National statement at the UN Security Council VTC meeting on Middle East

Delivered by Permanent Representative of Estonia to UN Mr. Sven Jürgenson

Thank you, Mr President

I thank Special Coordinator Mladenov for his briefing, I also welcome the Ambassadors of Israel and Palestine.

I  align myself with the statement submitted on behalf of the European Union.

Estonia is concerned about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and we call for unity and solidarity with all those affected. We unite with the UN Secretary-General’s call to put aside mistrust and animosity, create corridors for life-saving aid and open precious windows for diplomacy.

We also unite with the joint appeal by the five UN envoys to the Middle East, calling on all parties to stop the rapid spread of the virus and to work to resolve their differences through dialogue, negotiation, mediation or other peaceful means.

We welcome the cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to fight against COVID-19 outbreak and we encourage them to enhance this cooperation even further. The role of UNRWA[1] in supporting this cooperation and in stabilizing the region is central. The mitigation and response to the spread of coronavirus  needs special attention in Gaza Strip where resources remain limited. Also, we have noted the initial encouraging signals by the leaders of Israel and Gaza on a possible prisoner exchange which would be a welcome humanitarian gesture.

As the pandemic affects both the Israelis and the Palestinians, it reminds us also of the need to continue efforts to resolve the conflict. The initiative, taken by US, has given us impetus to revive the process. We call on Israel and Palestine to take steps towards resuming direct and meaningful negotiations in line with international law and the relevant UN resolutions, leading to a negotiated two state solution and taking into account the legitimate aspirations of both parties. We urge the regional and international players including the Middle East Quartet to continue efforts towards negotiations.

Recognizing the challenges ahead, Coronavirus not being the least of them, the most important goal should be keeping the prospects for moving towards peace alive and to call the parties to refrain from actions that undermine it, in the spirit of the Security Council resolution 2334.

In this regard Israel’s announcements of settlement development in several areas in East Jerusalem and around it is worrying, especially in Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and in the E1 area. Our position on settlement activity remains unchanged. It is illegal under international law and undermines the prospects for peace process. Also, we stress that annexation of any parts of the occupied Palestinian Territories would be in contravention with international law.

It is also crucial that all parties refrain from acts of violence, terror and incitement and focus on the common fight against the virus. We condemn firing rockets from Gaza into Israel as well as any other form of violence targeting civilian population. Escalation of violence would be negative for all sides and would further undermine the prospects for a resolution to the conflict.

I thank you!

[1] United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East