Open Debate: The Situation in the Middle East.
18 April, 2016
On Monday April 18, 2016, under the Chinese presidency, the Security Council held a ministerial-level open debate under the theme, "The Situation in the Middle East,” with a special focus on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Syrian Arab Republic. Discussing the Palestinian question, UN Secretary-General has noted in his briefing that “the creation of new facts on the ground through demolitions and settlement-building raises questions about whether Israel’s ultimate goal is, in fact, to drive Palestinians out of certain parts of the West Bank, thereby undermining any prospect of transition to a viable Palestinian State.” Meanwhile, Israel’s representative questioned the Palestinians’ desire for peace, recalling that his compatriots had faced a wave of daily attacks that had left 34 people dead and hundreds injured over the last few months. Instead of condemning the attacks, the Palestinian leadership had encouraged them and treated terrorists like heroes, he added. Turning to the crisis in Syria, speakers welcomed the recent cessation-of-hostilities agreement and the start of the latest round of peace talks in Geneva earlier this month. Japan’s representative, echoing the sentiments of many delegates, suggested the international community to pay particular attention to the access of people to humanitarian assistance. Noting that the commitment of both sides of the conflict remained a crucial prerequisite for the success of any peace initiative, speakers invited all Member States involved to implement the necessary resolutions to create conditions conducive to building peace and preventing the suffering of people, including women and children, in conflict areas. However, aside from the few statements made in support of the participation of women in peace talks, the speakers generally refrained from using gender-specific language.
Various aspects of the situation in the Middle East have been discussed by Member States at the Open Debate on Monday. While addressing the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, speakers reaffirmed that Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 are illegal and constitute an obstacle to the achievement of a two-State solution. The inaction of the Security Council on that matter has also been acknowledged by the majority of speakers. Supporting the general concern, the representative of Indonesia emphasized that the world can no longer wait for the Council to hold briefings and closed consultations while people lost their lives and a two-State solution faded away. In regards to the situation in Syria, the general concern among all States has been that there is a strong need to ensure the success of the inclusive peace talks to initiate a political transition and restore stability in the country and to address the humanitarian dimension of the conflict, the repercussions of which has been felt around the world. In this vein, the representative of Cuba noted that political transition in the country should not take place under the interventionist agenda, urging an end to violations of Syrian sovereignty and to military presences not based on that country’s consent. Similarly, the representative of the United States supported an inclusive Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. Concerning the occupied Golan, the majority of speakers questioned the legality of the Israeli settlements and reminded the Netanyahu Administration of its obligation to implement Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 497 (1981). On Yemen, speakers believed that all parties must abide by the ceasefire and resume peace talks without further delay. Overall, the general solutions proposed during the debate on all matters were the commitment of all parties to the peaceful resolution of conflicts and to implement the respective SC Resolutions.
Out of nearly 50 statements delivered, only ten speakers (20%) used a specific gendered language. Primarily, women were seen as victims of the conflicts who require protection (10%). The extrajudicial killings of women and children perpetrated by many parties of the conflicts were condemned by the majority of speakers. In addition to the general requests to refrain from violence against women and children, the representative of the European Union called for the release of all arbitrarily held persons, particularly women and children. The representative of Sweden highlighted the role of women in peace processes in Syria. Additionally, the representatives of Indonesia and the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People were the only two speakers who underscored the efforts of Palestinian women in building peace in Palestine and their active participation at the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The situation in the Middle East today is at one of its most vicious and aggressive phases. Therefore, women should be given a chance to contribute to stability. After all, men have been doing it for a long time, and a new way of thinking is long due. However, the current recommendations on how to manage the peace processes in the Middle East are not yet in line with this way of thinking.