Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, during the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East

The Middle East and North Africa region is still experiencing a systemic multilevel crisis. There have been ongoing, bloodthirsty terrorist attacks and other attacks, including the murder of the Russian ambassador in Ankara, Mr. Karlov. There have been explosions in Turkey and Egypt, and the tragedies in Berlin and Jerusalem. They are all evidence that the terrorist threat is global. That, once again, shows the need for a consolidated effort on the part of the international community to form a broad counter-terrorist front. That has been called for time and again by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Furthermore, there is a need for measures to achieve a political settlement in a number of conflicts, and for the re-establishment of stability and a peaceful life in the region of the Middle East and North Africa.

The situation on the Palestinian-Israeli track of the Middle Eastern settlement remains tense and explosive, as demonstrated by the periodic spikes in violence, including the 8 January terrorist attack in Jerusalem, in which four Israeli soldiers were killed, and the numerous arrests of Palestinians and violations of the ceasefire regime around Gaza. The Russian position on a peace settlement in the Middle East was and remains fundamental and consistent. We advocate a comprehensive, fair and stable settlement on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles, land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative. We are convinced that the long-term solution to the conflict should be sought through direct negotiations between the parties to the conflict without any preconditions.

The general position of the international community has been stated repeatedly. Based on that consensus, we voted in favour of resolution 2334 (2016). We believe that the resolution provides a consolidated signal that unilateral efforts are unacceptable, whether on the Israeli side or on the Palestinian side. It is also unacceptable to second guess the conclusions that might be reached in the peace negotiations, and it is important to maintain the prospect of a two-State solution. In that context, we note that the concluding statement of the international ministerial conference on the Palestinian- Israeli peace settlement in Paris rightly reproduced the main provisions of the existing international legal basis for conflict settlement and includes an encouragement to the parties to the conflict to restate their commitment to a two-State solution.

At the same time, we remain convinced that today, as never before, the time is ripe for practical measures to be taken to bring the peace process out of its dangerous impasse. With that in mind, we continue to work to renew direct political dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We restate our readiness to offer Moscow as a forum for that contact. I recall that that meeting was supposed to take place in September last year, and that the Palestinian party was ready for it. Another priority for our work was and remains facilitating intra-Palestinian reconciliation. A high- level meeting of representatives of all of the main Palestinian groups was recently held in Moscow.

We note the key importance of re-establishing the political and geographical unity of Palestine on the basis of the political platforms of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Arab Peace Initiative. If we manage to solve the intra-Palestinian conflict, then we have the preconditions for enabling the Palestinian people to exercise their legal right to an independent and viable State, existing in peace and security with their neighbours.

The effective overcoming of intra-Palestinian discord will also help to ease the situation in Gaza. There, the humanitarian and socioeconomic situations remain very difficult and, as a result, Palestinians are increasingly reliant on the help of the international community. We therefore welcome the work done by United Nations agencies in that area, in particular the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Russian Federation, for its part, has decided to earmark a voluntary contribution of $2 million to the UNRWA budget for 2017-2021.

With regard to settling the crises in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, Russia has unswervingly advocated that there is no alternative to a political and diplomatic process based on inclusive national dialogue. We continue to strive to support the political process for resolving the conflict in Syria, while expanding humanitarian access and the fight against terrorism, as is stipulated in resolution 2254 (2015) and the corresponding decisions of the International Syria Support Group. We welcome the signing of an agreement on 29 December on a ceasefire between the Syrian Government and the main groups of the armed opposition. That took place under the aegis of Russia and Turkey. And naturally, the terrorists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Al-Nusrah were excluded from that agreement. The ceasefire has been imposed throughout most of the territory.

There are real hopes for the international conference on a Syrian settlement to be held in Astana on 23 January, and active preparation for it is under way. It is expected that it will be attended by representatives of the Syrian Government and of those armed opposition groups that have signed the cessation of hostilities agreement and support a political solution. We are planning the conference as a concrete step in the implementation of resolution 2336 (2016), which approved the December agreements.

In its way, the conference in Kazakhstan represents a bridge to the inclusive Geneva talks that Mr. Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy of the Secretary- General, has scheduled for 8 February. We believe that this resuscitation measure will help to revive the abandoned intra-Syrian dialogue. The format for Astana will involve the participation of United Nations representatives, who could serve as moderators for the contacts between the Syrian sides. In general, the participation of outside invitees, in our view, should be decided according to the tasks identified. Our Kazakh colleagues, as hosts, will have a significant role to play.

We need the involvement of forces wielding influence on the situation on the ground if we are to create conditions conducive to strengthening the ceasefire, and that subject will be at the centre of the talks. It is likely that a number of other important aspects, such as confidence-building measures, improving humanitarian access and the components of the political agenda, will also be discussed. We are currently finalizing the organizational issues. We hope that our international and regional partners will support these efforts. New possibilities are opening up, and and whatever happens, it is vital that we make the most of them.

We hope that the forthcoming meeting in Astana on Syria will enable us to strengthen the cessation of hostilities and give powerful impetus to the process of political settlement under United Nations auspices.