Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Mr.Vladimir Safronkov, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

We would like to thank Mr. Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General; His Excellency Mr. Aboul-Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; and Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, member of The Elders, for their detailed briefings.

The fiftieth anniversary of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory on the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip occurs at a time of turbulent transformation of the Middle East and North Africa. Russia condemns terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations. We are outraged and express our condolences to all who have fallen victim to such heinous crimes.

With the rise of international terrorism to the centre stage of global affairs as the main threat, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been unfairly pushed into the background. In that adverse context, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues to deepen. The two-State prospect is waning. Rather than addressing it, destabilizing factors fraught with risk of escalation have only worsened. They now loom large over Gaza. The absence of a political horizon is due to a chronic stalemate in the peace process. It has reinforced a sense of despair for the average person, first and foremost in Palestine. As a consequence, radicals have been given additional room for manoeuvre.

Russia’s position on the Middle East conflict has remained guided by principle and consistency. We firmly believe that a just solution to the Palestinian problem is of key importance for improving the situation in the entire region. If not solved, the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine will continue to taint international affairs, frustrate efforts to settle other regional crises and fuel terrorism. In that regard, we advocate a comprehensive, fair and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of international law. That includes Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, which was just affirmed by His Excellency Mr. Aboul-Gheit.

We are sure that a lasting solution to the conflict can be found through direct talks between sides, without preconditions. Such talks should lead to an end to Israel’s occupation of Arab land that began in 1967. They should lead to the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian State with contiguous borders, existing side by side in peace with Israel, within safe and recognized borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

We see no alternative to the two-State solution. We believe that it is the only realistic manner in which to halt the face-off between Israel and Palestine and the claims they levy against each another. We call upon Palestinians and Israelis to refrain from using violence and unilateral actions that might skew the outcome of the peace process. That pertains to the building of Israeli settlements on occupied Palnestinian territory. We are sure that, more than ever today, there is a need to take practical steps to break the dangerous deadlock in the peace process.

To that end, we continue to make efforts to bring about the resumption of direct political dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis, bilaterally and in other formats. Our initiative to convene a meeting between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Moscow remains on the table. We would like to see a speedy resumption of activity from the Middle East Quartet of international mediators. Let us not forget about the issue of inter-Palestinian divisions. Regrettably, such divisions are also at their 10-year mark. Effectively overcoming divisions on the basis of the political platform of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Arab Peace Initiative is in line with the national interests of all Palestinians and will serve to improve the situation in Gaza and create a sound basis for the success of a future political process.

Russia is making its contribution to reinstating Palestinian unity and notes the efforts of other States, in particular the Arab Republic of Egypt.

We would like to call the attention of the Security Council to the fact that the destabilization of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa has a most serious impact on the Christians living there and on other religious and ethnic minorities. Extremists draw upon ethnic and religious factors to incite hatred and fill their own ranks. Russia continues its efforts to curb attacks on Christians and other minorities, as well as to prevent the fragmentation of civilizations and religions. That is the very lens through which we should consider the joint statement of February last year issued by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus’ and Pope Francis in Havana. It was an appeal to take swift steps to halt the mass exodus of Christians from Middle Eastern countries. That was also the goal of the 7 April Tashkent joint statement issued by the Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States, with regard to the inadmissibility of discrimination and intolerance against Christians, Muslims and membersof other religions.  

History has many nuances but one thing remains clear. We established the Security Council to bring Member States together, not divide them. Today’s review of the situation in the Middle East underscores an indisputable fact — resolving the numerous problems, new and old, in this long-suffering region is possible only through political and diplomatic means and collective efforts. A choice must be made for dialogue and engagement, rather than isolation and animosity. We think that pooling cooperation between the Security Council and the League of Arab States would serve this cause. The joint meeting between the Security Council and the League of Arab States in Cairo in May 2016 created a necessary foundation for these endeavours. However, we must be clear. The situation in the Middle East can be improved only with a broad front of States working to suppress the terrorist threat. A relevant initiative was presented by the President of Russia, Mr. Vladimir Putin, to the General Assembly in September 2015 (see A/70/PV.13). That initiative is of further relevance today. Russia stands ready to engage in collective work, and it is in constant contact with all States of the region.