Statement by Ambassador Ebrahim Saley Deputy Director-General: Global Governance and Continental Agenda at the Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Committee on Palestine, Island of Margarita, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, 15 September 2016

Chairperson,

The South African delegation would like to extend our deep appreciation to the government and people of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the warm hospitality extended to us since our arrival in your country. Chairperson, permit me also to commend and thank the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for effectively leading the Movement for the past four years.

Last year, the United Nations commemorated its 70th anniversary. Yet, one of the oldest issues on the UN agenda remains unresolved and the people of Palestine are yet to live a life “in larger freedom” as envisaged by the UN Charter.

The situation on the ground in Occupied Palestine becomes increasingly untenable. The West Bank continues to experience illegal Israeli settlements, activities that are leading to a fragmentation of the West Bank, to a degree that it threatens the feasibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.  The illegal siege of Gaza has led to a dire humanitarian situation, which is both unconscionable and unsustainable.

As South Africa has done in the past, today we will again declare our commitment to the two state solution and reiterate that an essential part of achieving peace in the entire Middle East is through the establishment of a free and sovereign Palestine state co-existing side-by-side in peace and security with the State of Israel, based on the 4 June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Chairperson,

South Africa believes that the central responsibility for peace is primarily in the hands of Palestinians and Israelis themselves. We, as part of the international community and particularly the Non-Aligned Movement, should support and encourage the parties towards this endeavour in conformity with the body of international legality that already exists.

In this regard, dialogue and negotiation remains the only way forward to finding a lasting settlement.  However, the body tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security, the United Nations Security Council, has not played an effective role, as it ought to have, in responding to the conflict.  Following the adoption of the Oslo Agreement over twenty years ago, the Security Council did not fulfil its obligation to oversee the implementation by both sides of their respective equal obligations under the agreement.  Instead, it has created and maintained an air of impunity for one side, which fuels the deteriorating situation on the ground.  Further, in turn, the Council has become unable to be an effective steward of the Middle East Peace Process and meetings of the Security Council unfortunately now are seen to only pay lip service to the Peace Process with no meaningful action. This is in sharp contrast to many other cases where UN Security Council resolutions have asserted the moral and legal weight of the UN and coerced action by the parties through threats and action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Instead, over the last few years, responsibility for facilitating the peace process has been deferred to the Quartet. Should we continue to delegate our collective aspirations and responsibilities in this matter to the Quartet? Or, is it time that the broader international community assert our role in this process? The international community must bring to bear its moral and legal weight by insisting that the Israel-Palestine Peace Process take place in accordance within a broader international framework with the UN assuming the role of neutral arbiter. Countries of the NAM should also be accorded a more active role in this process and not leave it to parties that have no record of success thus far.

Chairperson,

There are international initiatives underway to revive the Peace Process. In this context, the French initiative is welcomed. The message emanating from the participants at the Paris Conference is that the time has come for the parties to resume negotiations with the full support of the international community, based on the existing international legal framework and to work towards a two-state solution.

In the past, South Africa initiated dialogues between different groups of Palestinians and Israelis during which, we shared South Africa’s experience in negotiations, peace-building, constitution-building processes, and the transition to democracy. Over the past two years, the presidential envoys appointed by President Jacob Zuma, have visited a number of countries in the region and interacted with leaders and opinion makers, soliciting views on how to revive and take forward the realisation of peace and the two-state solution.

We recently co-hosted, the United Nations International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East.  South Africa is commitment to enhancing dialogue and understanding between Palestinians and Israelis for the promotion of a just and peaceful settlement to the conflict, which includes the encouragement of a fair and honest contribution by the media.

I wish to conclude by reiterating that that the absence of a meaningful political solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict will continue to exacerbate the already precarious humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. We, as the NAM, must intensify our efforts to promote this political solution.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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