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National statements

Statement to the UN General Assembly regarding the situation in the Middle East

Thematic issues

  • Egypt
  • Human Rights
  • Humanitarian
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Justice
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Middle East
  • Palestine
  • Rule of Law
  • Syria
  • Yemen

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Statement by H.E. Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mr President,

As we all know, it has been a turbulent year. The historic changes taking place
across the Middle East and North Africa demonstrate – almost preternaturally
– the common human aspiration for freedom, justice and peace.

The Tunisian people have led the way and the successful opening session of
the National Constituent Assembly last week are impressive steps towards establishing
the institutions necessary to underpin democracy.

Egypt's transition faces many challenges and will require tolerance,
respect and patience. The democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people must
be respected, the rule of law maintained and human rights protected.

We are troubled by the deaths and injuries in recent clashes. It is obviously
crucial that all parties work together to re-establish calm, and to progress
Egypt's democratic transition to civilian rule. We are encouraged by initial
positive reports of strong participation by Egyptians in elections. This is
a credit to the Egyptian people.

Australia recognises the courage of the Libyan people in standing up to a regime
that had long lost touch with the rights of its own people. We welcome the UN
system's decisive response to the threat to Libyan civilians. We further
welcome the commitment shown by the new government in Libya to uphold the principles
of the revolution, including respect for the rule of law, democracy and the
protection of human rights. Australia was the third largest humanitarian donor
during the conflict. We will provide further support for Libya's political
and economic transition.

As the Libya transition showed, the Arab League has a leading role to play
in assisting positive transformation in the Arab world. We whole-heartedly support
the League's efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria.

And we urge Syria to cooperate with the League, to stop its brutality, and
to implement credible democratic reforms. President Assad should step aside
to allow these changes to begin without delay. In circumstances where the Syrian
authorities are failing to implement meaningful reform and reneging on their
commitments to regional leaders to end the violence, Australia calls on the
UN Security Council to demonstrate the same courage by continuing to condemn
the violence and to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Mr President,

We welcome the agreement signed last week on Yemen and commend the work of
the Gulf Cooperation Council in brokering the agreement.

On Lebanon – we remain firm in our support for its sovereignty, independence
and unity. We continue to call on all parties to cooperate with the Special
Tribunal for Lebanon in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1757, and
to allow it to complete its work.

We have not lost sight of longstanding threats to the region's stability,
notably Iran's nuclear program, and the still unanswered question about
Iran's nuclear weapons-related activities. We urge Iran to comply with
its obligations under successive UN Security Council Resolutions and to engage
seriously and without preconditions in talks on its nuclear program.

We condemn the storming of the British embassy in Tehran yesterday, and call
on Iran to ensure it fulfils its international obligations by preventing any
such future incidents, including by investigating the attacks and prosecuting
those responsible.

Mr President,

It is obvious that events in the Middle East and North Africa are changing wider political dynamics, even as we watch. People throughout the region are making their voices heard and are demanding governments which will be responsive to the legitimate aspirations of their peoples for greater transparency, democracy and inclusiveness. We need to recognize that this profound shift in the dynamics of the region demands that efforts to resolve conflicts in the region be re-energised.
Pre-eminent among these is the situation of Israel and Palestine. Australia
remains genuinely committed to a negotiated two-state solution that allows a
secure Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent Palestinian
state.

We commend ongoing international efforts to promote direct talks, including
by the Quartet and in the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative.

We have consistently called on Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas
to resume direct negotiations.

These should occur on the basis of the 1967 lines plus mutually-agreed land
swaps. Other final status issues should also be resolved through these direct
negotiations.

We recognise the legitimate concern of Israel that its security be assured
– an essential condition to be met through the negotiations for an enduring
solution. We are concerned that in the absence of a negotiated settlement, the
security situation could actually deteriorate in the year ahead.

It is, therefore, of pressing importance that Israelis and Palestinians refrain
from provocative actions which undermine confidence. This includes the new construction
and expansion of Israeli settlements and outposts which are an obstacle to the
peace process.

It is essential also for the continued success of the Palestinian state-building
effort, and the viability of the Palestinian Authority, that Israel maintain
tax transfers to the Authority without interruption.

Mr President,

We applaud the success of Prime Minister Fayyad in building the necessary economic
and institutional base for statehood. We seriously commend the progress that
has been achieved – against the odds – in the implementation of
the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan, including greatly improved security
control of the West Bank and strong economic performance by the Palestinian
Authority.

Australia itself in September signed a five-year Partnership Agreement with
the Palestinian Authority. We will provide well over $300 million over the next
five years to the Authority. We will provide a significant scholarships program
to train Palestinians in Australia. This is because an independent, viable Palestinian
state requires predictable funding to plan ahead and to budget for the provision
of services that any functioning state must be able to provide its citizens.

We are also increasing our support to UNRWA through a new, five-year partnership
to provide predictable support.

The situation on the ground in Gaza remains extremely serious. We welcome the
relaxation of some Israeli restrictions on access to and from Gaza, but we remain
seriously concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. We also recognise
Israel's legitimate security concerns and condemn ongoing rocket attacks
on Israel. But more must be done to ease the situation in Gaza.

To conclude, Mr President,

The parties can help shape the rapidly changing geo-politics of the region
by reaching a peace agreement now; if we do not see the Middle East peace process
concluded in the near term, the prospects of a lasting settlement may become
irretrievable.

As a friend of Israel, we encourage the Netanyahu Government to engage a Palestinian
leadership that is committed to the aim of reaching a two-state solution.

As a friend of the Palestinian people, we believe the time has come for direct
negotiations without preconditions.

As we in fact all know, this really is a simple linear equation: a successful
outcome to this process would provide the conditions for the Israeli people
to realise the right to live in security and for the Palestinian people to realise
the right of self-determination through their own state.

Australia steadfastly supports both of these rights.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 16 June 2015
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