Security Council: Statement by Ambassador Wittig on the situation in the Middle East
(Security Council: Statement as delivered by Ambassador Wittig in an Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question)
Thanks to Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman for his insightful briefing.
Last month this Council met for a high level debate on “Peace and Security in the Middle East”. The Secretaries General of the United Nations and of the League of Arab States both called for a fresh and united approach by the international community to a changing Middle East. In this spirit, we adopted a Presidential Statement encouraging closer cooperation between the UN and the Arab League - a joint commitment which must now be brought to life. Above all else, we must together address two pressing issues: the crisis in Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Let me start with a few points on Syria.
With the shelling of Akcakale last week, the crisis there has reached yet another nadir. This was not the first time that Damascus has taken violence beyond its borders. But this time, the bombs not only killed an innocent Turkish woman and her four children. They also violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our NATO partner.
The Security Council unequivocally condemned the shelling in the strongest terms. Despite all divisions - the Council has sent a clear message: That it will not tolerate Damascus to threaten regional peace and security.
We continue to hope that the Council will also soon find unity in supporting a political transition process to a new, post-Assad Syria.
Let me be clear: no matter how many letters the Syrian delegation sends to the Security Council, no matter how much Damascus portrays itself as the innocent victim of external aggression and terrorism - its deadly action on the ground speaks for itself.
Last Friday, the Council met with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria. Its findings show a clear pattern of gross and systematic human rights violations committed by the Syrian authority, orchestrated at the highest level. Abuses are also being committed by the anti-government groups, although not comparable in scale and organization.
It is my government’s firm conviction that accountability for such grave violations of human rights has to be ensured. The findings of the Commission will provide a solid basis, including possible action by the International Criminal Court.
The Syrian people deserve our support. The IDP and refugee crisis will worsen with the winter approaching, putting further strain also on neighboring countries. We welcome the efforts by the relevant UN agencies and neighboring states in providing support to Syrian families in need. Germany will continue to be a reliable partner in providing humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering.
These days, the Middle East peace process makes fewer headlines than most other events in the region. This is because the process is stalled - not because it is in any way less urgent. On the contrary: with every day that goes by the concerns over the viability of a two-state solution become more acute and Mr. Feltman highlighted this in clear words in his statement. The security and stability risks of the status quo should give everybody a sense of urgency.
Since the beginning of this month, dozens of rockets have been launched from Gaza against residential areas of southern Israel. These are terror attacks which we condemn in the strongest terms. At the same time, we urge Israel to exercise its self-defense with utmost restraint.
On October 20, Palestinians in the West Bank, except for East Jerusalem, will be voting in local elections. This will be another step towards the consolidation of good governance and democracy in the future Palestinian state.
Under current conditions, however, the Palestinian Authority has no resources to pay salaries or services for the rest of the year. What is at stake here is more than a mere budget problem: the very achievements of the successful state-building process under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad are at risk. We therefore call on all donors to come through on their commitments of support. For its part, Germany will continue its significant level of assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
Beyond this immediate need, however, the financial crisis can only be overcome through economic development. Such development will not be possible without a political perspective. Above all, Palestinians must be able to move freely in their land and have access to area C.
We need to see increased control of the Palestinian authorities over these areas in line with the Oslo agreements and the Roadmap and we call on Israel to work with the PA towards realizing this objective.
In this General Debate, both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution and their willingness to reach it through negotiations. Negotiations are the only way to get the process back on track. We strongly encourage the Middle East Quartet to expand its efforts to frame and support the process.
We strongly believe that progress on the Middle East Peace Process would contribute to regional stability and offer new opportunities for the region as a whole. Ten years ago, the Arab League showed foresight and courage in adopting the Arab Peace Initiative. In this time of transformation in the region, Israelis and Palestinians must now prove their will to shape their national destinies.
Thank you, Mr. President.