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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

2024-01-23 18:00

Mr. President,

First of all, I want to thank Minister Stéphane Séjourné for coming to New York specifically for chairing today's meeting. I also want to thank Secretary-General António Guterres for his briefing earlier. China welcomes the participation of foreign ministers of Palestine, Arab countries, and other countries.

Over 100 days have passed since the outbreak of the new round of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The international community has made unremitting efforts in reaching ceasefire, stopping the hostility, protecting civilians, releasing hostages, and averting the humanitarian disaster. The Security Council adopted Resolutions 2712 and 2720 successfully. However, unfortunately, the fighting in Gaza continues unabated, with the number of civilian casualties rising everyday, the suffering of the Palestinian people continuing, the risk of a further escalation of tension in the region still existing. Undoubtedly, the tragedy in Gaza violates the conscience of humankind and the bottom line of international law. There is no justification for this. And it absolutely should not continue. Today's meeting of the Council should send a message of unity and clarity.

As a matter of fact, there has long been overwhelming consensus in the international community on an immediate ceasefire. It is regrettable that because of the repeated use of veto by an individual country, relevant resolutions of the Security Council could not be adopted. The history of Palestinian-Israeli conflict spanning more than seven decades has long indicated the fundamental way out for peace. What is lacking is political will and determination. As of now, the international community, especially the United Nations and the Security Council, needs to demonstrate the strongest will, take the most vigorous initiatives and most effective actions with the greatest sense of urgency and take practical actions to stop the flames of war and restore peace.

Immediate ceasefire must be considered the highest priority. Protracted war will only cause more deaths and make the prospect of peace even more distant, instead of bringing higher sense of security for any party. Immediate ceasefire is not just a restraint on one particular party. Instead, it is a requirement for all parties. It is the basic prerequisite for saving lives, rescuing hostages, expanding humanitarian assistance, and realizing peace. Israel should immediately reverse its course and stop its indiscriminate military attacks on and destruction of Gaza. All parties in the international community should make diplomatic efforts to promote immediate ceasefire. While pushing for a ceasefire in Gaza, all effort should be made to prevent the spillover of the situation in Gaza to the Red Sea and to the wider region. We call on all parties to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that will lead to escalation of tensions.

We must clear all obstacles to the expansion of humanitarian assistance. As the Secretary-General has pointed out, people in Gaza are not just dying from bombardment, but also from hunger and accelerated spreading of infectious diseases, which are claiming more lives, especially those of children. Security Council Resolutions 2712 and 2720 must be fully implemented. And Israel must fully cooperate to that end. The obstacles to humanitarian assistance through Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings should be removed as soon as possible. On top of that, direct crossings from Israel to Northern Gaza should be open as soon as possible as well. Resolution 2712 calls for the establishment of a de-conflict mechanism to protect humanitarian organizations. There should be concrete arrangements for this as soon as possible to ensure as a matter of priority that hospitals and UN agencies do not become targets of military operations. China supports the work of Under-Secretary-General Sigrid Kaag and looks forward to her report to the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 2720 and the obstacles encountered after her communications with all parties. The Security Council should stand ready to take further actions for safe, rapid, and unhindered access of sufficient humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

The two-State solution must be revitalized. The two-State solution is the only viable way to achieve peace for Palestine and Israel, and it is also a solemn requirement as a result of the implementation of the Security Council resolutions. We are gravely concerned about the statements made by Israeli leadership last week, rejecting a two-State solution and denying the right of Palestine to statehood. This is not acceptable. Any discussion of a post-war arrangement for Gaza that deviates from the two-State solution is tantamount to building a house on quicksand. The most important thing right now is to stop further eroding the foundations of the two-State solution, which first and foremost requires an end to Israel's forced displacement of the Palestinian population in Gaza, an end to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and an end to searches, arrests, and attacks against the Palestinians. China calls for intensified diplomatic efforts to convene an international conference and launch meaningful multilateral processes as soon as possible, so as to revitalize the political prospect for the two-State solution. Independent Palestinian statehood must be an irreversible process, and we support as a first step of the process Palestine’s full membership in the United Nations as soon as possible.

Under the current circumstances, the Security Council needs to send clear and unequivocal signals reaffirming the urgency of the two-State solution as the sole feasible way out. In November last year, China has proposed a draft presidential statement on the two-State solution to the Security Council. The draft presidential statement proposed by Russia last week also included important elements of the two-State solution. It is regrettable that the drafts were not adopted. However, this will not stop us from continuing to push the Council to take due actions. We will continue to work tirelessly in this direction.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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