Statement by H.E. Ambassador Ertuğrul Apakan, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Turkey to the United Nations, at Security Council Open Debate on "The Situation in the Middle East"

Ertuğrul Apakan 27.01.2010
Mr. President,

First of all, I wish to thank Mr. Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant-Secretary General for Political Affairs, for his briefing.

Mr. President,

We fully support and contribute to the ongoing international efforts to reactivate the Middle East Peace Process. Meaningful negotiations covering all core issues leading to a comprehensive settlement should start without further delay.

However, we sadly observe that there are still certain issues blocking the way. We need to eliminate the remaining obstacles on the way to peace and to put our focus on confidence-building.

In this respect, I wish to put emphasis, firstly, on the current pattern of demolition of Palestinian homes, eviction of Palestinian families and the revocation of residency rights of Palestinians of Jerusalem which is unacceptable and undermines trust between the parties.

Last year set an all-time record for the number of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who were stripped of residency rights. In 2008, the number of Palestinians whose residency has been revoked was twenty-one times the average of the previous forty years. Such numbers are quite striking and give a clear idea about the scope of the current practice.

International community does not recognize Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem. The core issues include the status of Jerusalem and it should be settled in a way that Jerusalem can emerge as the Capital of two states living side by side in peace and security.

In the meantime, many faiths meet in Jerusalem and hold the city sacred. Jerusalem reflects our common cultural heritage and unites us in values.

Therefore, the importance of preserving the demographic composition, character and status as well as cultural and religious fabric of Jerusalem is important. Any unilateral act on the nature of Jerusalem can easily have much broader ramifications.

We call on Israel to put an end to the pattern of forced evictions and house demolitions imposed upon Palestinians; to refrain from any provocative action in the city and to preserve the status of Jerusalem as required by the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Secondly, Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories are of great concern and illegal under international law.

UN Security Council resolutions 242, 446, 452, as well as Quartet "Road Map" and the Arab Peace Initiative require Israel to withdraw from territories occupied since 1967. It is difficult to see how any agreement can be reached while the settlements continue to grow.

Therefore, Israel must go beyond moratoriums which are very limited in scope as well as in time frame and meet its commitments in full.

All settlement activities including 'natural growth' must be ceased, completely and permanently, outposts erected since 2001 must be dismantled. Otherwise, it would not be possible to clear the way towards a peace based on the two-state solution.

Mr. President,

One year after the Israeli operation, more than 1.4 million Palestinian men, women and children are still trapped in the Gaza Strip. Their daily lives in a tiny area are marked by power shortages, little or no running water and deteriorating health care.

Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food insecurity are steadily worsening due to the impact of continuing blockade.

The blockade prohibits exports and restricts the entry of basic goods, including food and fuel. Although Israel announced that it would allow glass to be transported into Gaza, with other essential construction materials barred by Israel, the people in Gaza are unable to rebuild their shattered lives. More than twenty thousand people displaced from their homes still live in tents or other rudimentary housing.

This cannot go on…

The incomparable suffering of the people of Gaza must come to an end. The resolution 1860 must be implemented. The rebuilding of Gaza must start. The pledges made by the international community in Sharm al-Sheikh last March should be transformed into actual reconstruction. The human rights and well-being of the Palestinians in Gaza must be ensured.

Unless the crossings to Gaza are fully open and there is an absolute return to normal daily lives in Gaza, building confidence and making progress towards peace would be extremely difficult.

Mr. President,

In the Middle East, we are, yet again, at the crossroads. The stakes are high.

The framework for a negotiated settlement has already been laid out in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (242, 338, 1397, 1515 and 1850), Madrid terms of reference, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative. Within this framework, we have to move forward and overcome the current stalemate.

At this critical stage, there is no alternative but to focus on the political process, eliminate obstacles, renounce violence and push forward with determination for a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.

Otherwise, as Mr. Secretary-General has put it; "we risk sliding backwards".

This is a possibility that no one can afford.

Thank you.