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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East, Including the Palestinian Question

2023-10-24 13:40

Mr. President,


I welcome you presiding over today's meeting. I thank Secretary-General António Guterres, Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland, and Ms. Lynn Hastings for their briefings. This is a very timely meeting. We have heard many voices of justice.


Since October 7, the tensions between Palestine and Israel have grappled the attention of the world. As we speak, the armed conflict keeps escalating, the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate, the lives of more than two million innocent people in Gaza are hanging in the balance, and civilian casualties are on the rise with every passing minute. The eyes of the entire world are on this Chamber. We call on the Council to collectively take responsible and meaningful actions without delay and send a clear, powerful, and united message.


First, a comprehensive ceasefire must be pursued above all else. A ceasefire must be achieved without delay. This is the call made by Secretary-General Guterres. This is the call made by the leaders of Arab countries at the Cairo Summit on October 21. This is the call made by the WHO, WFP, and UNRWA, as well as humanitarian agencies that are carrying out relief work in Gaza. This is also the call made by millions of ordinary people in Gaza and around the world.


In light of the overwhelming calls of the international community, the Council must use clear and unequivocal language to demand an immediate ceasefire. It must be pointed out that allowing the fighting in Gaza to drag on and escalate for whatever justification will not result in a complete military victory for either side, but will most likely result in a catastrophe that will engulf the entire region, completely dash the prospects for a two-State solution, and plunge the Palestinian and Israeli peoples into a perpetual vicious cycle of hatred and confrontation. Such a scenario would run counter to the goal of preventing the spillover of the situation. Countries should uphold the moral conscience, rather than clinging on to geopolitical calculations, let alone double standards. The Council must do all it can for peace, rather than resorting to convoluted language or giving the green light for the situation to escalate and for more civilians to face the threat of death.


Second, preventing a greater humanitarian catastrophe must be the top priority among all ongoing efforts. Gaza has been completely without electricity for 15 consecutive days, water and fuel supplies have been cut off, and basic necessities such as food and medicine are about to run out. We appreciate the efforts by regional countries like Egypt and the efforts by Secretary-General Guterres to open up a humanitarian corridor. That said, the humanitarian supplies currently allowed into Gaza are still a drop in the bucket, and the Rafah crossing alone cannot fundamentally meet the humanitarian needs of Gaza.


The Council should demand, in the clearest possible terms, that the occupying power immediately lift the full siege on Gaza, restore the supply of water, electricity, and fuel, and cease the collective punishment of the people in Gaza. We urge Israel to create conditions conducive to the normal functioning of the Rafah crossing, to stop air strikes against its surrounding areas, and to ensure unimpeded channel of aid. China has provided emergency humanitarian aid through the Palestinian National Authority and United Nations agencies respectively, and will continue to provide in-kind assistance based on the needs of the people in Gaza.


Third, the red line of international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians must be upheld. The civilian casualties resulting from the latest round of conflict are appalling. Life and conscience seem so pale in the face of frequent indiscriminate attacks. The Council must resolutely defend the international rule of law, unequivocally condemn all violence and attacks against civilians, and unequivocally oppose any violation of international law. China calls for diplomatic efforts for the immediate release of hostages. At the same time, it should be pointed out that the indiscriminate use of force is unacceptable, that civilian facilities such as hospitals and schools should not and must not be the targets of military operations, and that the safety of UN staff and humanitarian and medical workers must be guaranteed. We call for a thorough investigation into the attack on Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, which resulted in heavy civilian casualties. We oppose the forced displacement and relocation of the population in Gaza. We urge Israel to comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law and to immediately rescind the emergency evacuation order for northern Gaza.


Fourth, fairness and justice must be upheld. The root cause of the conflict lies in the prolonged illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, the long-standing neglect of the Palestinian people’s right to independent statehood, and the lack of effective protection for their basic rights. The fundamental approach to addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the implementation of the two-State solution and the realization of peaceful coexistence between Palestine and Israel. Discussions on specific issues must not be taken out of this context, nor should actions taken by the Security Council deviate from the right direction. Otherwise, there would be no justice in the world, and the decisions taken by the Council may even be counterproductive.


Mr. President,


China has been working tirelessly to promote the cessation of hostilities and the restoration of peace. We have been maintaining close communication with the parties concerned and playing a responsible and constructive role in realizing a ceasefire, protecting civilians, and averting a greater humanitarian catastrophe. China has no self-interest on the question of Palestine. Any initiative that contributes to peace will receive China's staunch support. Any endeavor that facilitates Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation will be pursued by China with all-out efforts. China will continue to stand on the side of international fairness and justice, on the side of international law, and on the side of the legitimate aspirations of the Arab and Islamic world. We will continue to work with the international community to make unremitting efforts for a comprehensive, just, and lasting solution to the Palestinian question.


Thank you, Mr. President.


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