Statement to the UN Security Council regarding the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
- Human Rights
- Middle East
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
Statement by H.E. Philippa King, Ambassador and Chargé d'Affaires of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you for convening this important debate at a critical time for the region.
I wish to also thank Assistant-Secretary-General Fernandez-Taranco for his briefing
One year on from the dramatic events in Tunisia, then Egypt, Libya and other
countries in the Middle East, the outlook for the region is both one of encouraging
progress and situations of continuing concern.
Australia will continue to actively support the historic process of democratic
transition underway in the Middle East and North Africa in 2012. Elections are
an important step in this process, including in Egypt where strong participation
rates in Egypt's first elections from November last year underscored the
will of the people to act on their legitimate aspirations for freedom and democracy.
During this period of profound political change in the Middle East it is imperative
for the future stability of the region that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
is resolved. The rapidly changing geo-politics of the region present a new opportunity
for reaching an enduring peace agreement. However, if this opportunity is not
seized and positive steps towards a conclusion of the peace process are not
made soon, the prospects of a lasting settlement will become increasingly remote.
Australia has consistently supported a negotiated two-state solution that allows
a secure Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent Palestinian
state. As a friend of Israel, we recognise Israel's legitimate security
concerns. And as a friend of the Palestinian people, we support the them realising
their right of self-determination through their own state.
We commend ongoing efforts by the Quartet to promote a resumption of direct
negotiations. We also commend and encourage the efforts of Jordan under the
leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II to bring the two parties together
for the first time since late 2010. And we greatly welcome the recent activity
of the UN Secretary-General in support of the peace process, including during
his recent visit to Lebanon and through his forthcoming visit elsewhere in the
region – visits which are occurring at a critical juncture and which provide
all parties an important opportunity to advance the cause of peace.
We urge both sides to build on these initiatives and move forward to substantive
negotiations urgently and without delay. To achieve this, both sides must demonstrate
they are serious about resuming negotiations in accordance with the Quartet's
statement of 23 September 2011, including by refraining from provocative actions
which undermine the prospects of achieving a two-state solution. This includes
the expansion of Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank and East
Jerusalem – which the Australian Government has called on Israel to end.
Violence of any kind targeting civilians must also cease. And, while recognising
Israel's legitimate security concerns, more must be done to ease the humanitarian
situation in Gaza.
We applaud the efforts of the Palestinian leadership in building the necessary
economic and institutional base for statehood. Australia's five year funding
plan of over $300 million is evidence of our strong support for this endeavour.
Now it is clear that this institution building must be matched by political
progress towards peace, by both sides.
We continue to support the work of the Arab League in assisting positive transformation
in the Arab world. This includes its efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria.
The continuing violence in Syria is appalling; since the violence began in March
last year, the death toll has passed 5000 according to estimates by the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights. We urge the Syrian regime to stop its brutality
and to implement credible political reforms, including genuine dialogue with
opposition groups in accordance with the Arab League Plan of Action. And we
urge members of the UN Security Council to discharge their responsibility to
deal with the violence in Syria promptly and expeditiously.
To conclude, the Middle East remains a region confronted by both challenges
and opportunities. We have common interests in securing durable peace and stability
and in satisfying the legitimate aspirations of the people of the region for
practical reform and economic opportunity. It is imperative that the Council,
regional actors and other engaged members of the international community take
urgent, positive steps towards realising these goals.
Thank you Mr President.