination, and to live in their own state, beside a secure Israel.
The continuing settlement activity in the West Bank is a very serious concern. A Palestinian state must not just be independent, it must be viable and contiguous. Settlement activity – which is illegal under international law – must cease. And Australia remains opposed to any steps towards legalising outposts.
It is also imperative that all violence against civilians, including rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza, ends immediately. All people in the region need to be able to pursue their lives free from the threat of violence.
At a time when negotiations have stalled, one important cause for optimism has been the success which President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have had in building the institutions necessary for a Palestinian state.
However, this decisive achievement is coming under threat due to the serious financial crisis facing the Palestinian Authority. As a significant donor to the Palestinians, Australia participated in the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in New York on 23 September. The World Bank, IMF and others provided a very sobering account of the serious financial difficulties being faced by the Authority.
It is essential the international community continues to support the Authority. Its effective functioning is a vital source of stability in the region - and we call on all donors to live up to their commitments in this respect.
I must turn to the appalling human tragedy taking place in Syria. Australia remains deeply concerned that the Council has been unable to adopt a Chapter VII resolution to ensure there are real consequences for President Assad’s non-compliance with Council resolutions 2042 and 2043.
We support the efforts of the Joint Special Representative of the UN and Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, to find a way through the crisis. But it is well past time for President Assad to reverse course, and end the violence which he has unleashed on his own people. President Assad has been given many opportunities by the international community to take a different path – he must do so immediately.
The recent incidents across the Syrian-Turkish border – which tragically included the killing of five Turkish nationals by Syrian armed forces – are of grave concern and underscore the serious regional dimension to the Syrian crisis. Australia echoes the Council’s condemnation of the Syrian attack across the Turkish border, and calls on Syria to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours. We also recognise the significant burden being faced by Syria’s neighbours – including Turkey, as well as Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
While the outlook in Syria is very bleak, it is imperative the international community redouble its efforts to help alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. As the third-largest national donor, Australia is committed to providing humanitarian assistance.
We are especially concerned about the need to protect medical facilities and personnel. All parties to the conflict must respect and adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law and ensure the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel. We have been actively talking with others to see if we can find new ways to protect hospitals and health workers in Syria, and will continue to do so.
But while we take humanitarian steps to help those affected by the conflict, the international community must also continue to pursue whatever steps we can towards a political solution which allows the Syrian people to determine their own future. The Council’s role in this obviously remains essential.
Thank you, Mr President.