Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you today for the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem. I thank the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), supported by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for this timely initiative.
The theme of this year’s Conference is particularly relevant, as the tragic events of this past May are still fresh in our memory. The surge in tensions and violence in occupied East Jerusalem since the beginning of Ramadan played a role in triggering the disastrous chain of events culminating in 11 days of deadly armed conflict. The Gaza escalation, the fourth since 2008, claimed many lives, including children, and left the Israeli and Palestinian populations deeply traumatized and even more distrustful of each other.
The imminent threat of evictions of Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem, from homes where they had been living for generations, heightened tensions. Protests, violent attacks, the response by the Israeli security forces, and clashes around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, escalated them to a dangerous level. Inflammatory rhetoric from both sides further fuelled conflict. I am especially concerned by the attempt to exploit the sensitive status of Jerusalem and to use it to justify a broader armed conflict.
I echo the call by the Secretary-General for Israel to cease house demolitions and evictions, and illegal settlement activities in the occupied territory, in line with its obligations under international law. All measures to change Jerusalem’s status and demographic composition are without legal validity and should be firmly rejected by the international community, in line with Security Council resolutions. Unilateral actions and provocations must cease.
The Gaza ceasefire is holding but remains fragile. The crisis is far from over. The launching from Gaza of incendiary balloons, causing fires in Israel, and the retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, risk renewed escalation. The provocative “flag march”, brought about more protests and violent clashes. The evictions, though put on hold for now, still threaten to heighten tensions.
I reiterate the call to all sides to uphold and respect the status quo of Jerusalem holy sites. Political and religious leaders should promote mutual respect and tolerance through their actions and statements. This recent period of tension witnessed many civil society initiatives in which Palestinian and Israelis worked together for calm. We should all amplify their voices against those spreading hate and inciting violence.
The postponement of the Palestinian election process has also impacted the situation, with significant implications for the future of the Palestinian national project. I echo the Secretary-General in commending the tireless efforts of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The recent fighting caused heavy damage to vital infrastructure in Gaza, triggering a humanitarian emergency and exacerbating an already fragile situation. I appeal to the international community to respond generously to the Gaza humanitarian appeal and to work with the United Nations in delivering humanitarian, reconstruction and recovery assistance. I join the appeals to Israel to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials into Gaza.
I also urge Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to refrain from attacks and provocations that would again destabilize the situation.
As the Special Coordinator told the Security Council, we must avoid short-term fixes and focus on how we can work toward resolving the deadlock in Gaza and the Palestinian divide. Sustaining ceasefires and improving arrangements on the ground are important elements of UN preventive diplomacy, which aims to create space for political action. But they cannot substitute a permanent status agreement, vital for sustainable peace.
The recent crisis has served as another reminder of the imperative to renew momentum towards peace. The Quartet has stepped up its activities to bring about a new path to revive negotiations. The Secretary-General has expressed hope that the normalization agreements signed between Israel and several Arab countries will create an opportunity for Israeli-Palestinian re-engagement. We will work tirelessly to translate those opportunities into tangible outcomes.
I urge Israeli and Palestinian leaders, supported by a revitalized Quartet, to recommit to a path of credible negotiations to address all the key outstanding permanent status issues. This is the only way to bring about the long-promised vision of two States, based on 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as their shared capital. In working toward this goal, it is essential to re-establish national unity and renew the legitimacy of Palestinian institutions.
The United Nations is committed to supporting Israelis and Palestinians in these endeavours.
Thank you for your attention.