On behalf of people of Afghanistan, it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you to this milestone conference, marking a new phase in the deepening and broadening of our international partnership. PDF version
H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
at the Security Council Debate on
the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
Ladies and gentlemen,
First, let me congratulate you, Madam President, for assuming the Presidency of the Council for this month, and thank you for convening this meeting. Allow me to also thank the Secretary-General, High Commissioner Pillay and Under Secretary-General Holmes for their briefings today. I want to pay particular tribute to Mr. Holmes, and thank him for his years of service at the United Nations and his extraordinary efforts to protect civilians across the world.
Only last week we met in this chamber to debate the situation in my country, and during my statement then I emphasized the importance of putting the Afghan people at the center of our common efforts, and reengaging them in the reconstruction and stabilization of their country. There can be no legitimacy of efforts or sustainability of progress without the support and partnership of the people themselves.
This awareness has led the Government of Afghanistan, in partnership with the international community, to focus on finding ways to meet the needs and expectations of the people. In this regard, last month, my government convened a consultative Peace Jirga, which brought together all segments of Afghan society in the search for stability and the end of conflict. One thing was very clear; all Afghans desire peace. This is, at heart, the only way to truly protect the Afghan people and stabilize the country. This is my Governmentâ€™s ultimate and most fundamental goal.
In the meantime, civilians continue to pay a staggering price. Over six thousand Afghans were killed and injured last year alone, including women, children and the elderly, and even more are being killed this year. More than half are killed by suicide attacks and IEDs. Mines and other remnants of war continue to claim lives, particularly of children. Over the past years, the Taliban, al Qaeda and their terrorist allies have been responsible for an increasing and overwhelming majority of civilian casualties, and they have embraced assassinations, executions and threats in an attempt to control the population through terror. They show a complete disregard for human life and a willingness to particularly target vulnerable groups, including schoolchildren and teachers. Last month, in a particularly gruesome example, they hanged a 7-year old child, accusing him of being a government spy. The same day, they attacked a wedding ceremony and killed over forty people in Kandahar.
In addition to the Afghan cost of this conflict, our international friends are also targeted for their efforts to build a stable, prosperous Afghanistan. Attacks on humanitarian workers, United Nations personnel, and those working in education and healthcare, continue to increase. The attack last October on Bakhtar Guest House, which took the lives five UN staff and three others, was just one of several such incidents. In this regard, and on behalf of my Government, let me reiterate our gratitude to the men and women of the United Nations and our international friends, who work in Afghanistan under very difficult circumstances for the sake of the Afghan people and in the pursuit of international peace and security. The Afghan Government and people recognize the critical work that you do in supporting the efforts of my Government and in providing basic services and humanitarian needs for the people. We fully support your efforts in Afghanistan and at the UN to improve security conditions for UN staff.
It is not only the terrorists who are to blame; we also bear an enormous responsibility to safeguard the security of non-combatants. We have achieved remarkable progress on this in the past year. We welcomed steps taken by ISAFâ€™s former commander General McChrystal to change their rules of engagement in order to better protect the lives of civilians, and the Security Council noticed the results in their Mission last month. We expect that General Petraeus, as the new commander of ISAF, will continue this emphasis. However, we can, and must, do more to prevent collateral damage and friendly fire, such as in the unfortunate incident yesterday which cost the lives of five Afghan servicemen. Every civilian casualty undermines the belief of the people in the goodwill of the international community and emboldens the enemy. President Karzai continues to raise this issue with our international partners at the highest level, including in his May meetings with President Obama, and we know that our allies share our belief that every civilian death is unacceptable. In addition, my Government is working to build an efficient, effective and responsible army and police force dedicated to the protection of Afghans and the maintenance of security and rule of law. The safety of the Afghan people should be our central concern, and we must continue to work together to be worthy of their trust and confidence in our future efforts.
Afghanistan supports the growing trend of mentioning the protection of civilians in the mandates of ISAF and other military missions. Increasingly, we should measure our success not by abstract measures, but by the concrete improvement in the lives of the people. It is both responsible and necessary that we continue to search for ways to better meet our responsibilities, and bring to Afghans, and others, the peace, justice and stability that is the birthright of all mankind.
Concluding statement of the Organizers
Concluding statement of the Organizers
1. The United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine was convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in Rabat on 1 and 2 July 2010. Participants in the Meeting included internationally renowned experts, including Israeli and Palestinian, representatives of United Nations Members and Observers, parliamentarians, representatives of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations, representatives of civil society, academic institutions and the media.
2. The objective of the Meeting, at this time of intensified efforts at resuming the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, was to promote broad international support, including by African States, for a solution of the conflict based on a shared vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The Meeting discussed the current status of Jerusalem, including the religious and cultural significance of the Holy City, and its status in international law and United Nations resolutions as a city occupied since 5 June 1967. The Meeting considered the question of Jerusalem in the context of the permanent status negotiations. Participants in the Meeting also looked into the importance of building an international consensus on a just and viable solution of the question of Jerusalem and the role of African States and other actors in that regard.
3. The Meeting was opened by H.E. Mr. TaÃ¯b Fassi-Fihri, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco. In his statement, he underlined that the United Nations, in conformity with the text and spirit of its Charter, could not be just an international forum to follow up the development of the Palestinian cause or denounce the ongoing aggressions by the Israeli authorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It had to take full responsibility by playing a pioneering role for an effective and coherent mobilization of necessary efforts towards ending the tragic conflict that negatively affected the interests of all parties and represented a real threat to international security and stability. He also emphasized the active efforts made by
His Majesty King Mohammed VI, Chairman of the Al-Quds Committee, to preserve the legal status of Al-Quds and maintain its spiritual identity, and to provide all kinds of support to the Makdesi population in order to promote their living conditions in the areas of housing, social work, health care and education, whether directly or by means of the Bayt Mal Al-Quds Al-Sharif Agency, where Morocco remained the major contributor and sponsor.
4. In the course of the Meeting, the participants reviewed the current status of the political efforts to revive a meaningful political process between Israelis and Palestinians. Speakers stressed the importance of a comprehensive peace on the basis of the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map, and deplored recent developments on the ground, which were seriously complicating the ongoing efforts to advance negotiations. The participants examined the current situation in and around Jerusalem and underlined the imperative of a just and viable political solution of the question of Jerusalem as a permanent status issue. They discussed the support of African countries for a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by promoting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people through the United Nations system as well as through regional mechanisms, including the African Union, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and various civil society initiatives in the region.
5. The Organizers welcomed the support by the participants for the two-State solution, with the State of Israel living side by side in peace and security with an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Hope was expressed for early progress in the negotiations, that would lead to consider all permanent status issues, including settlements, borders, Jerusalem, refugees, water and security. There was consensus that for any peace efforts to be successful, it was imperative to find a just and viable political solution of the question of Jerusalem.
6. Noting that the question of Jerusalem remained a key permanent status issue in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Organizers note that Israelâ€™s annexation of East Jerusalem has never been internationally recognized. In that context, the Organizers concur with the 8 December 2009 conclusions by the Council of the European Union, as well as the 19 March 2010 statement by the Middle East Quartet, reaffirming that the annexation of East Jerusalem had not been recognized by the international community and that the status of Jerusalem was a permanent status issue that had to be resolved through negotiations between the parties.
7. The Organizers reiterate that the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. They call on Israel to immediately cease settlement construction, including the so-called â€œnatural growthâ€, and to dismantle settlement outposts. Of particular concern were plans for the expansion and consolidation of large settlement blocks in and around East Jerusalem, especially in the so-called â€œE-1â€ area, which cut off the City from the rest of the West Bank, thereby undermining and prejudging the outcome of permanent status negotiations. Pointing out that the moratorium on settlements announced by the Government of Prime Minister Netanyahu only provided for a temporary and partial freeze on settlement construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Organizers join the participants in the Meeting in calling for a permanent and complete halt to all settlement activities, including in Occupied East Jerusalem, which has been excluded from the moratorium. The Organizers emphasize that there will be no international recognition of any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed upon by the parties.
8. The Organizers express serious concern about illegal Israeli practices aimed at altering the status and demographic character of East Jerusalem, including the continued house demolitions, eviction of Palestinian residents, revocation of Palestinian residency rights, settlement construction and transfer of settlers. They underline that such unilateral actions constitute violations of international law and impede all efforts at re-launching meaningful permanent status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Moreover, the Organizers deplore all discriminatory Israeli practices against Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including restrictions on access to and residence in East Jerusalem, construction of the wall in and around East Jerusalem and the further isolation of the City from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The continuation of such illegal and unhelpful practices calls into question the credibility of the stated Israeli commitment to negotiations towards a two-State solution. The Organizers call upon Israel to ensure that provocative steps are not taken in the City, particularly at this delicate stage when the goal must be to build trust and support political negotiations. The Organizers call upon the United Nations, in particular its Security Council, to take, as soon as possible, responsibility for the situation in East Jerusalem and to take the necessary decisions, in consultation with the interested political groupings, to prevent its further deterioration.
9. Drawing attention to the historical, cultural and religious significance of the Holy City, the Organizers wish to remind about the importance of recognizing that religious sites in the West Bank have a special spiritual significance to many people worldwide, including Jews, Muslims and Christians. In that context, the Organizers express regret at the inclusion, earlier this year, of a number of many sites in Jerusalem, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi) and Rachelâ€™s Tomb (Masjid Bilal or Qubbat Rakhil), in the list of Israelâ€™s â€œNational Heritage Infrastructuresâ€. They also express serious concern at the continued Israeli excavations in and around the Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound in East Jerusalem and called for an end to all acts of provocation and incitement, in particular at or near the Cityâ€™s holy sites, which are likely to fuel tensions in the entire region. They stress the need to find a solution to the question of Jerusalem that would take into account the concerns of both sides, while ensuring access to the Cityâ€™s holy sites by the people of all religions.
10. The Organizers join the participants in welcoming the recently renewed international efforts at re-launching the Middle East peace process, including the initiatives by United States Special Envoy George Mitchell. The Organizers are worried that these serious efforts can be undermined by recent developments on the ground, including the announcement by the Israeli Government of 1,600 new housing units in the â€œRamat Shlomoâ€ and the most recent case, involving the approval by a Jerusalem municipal planning body of a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in the Al-Bustan area of the Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem to make room for an Israeli tourist centre. These actions constitute clear violation of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
11. The Organizers have been deeply concerned about the fatal Israeli attack of 31 May on the international flotilla, heading towards Gaza with humanitarian aid. The Organizers strongly condemn this attack in international waters, and consider it a violation of international law. They fully support the call of the United Nations Secretary-General for establishing an international investigative panel to look into the incident. At the same time, the Organizers are of the view that the incident could have been avoided, had Israel lifted its blockade of Gaza, which for more than three years has been suffocating the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip, while preventing them from rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of the comprehensive destruction caused by the Israeli attack on Gaza 18 months ago. The Organizers deplore the continuing blockage of many items and materials vital for humanitarian relief and reconstruction efforts and the obstacles faced by patients trying to leave the Gaza Strip in search of treatment for serious and chronic illnesses. While noting the recent slight easing of the restrictions on Gaza, the Organizers stress the need for concrete action to lift the siege completely and promptly to allow the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people through the crossings.
12. The Organizers remind Israel, the occupying Power, of its responsibilities under international humanitarian law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates that Israel, as a High Contracting Party, is obliged to protect the Palestinian civilian population under its occupation and to act within the ambit of international law. The applicability of the Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, has been repeatedly confirmed by the Conference of the High Contracting Parties, as well as by the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council and the International Court of Justice. Reiterating the need for a full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), the Organizers call on Israel, the occupying Power, to immediately lift the blockade and to open all crossings in accordance with the 2005 Agreement on Access and Movement and to completely implement the other provisions of the Agreement.
13. The Organizers also urge the Palestinian leadership, the leaders of all factions and all Palestinians to strive for national reconciliation as an essential condition for ending the occupation, achieving a just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine and the establishment of a viable, contiguous, sovereign and democratic Palestinian State. The Organizers express appreciation for the Egyptian efforts in achieving such reconciliation as soon as possible.
14. Despite the current stagnation in the peace process and the many negative developments on the ground, the Organizers express firm belief that there is no alternative to continuing negotiations and to the two-State solution. But time is of essence. The Organizers also express their appreciation for the immediate and continued engagement of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, Governments, national parliaments and inter-parliamentary organizations, regional and international organizations, and civil society organizations, including from the African region, to achieve a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They emphasize that a critical condition for achieving a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, occupied since June 1967.
15. The Organizers encourage the international community, including the countries of Africa, to strengthen their support for the peace process, in particular at a time when it faces unprecedented challenges. They reiterate the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine, until it is resolved in all its aspects based on the relevant United Nations resolutions. In that context, the participants commended the Committee for organizing meetings, like this one in Rabat, that mobilize Governments and public opinion in different regions in support of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
16. The Organizers commend the action of African Governments, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society in support of Israelis and Palestinians in their quest for a peaceful settlement of the conflict and urge them to continue their moral and political support of the Palestinian people. They encourage the African countries to continue to support action on these issues at the regional and international levels, including at the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and other intergovernmental mechanisms.
17. The Organizers commend the active and constructive role played by Morocco, an Observer in the Committee, for its tireless efforts to assist the Palestinian people in achieving its inalienable rights. They express their deep appreciation to His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Chairman of the Al-Quds Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, for his tireless efforts and timely actions to preserve the religious and civilizational character of Al-Quds Al-Sharif. They also praised His Majestyâ€™s constructive initiatives in support of Palestinian issues, including that of Jerusalem. Recalling the International Forum on Jerusalem, which was convened in October 2009 in Rabat by the Al-Quds Committee and the Yasser Arafat Foundation, the Organizers applaud the Kingdom of Morocco for its constructive contribution to international efforts towards finding a solution to the question of Jerusalem, which would ensure the peaceful co-existence of peoples of various religions in the Holy City. They endorse the appeal made by His Majesty King Mohammed VI at the Forum for the establishment of an â€œInternational Coalitionâ€ of Governments, international organizations and civil society actors in favour of preserving the legal status of Jerusalem as a space for dialogue and peaceful coexistence.
18. The Organizers expressed their profound gratitude to the Government of Morocco and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for hosting the Meeting, for the assistance and support extended to the Committee and the United Nations Secretariat in its preparation, and for the warm reception and generous hospitality extended to them.