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14 April 2010 - Security Council - The situation in the Middle East : Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(UN Translation)

I thank Mr. Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, for his briefing, and the Permanent Representative of the State of Israel and the Permanent Observer of Palestine for their statements.

I wish to raise three points.

First, our principal objective today is the urgent relaunch of the peace process. There is no alternative to the resumption of negotiations towards the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and within secure and recognized borders, on the basis of Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. That is also the position of the European Union, as the acting head of the Union’s delegation will indicate in his statement, with which France associates itself.

On 19 March, the Quartet set out a two-year deadline for the conclusion of negotiations. But if the parties continue to be incapable of engaging in negotiations of some kind, the international community will have to commit itself to assisting the negotiations in order to guarantee the terms of a final agreement, with a view to emerging from this impasse. To that end, we are working in close cooperation with United States and Egyptian authorities at all levels to define the terms for international assistance making possible the relaunch of the negotiations, something for which we sincerely hope.

Secondly, parallel to efforts to relaunch negotiations, developments on the ground are necessary. Here, I shall touch on two sectors: first, of course, settlement activity and, secondly, Gaza. As to settlement activity, we all know that this remains a major obstacle on the path to a settlement. The Israeli Government’s decision to impose a 10-month moratorium on new construction and the issuance of new construction permits in the West Bank are a step in the right direction and should be implemented. There can be no peace without a complete end to construction in the settlements, which are illegal.

As the President of the French Republic has noted, by making the prospect of a Palestinian State more difficult, settlement activity does not contribute to Israel’s security. Indeed, it increases the threats. Such threats — in Jerusalem more than anywhere else — are a sensitive matter, and we find developments in the holy city are most alarming. We affirm that all provocative acts must be avoided in so sensitive a city. The European Union has therefore condemned recent Israeli announcements on the construction of new housing in Ramat Shlomo and in Sheikh Jarrah.

Settlement activities in East Jerusalem, such as the demolition of houses and other expulsions, are morally unacceptable and politically dangerous. There can be no peace without Jerusalem, which as the French President said in his statement to the Knesset on 23 June 2008, is to become the capital of two States.

For its part, the Palestinian Authority must continue its efforts to strengthen the security sector, to establish the rule of law and to fight mercilessly against terrorism. Those should remain its priorities.

Another matter on the ground to which we must devote attention is the situation in Gaza. Beyond the humanitarian issues, it would be a political mistake to ignore Gaza. We call for full implementation of resolution 1860 (2009), including the immediate unconditional lifting of the blockade which has affected the territory in the areas of humanitarian assistance and the movement of commercial goods and individuals. At the same time, we call for an end to weapons smuggling into Gaza.

Israel’s commitment to easing restrictions on certain United Nations projects following the Secretary-General’s visit to Gaza is a step in the right direction. The announced measures must now be implemented and expanded.

The immediate cessation of all violence, especially the firing of rockets into southern Israel, is also necessary. Finally, we call for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit, which is a matter that France has been following with close attention.

Thirdly and finally, the international community must lend strong support to the Palestinian Authority in order to strengthen Palestinian State institutions. Israel, for its part, should work with far greater determination to help in that regard. Steps have been taken on the ground but remain insufficient. Palestinians must be able to see that developments on the ground are in the direction of an end to the occupation, including with respect to movement and access. Here, we reaffirm our full support for the plan of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, which is in line with the outcome of the 2007 Paris conference, which is intended to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian State in accordance with an agreed timetable.

Let us not forget the other regional tracks of the peace process. We are working to create conditions for the resumption of talks between Syria and Israel.

We are also continuing our efforts with respect to Lebanon, and we welcome the fact that the situation there has remained calm. But we must remain vigilant and continue to urge the parties to fully implement resolution 1701 (2006). Here, there is no lack of matters of concern. In this context, we reaffirm the crucial role played by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

The international community and the Security Council have a major role to play, for the situation in the Middle East is of concern to us all. France is ready to play its full role in this effort, and it was to that end that President Sarkozy put forward the idea of a peace summit to back United States efforts and to complement resumed peace talks, and to be prepared in cooperation with all stakeholders.

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