Statement by Ambassador Wittig in the open debate of the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East
In addition to my statement, Germany has aligned herself with the statement to be delivered by the representative of the European Union.
Whenever meeting on the situation in the Middle East in recent months members of the Council were entirely in agreement on the urgency of making progress in the Middle East peace process. With little more than four months to go until September this sense of urgency is growing considerably.
Every day that passes without the re-establishment of a credible political progress is a lost day. We must not allow this to continue, risks are growing and chances are dwindling. We must overcome the deadlock and re-establish a credible political process - well in advance of September deadlines.
We want to see the State of Israel and a sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security. There is no alternative to the Two-State-Solution. Making decisive progress by September is possible and the window of opportunity is still open.
Negotiations are the only viable way:
- The international community must set a framework: We remain convinced that clear parameters are a pre-requisite for negotiations to be successful. Germany has set out its view on parameters along with GBR and FRA on 18 February in the Council, supported by EU member states and many others. We call on the Quartet to work in this direction and bring about the progress required prior to the September deadline it has itself endorsed. Within this context, we are looking forward to the speech President Obama will deliver on the region. Strong US-leadership is required.
- The parties must commit unequivocally to returning to meaningful direct negotiations on this basis as soon as possible and without setting additional conditions. We call on President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu to show flexibility and, within this context, on the Prime Minister to open a forward-looking perspective in his address to Congress.
Germany remains strongly opposed to unilateral action impacting on final status issues – whether from the Palestinian or from the Israeli side:
- Seeking statehood through unilateral steps will not bring sustainable peace.
- Israeli settlement activity should cease immediately. It is illegal under international law, constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible. New construction plans should be abandoned. All members of this Council are in agreement that continued settlement activity seriously threatens the prospects for peace.
Gaza remains a serious concern. Developments over the last two weeks demonstrated once again the fragility of the current situation. A ceasefire agreed on on 14 April only held for three days. Germany strongly condemns the continued firing of rockets and mortars on Israeli territory, in particular the targeting of a school bus with an anti tank missile. This type of action is utterly unacceptable. Germany recognizes Israel's right to protect its citizens against attacks. At the same time, we look to Israel to exercise this right judiciously. The loss of civilian lives in Gaza is deeply regrettable. Further escalation must be prevented.
We continue to call on the immediate and unconditional release of Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage for now almost five years.
We would like to express our concern with regard to a possible second Gaza Flotilla. The planned activities bear considerable potential for escalation. We call on the organisations involved - in line with what has been said by Lynn Pascoe before - to find other ways to deliver aid to the people of Gaza. The appropriate way way ahead is the full implementation of UNSC resolution 1860 calling for immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for goods and people to and from Gaza and for the prevention of illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition. In this context, we call on all international supporters to make use of the existing land crossings to channel their support to Gaza, and abstain from provocations.
Despite the concerns to which I have referred, there is some positive news as well. On 13 April the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee met and acknowledged the Palestinian Authority’s statebuilding efforts, stating that the PA is above the threshold for a functioning state in the key sectors. Germany has been a major donor to the PA, nationally and through the EU. We have made a major political and financial investment into Palestinian state-building. This investment was made to achieve a two state solution and sustainable peace for Israelis and Palestinians.
For too long, the people of the Middle East have suffered from conflict and confrontation. It is time to reach a final and comprehensive settlement that will resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and end the occupation that began in 1967. The status quo is not sustainable.
Our goal remains a framework agreement on all final status issues by September 2011. Germany will contribute to achieving this goal.
The deteriorating situation in Syria, violence across the country and the rising death toll remain of serious concern.
We condemn the use of force by security forces against peaceful demonstrators and call on Syria to address the legitimate demands of the Syrian people by urgently implementing a credible program of political reforms as a path to long term stability.
We acknowledge the Syrian government's announcements of reforms, including lifting the state of emergency today by decree 161. If fully and swiftly implemented, it could be a first step in a wider program of necessary reforms.
In Yemen, the protests against the Government of President Saleh have risen sharply in numbers and strength since their inception in January 2011. The security situation, in particular continued news of violence coming from many Yemeni cities, continue to give rise to great concern. Despite a wide range of efforts, also by members of the international community, we are facing an intractable political impasse that puts the country at the brink of a political and economic tragedy.
We call on the government of Yemen to abide by its responsibility, to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons, including their freedom of expression, to ensure safety and to prevent further bloodshed. Likewise, the opposition should also show restraint and their determination to engage into a peaceful dialogue about Yemen’s future.
It must be clear to all parties concerned: Yemen’s problems cannot be solved with violence. The future of the country has to be laid out by a comprehensive and inclusive dialogue and courageous reforms. Negotiations in this regard must not be delayed. A clear and transparent roadmap should safeguard the way ahead.
We fully support the mediation efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council in this regard.
All Yemeni actors are called upon to engage in these negotiations towards a peaceful future for the Yemeni people.