I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Cyprus Government. We have also aligned with the statement delivered by Spain on behalf of the European Union.
It is with a sense of sadness that I am addressing this Emergency Special Session, since it is a clear indication that the Security Council was not able to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and that the darkness around the Middle East is still full of despair. This on-going vicious circle of conflict has cost immeasurable suffering to millions of people and has created an almost permanent situation of instability, whose repercussions extend far beyond the region of the Middle East. Cyprus, a neighbouring state with long and strong bonds of friendship to the people of Palestine and Israel, is particularly pained by this seemingly never-ending cycle of violence that has tormented the two peoples over the years.
We hoped that the constant consultations at the Security Council and the fervent international initiatives such as the ministerial Madrid statement of the Quartet of special envoys (United Nations, United States, Russian Federation and European Union) and the peace initiative of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah contained all the components for a lasting settlement to the Middle East conflict.
The most important lesson that can be drawn from the recent upsurge of violence in this conflict is the impact of security concerns on the peace process, and at the same time the realisation of the irrefutable fact that without political negotiations offering the prospect for an end to the unacceptable situation of occupation and the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state, the prospects of a secure Middle East are dim and distant.
Cyprus’ long-held position on the solution of the Question of Palestine has been consistent and in line with international law. We strongly support the immediate implementation of resolutions 1397, 1402, 1403 and 1405 of the Security Council and the non-selective and comprehensive implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Plan. We furthermore fully support the efforts of the Quartet and followed with some optimism their recent meeting in Washington and their effort to hold a peace conference on the Middle East.
We urge Israel to withdraw from the areas occupied by its troops, to desist from any actions such as extrajudicial executions, attacks on medical and humanitarian institutions and personnel and to cease the incursions in the Palestinian territories which are a clear violation of international law, to fully respect international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions. The destruction and unprecedented damage committed to Palestinian infrastructure in a few days has turned the clock back for years and has created untold suffering and destitution. This is why we urge Israel to accept the proposal of the Secretary General for the establishment of a Middle East international force with extended powers to reflect the new situation on the ground. We furthermore call for respect and protection of all religious sites. Equally we condemn unequivocally any form of terrorism for which we find no justification, and urge for an immediate end of this practice.
We express full sympathy to President Yasser Arafat, who is the legitimate leader and elected representative of the Palestinian People, with a vital role to play in the peace process. The resolution of the situation at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the end to his isolation was a modest start but he should be accorded the respectability of his position and allowed to represent his people with dignity in full freedom. The siege of the church of Nativity should also cease immediately.
We reiterate our support for a just and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) of the Security Council. The occupation of Arab lands and the plight of the Palestinian people must come to an end, ensuring the fulfillment of their legitimate rights, including their right to an independent state. The solution of the Middle East problem will bring stability to this sensitive region of the world, will ensure normal relations and the safety and security of Israel, and will put an end to violence, strengthening the forces of moderation and cooperation.
Cyprus had welcome with relief the Secretary-General’s initiative to create a fact-finding team to gather accurate information regarding the events in Jenin and profoundly regrets the Israeli objections that forced the Secretary General to disband the team. This eroded the credibility and authority of the Security Council and does not allow for catharsis and reconciliation.
The ultimate challenge for the parties to this conflict is to find the necessary political courage and go beyond hatred to look for ways to achieve peace. The international community should also stay engaged and pursue the appropriate means, as warranted by the situation and the behaviour of the parties, to put an end to the bloodshed and the return to the negotiating table. For history, will judge harshly both parties directly concerned, as well as all of us, if we fail to act, and if we fail to act now.
Thank you, Mr. President.