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” (April 26, 2018)

Let me begin by thanking the Secretary General’s Special Coordinator for Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, for his briefing.

Mr. President,

Speaking in this Chamber a few days ago, the Secretary General Guterres sounded the warning that the Cold War had returned with a vengeance across the multiplicity of divides including in the Middle East. Moreover, he observed that this new Cold War was underway without the ‘mechanisms’ and ‘safeguards’ used to manage the risks of escalation in the past.

Big power rivalries, combined with the divergent policies and interests of major regional states, presage a period of continued conflict and instability in the region, prolonged suffering for the millions of innocent victims of the regional conflicts and a rising danger of a major international conflagration.

Mr. President,

In recent times, no people have suffered greater injustice than the people of Palestine. During the past seventy years, they have been driven from their homes and their homeland, militarily occupied and obliged to live in conditions resembling apartheid.

The world witnessed the latest manifestation of Israel’s cruel occupation and repression during the ‘March of Return’ in Gaza.

A peaceful protest was transformed into a callous killing zone by the occupying power, even as the world watched the wanton shooting of unarmed Palestinians on their television screens. While the Palestinians mourned the pointless murder of over thirty-five of their men, women and children, some as young as fourteen, this Council was unable to even call for an independent and transparent investigation into the incidents, much less condemn the crimes of the occupying power. The Palestinian demand for justice was met, once again, by arrogant dismissal.

International peace and stability cannot be promoted by denying freedom and justice to peoples living under foreign or alien occupation. The world community has long since recognized that peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, and other Arab and Muslim peoples, can only be built through a two-state solution. An illusionary one-state will perpetuate occupation and conflict and provide neither peace nor security.

Pakistan also deplores the constraints placed on UNWRA. It is deplorable that the suffering of Palestinian refugees is sought to be mortgaged to political ambitions. Sufficient, predictable and sustainable financing of UNWRA’s activities is essential, moral and legal. All the more so, at this grim political juncture, when prospects for a negotiated settlement appear so distant.

Mr. President,

We have heard some characterize the Middle East as a ‘troubled’ place. The Council should analyze the reasons for the region’s “troubles”. Most of these troubles are a direct consequence of foreign occupation, annexation and intervention.

The region stands at a dangerous crossroads. The seething fires of conflict and violence threaten to exacerbate the multiple intersecting and overlapping regional fault-lines, thus presenting a greater risk to international peace and security than ever before.

We are gravely concerned by reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. Any use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, is abhorrent and illegal. And deserves unreserved condemnation.

We welcome the deployment of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission to Syria, and are confident that its investigations will assist in establishing the facts.

At the same time, we reiterate our call on all sides to refrain from actions that are incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations and international law.

Mr. President,

Pakistan views the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq as another important landmark in the march of our Iraqi brothers and sisters towards a democratic and pluralistic Iraqi state, which reconciles the interests of all the Iraqi people.

Meanwhile, the situation in Yemen remains extremely distressful. Twenty two million Yemenis are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance. This demands both a surge in diplomacy to realize a political settlement as well as generous humanitarian support to the millions in need across the country.

We will continue to extend our full support to all diplomatic efforts including under the aegis of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, to find an inclusive and just political solution in Yemen.

Mr. President,

The Middle East is the cradle of civilization. It has been transformed into a cauldron of conflict. Unless the value of human life and the rights of all peoples are respected; and unless the principles of the UN Charter are upheld, the Middle East - and other regions, near and far- may well be racing, towards unprecedented disaster.