Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the UNSC debate on the situation in the Middle East

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I would like to thank the Chinese Presidency for convening this Open Debate to discuss some of the most burning issues in the Middle East, as well as to express appreciation to Mr. Mladenov for his briefing.

Mr President,

The Middle East Peace process remains at the very core of any efforts aimed at restoring regional stability. Ukraine consistently supports this crucial process and the principle of a two state solution, with Israel and Palestine coexisting in peace and security.

Ukraine shares the concerns expressed by the Secretary General and Special Coordinator on escalation of tensions and violence in Jerusalem. It reflects the gravity of the situation in and around the Old City, as well as in the wider context of the Middle East Peace Process. Recent deadly terror attacks in the Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif and an Israeli settlement in the West Bank speak volumes as to how far along the escalatory pattern we have got. Unless swift and effective measures are taken by both sides, these deadly incidents could ignite further violence.

We stress time and again that no terrorist act can be justified, while strongly condemning any attempts to glorify such acts.

Ukraine is increasingly concerned by the violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem and West Bank that left at least three persons killed. The decision of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to freeze contacts with Israel is a worrisome signal that the situation can get out of hand very quickly.

We take note of the statement of the League of Arab States Secretary General Ahmed Abu Al-Gheit ([abu-l-git]) on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. At the same time, we take this opportunity to urge both Jordan as custodian of the holy site and Israel to find a reasonable compromise between public safety and freedom of worship. We also urge everyone to act responsibly to avoid escalation, to calm the situation down and keep it from spiralling out of control.

Ukraine reiterates its position that Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement lies within the framework of unconditional fulfillment by the parties of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles including land for peace, the Roadmap, the agreements previously reached by the parties and of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

Mr President,

Moving to Syria, let me stress our dissatisfaction with the slow progress on the political track. Reflecting on the last rounds of the Geneva intra-Syrian talks, I see only one party willing to work constructively on the agreed agenda. The Syrian regime delegation, on the contrary, so far has demonstrated interest in discussing only one basket — and it is the counter-terrorism. I believe that the Security Council has made it clear on a number of occasions that one basket cannot be promoted at the expense of the other three. That is why we underscore yet again that the Geneva discussion needs to be firmly entrenched in resolution 2254 and steered toward the previously agreed common agenda points covering issues on governance, constitution, elections and counterterrorism.

We welcome the ceasefire agreement reached for the south-west Syria and consider it a positive development. However, it is rather a temporary fix as long as there is no tangible progress in the political field. Reaching a more permanent and suitable solution hinges upon whether any meaningful and substantive progress is made in the political baskets.

We express our serious concern regarding the pro-regime forces’ newly launched offensives on multiple fronts, with the one being just outside the southern ceasefire zone in Suweida as well as in the city of Ain Tarma in Eastern Ghoutta. Damascus, emboldened by increased assistance from its allies, is employing all possible tactics to turn the ceasefire arrangements and local truces into an opportunity to increase its offensive capabilities, physically eliminating existing pockets of the opposition resistance.

On the whole, the international community should avoid at any cost getting into the trap of short-term solutions as regards the Syrian conflict. Such short-term fixes seem to deliver temporary relief — only to set the stage for a deeper crisis in the long term. If current trends persist, there is a fair chance that the Assad regime will eventually claim a military victory.

However, such a victory, imposed by brute and inhumane force, will be pyrrhic and
short-lived. The fact that no root causes of the conflict have been addressed essentially means more opportunity for the Daesh and Al-Qaida recruitment, more potential to capitalize on the grievances of the disaffected population. Under such a scenario, any conventional victory over Daesh will have quite miniscule impact, when compared with the future terrorist threat in Syria and wider region.

Therefore, we continue to believe that there should be a longer-term blueprint for Syria. The one firmly based on a commitment to the negotiated political settlement and a clear understanding of what will come next if one side claims a victory over the other.

Mr President,

Ukraine is deeply concerned by the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen. It is going from bad to worse. The cholera epidemic spreading fast in all major Yemeni provinces has put the country’s population on the brink of survival.

We praise the efforts of UN and all other humanitarian actors that deliver lifesaving assistance to Yemeni people in order to fight the world’s worst cholera outbreak. We urge the parties to ensure sustainable delivery of commercial and humanitarian supplies, which are essential not only for overcoming the cholera — without them millions of Yemenis are at risk of famine and death.

In the political sphere, we are worried by the latest trends of an increasing polarization of key stakeholders in Yemen and further fragmentation of the Yemeni political landscape. We call on all parties to resume direct talks without preconditions and to conduct these negotiations in the most flexible and constructive manner.

Without a meaningful dialogue the results may be disastrous. The only party that would benefit from this would be the terrorist groups that are increasingly active in Yemen. It is more and more concerning to see Al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula continuing to demonstrate sustained ability to expand its base of support in Yemen and exploit deepening division lines in the war-torn Yemeni society.

There is a long and difficult path ahead. To succeed this Council has to stand united and fully support the Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Yemen.