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27 July 2009 - Security Council: the situation in the Middle East- Statement by Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(translation of statement made in French)

At the outset, I wish to thank Mr. Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, for his briefing and to welcome him to the Security Council.

Naturally, France endorses the statement to be made by the Permanent Representative of Sweden on behalf of the European Union.

To begin, I would like briefly to refer to the Lebanese dossier before the Security Council. France welcomes the success of the legislative elections held in Lebanon on 7 June, which represents a new, positive step for that country and its democracy. We hope that the renewed dialogue will be continued and help Lebanon to pursue the unity, stability and reform sought by its people.

Recent incidents in southern Lebanon remind us of the importance of the full implementation by all parties of resolution 1701 (2006). We reiterate our full support for the work of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Any attack on UNIFIL is unacceptable, and it is important and even essential that the parties cooperate fully with the Force.

I turn now to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Rarely if ever has there been such international consensus on the nature of a solution to the conflict — the establishment of a viable, independent and democratic Palestinian State living side by side with Israel within secure and recognized borders. The statements of the Israeli Prime Minister on that specific point represent a first and welcome step, as the ministers for foreign affairs of the European Union stressed on 15 June.

The task now is to determine how successfully to engage the various stages leading to that objective. Those stages are many, difficult to complete and varied. I shall refer to the three principal stages.

First, daily living conditions must be improved so that the people do not lose all hope. That will require the implementation by the parties of their Road Map obligations. In that respect, the Israeli authorities must cease all settlement activity, the destruction of homes and other evictions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The issue of settlements is, of course, critical, and we welcome the stress placed by President Obama on that point. As President Sarkozy has recalled, by complicating the prospects for establishing a Palestinian State, settlement activity does not contribute to Israel’s security but will, contrarily, only increase the dangers. The authorities of France and the European Union have sent that very clear message to the Israeli authorities.

The second requisite development on the ground involves freedom of movement and access. That applies not only to Gaza, on which I will have more to say, but also to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The lifting by the Israeli authorities of some major obstacles to movement, in particular in Nablus, is an important move that must be followed up.

All measures aimed at restoring a normal life for the Palestinian people must be encouraged. Beyond their humanitarian and human consequences, such measures will also help the Palestinians and their authorities to meet their responsibility to strengthen the foundations of their future State. In that regard, the Palestinian Authority must pursue its efforts to strengthen the security sector and ensure the rule of law. The pitiless fight against terrorism must also be an ongoing priority.

With regard to the situation in Gaza, the consolidation of the ceasefire, encompassing the full implementation of resolution 1860 (2009), remains a priority. Resolution 1860 (2009) defined the main parameters of a permanent ceasefire, including the opening of crossings and the establishment of mechanisms to end the smuggling of weapons.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is most disturbing. We call for the immediate opening of checkpoints, in particular to facilitate access for humanitarian assistance and the resumption of economic activity. Beyond the issues of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction, we believe that such closures will perpetuate the political status quo in Gaza. In addition to those efforts, we continue firmly to call for the unconditional and immediate release of Gilad Shalit.

My third and final point involves inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the role of neighbouring States. The Palestinians must speak in a single voice if the peace process is to resume. There can be no peace agreement with a single party representing the Palestinian people, or a viable Palestinian State without Gaza. While talks to achieve inter-Palestinian reconciliation face myriad challenges, we continue to support the Egyptian mediation efforts. Of course, the countries of the region have an important role to play. At the appropriate time, we will be prepared to work with a Government of national unity that respects the basic principles of the peace process and agrees to resume negotiations with Israel leading to a two-State solution.

Moreover, we continue to lend our full support to the Arab Peace Initiative, which must be part of a comprehensive and lasting solution in the Middle East. Any step taken or gesture made by States of the region to demonstrate their commitment to lasting peace, which necessarily involves good-neighbourly relations with Israel, is to be encouraged. In the context of the regional approach, we also believe that the time has come to move forward on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the peace process.

The elements to which I have referred will, at this critical juncture for the Middle East, determine progress towards the necessary resumption of negotiations on a peace agreement on the basis of the principle of land for peace, the resolutions of the Security Council and the Arab Peace Initiative. The international community and the Security Council must be fully committed, because the situation in the Middle East is of urgent concern to us all. France and the European Union have repeatedly shown our readiness to assist in facilitating negotiations to the maximum possible extent and to consider guarantees for a possible new agreement. We note with great hope the intentions expressed by the new United States Administration. We must now move tangibly towards peace, and France is resolved to play its full role to that end.

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