UN Security Council: Ireland Calls for Resumption of Mediation in Middle East
Ireland has made a call at the UN Security Council for the resumption of active and effective mediation in the Middle East. Speaking in New York this afternoon, Ireland's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Gerard Corr, told the Council that it is now time that the obstacles to the implementation of the Mitchell Report were removed. He reiterated the urgent need for a third party monitoring system and said that after ten months of violence and instability, the message of the Council to both sides must be to offer the full and active support of the international community in helping them to turn once again to the only possible way forward: dialogue and peace-building.
Note for Editors:
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., is due to visit the Middle East on 9-14 September next. The full text of today's statement follows.
UN Security Council:
Situation on the Middle East, including the Question of PalestineStatement by Ambassador Gerard Corr, Deputy Permanent Representative,
I would like, first, to associate my delegation with the statement to be made later in the debate by the representative of Belgium on behalf of the European Union.
It is a matter of the deepest concern and regret to the Government and the people of Ireland that prospects for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent months have receded; that violence has dangerously escalated; that excessive and disproportionate use of force is almost daily causing the deaths of innocent civilians; that people are again dying in indiscriminate bombing attacks; that commitments entered into by the parties, instead of being built upon, are being reversed.
In view of the increasing spiral of violence and of what - at times - seem deliberately provocative acts, and the apparent absence of direction in the peace process, it is fully appropriate for the Council once again to address the issue. Also, the Council cannot ignore the fact that long-standing resolutions remain unfulfilled.
When we last spoke in the Council on this issue we, along with many other delegations, said that the disproportionate use of force by Israel, instead of stabilising the situation, would merely aggravate it further. We, and others, also emphasised that attacks on Israeli civilians, as well as being utterly wrong in themselves, would do nothing to bring about the justice desired and deserved by the Palestinian people, and would in fact put off the day when they can begin to live their lives in freedom and dignity.
It is unfortunate that the warnings given at that time by Security Council delegations - delegations that have the interests of both the parties at heart - were not heeded. Violence and provocation have been taken to new levels and the parties are no longer engaged in dialogue. Instead, a corrosive cycle of mutual misunderstandings, ritual condemnations and fear is filling the vacuum left by the ending of substantive dialogue. It is a deeply dangerous and untenable situation.
The present situation is all the more regrettable because, since our last meeting on this issue, the report of the Sharm el-Sheik Fact-Finding Committee, chaired by Senator George Mitchell, in its recommendations, pointed with clarity and imagination to the way forward. The members of the Security Council on 22 May called on the parties immediately to begin the steps required to implement those recommendations, including on confidence-building measures.
It is now well past time that the obstacles to the implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell Report were removed. Effective and immediate steps must be taken to bring an end to acts of violence, and the Report sets out clearly what is required of the Palestinian Authority in that regard. However, it is not helpful to impose unilateral conditions for the commencement of the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations that give a veto on progress to those who are bent on wrecking the peace process.
Neither is it helpful for one party to commit itself only to part of the process. Of course, it is very important that a cessation of violence is achieved and maintained. However, we made the point in March, and we emphasise it again today, that the current phase of violence arises primarily out of the frustration to which the long years of occupation have given rise. The Mitchell report refers to the “humiliation and frustration that Palestinians must endure every day as a result of living with the continuing effects of occupation.” In such conditions, without a prospect of a fair and honourable settlement at the end of the process, the calm necessary for the resumption of dialogue is unlikely to be achieved.
The Mitchell Report also underlines the difficulties that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories - which the entire international community holds as illegal - have presented to the peace process. It is long past time that the Israeli authorities unambiguously committed themselves to a freeze on settlement construction activity.
On the ninth of August, a horrific bomb attack took place in Jerusalem. Other such attacks have taken place, which could have had, but fortunately did not have, a similar death-toll. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., in condemning this attack, said that the commitments given by the sides to secure a cessation of violence and to implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Report must be observed, and stressed how much there was to be lost by sinking deeper into the spiral of attack and retaliation. He said that negotiations towards a comprehensive peace settlement offered the only hope of a way out of the current spiral of violence and the dreadful prospect of a wider conflict in the region.
The Irish authorities are gravely concerned at the closure of Orient House, which has become in recent years a symbol of the Palestinian people's aspirations to sovereignty, and of other institutions in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as at the incursions into territory which under the interim agreements had been transferred to the control of the Palestinian Authority.
We fully understand the depth of feeling that existed in Israel after horrific suicide bombing attacks. We fully accept that the Israeli authorities have a right and duty to protect the public. However, an action against Palestinian institutions, and against symbols of nationhood important to Palestinians, is an action against a people as a whole, not just against their leadership, and certainly not against terrorists. Such actions do not serve the interests of peace. As the European Union stated, they run counter to the declared objective, which must remain the restoration of security for all.
Also running counter to this objective are the other collective punishments against the Palestinian people, the closures and restrictions on movement, with the resulting devastating impact on the Palestinian people and the Palestinian economy, the withholding of due revenue, resulting in the disastrous financial condition of the Palestinian Authority, and the extrajudicial killings. None of this will bring peace. None of these things will bring one day closer, for Israel, secure borders recognised by its neighbours.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for the public at large, in the region and outside of it, to understand why the international community, which is increasingly ready to intervene quickly and effectively on other issues of international peace and security, is apparently helpless to do anything effective in response to the growing crisis in the Middle East.
In his statement of 9 August, Foreign Minister Cowen stated that recent events underlined the urgent need for a third party monitoring mechanism, which, at this critical time, would serve the interests of both parties.
Ireland also welcomes the statement made by the G8 on 19 July, which reaffirmed that full implementation of the Mitchell Report was the only way forward, outlined the elements necessary for a cooling-off period, and said that third-party monitoring accepted by both parties would serve their interests in implementing the report.
Grave psychological barriers exist to a resumption of dialogue. This was clear in March, when Deputy Prime Minister Peres referred to them in stark terms in this chamber. It is even clearer now. We have made appeals to the parties here today, but the breakthrough that is needed, as in many other conflicts, requires outside mediators that have the trust of both parties. My delegation supports the calls that have been made for the resumption of active and effective mediation.
Is any delegation here ready to declare that the Middle East peace process cannot be revived? An enormous amount has been achieved since the first peace conference was convened in Madrid ten years ago, and since the Declaration of Principles was signed eight years ago. There have been mistakes and setbacks, and the process has suffered grievously from a lack of continuity. A clear message must go out from this meeting of the Security Council that too much has been achieved, and the stakes for both parties and for the region as a whole are too great, to throw it all away. My delegation therefore welcomes recent reports of moves by Deputy Prime Minister Peres to reopen dialogue with representatives of the Palestinian Authority.
Building peace in the region is, in the end, about building conditions of justice; about removing threats and affronts to justice; about achieving psychological as well as physical security as pre-conditions for true peace; about tackling what can only be described as the bondage of fear - in all its aspects - that seems at time to overwhelm wiser judgements and counsels. After ten months of violence and instability, the message of the Council to both parties must be to offer the full and active support of the international community in helping them to turn once again to the only possible way forward: dialogue and peace-building.