The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
- Human Rights
- Middle East
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Madam President, and I thank the Secretary-General for his briefing.
Like all of us, Australia welcomed the ceasefire agreement that brought the destructive conflict in Gaza to an end. But all parties to the agreement must scrupulously honour its terms. The ceasefire must put an end to rocket and mortar attacks on Israel and enable the opening of border crossings for humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials into Gaza, including with an effective UN supervision mechanism. We thank Egypt and Norway for organising the Cairo conference on reconstructing Gaza, and we are committed to supporting those efforts through our development program.
The Gaza conflict was a very stark reminder that Israel and the Palestinians must renew their efforts toward finding a two-state solution. Encouraging and supporting such efforts must be the focus of the international community and of this Council. Both sides should avoid any unilateral actions that could undermine the prospects for a return to negotiations, whether it be expropriating land in the West Bank or pursuing international initiatives which set conditions and which fail to recognise Israel's right to security.
ISIL's atrocities in Iraq have descended to new depths of depravity. This organisation is neither Islamic nor a state: a view shared by Muslim religious leaders around the world. Its barbaric attacks make it impossible to deny the extreme threat ISIL represents to the region and the world at large. It stands in opposition to the basic values of the international community and our shared sense of humanity. Australia condemns its terrorist actions absolutely.
Australia has committed to playing its part in helping Iraq and the international coalition in combating ISIL. Following a US request and with the consent of the Iraqi Government, we have deployed Australian aircraft and personnel, who are undertaking missions over Iraq. This is in addition to air assets already providing humanitarian and logistical support to Iraq. Australia will also deploy a Special Operations Task Group to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces. These measures represent a prudent and proportionate response to the threat posed by this murderous organisation. We urge other member states to show their support for the Al-Abadi Government as it rebuilds a stable and cohesive Iraq, and to join these efforts against a common enemy.
There is still more we can all do to win this fight. ISIL is seeking to bolster its ranks by appealing to those at risk of radicalisation in other countries, including Australia. In this context, the full implementation by all member states of Resolution 2178 adopted in September on foreign terrorist fighters is crucial. The Australian Government is introducing legislative measures to make it easier to prosecute foreign fighters and to prevent people leaving Australia to fight in foreign conflicts. We are strengthening counter-terrorism engagement with our partners, including to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, and we encourage other member states to consider similar cooperation.
The Assad regime is in large part responsible for the disorder and violence in which ISIL has thrived, and the conflict that is destabilising the region. The Syrian people must have a better choice than that between the Assad regime and ISIL. More than ever, a political process is needed that can bring the conflict to an end and give all Syrians a say in their future. We welcome the efforts of the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative, Staffan de Mistura, and look forward to discussions with him in the Council shortly.
We commend the exemplary work being done inside Syria by UN agencies and humanitarian organisations, in the most challenging and dangerous circumstances. Resolution 2165 has seen a modest but notable increase in the numbers being reached by UN agencies, but the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen. Close attention to coordination with existing cross-border aid delivery will be essential to getting the most out of improvements in access.
Of course, despite small improvements in access, the parties to the conflict continue to flout the provisions of Resolution 2139 we adopted in February, particularly the Assad regime and extremist groups in Syria. We are appalled at the grave violations of human rights that continue to take place including the targeting of children on a scale never seen before. The Assad regime continues to use barrel bombs, including the illegal use of chlorine as a weapon, in attacks on civilian neighbourhoods which are targeted as a deliberate military strategy. The Secretary-General has just remarked on this. In Resolution 2139 the Council unanimously demanded these attacks and all indiscriminate shelling stop. There must be accountability for the terrible international crimes being committed in Syria.
Finally, Australia acknowledges the heightened security threats faced by Lebanon and commends the efforts of the Lebanese Armed Forces to prevent terrorist attacks, counter militant groups including ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusrah and provide security in an increasingly challenging environment. The Lebanese Armed Forces should not be without a Commander-in-Chief at such a critical time – Lebanon's politicians should elect a President without further delay. Events near Arsal, including the ongoing detention of Lebanese personnel, show that the threats to Lebanon's security are all too real. We urge the international community to continue to support Lebanon as it faces complex and growing challenges, including the burden of hosting more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees.
Thank you Madam President.