December 16, 2017

Statement by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus Ambassador Sotos Zackheos to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People – Developments in the Middle East

I have listened with great sympathy to the intervention by the Permanent Observer of Palestine, who explained with his usual sense of accuracy and clarity the tragic situation prevailing across the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. Since the beginning of the recent bloody clashes the Cyprus Government and people have expressed sorrow and concern over the escalating tension and the loss of so many lives. Cyprus has also expressed the view that the visit to Al-Haram Al Sharif compound in Jerusalem constituted a provocation, which should have been avoided, especially during this critical period in the Middle East peace process.

My Government welcomes resolution 1322 adopted last Saturday by the Security Council and calls for its immediate implementation. It also expresses the hope that the powers of peace would prove strong enough to neutralize those who are trying to undermine the peace process.

Bearing in mind the efforts of the last seven years by the international community, in which Cyprus had its own share, in encouraging the parties to the difficult road to peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, we cannot but express our dismay and sorrow for the deterioration of the atmosphere. The resurgence of violence in the Middle East at a time when we were hopeful that a solution was near is particularly disturbing. Time and again Cyprus expressed the position that the Palestinian issue constitutes the core of the Middle East conflict and without its settlement the international community could not hope to reach a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Middle East problem. We reiterate our support for a just and lasting settlement to the Arab and Israeli conflict based on resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). A lesson drawn by the present escalation of violence is that, unless peace efforts and initiatives are based on international law, the achievement of peace will remain on very shaky foundations. Solutions to problems must be perceived as fair and accepted as such by the populations concerned, otherwise the sense of resentment and opposition will sweep away agreements reached based on ephemeral considerations.

Another point I would like to make is that the mighty should always have a greater understanding of the frustrations of people who have long suffered under occupation and are longing to achieve their legitimate rights and live in peace, dignity and security with their neighbors.

The recent violence does not serve the interest of either party to the conflict and should stop immediately. Religious sites should be respected. We are also dismayed that lives of innocent children have not been spared and our conscience has been stirred by the tragic loss of Muhammed Al Durra.

We take this opportunity to call upon Israel to abide by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war of 12 August 1949.

Let me in conclusion express my hope that the numerous difficulties that exist, however daunting, will not deter the drive towards peace. We join the international community in expressing our hope that the situation will return to normality and that efforts will be redoubled for the survival and ultimate successful outcome of the peace process upon which millions of people, both in the region and throughout the world, have pinned great hopes.