Statement by Ambassador Masood Khan Permanent Representative of Pakistan in the debate of the Security Council on “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question" New York, (23 July 2013)

Madam President,

We thank Special Coordinator Robert Serry for his briefing. We have attentively heard the statements of Palestine and Israel.

After three years of stalemate, we have heard good news from the Middle East: Palestinians and Israelis will return to direct peace talks. What is more, the talks would start soon. And these would not be talks about talks, but about the issues hampering the peace process.

We congratulate US Secretary of State John Kerry for his resolute statesmanship. Despite warnings of failure, Mr. Kerry persevered in his diplomacy and persuaded the two sides to resume negotiations.

The parties cannot afford to procrastinate. The window for a two-state solution is narrow - one to two years. There is an urgency to press ahead with the peace process.

Palestine and Israel have welcomed the resumption of talks. President Mahmoud Abbas has said that agreement on certain principles has led to the decision to resume talks. Prime Minister Netanyahu has characterized resumption of the peace process as a vital strategic interest.

The Middle East Quartet has called this a "huge achievement".

Both sides are inclined to take concrete steps and show some flexibility.

We welcome the announcement about the release of Palestinian prisoners.

There are two other core concerns: halt to settlements construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem; and Israel's recognition of the pre-1967 borders; and using them as a baseline for negotiations.

The best way to give these talks a chance is to keep them away from public glare, to the extent it is possible. Critics and cynics are already predicting the failure of the renewed engagement. Rumors and refutations continue to stalk the process. It is important to salvage this initiative.

There is no need to be euphoric either.

The road ahead is rough and rugged; and there is no panacea // or a short cut. The agreement to resume talks is still being finalized. Yet this first step is better than a complete hiatus.

For success, the two sides should ensure a measured pace for engagement.

Both sides should work towards a conducive atmosphere for negotiations. Easing of the blockade of Gaza will be a huge confidence building measure. It will also provide relief t0 the population.

It became evident that, without the intercession of a third influential party, the deadlock on talks could not have been broken. It is therefore imperative that the Security Council, the Quartet and regional organizations support the peace process to give it broader ownership.

We applaud the ambitious goal set by Mr. Kerry to achieve tangible progress by the next UN General Assembly.

Madam President,

On the eve of these negotiations, we reiterate that the only viable solution for the Palestine-Israel conflict is the creation of an independent, sustainable and contiguous State of Palestine, based on 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Alternatives to this proposed solution are not likely to work.

Madam President,

For peace in the region, Israel must vacate Lebanese lands and the Syrian Golan. Sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon must be respected.

Madam President,

As we meet in this Chamber, Syria is burning. Bloodshed continues. Guns are not going to win the war. And as Mr Brahimi said arms will not make peace.

This Council and the international community should take steps to stop arms supplies to all sides and bring the Syrian government and opposition representatives to Geneva for talks that would lead to a political solution and national reconciliation.

The dates for the Geneva Conference have been slipping from June to July and now to September, and even beyond, because each side wants to demonstrate military superiority before moving to the negotiating table.

More arms will only lead to more bloodshed, not peace.

We believe that in this war there will be no victors because Syrian is killing Syrian. The entire Syrian nation is suffering. A meltdown in Syria will fracture the entire region.

Pakistan believes that all hurdles to the Geneva Conference should be removed expeditiously. All countries with interest and influence, including from the region, should participate in the talks for a viable and enduring peace.

We welcome the Secretary General’s call for a ceasefire during Ramadan. It was not heeded but it still has a symbolic value.

We also welcome the visit to Damascus this week of High Representative Angela Kane and Head of UN Mission Ake Sellstrom to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We call on all sides to provide full access to the team to complete its task.

I thank you Madame President.