Statement by H.E. Ambassador Baki İlkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, at the Security Council Open Debate on "The Situation in The Middle East"

Baki İlkin 25.03.2009
Mr. President,

Turkey aligns itself with the statement to be delivered by the distinguished representative of the Czech Republic on behalf of the EU.

Mr. President,

The tragic events at the start of this year have further complicated the political, humanitarian and socio-economic aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The recent hostilities devastated Gaza; with a heavy death toll over one thousand, mostly women and children. The Palestinians in Gaza are now faced with formidable suffering and hardship. As indicated by the latest UNDP report, increasingly more Gazans live in extreme poverty and the numbers of the unemployed keep rising.

On the other hand, Israeli citizens living in the adjacent towns to Gaza should also feel safe and secure. Rocket attacks launched from Gaza have been a constant threat to them.

Mr. President,

Time will not, in itself, heal all wounds. Active engagement by the international community is imperative in dressing them. In this context, we are encouraged by the amount of pledges and the level of participation in Sharm Al-Sheikh earlier this month.There the international community reiterated its full support to the two-state solution and expressed its expectation for the strong commitment of all sides to such a settlement.

Turkey has, in addition to 150 million Dollars pledged in Paris in 2007, announced in Sharm Al Sheikh another contribution of 50 million Dollars for specific reconstruction projects in Gaza. Moreover, the voluntary contributions of the Turkish people to various donations accounts opened for Gaza have reached almost 50 million Dollars. This amount will also be used for reconstruction projects in Gaza.

However, we can not possibly speak of the reconstruction of Gaza and return to daily lives until the blockade completely ends and the crossings open. There can be no improvement in the socio - economic conditions of the Palestinians unless restrictions on the movement of people and goods are lifted, not only in the Gaza Strip but also in the West Bank.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1860 clearly underlines the need for comprehensive opening of crossings. Resolution 1860 should be fully implemented. We must also ensure that ceasefire is sustainable and respected by all.

Mr. President,

We are increasingly concerned about the ongoing settlement activities of Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Turkey has repeatedly made it clear that settlement-building, contrary to Road Map commitments and the two-state solution, is wrong and should stop.

None of the parties should take any action which would undermine the peace process and prejudge the final status negotiations. This also applies to the Palestinian factions.

Mr. President,

In the aftermath of the unfortunate events, securing Palestinian reconciliation and unity once again becomes an issue of critical importance and urgency.

We commend President Abbas for his tireless efforts to achieve this vital goal. The Palestinian cause would be best served if the Palestinian factions settle their differences and join hands. This is a must in order to keep alive and realize the aspiration for an Independent Palestinian State, representing all Palestinians. We maintain our contacts with and guidance to different Palestinian groups in this direction.

Turkey is also committed to the empowerment of the Palestinian Authority in the context of the state-building process. We will continue with our contributions to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, its institutions and economy. It is an undeniable fact that Israel's need for peace, prosperity and security is best served by a strong and united Palestinian State living side by side with Israel.

The Israelis and Palestinians are destined to live next to one another. They can either do so as combatants or as good neighbors and friends. It is high time that they should make the right choice.

Mr. President,

We always emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to the issues, since the problems of the region are all interlinked.

We are ready to assist once again for the resumption of the indirect talks between Syria and Israel, if the parties so desire.

We welcome the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria, and the reciprocal appointment of Ambassadors. We are also encouraged by the current American engagement with Syria.

We believe that the forthcoming elections in Lebanon will be an important step in taking the Lebanese people towards a better and brighter future, consolidating the positive developments in the country. We have confidence in the wisdom of the people of Lebanon that they will not miss this opportunity.

For its part, Turkey will remain committed to contribute through its participation in the UNIFIL, to the stability and through its reconstruction projects, to the prosperity of Lebanon.

We will continue to work for a viable and comprehensive peace on all tracks of the Middle East Peace Process.