Open Debate: Middle East.
12 July, 2016
On Tuesday July 12, 2016, under the Japanese presidency, the Security Council held an open debate under the theme, "the Situation in the Middle East, including Palestinian question" with a specific focus on the findings of the 1 July report of the Quartet (the UN, Russia, US and EU) on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Opening the Council’s quarterly debate on the Middle East, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called attention to the “irrefutable” message contained in the report: the more persistent the current negative trends, the more distant would prospects for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grow. During the debate, speakers called on both sides to halt the violence and incitement to hatred. Speakers stressed that new approaches are needed to revive the peace process. Subsequently, the majority of speakers welcomed the conference that took place in Paris in June, 2016 reaffirming the need to end the Israeli occupation as well as the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative. Covering the situation in the Middle East more broadly, speakers underlined the need to defeat extremist ideologies throughout the region, with several emphasizing that a Syria-led and Syria-owned political transition was needed to restore lasting peace in that country and defeat Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).
Various aspects of the situation in the Middle East have been discussed by Member States at the Open Debate on Tuesday. The Quartet report’s conclusions divided the opinion of diplomats in the chamber. Some welcomed it as a consensus-based document that offered a basis for dialogue and concerted action by the Council. The European Union’s representative, for example, urged both sides and other relevant stakeholders to implement the Quartet’s recommendations in full. On the other hand, some speakers said the report attempted to “draw equivalencies” between violent Palestinian actions, who are under occupation, and disproportionate responses by the Israeli authorities. Venezuela’s representative said it should have been more balanced in describing the suffering inflicted on Palestinians and in acknowledging Israeli violence as its root cause. 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. The representative of Venezuela, in this vein, encouraged the Council to establish an international protection system for Palestinians in the occupied territories, in line with the Geneva Conventions.
In regards to the situation in Syria, Yemen and other countries of the region, the primary concern among all speakers has been a rapid expansion of terrorism and violent extremism. Pakistan’s representative said that in order to defeat ISIL, States bordering Syria and Iraq, as well as external Powers, must reconcile their divergent priorities. As suggested by the representative of Israel, the only way to achieve peace in the region is by building a strong foundation to end terrorism and incitement. Turning to Syria, speakers emphasized that a Syria-led and Syria-owned political transition is necessary to bring lasting peace to that country. In a similar manner, the representative of Japan noted that the Council has the primary responsibility to facilitate a political transition to a credible, inclusive and non-sectarian Government in Syria, as laid out in resolution 2254 (2015).
Welcoming the announcement of an agreement on the guiding principles for peace talks in Yemen, representative of Ukraine warned that the parties should not interpret the absence of a final agreement so far as a pretext for attempts to change the front line, stressing that the ceasefire must be upheld and strengthened.
Out of nearly 43 statements delivered, only ten speakers (16%) used a specific gendered language. That has become a tradition to minimize the role of women in the Middle East peace process. Primarily, women were seen as victims of the conflicts who require protection (11%). The extrajudicial killings of women and children perpetrated by many parties of the conflicts were condemned by the speakers. The representative of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People highlighted the role of women in peace processes claiming that “women are a key to building a peaceful society.” 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.