UNSC Open Debate - Middle East

  • Murray McCully
Foreign Affairs

Thank you Mr President, distinguished Minister and Excellencies.

It is with a sense of dismay that we address the Council today on the lack of progress on relations between Israel and Palestine, and the violence that has raged there in the past few weeks.

For the nine and a half months we have been non-permanent members of this Council we have made clear New Zealand’s view that concerted Council action is required to jump-start the direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians that are the only means by which a durable solution can be established.

Over recent months we have been concerned to hear the on-going repetition of a defeatist narrative that is in danger of becoming self-fulfilling: the conditions are not right; the parties are not ready.

But if the conditions are not right for direct talks, then surely it is the Council’s role to try to create the right conditions.

If the parties are not ready, then surely the Council should tell them to get ready, help them get ready, and give them a timeframe within which to be ready.

Mr President.

No one can excuse the violence that has taken place.

But we should understand that it is, at least in part, a result of the failure of the diplomatic or political process.

While those guilty of acts of violence must take responsibility for them, and be held to account, this Council must take responsibility for the failure of diplomatic and political process, and move to resolve it.

So we welcome the opportunity for the Security Council to focus on this matter today. And we hope the Council can find a way to extend greater protection to those under threat of violence, and hope to those who currently have none.

Ultimately the Council will be judged not by the quality of the words that are spoken around this table, but by the quality of the actions that follow.

So what are the actions that the Council should take in relation to the question of Palestine in the circumstances that confront us today?

First, we must clearly, unequivocally call for a cessation of the violence, and for the leaders of all parties to use all of their authority to bring the violence to an end.

Second, we should restate the unambiguous commitment of the Council to a two-state solution as the only acceptable basis for sustainable peace.

Third, we should be clear that the means by which we will achieve a sustainable solution is through direct talks between the parties, supported by key stakeholders, including by this Council.

And fourth, if the parties are not ready, and the conditions are not right for those direct talks today, then this Council should mandate a course of action by which the parties get themselves ready and by which the conditions are made right for these talks to commence within a realistic but early timeframe.

Mr President, my country strongly welcomes the very clear signal sent by the Secretary-General in undertaking his visit to the region this week.

We believe the Council must also send its own clear signal to the parties, to their neighbours and close friends, and to the international community, that this is a time to focus on what can be achieved rather than to lament what cannot.

Since we joined the Council, we’ve been clear that we will cooperate with Council members to advance any constructive proposals in relation to the Middle East Peace Process.

It has been six long years since the Council has passed a formal resolution on this matter.

The events of recent weeks cry out for action.

While we remain ready to support any other reasonable proposals for progress, we will, over the coming days, share the text of a draft resolution with colleagues giving effect to the four steps that I have just outlined.

We do so in the hope that this will at least stimulate a level of debate and engagement that will result in the Council being able to chart a way forward.

New Zealand is pleased to note the increasing level of activity of the Quartet.

And we are especially pleased to see the Quartet moving to engage the leadership of the Arab nations through the so-called Quartet-Plus format.

We see this format as being the appropriate vehicle through which this Council can mandate the necessary actions and receive regular reports of progress. It may be that a parameters resolution is required in the early part of next year.

Mr President, we appreciate that the Middle East Peace Process has over time absorbed the energy and attention of many good people.

In particular, we admire the huge energy and commitment brought to this file by US Secretary of State John Kerry, and we hope that the efforts of this Council can help create space in which the diplomatic leadership of Secretary Kerry and others might succeed.

If there is one lesson we can learn from previous attempts to resolve this seemingly intractable problem it is that it will require the concerted support of the entire international community if international diplomacy is to find a solution.

While no words from this Council will themselves bring about a solution to the Palestinian question, it is our duty today to find ways to stem the violence, and then to find a framework that creates space for the diplomacy and political engagement that are so seriously overdue.

Thank you Mr President.