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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question

2023-01-18 12:00

Mr. President,

I thank Special Coordinator Wennesland for his briefing.

The year 2023 barely started when the occupied Palestinian territory has already seen one negative development after another, moving further away from peace and stability. This is yet another warning that we are facing not a pool of still water, but rather a volcano that may erupt at any time. At present, only with rock firm political will, urgent and decisive diplomacy, and collective efforts by the entire international community, including the UN Security Council, can we prevent the Palestinian-Israeli situation from spinning completely out of control.

First, earnestly safeguarding the historic status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem. Holy sites carry collective feelings of religious believers. The multiple incidents of bloodshed that took place there speak to the level of sensitivity that simply cannot be ignored. Earlier this month, the visit by an Israeli government official to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound heightened tensions and triggered widespread concerns. An emergency Council session was called for at the request of China and the United Arab Emirates.

Our position remains clear. It is imperative to act as required by Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, effectively safeguard the historic status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and earnestly respect Jordan’s custodianship of the holy sites. All parties concerned should remain calm and exercise restraint. Israel, in particular, should stop all acts of incitement and provocation.

Second, immediately ceasing unilateral measures that exacerbate disputes and tensions. We note with concern Israel’s recent announcement of a series of punitive measures against Palestine, including withholding tax revenues and suspending issuance of building permits. These measures not only target the Palestinian National Authority, but also send shock waves across the wider Palestinian population and civil society.

Relevant measures run counter to the efforts by the international community to strengthen the authority of the Palestinian National Authority, improve the Palestinian economic situation, bolster the development of Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and support the role of civil society organizations. Bullying will only serve to further exacerbate tensions and diminish the prospects for a political solution. We strongly urge Israel to heed the overwhelming call from Council members, review relevant decisions, and cease all unilateral actions that undermine trust and aggravate confrontation.

Equally worrying are the volatile security situation and heavy civilian casualties in the West Bank. China condemns all indiscriminate attacks against civilians and grave violations against children. We stand against the excessive use of force by security forces. We encourage Palestine and Israel to break the cycle of violence and achieve common security through dialogue and cooperation. The occupying power should effectively fulfill its obligations under international law to ensure the safety of the people in the occupied territory.

Third, strictly abiding by international rule of law. During the first 11 months of 2022, 851 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished or seized, including schools that are built with aid. The Security Council discussed international rule of law just a few days ago. Apparently, settlement activities violate international law and Council resolutions, undermine the contiguity of occupied territory, and seriously erode the living space of the Palestinian people. We urge Israel to fulfill its obligations under Security Council resolutions, stop settlement expansion, stop demolishing Palestinian-owned property, stop threatening the people in Masafer Yatta and other areas with eviction, and stop unilaterally changing the status quo in the occupied territory.

Fourth, fully implementing the two-state solution with the utmost sense of urgency. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, during his recent visit to Egypt, noted at a joint press conference with the Egyptian Foreign Minister that, the frequent flare-ups between Israel and Palestine are essentially a result of the deadlock of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the failure to implement the two-state solution, which has been long overdue. Secretary-General Guterres also reaffirmed before the media last week that there is no plan B to the two-state solution, and that to reject the possibility of a two-state solution is something that would undermine forever the possibilities of peace in the Middle East. At the Security Council, we have heard time and again the ardent support of the overwhelming majority of countries for the independent statehood of the Palestinian people. Yet still, what exactly is preventing the vision of the two-state solution from becoming reality?

In the face of the perennial historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people, no one has the excuse for procrastination or justification for inaction. Peace is possible, only if the international community is ready to act with the utmost sense of urgency, work harder to facilitate the resumption of direct talks, and on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions, take concrete steps to advance the two-state solution. We urge countries with major influence to bear on this issue to take a fair stand, shoulder their due responsibilities, and take practical actions. China will continue to work alongside the rest of the international community, and make unremitting efforts towards a comprehensive, just, and lasting settlement to the Palestinian question.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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