Security Council: Statement by Ambassador Wittig on the situation in the Middle East
(Security Council: Statement as delivered by Ambassador Wittig in the Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East)
Thank you, Mr. President,
I would like at the outset to thank Special Coordinator Robert Serry for his briefing and his dedicated work.
Let me start with a word on the heinous terrorist attack in Bulgaria last week. Like the whole Council, Germany has condemned in the strongest terms this attack which targeted Israeli citizens. We are looking forward to the results of the on-going investigation. Those responsible for this attack must be found and brought to justice. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims.
Before I turn to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, let me address the situation on Syria. Last week, the double veto against the draft resolution on Syria marked a divisive split in the Council. The Council has failed once again to assume its responsibility, it has not been able to agree on clear messages: not on a clear message to the Damascus that the use of heavy weapons must stop, not on a clear message to the people in Syria that the Council fully supports Kofi Annans efforts to solve the crisis politically.
As I said last week, the Syrian people will pay the price for this failure: not only has the use of heavy weapons increased, but we now hear reports that even fighter jets are being used in the onslaught the Syrian regime is conducting against its own people. Our agreement to extend the mandate of UNSMIS should not be seen as a whitewash of this Council's failure. This agreement doesn't reflect the consensus of the Council, but the smallest common denominator.
We continue to believe that the Syrian regime must face consequences if it continues to trample under foot international law and its own promises. We are very worried about the prospect of a civil war in Syria - and we urge all Council members to do their utmost not to put Join Special Envoy Kofi Annan's efforts in peril.
The Assad authorities are not only unleashing their heavy weapons and gunships against their own people. Two days ago they went even a step further and threatened the international community with the use of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. This is a ruthless and an inhumane threat. The international community was right to strongly condemn this - in the words of my Foreign Minister - "monstrous" threat. We continue to hold the Syrian authorities fully accountable for any use of these weapons and for the safety of their storage.
We reiterate our call to all those in the within the Syrian regime to reconsider their options: One day there will be a new Syria, one day there will be accountability for their deeds, and one day they might wish to have taken the right decisions - for themselves, their families and the future of their own country.
The increasing number of refugees from Syria into neighbouring countries clearly shows the serious regional repercussions of the conflict in Syria. Germany commends Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey for offering refuge to civilians fleeing Syria. My country has increased our humanitarian assistance for those refugees. Another cause of concern is the entry last week of Syrian armed forces into the Area of Separation in violation of the Agreement on the Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian Forces. We welcome the fact that UNDOF liaised with all sides in order to prevent an escalation of the situation.
Let me now turn to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
Last month has seen another spike in rocket attacks from Gaza. The situation on the Sinai has become more difficult. While fully recognizing Israel’s legitimate right of self-defense, we continue to call on all sides to use utmost restraint in this volatile regional situation and to consider the humanitarian consequences of all use of force.
Lasting security in the Middle East can only be achieved by addressing the root causes of the conflict. An end to this conflict, which will bring to an end the occupation and allow all people of the region to live in security and to realise their aspirations to freedom and self-determination, can only be reached by virtue of a negotiated two-state solution.
Therefore, the basis for that two-state solution must not be allowed to erode further. Germany follows with concern recent decisions on settlement expansion and on government subsidies for the development of settlements as well as the discussion regarding the status of certain settlement outposts. Let me be clear: International humanitarian law applies to the entirety of the occupied territories. The Roadmap obliges Israel to dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001. They cannot be ‘legalised’. All settlements are illegal under international law.
We are also worried about the increasing number of acts of violence committed by settlers, including attacks involving firearms.
The social and economic development of Area C is critical for the viability of a future Palestinian state. We are worried by recent reports about Israeli plans to demolish eight Palestinian villages in Area C so that the area can be used for military training. We support and closely liaise with the efforts and the work of the Quartet representative and OCHA in Area C.
Germany attentively follows the human rights situation on both sides of the Middle East Conflict. We have urged Israel to abide by all its obligations deriving from international law. On the other hand, we urge the Palestinian Authority to address human rights concerns, in particular regarding the security forces. The recent execution of death sentences by the de facto authorities in the Gaza strip is unacceptable.
The resumption of substantial negotiations on final status issues is the only way forward towards a solution. These negotiations will be difficult and will require painful concessions by both sides. Therefore, they need an environment of mutual trust. Palestinians must be able to believe that the Israeli government truly wants a two-state solution and is ready to make the necessary concessions. And Israelis must be able to believe that they have a partner on the other side that is interested in solving the conflict once and for all, in a way that will provide security.
Thank you, Mr. President.