“The status quo that we’re familiar with is not an answer. It’s a situation of deadlock. France will once again – and I give you my word on this – do everything in her power to help restore the groundwork for negotiations that should lead to the coexistence of the two states, which we all know is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.”
François Hollande, President of the French Republic, opening debate of the 67th session of the General Assembly, 25 September 2012
On 19 November 2013, the Security Council met for its quarterly public debate on the situation in the Middle East, with Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.
M. Feltman deplored the increase of tensions between Israel and Palestine, which could delay the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement that should be achieved within nine months. He expressed concerns about the continuation of settlement activities by Israel in the West Bank, which are contrary to international law and an obstacle to peace. Mr. Feltman also condemned the continued incidents between Israeli settlers and Palestinians and called on all parties to stop those acts of violence. One year after the case-fire agreed in Cairo, the situation in Gaza was getting worse from a humanitarian and socio-economic perspective. Finally, he stressed the necessity for both parties to continue the negotiations and the importance of international support.
During the private consultations that followed, the permanent representative of France expressed concerns about the gap between the positions of the parties. A two-state solution was the only just and lasting solution to allow peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. He welcomed the determination of the two leaders, Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahou, to stay at the negotiating table until the nine-month term. The permanent representative was however concerned about the recurring threats of demission presented by the Palestinian negotiating team in response to the continuing settlements by Israel. He called both parties to adopt confidence-building measures and to abstain from any decision constituting an obstacle to progress in negotiations. Finally, Mr. Araud recalled France’s position: the continuing settlements were illegal under international law; acts of violence must cease in all its forms; the situation of Palestinian prisoners, as well as the issue of the continuing use of administrative detention remained an issue of concern; it was necessary to allow economic sustainable development in Palestine.
On 22 October 2013, the Security Council met for its quarterly public debate on the Middle East, with Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, and Mr. Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel. With regard to the Middle East peace process and the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Mr. Feltman welcomed the meeting of September 27 of the Quartet representatives who agreed to support the goal set for the negotiations, that is, a comprehensive agreement that should be achieved within 9 months. He recalled that the United Nations were willing to contribute to support the current efforts and an intensified dialogue. He regretted the continuation of settlement activities by Israel, as well as many skirmishes between the two sides over the past two months. He urged both sides to end all violence to begin the start of a political process.
The representative of France welcomed the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians while recalling the threats to the peace process. These include the continuation of settlements, contrary to international law, as well as all acts of violence. He also called for the release of Palestinian prisoners and reiterated the need to strengthen the help to President Abbas.
On 20 August 2013, Mr. Oscar Fernandez Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, presented his report on the situation in the Middle East to the members of the Security Council. On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he welcomed the resumption of talks between the two parties after years of political deadlock. He recalled that direct negotiations and political will by both parties were prerequisites for the realization of the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples. The release of 26 Palestinian prisoners and the Israeli decision to re-open Hebron road was also welcomed by Mr. Taranco, who nevertheless deplored the announcement of the continued construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which infringes international law.
During the closed consultations that followed, the representative of France stated that the parties should refrain from any measure that could jeopardize the peace process. He also affirmed that France was ready to work with any government of the Palestinian Authority refusing the use of violence, accepting past agreements and obligations, including the right for Israel to exist, and committed to the two-state solution. Finally, he called for the lifting of Gaza’s blockade and condemned the recent rocket fires on Israeli territory.
On 23 July 2013, the Security Council met for its quarterly public debate on the Middle East, with Mr. Robert Serry, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, and Mr. Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel. In order to facilitate the upcoming talks under the auspices of U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Serry asked both countries to refrain from any action that could jeopardize the ongoing peace process.
The representative of France declared that the two-State solution was the only conceivable and sustainable solution to put an end to the conflict and called upon both parties to reengage in direct negotiations on a credible basis and without preconditions. He expressed concern about the continuation of new settlement constructions by Israel, which constitute a violation of international law.
On 22 May 2013, Mr Robert Serry, Special Coordinator for the Middle-East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council on the situation in the region. He noted that the upcoming weeks would be critical to talks on ending the Syrian crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During the following consultations, the representative of France warned the Council against security incidents on the ground, undermining diplomatic efforts achieved in both cases. He recalled that France was actively committed to organize the international conference which had to gather all Syrian stakeholders. The goal of this Conference was to form a new transitional government with full executive powers, on the basis of the Geneva communiqué of June 2012.
The complete timeline of events here.
France is working within the relevant UN bodies to promote an agreement on the establishment of a viable, modern, democratic, independant Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel within secure and recognized borders.
The Middle East is discussed every month at the Security Council under the agenda item "Situation in the Middle East", either in quarterly public debates (in which States that are not members of the Security Council may participate, as well as the European Union and other regional organizations) or in private consultations for Council members. During all these meetings issues relating to Lebanon are also discussed (see our file on Lebanon).
The Palestinian issue is also widely discussed at the General Assembly in its various committees, and at ECOSOC, since around twenty resolutions, on the initiative of the Delegation of Palestine, are voted annually by these organs.
Two peacekeeping operations are deployed in the region:
— UNIFIL (see our file on Lebanon),
— The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights were conquered by Israel in 1967. UNDOF was established in 1974 to monitor the cease-fire following the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. The force has about one thousand personnel. The UNDOF mandate is renewed every six months by a resolution of the Security Council, whose text remained unchanged for many years until June 2001 after violent incidents on 15 May and 5 June favoured by Syria which put the ceasefire in jeopardy. While the resolution traditionally called on parties to "immediately implement resolution 338" of 1973, resolution 1994 recalled the obligations of the parties to preserve the cease-fire and to cooperate fully with the operations of UNDOF.
The Security Council has adopted numerous resolutions on the situation in the Middle East. Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) calling for "withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" are among the most famous in the history of the Security Council.
The most recent Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are the following:
— Security Council Resolution 1515(2003) approved the road map established by the Quartet (EU, UN, Russia, USA) whose aim was to lead, step by step, to a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the existence of two states.
— Resolution 1544(2004) reaffirmed the commitment of the Security Council to see both parties meet their obligations under the Road map.
— Following a meeting of the Quartet in New York, the Security Council adopted on 16 December 2008 a new resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian issue (resolution 1850), its first since the 1544 resolution four years before. With this resolution, adopted by an overwhelming majority (14 votes in favour and one abstention, Libya), the Security Council declared its support for the Annapolis process (named after the November 2007 conference), which would lead to a peace treaty that would resolve all outstanding issues without exception, on the basis of the principle, once again reaffirmed, of two States.
Following the outbreak of the Israeli offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip (see below), the Security Council, presided by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, adopted a new resolution (1860) on 8 January 2009 (by 14 votes with one abstention, USA): it called in particular for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, called for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, asked that measures be taken to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained reopening of the crossing points, and reaffirmed the vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognized borders.
In late May 2010, eight ships chartered by organizations claiming humanitarian objectives tried to break the blockade of Gaza set up by Israel. This led to the intervention of the Israeli security forces who took control of the ships. The assault and subsequent violent resistance resulted in the deaths of several people. Many more were injured, including Israeli troops.
Following these events, the Security Council held an emergency meeting. In his statement, the permanent representative of France asked in particular that light be shed on this incident through an in-depth inquiry and called for the lifting of the blockade around the Gaza Strip.
A Presidential Statement was adopted at the end of the meeting (S/PRST/2010/9).
Read the Declarations made by the French Authorities on 31 May 2010.
On 2 August 2010, the General Secretary of the United Nations Secretary General announced the launch of an international panel of inquiry on the these events and appointed Mr. Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister of New Zealand as Chair of the Panel and Mr. Alvaro Uribe, outgoing Colombian President as Vice-Chair. The Secretary General also announced that the Panel would include two additional members, one each from Israel and Turkey. In a press statement, the Security Council welcomed the announcement made by the Secretary General of the UN.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner greeted this announcement “in line with the presidential statement adopted by the Security Council on June 1, which called for the establishment of “a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.” Bernard Kouchner welcomed the Israeli authorities’ decision to take part in the Panel.
On 15 September 2010, the Panel issued an interim report to the Secretary-General, outlining its the working methods it had adopted. The members of the Panel decided they would examine the national investigation reports issued by Israel and Turkey. Turkey presented its report in September 2010 and Israel in January 2011. As specified in the mandate set by the General Secretary, the Panel will have, in the light of the information gathered from Turkey and Israel, to identify the facts and issue recommendations in a final report, in order to prevent such incidents in the future.
On 27 December 2008, Israel launched a military offensive named "Operation Cast Lead”, against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, citing the right to defense itself against the many rocket attacks driven from this territory. This operation resulted in the death of nearly 1400 persons. Following operation "Cast Lead”, the Security Council adopted resolution 1860 (see above) and the Council of Human Rights in Geneva set up a Fact Finding Mission of UN in the conflict in Gaza known as the " Goldstone Commission". Its report was made public in late September 2009, highlighting a number of concrete cases of violations of human rights and international law by the Israeli army and Hamas, and recommending that the Security Council be seized of the issue.
During the quarterly public meeting of the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East on 14 October 2009, which followed the publication of the report, the permanent representative of France stressed that "the facts that are alleged are serious. Throughout the conflict in Gaza, sparked by the firing of Hamas against Israel, France reiterated its consistent position: international humanitarian law must be respected everywhere in all circumstances and by all parties in conflict, in particular in Gaza and southern Israel. We therefore believe that both sides must now initiate a process for an independent investigation which will meet international standards on alleged violations of international humanitarian law and human rights during the crisis in Gaza. "
The General Assembly of the UN adopted on 5 November 2009 a resolution endorsing the so-called "Goldstone Report" on the conflict in Gaza (A/RES/64/10). In its resolution, the General Assembly called upon the authorities of Israel and Palestine to take all appropriate steps to undertake investigations that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards into the serious violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law.
On 26 February 2010, the General Assembly adopted a second resolution, entitled "Follow-up to the Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict", following that of 5 November 2009 in which it reiterated “its call upon the Government of Israel", and "its urging for the conduct by the Palestinian side" of the investigations.
On 19 August 2010, the Secretary-General submitted a report to the Security Council on the establishment of internal inquiries by Israeli and Palestinian authorities following the Goldstone report. The Secretary-General indicated he had transmitted them to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
22 October 2013 - Security Council - Situation in the Middle East - Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
23 July 2013 - Situation in the Middle East - Statement by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
24 April 2013 – Security Council - Situation in the Middle-East – Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
23 January 2013 - Security Council - Situation in the Middle East – Statement by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
20 December 2012 - Israel / New settlement project Statement by the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
All French statements here.
20 December 2012 - Security Council - Press Statement on Situation in the Middle East
19 December 2012 - Security Council - Resolution 2084 - extending the mandate of the UNDOF in the Golan until the 30 June 2013
29 November 2012 - General Assembly - Resolution A/RES/67/19 granting Palestine the status of observer state
21 November 2012 - Security Council - Press Statement on Situation in the Middle East
27 June 2012 - Security Council - Resolution 2052 renewing for six months the mandate of UNDOF
21 December 2011 - Resolution 2028 - Renewing the mandate of UNDOF
30 June 2011 - Resolution 1994 - Renewing the mandate of UNDOF
22 December 2010 - Resolution 1965 - Renewing for six months the mandate of the UNDOF
27 September 2010 - Resolution A/HRC/15/L.33 of the Human Rights Council - Follow-up to the report of the independent international fact-finding mission
11 June 2010 - "Averting Another Gaza" - Joint article by Bernard Kouchner, Franco Frattini and Miguel Angel Moratinos, published in the New York Times
1 June 2010 - Statement by the President of the Security Council - S/PRST/2010/9
26 February 2010 - General Assembly - Resolution A/RES/64/254
5 November 2009 - General Assembly Resolution 64/10
11 May 2009 - Statement by the President of the Security Council
21 January 2009 - Gaza - Security Council Press Statement
15 January 2009 - Situation in Gaza – Elements to the press given by the President of the Security Council after the consultations
8 January 2009 - Security Council Resolution 1860
16 December 2008 - Security Council Resolution 1850
19 May 2004 - Security Council Resolution 1544
19 November 2003 - Security Council Resolution 1515
22 October 1973 - Security Council Resolution 338
22 November 1967 - Security Council Resolution 242