Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Situation in the Middle East, Including The Palestinian Question

Statement by
H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin
Vice Chairman of the Committe on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
Before the Security Council
The Situation in the Middle East, Including The Palestinian Question


Mr. President,

In my capacity as Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, allow me to congratulate you on the exemplary manner in which you have been steering the work of the Council during this month. I would also like to express my appreciation to H.E. Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet of Gabon for his efficient presiding over the Council during the month of March.

On behalf of the Committee, I would like to express my appreciation to the United Nations Secretariat for the monthly briefings on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. Briefings such as this serve a useful practical purpose as they reflect the latest developments on the ground, as well as the efforts by various stakeholders in the international community to move the peace process forward.

Sadly, Mr. President, as we meet here today, there appears to be little hope for a serious turnaround in the all too familiar patterns of events on the ground. Violence continues to affect the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. Our Committee has condemned the use by Israel of its military might against the occupied Palestinian people, be it the bombing of areas in Gaza, incursions into Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza, or dispersing non-violent protestors in front of the separation wall built illegally on Palestinian land. Our Committee has also been unequivocal in condemning the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian groups from Gaza into Israel. Violence from either side has to stop.

Our Committee also considers it alarming and totally unacceptable that the Government of Israel continues to flagrantly dismiss numerous calls by members of the international community, including the Quartet, for halting the illegal settlement activity in the Occupied West Bank and especially in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s latest statements in that regard send a clear message to the international community that the Israeli strategy is to continue to build in Jerusalem in violation of international law. At the same time, the occupying Power has continued to displace Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem through illegal house demolitions, evictions and residency right revocations.

Our Committee is also seriously concerned about the new Israeli military order that went into effect yesterday threatening thousands of residents in the West Bank with deportation. This order is part of the Israeli policy of consolidating and perpetuating its occupation of Palestinian land through forced displacement of the population. Implementing this order would constitute a breach of the Forth Geneva Convention, in particular its Article 49, which prohibits forcible transfers as well as deportations of protected persons, individual or mass, from the occupied territory.

It is absolutely clear that, by creating such facts on the ground, the occupying Power is undermining efforts at restarting the political process and is pre-determining the outcome of the sensitive permanent status negotiations on the status of Jerusalem. This approach renders any such negotiations devoid of purpose. In the same vein, Israel’s actions and policy on the issue of settlements are a serious threat to the concept of achieving a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-State solution. It is obvious, Mr. President, that these illegal and provocative actions of the Israeli leadership are also directly undermining current efforts at resuming the political process between the parties.

Our Committee fully supports the demand by the Middle East Quartet that Israel freeze all settlement activity, dismantle outposts and refrain from illegal house demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem. I would like to emphasize here that these are NOT pre-conditions for resuming the negotiating process. These are Israeli obligations under the Road Map, as endorsed by this Council. It is hoped that the ten-month freeze of settlement expansion declared by the Israeli Government would be comprehensive, extended to East Jerusalem and retained indefinitely.

I would like to inform the Members of the Council that, at the end of March, our Committee convened its annual United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People. Its goal was to draw the attention of the international community to the Programme of the Palestinian Authority entitled “Palestine: Ending the occupation, establishing the State” – the programme that has become known as the Fayyad Plan. This programme might be understood as the Palestinian answer to Israeli settlement-building by creating unilaterally positive facts on the ground. Unlike Israel’s settlement activity, the Palestinian Authority’s programme is consistent with international law, welcomed and supported by the international community, and promotes rather than impedes prospects for a peace agreement. The plan reflects the Palestinian determination to empower themselves by taking their destiny into their own hands and shouldering their share of responsibility through building state institutions under the Israeli occupation with a view to ending it.

This forward-looking programme of the Palestinian Authority deserves the full attention of and tangible support by the international community. The Palestinian Authority has proven its ability to transform international support into concrete government-administered programmes, as demonstrated by the reform of the law and order sector and improved transparency at all levels and in all sectors of its activity. The Fayyad Plan is a logical continuation of these efforts.

It has to be borne in mind that this programme is not being implemented in a political vacuum. It is now, and will be in the foreseeable future, critically affected by developments in the political process. In fact, its success is determined by the measure of progress in the political area. On the international level, support needs to be built for the broad recognition of an independent Palestinian State. At the end of the projected two years of the plan, this recognition could be enshrined in a Security Council resolution, clearly determining the borders of the Palestinian State based on the pre-1967 lines.

Our Committee has come out strongly in support of the Palestinian Authority’s State-building programme. We would like to encourage the Members of the Security Council to support the realization of this plan, which has already been endorsed by the United Nations Secretary-General, the Quartet and the League of Arab States. By putting the weight of its authority behind this plan, the Council will create the necessary political framework for ending the occupation and implementing the two-State solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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The Situation in the Middle East, Including The Palestinian Question

Afghanistan on The World Stage

Afghanistan on the world Stage

Statements, Addresses and Articles By

H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Reprentative of the
Permanent Mission of The Islamic Republic of
Afghanistan to the United Nations in New York

Click here for PDF version

Russia and U.S. Sign Nuclear Arms Reduction Pact

PRAGUE — The United States and Russia opened what they called a new era in their tumultuous relationship on Thursday as they signed an arms control treaty and presented a largely united front against Iran’s nuclear program, marking a sharp change since they broke over the Georgia war two years ago.

Dmitri A. Medvedev

Obama, Medvedev sign treaty to reduce nuclear weapons

In a ceremony filled with flourish and the echoes of history, President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev put aside the tensions of recent years to seal the New Start pact paring back their nuclear arsenals. The two leaders used the moment to showcase their growing personal relationship and a mutual commitment to cooperation on a host of issues.

The celebratory mood in the majestic, gilded hall of Prague Castle masked stubborn divisions on matters like missile defense and European security. Mr. Obama avoided any public criticism of Russia’s human rights record. And while they resolved to seek even deeper cuts in nuclear weapons, such an agreement would be much harder to reach than the one they signed Thursday.

The overthrow of the government in Kyrgyzstan likewise could quickly test the new bonds proclaimed in Prague given that the two countries have vied for influence there in recent years. As both sides struggled to figure out what the violent uprising would mean, the United States took a cautious approach while Russia embraced the new government and a senior official in Mr. Medvedev’s delegation told reporters that Moscow still wanted an American base in Kyrgyzstan closed.

But harmony was the message of the day. “When the United States and Russia are not able to work together on big issues, it’s not good for either of our nations, nor is it good for the world,” Mr. Obama said. “Together, we’ve stopped that drift, and proven the benefits of cooperation. Today is an important milestone for nuclear security and nonproliferation, and for U.S.-Russia relations.”

Mr. Medvedev called the treaty “a truly historic event” that would “open a new page” in Russian-American relations. “What matters most is that this is a win-win situation,” he said. “No one stands to lose from this agreement. I believe that this is a typical feature of our cooperation. Both parties have won.”

The Russian signaled support for the American-led drive to impose new sanctions on Iran, saying that Tehran’s nuclear program had flouted international rules. “We cannot turn a blind eye to this,” Mr. Medvedev said, while adding that sanctions “should be smart” and avoid hardship for the Iranian people.

Mr. Medvedev said he “outlined our limits for such sanctions” to Mr. Obama in their private talks, without elaborating. Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy Russian foreign minister, said later that Mr. Medvedev supported sanctions “that are targeted, that are tailored,” and opposed an embargo on refined oil products because it would be “a huge shock for the whole society.”

The friendly tone stood in contrast to the rupture between Washington and Moscow after Russia’s war with its tiny neighbor of Georgia in 2008, when President George W. Bush shelved a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in protest and supplied financial aid to the Georgians. Neither president mentioned Georgia in public on Thursday or the broader issue of Russia’s assertiveness with its neighbors.

The two played down their quarrel over American plans to build missile defense in Europe, despite recent comments by Russian officials threatening to withdraw from the treaty if the United States pressed too far. And Mr. Obama expressed no public concern about Russian authoritarianism, a topic that routinely flavored discussions during Mr. Bush’s presidency, and even he was sometimes criticized for not raising it more strenuously.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev smiled and whispered with each other as they sat side by side signing the treaty. Mr. Obama called his counterpart a “friend and partner” and said “without his personal efforts and strong leadership, we would not be here today.” For his part, Mr. Medvedev said the two had developed a “very good personal relationship and a very good personal chemistry, as they say.”

White House officials described the relationship in effusive terms. “We’re having a real conversation,” said Michael McFaul, the president’s Russia adviser. “We’re not reading talking points.” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Obama “genuinely feels like they can sit down and call each other and work through a series of issues in a very frank and honest way.”

Russian officials likewise expressed optimism that was absent from such meetings not long ago. “Our mutual trust was below zero,” said Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Parliament. “Now we have to correct the mistakes of the past and move forward.”

Under the treaty, if ratified, each side within seven years would be barred from deploying more than 1,550 strategic warheads or 700 launchers. Because of counting rules and past reductions, neither side would have to eliminate large numbers of weapons to meet the new limits. But the treaty re-establishes an inspection regime that lapsed in December and could serve as a foundation for deeper reductions later.

The rapprochement worries many in a region once dominated by Moscow. The cover of the influential Czech weekly Reflex showed Mr. Obama kissing Leonid Brezhnev, along with the warning, “dangerous kisses with Moscow.” The leading Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza ran a snide commentary titled “Obama is coming, but it’s no longer our Obama.”

Lubos Dobrovsky, a former Czech defense minister who presided over the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, said he feared that Mr. Obama was appeasing Russia. “This treaty is a diplomatic and military victory for Moscow,” he said in an interview, “and I am not happy that this American defeat is being showcased in Prague.”

Hoping to soothe such concerns, Mr. Obama spoke by phone with President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia before leaving Washington and then hosted 11 leaders from the region here for a dinner of devil’s fish, scallops and California wine.

“He gave us reassurances that we are not in a vacuum, that we are anchored in Europe and NATO, that we belong somewhere,” Prime Minister Jan Fischer of the Czech Republic said in an interview afterward. But history is hard to ignore, he added. “The people of the Czech Republic will be viewing relations with Russia through the rear view mirror, but we need to look through the front screen, which is much larger.”

Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland told reporters that he asked Mr. Obama directly how the renewed Russian-American ties “may affect the security of countries in the region,” and added that “we received assurances on the part of the United States” that its commitment to its partners here remained undiminished.

Source: The New York Times


Michal Piotrowski contributed reporting from Warsaw, and Jan Krcmar from Prague.

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan