Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at the Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question


Esteemed Ministers,


I think no one on this planet remained indifferent to the developments that took place in the Middle East in the past weeks. Our hearts are breaking over the human suffering and tragic stories, for which the sides keep blaming one another while civilians in Israel and Palestine keep dying.

The Mission of Russia receives dozens of appeals daily from both Israeli nationals and Palestinians, as well as representatives of diasporas.  They write about their loved ones who remain in the conflict zone and beg us to do at least something to have this violence stop, first of all to facilitate a ceasefire so the hostages can be released and humanitarian aid can arrive. Those are thousands of harrowing personal stories and thousands of people’s lives. Availing of the opportunity that this high tribune provides, I would like to assure all those who reached out to us that we hear your appeals and try to do our best so the international community can take measures to settle this acute crisis.

I stress again that violence that the peaceful people of Israel have been exposed to since the beginning of October cannot be justified. We strongly reject and condemn any terrorist attacks. And we extend our heartfelt condolences to all who lost their loved ones in Israel, Palestine, and other countries. We demand a release of all detainees.

Unfortunately, this tragedy did not come out of nowhere. The protracted Palestinian-Israeli has been and remains at the epicenter of all the perturbations in the Middle East. For more than 70 years, it has been the source of regional and international disputes, and has been exploited by terrorists and extremists across the globe for ideological purposes. Moreover, the lack of solution to this issue has caused incalculable suffering to the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, Arab states and the many Palestinian diasporas there, including refugees who have had to live in specialized camps for decades.

In the past few years, this state of affairs has been aggravated by Washington's single-handed attempts (detached from collective work and concerted efforts) to impose economic truce on Israel's Arab neighbors without resolving the Palestinian question. It has come to launching unilateral initiatives that not only ignore but also undermine the UN-endorsed international legal basis for the Palestinian-Israeli settlement that was enshrined in Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

In particular, the United States tried to turn a blind eye to the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories; recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. And now all of a sudden we hear Americans calling to end settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. As a result of Palestinian desperation, we are having a conflict of an unprecedented scale that risks spilling over to the entire Middle East region.

For all these years, we have warned openly about the futility and danger of this policy. We said directly that it could lead to tragic consequences.

The latest outbreak of violence proves what we started to say long ago: the normalization of Israel's ties with Arab States, while being a positive development, cannot and should not come at the expense of the Palestinians and cannot lead to a comprehensive stabilization of the situation without resolving the core issue in the Middle East – the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. As we saw at the vote on the Jordanian draft resolution in this Hall on October 27, leaders of all Arab, Muslim, and many other states share this approach. 

It is quite paradoxical that, on the one hand, the entire international community recognizes as illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, which are contrary to the relevant decisions of the UN Security Council and the provisions of international law. But on the other hand, our Western colleagues in their statements prefer not to recall that the current unprecedented escalation on the ground is, among other things, a consequence of the settlement policy of West Jerusalem, as well as its systematic restrictions on the rights of the Palestinian population to visit their Holy Sites freely. It is gratifying that Secretary-General Guterres was not afraid to say so during the open debate of the Security Council on the Middle East on October 24, noting that the current upsurge in violence "did not appear in a vacuum". For that he was immediately subjected to fierce and undeserved criticism from Israel, which prefers to start time reckoning from a blank page, i.e., from October 7, 2023.

Esteemed colleagues,

We all have yet to go back to the root causes of the conflict and to get the Palestinian-Israeli settlement back to the agreed tracks. Today, however, there must be an immediate ceasefire and an end to the bloodshed. This must be obvious to everyone. It is a pity that our Western colleagues on the Security Council continue to torpedo any de-escalation efforts on the ground and block the Council from taking urgent action aimed at normalizing the situation as soon as possible, first and foremost  by means of a ceasefire. That is not only common sense; it is also what humanitarian organizations working in Gaza demand. It is obvious that Israel's full-scale ground operation in Gaza, which has already begun, may turn out not only an unspeakable tragedy for its 2 million people, but also a likely trigger for a region-wide conflict. It would seem that everyone realizes the danger of such a scenario. The only one who does not want to hear about it is Washington. The United States is hypocritically trying to promote its own regional agenda, including through a politicized draft Security Council resolution, which China and us did not let pass.

The aim of our American colleagues is not only to divert attention from the failure of their own policy and to shift responsibility, blaming Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestine Gaza street for all the trouble. Their task is also to have the Security Council legitimize Israel's ground operation in Gaza. After all, as we remember from the situation with the no-fly zone in Libya in 2011, it was not difficult for our Western colleagues to interpret Security Council Resolution 1973 in their favor and unleash aggression against Libya. The Council has no right to give such a carte blanche.


Esteemed colleagues,

I wish to underscore that, while we condemn the killing of Israeli civilians and foreigners in Israel, we cannot turn a blind eye to West Jerusalem's flagrant violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza. Entire neighborhoods are being razed to the ground. Reportedly, the death toll in the enclave has passed 8,500 people, almost 70% of them children, women and seniors. More than 200 Palestinians were killed in less than 24 hours between October 30 and 31, according to figures released by OCHA. Indiscriminate airstrikes have already claimed the lives of 3,500 young Gazans. More than 2,000 people remain under the rubble, half of them also children. The latest strike on the Jebalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip injured more than 400 people. The scale of losses on the part of the United Nations agencies is shocking: 67 staff members were killed, 22 were injured and 42 UNRWA facilities were destroyed. The number of internally displaced persons in Gaza has reached 1.6 million. As a result of the bombardment of the enclave, nine hospitals have been rendered completely inoperable, and the remaining ones are suffering from an acute shortage of medicines.

In the West Bank, more than a hundred people, including more than 30 children, have been killed since October 7. About a thousand Palestinians have been forcibly displaced.

Against that backdrop, Israeli officials allow themselves to make insulting remarks about all Palestinians and speak directly of the collective responsibility of an entire people for the actions of Hamas. Orders to evacuate more than 1 million people do not stand up to any criticism. Israel's total blockade of the Gaza Strip is unacceptable. The area has been simply cut off from the rest of the world. Such a blockade, in addition to provoking panic among the already frightened and desperate civilians, directly undermines the work of medical and rescue services, which will lead to more civilian casualties. Terrorism cannot be defeated by such methods.

We call on the confronting parties to stop the bloodshed immediately and let the mediators work on a diplomatic solution, including the release of the hostages as soon as possible. Sooner or later, this path will have to be walked, the only question is how many innocent people will have to die before that happens.


Esteemed colleagues,

I cannot but stress again the hypocrisy of the United States and its allies. In other contexts, which are completely different, they call to uphold humanitarian law, set up commissions of inquiry, impose sanctions on those who in fact use force only as a last resort to stop years of violence. And today, seeing the horrific destruction in Gaza (many times greater than anything they angrily criticize in other regional contexts), the strikes against civilian facilities, including hospitals, the deaths of thousands of children and the enormous suffering of civilians under an all-out blockade, they hold back as if they have their mouths full of water. All they can do is talk about Israel's alleged right to self-defense, even though as the occupying power it has no such right as confirmed by an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in 2004. I hope that our colleagues in the Global South can see these blatant double standards very clearly.

As for Israel's security, the right to which we recognize, it can be fully guaranteed only in the event of a just solution to the Palestinian question on the basis of well-known UN Security Council resolutions.

We do not deny Israel the right to fight against terrorism. But we urge to fight terrorists. Not civilians. Otherwise, you will side with the evil and start acting by its methods. The Jewish people, who have suffered centuries of persecution, should realize more than anyone else that the suffering of ordinary citizens, the death of innocents for the sake of a blind deadly revenge will not help to restore justice, bring the deceased back to life or comfort their families. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are united by the value of human life, which belongs to God and which no one has the right to take away.

In the current turbulent situation, the Russian Federation is taking intensive efforts aimed at an early resolution of the crisis. Our goal is to develop just solutions to the fundamental issues of the final status of the Palestinian territories. We stand in favor of a sustainable negotiation process on a UN-endorsed platform that should result in the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, coexisting in peace and security with Israel.

In that connection, we commend the efforts of the Arab Group, led by Jordan, to prepare the United Nations General Assembly resolution (was adopted on October 27) demanding urgent measures to stop the violence, halt hostilities, immediately release hostages, prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and prevent the conflict from spilling over into the entire region. Russia fully supported this initiative of the Arab world and co-sponsored it. We call for its implementation.


We are convinced that, along with solving the urgent tasks of putting an end to the current round of violence, it is necessary to begin, without delay, to elaborate a strategy for concrete collective action for a political settlement of the conflict. Previously, the Quartet of international intermediaries (Russia, the US, the EU and the UN) used to uphold this task. However, Washington blocked the work of the Quartet in pursuit of narrow self-interests.

We are to establish a joint mediation mechanism where regional states will have a large role to play. The positive trends that have recently emerged around the Middle East situation speak in favor of that. I mean the Saudi-Iranian normalization, as well as the reintegration of Syria into the League of Arab States. All this proves that when countries of the region take the situation into their own hands and are not subjected to external pressure, they can achieve a lot in terms of Middle Eastern stabilization.

In the current situation, the Russian Federation maintains constructive contacts with all stakeholders and is ready to continue contributing to the cause of Palestinian-Israeli settlement. First and foremost, it is necessary to stop the bloodshed and prevent the crisis from spreading to the entire region, otherwise this conflict will never stop.

Thank you.

Video of the statement