Statement by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan at the Security Council Open Debate on “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” (October 18, 2017)

Mr. President,

My delegation thanks the French Presidency of the Security Council for convening this open debate.

We thank the Assistant Secretary General for his briefing.

Discussions on the situation in the Middle East invariably become a somber reminder of the specter of violence and conflict that has afflicted millions across the region. And nothing epitomizes this more than the plight of the Palestinian people.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the illegal occupation of their homeland, the aspirations of the Palestinian people to live a life of freedom and dignity still remain a distant and elusive ideal.

Lack of progress on the Palestinian issue has not only betrayed the hopes and aspirations of generations of Palestinians, it has also sowed the seeds of endless hostility and discord in the region.

Some aspects of the Middle East’s political landscape today however, offer reason for optimism. The political reconciliation forged between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo last week is a landmark achievement. It not only restores political unity within Palestinian ranks, but also provides renewed strength and vigor to the legitimate cause of the Palestinian people.

We congratulate the Palestinians on this singular achievement and hope this will lead to real progress.

But this development by itself is not enough to tip the scales of justice in favor of the long-suffering Palestinians.

The international community must renew its resolve to sustain this positive momentum. As a first step, the illegal and oppressive siege of Gaza by Israel must be lifted.

Mr. President,

A viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, is the only sustainable guarantee for enduring peace in the Middle East.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres, during his recent visit to Gaza said “I have a dream. A dream to one day see the Holy Land with two states”.

Yet this vision is consistently being undermined by the illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territories. As affirmed by the Secretary General in his reports to this Council pursuant to its Resolution 2334, the settlement activity has in fact been stepped up.

In addition, the systematic practice of dispossessing Palestinians of their homes and displacing them from their lands and livelihoods, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continues unabated.

Any unilateral attempts by Israel to alter or re-engineer the existing status quo in the old city of Jerusalem, is an unacceptable provocation for billions of Muslims around the world, and must cease. This was highlighted again during tensions surrounding the holy Al Aqsa mosque in July. Creating alternate ‘facts on the ground’ cannot change historic realities or nuetralise the legal rights of people living under foreign occupation, in Palestine, and elsewhere.

A just peace in Palestine is not only a matter of regional significance; it is a fundamental pre-condition for global peace and security. A two-state ‘solution’ remains an absolute imperative as there is no ‘Plan B’ for the region.

Mr. President,

Challenges confronting the Middle East are myriad and complex. They are also often mutually reinforcing and interlinked, and thus, require greater cooperation and coordination between the regional states.

Pakistan reaffirms its unequivocal support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the brotherly people of Iraq. We are convinced that a solution to Iraq’s problems must be found within a united and inclusive Iraqi state, recognizing and reconciling the interests of all Iraqi people.

A Syrian-led and Syrian-driven process of political reconciliation is the only pathway to lasting peace in that country. The intra-Syrian talks are pivotal towards this end. We hope that the parties will show the necessary flexibility and compromise to bridge their differences.

Meanwhile, the situation in Yemen remains grim: fifteen million people in the country lack adequate access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, while seven million are faced with the threat of famine. All this is exacerbated by over 800,000 suspected cases of cholera. This demands both a surge in diplomacy as well as humanitarian support to the millions of people in need across that country.

Mr. President,

In his address to the General Assembly this year, the Secretary General noted: ‘We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace.’ Our journey towards this shared ideal can only begin in the Middle East.

I thank you.