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

Ertuğrul Apakan 14.10.2009
Mr. President,

First of all, I wish to join others in thanking Mr. Pascoe, Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, for his briefing.

Mr. President,

We are, once again, going through a crucial stage in the Middle East.

We fully support the efforts towards reactivating the Middle East Peace Process in all its tracks and contribute to them in any way we can. A serious and active engagement between the parties has become a matter of urgency in the absence of any functional political process in the region for a long time.

At this stage, upholding the framework of peace as embodied in the relevant Security Council resolutions, Madrid Principles, Arab Peace Initiative and the road map obligations is important for serious negotiations.

However, we see two main challenges to the current efforts.

First one is related to the core issues.

It is a well-established norm in the Middle East Peace Process that the core issues, including refugees and Jerusalem, are subject to final status negotiations and should not be undermined by unilateral acts.

It is, therefore, very important that Israel must cease its settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as the measures and actions that could change the character and status of Jerusalem.

The recent incidents in and around Harem Al-Sharif have shown us, yet again, the sensitivity and importance of Jerusalem.

Here, let me express our concern on the tension in the city and the region beyond which carries the potential of poisoning the atmosphere and harming the peace efforts.

The protection of the sacred nature of Harem Al - Sharif as well as the cultural and religious fabric of Jerusalem is a matter of utmost priority and importance for Turkey. It is with this understanding that we invite all parties, starting with Israel, to act responsibly and to refrain from any provocative action at a time when the efforts are concentrated on the reactivation of the peace process. To respect the holy places is one of the key elements of stability in the Middle East.

Secondly, the situation in Gaza continues to be a matter of grave concern for Turkey.

We have repeatedly stressed the fact that the current situation in Gaza is unacceptable.

The hostilities at the beginning of this year traumatized Gaza with a heavy death toll of over one thousand, mostly women and children. Since then, the Palestinians in Gaza have been facing formidable suffering and hardship.

Time doesn't, in itself, heal all sorrows. Despite the big amount of pledges in Sharm Al-Sheikh last March, just a little quantity of aid and material were able to trickle in Gaza, because of the restrictions imposed on the crossings.

In spite of our repeated calls, Resolution 1860 has not been implemented. Today, the people in Gaza continue to suffer without proper reconstruction, socio-economic activity and humanitarian assistance.

In this picture, we view the report of the Fact Finding Mission led by Justice Goldstone as a document to shed light into the Gaza conflict. This report is a comprehensive document containing very pertinent points and observations. It addresses all alleged violations.

We think that this report and its recommendations should be taken seriously and should follow its course. In this respect, we take the following two principles as our departure point:

First; we should uphold accountability. We need to ascertain the facts and to take action accordingly.

Second; we need to act in coherence. Ensuring consistency has always been one of the key requirements when in the international community tackles such issues.

We also agree with the understanding that if the parties conduct credible investigations on the violations, as suggested in the report, it would serve as a much needed and important confidence building measure which will contribute to the efforts in the political field.

It is our sincere hope that that the findings and conclusions of this report could create an opportunity to put an end to the deprivation and dramatic conditions the people of Gaza are currently going through.

Let me also emphasize the importance of the Palestinian unity. We hope that the Palestinian groups can reach a common understanding as soon as possible. This is crucial for social harmony in Palestine as well as for the Middle East Peace Process. We appreciate President Abbas' efforts to this end.

Mr. President,

On Lebanon, in the wake of recent high level visits in the region, we believe that a Government under the leadership of Mr. Hariri embracing all segments of the Lebanese people can be established sooner rather than later. We continue to facilitate and contribute to the issues in our neighborhood.

Mr. President,

Every Israeli and Palestinian is entitled to freedom from fear. However, for a future free from fear and full of peace and prosperity, we need to establish confidence and never deviate from a perspective of a just, fair and lasting settlement.

On our part, we continue to work for a viable and comprehensive peace on all tracks of the Middle East Peace Process.

Thank you.