Statement by H. E. Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa at the Debate of the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East, 26 September 2012

South Africa expresses its appreciation to Germany, particularly to our colleague, Minister Mr Guido Westerwelle, for organizing this timely debate which provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the peace and security situation in the Middle East especially in light of the current events taking place in the region.  We thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr Nabil Elaraby, for their respective statements.

The Charter gives the Security Council the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and it also recognises the complimentary role between the UN and regional organisations. Political and strategic alignment between the Security Council and regional organisations has demonstrated effective results as we have seen in the cases of Somalia and Sudan. 

Coordination should be enhanced and become more formalized and structured – which is why South Africa has consistently championed strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations.  We pioneered the adoption of Resolution 2033 earlier this year to further strengthen this relationship particularly focussing on the relationship between the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council.

Cooperation between regional organizations is equally important, especially in instances where there is overlapping membership, such as case with the League of Arab States and the AU.  In such situations, regional organisations should collaborate in developing cross-regional solutions to common challenges such as resolution of conflicts.  In this regard, we look forward to the Joint Consultative Ministerial Meeting between the AU Peace and Security Council, and the League of Arab States’ Peace and Security Council, scheduled to take place in New York on 27 September 2012.

Mr President,

In the case of the Middle East, we have to recognise that the League of Arab States is the organisation best placed to have a deeper appreciation of the dynamics within which conflicts in the Arab World take place and can provide context-specific solutions. 

South Africa appreciates the efforts of the League in promoting peace in the Middle East region, especially efforts at furthering the Middle East peace process – the oldest peace and security item on the agenda of both the UN and the League.  It is therefore apt that the UN is strengthening its engagement with the League.  The appointment of the Joint Special Representative for Syria is demonstrative of this concrete cooperation.  It would also be appropriate for the Secretary-General in consultation with the League to explore modalities for further enhancing cooperation.  In its cooperation with the League, the Council should be consistent and not selectively cooperate on matters that serve the national interests of some of its members.

Mr President,

The events in the Middle East over the past 19 months have had a significant impact in the region and the rest of the world.  The complexities underlying these events underscore that no individual country or organization can address these developments on their own.  The need for cooperation amongst states and international organisations when dealing with cross-cutting issues of peace, security and development is therefore paramount.  Equally, the underlying causes of these uprisings, including long standing conflicts, have to be addressed in a coordinated manner. 

In the Middle East, we have not seen such an approach.

There has been swift international reaction to some while in others, this cooperation is lacking and as a result there has not been significant movement towards resolving these conflicts. 

Cooperation between the UN and the League on the Middle East Peace Process has been most disappointing.  The Arab League has consistently played a significant role in trying to find a resolution to the conflict including by the adoption of the Arab Peace Initiative.  Unfortunately, the Security Council is yet to provide effective and meaningful support to the League’s efforts. Instead, we have relied on the Middle East Quartet whose efficacy is increasingly being questioned especially because its composition excludes the League or regional representative.

Exactly one year ago, in September 2011, the Middle East Quartet committed itself to the resumption of the direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine by September this year. This deadline has come and gone with no significant progress towards the resumption of talks. 

As a result, the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues to deteriorate sharply.  Illegal settlement construction which violates international law and the resolutions of this Council remains the major stumbling block to the viability of an independent Palestinian state and the resumption of the peace talks.

South Africa laments the failure of this Council to agree to the admission of Palestine as a member of the United Nations despite overwhelming support and endorsement by the League. We welcome the Arab League’s decision to revive Palestine’s bid for UN membership and call on the international community to provide support to a permanent and sustainable political solution, namely, the implementation of a two-state solution, providing for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel within internationally recognised borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Regrettably, years of failed diplomacy and oversight by the UN Security Council has resulted only in hardening of positions by the occupier, increased abject poverty and suffering by the people of Palestine and continued insecurity for both the people of Israel and Palestine.  Perhaps it is time to consider a new approach. The League is well placed to take the lead and to ensure that the Palestinian cause again becomes a priority for the Council. 

Mr. President,

With regard to the situation in Syria, we condemn the ongoing violence that continues unabated. Meanwhile the Security Council remains divided on this issue.  South Africa emphasizes that the Security Council and the League of Arab States should address the Syrian crisis in a balanced manner by applying pressure on all sides to stop the violence, immediately establish a ceasefire and comply fully with their respective obligations under the Six-Point Plan and the Geneva Action Group Communiqué.  Those assisting either party militarily are worsening the situation and prolonging the bloodshed.  We call on those involved in such initiatives to refrain from them and assist in efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table in order to launch a credible Syrian-led and owned political process that will lead to a legitimate transitional arrangement aimed at establishing a democratic pluralistic society that meets the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people. The resolution of the conflict should also preserve the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.

In conclusion, Mr. President, the inability of this Council to deal with the situations in Palestine and Syria underscores the need for the reform of this Council.  The absence of reform, renders cooperation with regional organisations vitally important as this unreformed Council attempts to grapple with contemporary threats to international peace and security. 

I thank you





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