Thank you, Mr. President!
I thank Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo and Assistant Secretary-General Mueller for their briefings. I align myself with the statement delivered by the European Union.
The only way to reach lasting peace and fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Israelis and Palestinians is through a negotiated two-state solution which respects internationally agreed parameters and international law.
Unfortunately the developments on the ground are deteriorating and preventing the resumption of meaningful negotiations in order to resolve this long lasting conflict. I would reiterate the importance of implementing the Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), including its call for affirmative steps to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-State solution.
We are concerned by the continuation of Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law. We also call on Israel to end the demolitions of Palestinian-owned buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which have also included projects funded by EU and its Member States.
Concerning recent calls for annexation of areas in the West Bank, I would like to stress that annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law and would harm prospects of moving forward with the peace process.
Reaching a sustainable political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires also a progress on the intra-Palestinian reconciliation. We encourage all Palestinian factions to commit to inclusive, comprehensive and fair elections. Holding elections throughout the Palestinian territory, including in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, would be important for renewing the democratic legitimacy and securing the strong institutions of the Palestinian Authority.
Unfortunately the situation in the Gaza Strip remains fragile. We condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel – such indiscriminate violence and targeting of civilian population is completely unacceptable. We call on all parties to exercise restraint and to refrain from targeting civilians, complying with obligations under international humanitarian law. The cycle of violence in Gaza will only bring about more civilian casualties and undermines the humanitarian situation in Gaza, resulting in further suffering and growing extremism.
I would also stress the importance of continued support to UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which remains crucial for providing essential services for Palestinian refugees, especially healthcare and children’s education. Estonia has contributed with additional funding in recent years to support UNRWA’s activities in Middle East.
With regards to Syria, we want to reiterate our support to the UN Security Council resolution 2254. As pointed out in that resolution, the success of the political process is closely interlinked to a nationwide ceasefire. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Syria’s Idlib, where situation remains highly volatile despite the repeated “ceasefire agreements” by various parties to the conflict. The continued military operations in the area may lead us to severe humanitarian consequences and for another influx of refugees, as increased violence threatens millions of civilians. The humanitarian situation in the area remains dreadful, despite the renewal of the cross-border aid mechanism on January 10th. Millions of people remain in need of life-saving assistance and protection. The instability in Idlib and further military gains by the regime and its allies may harm the prospects for a meaningful political transition.