STATEMENT BY THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY AT THE UNSC OPEN DEBATE ON THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST, INCLUDING THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
Güven Begeç 19.04.2016
The Middle East is going through unprecedented challenges. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with its 70 years of history is a microcosmos of what is happening in the entire region today.
Since the last open debate in January, the hopes for a viable solution to the Palestinian question continued to fade away and the situation on the ground further deteriorated.
We are very concerned about the latest developments. Our immediate priority should be a rapid de-escalation.
But, at the same time, we should all be very cognizant of the fundamental cause of the problem, which is the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories by Israel.
The continuing Israeli occupation and its practices in contravention of international law hamper the efforts towards permanent peace. The expansion of illegal settlements pose a major obstacle to peace. Denying the Palestinians’ right to use natural resources, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force, suppression of freedom of association and assembly, confiscation of land as well as the efforts to undermine the Islamic status and sanctity of Al-Haram Al-Sharif breed anger among the Palestinians who have being collectively punished for decades.
The humanitarian disaster in Gaza, which is aggravated with continuing restrictions further deepen the suffering of 1,8 million people living in Gaza. Israel should respond to the repeated calls and lift the inhumane blockade.
The current situation is a somber reflection of what is going to happen in case the two-state solution prospects are lost. We all agree that the status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable. In this regard, a resolution on Palestine was very recently adopted at the 13th Islamic Summit that we hosted in Istanbul on 14-15th April. The Security Council should also assume its primary responsibility vis-à-vis the international peace and security. It should go beyond expressions of condemnation and present credible and concrete steps to bring peace and protection to the Palestinians.
On the Palestinian side, the need for reconciliation is more relevant than ever. The consistent support and encouragement of the international community is vital in this regard.
The establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital continues to be the only viable solution. Turkey’s commitment to support the Palestinian people to this end will never cease.
What happens in Syria is, by any definition, a humanitarian catastrophe, and as such, a colossal stain on our collective human conscience. No modern conflict has been so devoid of respect for international norms.
Turkey continues to assume more than fair share of the burden of the ongoing devastation. We are extremely concerned by the humanitarian and security impacts of the crisis, which constitutes a major national security threat to us. The current chaos created in the North of Syria has played into the hands of terrorists, targeting also our citizens. Just today, the rockets fired from Syria hit our border town Kilis and killed 4 people. In addition, we are once again faced with the risk of a new wave of refugees which is triggered by the latest regime offensive to Aleppo.
We are at a critical turn in Syria. The third round of negotiations in Geneva has just started. This round should produce a concrete outcome. The regime should be pressured to talk about the essence, which is the political transition. The political process should lead to a transition period with concrete timelines, new constitution and elections. A transitional governing body with full executive powers should be established.
In the meantime, the Council must ensure the implementation of all the measures in its very own Resolutions. Unfortunately, the agreement on the cessation of hostilities has become more fragile due to the systematic violations of the regime and its allies. Similarly, humanitarian access is still hindered by the regime. The removal of medical and surgical items from convoys continues. The UN is unlikely to reach its targets for the end of April in terms of the number of civilians to assist in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. Lack of progress in these areas could jeopardize the Geneva negotiations.
Another danger posed to the process is the efforts to intervene to the opposition delegation. The High Negotiations Committee, as one of the two negotiating parties remains engaged in the political process despite the efforts to break its integrity. Non-intervention by third parties to the composition of the opposition negotiation team is a must for the credibility and sustainability of the process. Attempts to dilute and weaken the opposition will only harm the process.
The current tragedy will not end unless the people of Syria have a legitimate government that truly represents their will and enjoys their full consent.
I would like to conclude my remarks on two positive notes.
On Libya, we welcome the arrival and taking up of duties of the Presidency Council in Tripoli on 30 March 2016. Turkey’s support to this crucial step was demonstrated by the visit of our Special Representative to Tripoli on 4-5 April, which was the first international visit to the Presidency Council in its headquarters. We have recently hosted Mr. Sarraj, the President of the Presidency Council, on the occasion of 13th Islamic Summit in İstanbul. His participation has contributed to the visibility of the Council. We are also ready to host the “Ministerial Conference on International Support to Libya”, as decided in Rome in March 2014. Turkey will continue to support Libya.
I would also like to express our support for the start of the cessation of hostilities in Yemen. We hope the ceasefire will be observed and the peace talks, to be held under the auspices of the United Nations in Kuwait will succeed.