Statement by Mr. Levent Eler at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Middle East

Levent Eler 20.01.2014
Mr. President,

At the outset, allow me to express once again our sincere congratulations to Jordan, for assuming the membership of the Security Council for the term of 2014-2015, as well as the Presidency of the Council for the month of January. My delegation has full confidence in the significant contribution Jordan will make to the work of the Council in the upcoming two years.

Mr. President,

2013 was another year that regrettably ended without any concrete advancement towards bringing an end to the oldest conflict in the Middle East. Sadly we continued to recite over and over again the unacceptable settlement and demolition activities, settler violence, violations of the basic rights of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territory, provocations against religious and holy sites including Al-Haram Al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque, continuation of the illegal embargo and the construction of the separation wall in defiance of international law as well as Security Council resolutions, most regrettable losses for lives, and injuries on both sides.

However, the initiative and the dedicated efforts of the US Secretary of State Kerry encouraged us to welcome 2014 with optimism, for a genuine chance leading to the two-state solution, which we have long yearned for.

Turkey sincerely supports the ongoing talks between Israel and Palestine toward a just, comprehensive and lasting resolution based on two States, living side-by-side on pre-1967 borders, in peace and security, through a just settlement of all final status issues, on the basis of relevant UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

However, in order to achieve this most desired outcome, parties must refrain from actions that undermine the negotiations. At a period when we need to foster confidence building measures, each and every step taken should be well planned with caution. For instance, systematic coupling of prisoner releases with new settlement announcements are not helpful if parties are sincere about the process.

The basic prerequisite for progress in the peace process is to fully understand the linkage between security and a just peace. Only a just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict will provide a true and lasting secure, stable and prosperous Middle East.

Meanwhile, the responsibility on the shoulders of the international community is not less. We will all be morally accountable if this window of opportunity for peace once again slips away.

Mr. President,

Year 2014 has been proclaimed by the General Assembly as the Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This should be a year for all of us to mobilize our means and capabilities to support Palestine in economic and political realms. A politically and economically strong Palestine will surely be a stronger partner for Israel and the whole neighborhood for the years to come. Thus, Turkey supports the inalienable right of the State of Palestine to sit among us under this roof, as an equal member of the UN, recognized fully by the international community. Needless to say, Palestinian re-conciliation constitutes an integral part of this strength.

On our part, Turkey will continue to do its best in alleviating the difficulties of the Palestinian people through various multilateral and bilateral projects in Palestine. Two recent examples have been the transfer of 850.000 Dolars to UNRWA to be used in the provision of fuel for generators in critical services like health, water and sanitation in Gaza, and the launching of the Jenin Industrial Zone Project in the West Bank, which aims at creating business and employment opportunities to the Palestinians in the area.

However, these initiatives can only yield effective results in a full capacity functioning economy, where there are no restrictions on the access of goods and labor. Movements in and out of Palestine, and the contiguity between Gaza and West Bank are of vital importance. We thus call once again an immediate lifting of the embargo on Gaza in accordance with Resolution 1860 of the Security Council, as well as the cease-fire commitments of November 2012. Recent flexibility extended for the access of materials for UN projects is welcomed by many, but declared not enough by more, considering especially the damage caused by the recent severe weather conditions in the region.

Mr. President,

Another source of optimism is the upcoming Geneva II Conference on Syria, whereby invited countries, representatives of the European Union, Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, together with the United Nations officials, will aim to boost the chances for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, based on the Geneva Communique of June 2012. Turkey looks forward to a genuine process, through the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, by the mutual consent of the two parties.

However, as important as the commencement of the Conference, is the grim reality on the ground in Syria, whereby innocent people continue to be killed every day, by bullets, by indiscriminate aerial bombardments, by ballistic missiles, last but not least, of epidemic diseases and hunger under siege. The recent wave of escalating attacks to Aleppo is extremely worrying. This brutality must end. There should be an immediate end to the hostilities and violence and the Presidential Statement of 2 October 2013 should be implemented immediately in its entirety. Reports on the eventual access of the humanitarian convoy into Yarmouk is only partially comforting, as we know that it is not a long term remedy. Sadly there are still hundreds of thousands of IDPs who are yet to be reached.

On the other hand, the burden of the humanitarian crisis on neighboring countries has reached intolerable levels, causing threat not only to domestic but also regional instability. As it would be recalled, the governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey, together with the UNHCR, in a meeting that took place in Şanlıurfa, Turkey on 17 January, appealed once again to the international community to boost solidarity with countries in the region that are hosting the majority of refugees fleeing Syria. We call once again on the Security Council to devise an effective strategy, under Chapter VII, to end this biggest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.

Mr. President,

Despite the full mobilization of the international community to implement the Security Council Resolution 2118, the first benchmark for the elimination of the chemical weapons declared by the Syrian regime was not fulfilled. This is not acceptable. With legitimate security and environmental concerns, we shall continue to closely monitor the timetable devised by the Executive Council of the OPCW. We would also like to take this opportunity to underline once again that the Operative Paragraph 4 of the Resolution 2118 envisages a complete destruction of the chemical weapons program of Syria.

Mr. President,

While the Middle East is going through a turbulent period, we may well be within the reach of putting an end to the long term Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is time for us to work all together to achieve this goal. It is time for both parties to show the necessary leadership and political will to prevent a failure, which we may not be able to afford.

Thank you.