Remarks to the press by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia following UNSC consultations on the Middle East
The escalation of the situation on the ground is extremely worrying and appalling. The region is on the brink of a full-scale war and unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.
We unequivocally condemn the acts of extreme brutality, killings and the horrifying scale of violence. Any killings and violence against peaceful civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian citizens, is inadmissible. What happened on October 7 on Israeli territory is unacceptable. Israel by all means has the right to protect its own citizens. We also reiterate the right of Israel to ensure its security.
However, there are two inseparable dimensions of the unfolding tragedy, and we can’t highlight one and ignore the other. Indiscriminate shellings of residential areas in Gaza, cutting this territory from water and electricity, its blockade which brings to our minds in particular the memories of the siege of Leningrad during the Second World War are also unacceptable. There are human lives that matter most. Israel’s actions of collective punishment of Gaza citizens as well as its demands to evacuate more than 1 mln civilians in 24 hours and concentrate them in a de-facto ghetto in the south of the sector are also unacceptable and can lead to irreversible catastrophic consequences, regionally and globally.
The root-causes of this situation are of critical importance. Our Western colleagues do their best to promote the narrative that the current escalation happened “out of the blue” because a “band of savage terrorists” attacked Israeli civilians. The US is especially insistent that the whole situation was unprovoked and Hamas are outcalls enjoying no support. If it were so, there would be no protests in the West Bank against Israel's actions and no widespread Arab and Muslim support for Palestine. We shouldn’t ignore that the current flare-up of violence happens against the background of Israel's systematic violations of the decisions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly, including the illegal expansion of settlements which is regularly condemned by the vast majority of UN Member-States. We all are appalled by the fact that the Palestinians are being forcefully ousted from their land, and their houses – demolished. Any attempt to ignore this context is a clear manipulation of facts which we can’t support.
Let me be clear. The responsibility for the looming war in the Middle East to a large extent lies on the United States. It is Washington that recklessly and selfishly blocked the work of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators in an effort to monopolize the peace process and limit it to imposing an economic peace with Israel on the Palestinians and other Arab countries without solving the Palestinian question. We constently warned against this saying it will backfire one day, so it did. You all know well that for years the US blocked any reaction, any signal from the UN Security Council, any modest call for exercising restraint, claiming that its “quiet regional diplomacy” is more effective. Well, now it is obvious that it has failed.
In the current circumstances Russia cannot accept the complete inaction and lack of any reaction on the part of the UNSC, as well as the UN Secretariat. As you could have noticed, not a single Western delegation called for an open meeting on the situation in the Middle East, while they use every fake pretext to call for the discussions of the situation in Ukraine, for obvious political reasons. They are insisting to hold 3 monthly meetings on Syria to show that the Council is allegedly still preoccupied with this issue and to attack Syrian Government but they don’t find courage to call for a meeting on the situation which is directly affecting international peace and security and has dire immense humanitarian consequences.
Against this background, our former Western partners are not hesitating to apply blatant double standards. The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, openly declares that the EU "stands with Israel", while turning a blind eye to the Israeli air force attacks on civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. When Ms. von der Leyen commented on the situation around Mariupol in the past, which was not in any way similar to the one in Gaza, she said that "attacks against civilian infrastructure, especially electricity, are war crimes" and "cutting off men, women, children of water and electricity … are acts of pure terror". There are more examples of the same double standards and irresponsible behavior of other Western politicians.
So, what do we propose for the Council?
We call for an immediate ceasefire and the prevention of further escalation of the conflict. We are convinced that the Security Council must act to put an end to the bloodshed and restart peace negotiations with a view to establishing a Palestinian State as it was supposed to do so long ago. To this end, we are circulating a draft resolution of the UN Security Council which calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected humanitarian ceasefire and for an unimpeded provision of humanitarian assistance, as well as condemns all violence and all acts of terrorism. This draft is open for cosponsorship of all UN Member-States.
Today I have to advise you there was a meeting of the CIS Foreign Ministers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where they adopted a joint statement in that vein. It was circulated as a document of the Security Council.
We call on all members of international community to actively support, co-sponsor and line up behind our draft. This is the only way to stop violence.
As far as Russia is concerned, for us it is important to maintain contacts with the two sides. We have long-established historical ties with Palestine as well as with Israel. A large number of our compatriots live both in Israel and Palestine. And this is also a very important factor we have to take into account.
At the same time, we have very solid, well-established, close relations with the Arab world, first of all, with Palestine, which had been promised and mandated by the UN decisions a sovereign statehood with the capital in East Jerusalem. These decisions have been taken by the UN Security Council and General Assembly, and they must be implemented.
We stand ready for the mediation and we have capacities for it, provided both sides are interested in it.
Q: When do you expect to table the resolution for a vote?
A: We circulated the draft among Security Council members, and we asked for a quite expedited deadline by 12.00 pm tomorrow and we are expecting comments from them to see where we will go from there.
Q: What do you think about the release of hostages? Would you ask for a mass release?
A: There is a clause on the release of hostages.
Q: What was the reaction of member states?
A: Some of them were positive, and some were a bit restrained I would say. They did not say no, but that is the process that we have to see what to do on.
Q: Your draft resolution does not actually mention Hamas.
A: This is a humanitarian resolution. This is not about condemnation. Condemnation of terrorism is there in the resolution, but the focus of the resolution is humanitarian and not political.