India was joined by all members of the 15-nation UN Security Council except the US to condemn Israel’s announcement of new construction activity in Palestinian territories and demand immediate dismantling of the “illegal” settlements.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed his deep concern by the heightened settlement activity in West Bank, saying the move by Israel “gravely threatens efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state.”
India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, in his capacity as Coordinator of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) caucus of the Security Council, told reporters here after a UNSC briefing on the situation in the Middle East that there was an attempt in the Council to bring a resolution on the issue.
“It (resolution) did not see the light of the day” even though it had 14 votes in favour but “one permanent member” was against it,” Mr. Puri said without naming the US, which has veto power in the Council.
Making a statement on behalf of NAM, Mr. Puri said the grouping “condemns the recent provocative announcements by Israel, the occupying Power” to construct 3,000 settlement units on confiscated Palestinian land in an area east of occupied Jerusalem.
The new construction activity, widely known as the ‘E-1’ plan is in addition to the announcement by Israel that another 3,600 settlement units would be constructed in occupied territories.
“NAM rejects these illegal actions, which have deliberately intensified after the international community’s reaffirmation of its support for the two-State solution with the General Assembly’s adoption of resolution which, accorded to Palestine the status of non-member observer State in the United Nations,” Mr. Puri said.
“NAM calls on Israel to immediately cease its settlement activities and to abide by all of its legal obligations,” he said.
NAM, whose members include Togo, South Africa, Morocco, Pakistan, Guatemala, Colombia and Azerbaijan, stressed that Israel’s settlement activities constitute grave breaches of international humanitarian law and violate numerous United Nations resolutions.
Separately the India, Brazil and South Africa grouping (IBSA) also voiced their grave concern over the continuing settlement activities by Israel, which it said is “not only illegal under international law but also a major obstacle to peace efforts.”
“We reiterate our call on Israel to stop settlement activities. Freezing settlement construction is, however, not enough. Settlements must be dismantled and the occupation must end. We condemn the violence by settlers against Palestinians and their property.”
“Action is required against those indulging in such violence. We are also deeply disturbed by evictions, demolitions of Palestinian homes and other measures that alter the realities on the ground,” IBSA said.
The grouping said the Security Council has an “irreplaceable” role to play in the peace process but the promotion of peace in the Middle East cannot be delegated to third parties.
IBSA urged the Security Council to call for a complete halt to the settlement activity.
“The granting of Observer State status to Palestine by the General Assembly, with unequivocal support, made it clear that there is no alternative to the two-State solution in the quest for peace in the Middle East.
“The IBSA countries call on both sides to resume negotiations on the pending issues, with a view to the prompt realisation of the two-State solution, with a cohesive, secure, democratic and economically viable Palestinian State, living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel,” the grouping said.
The UN Chief also voiced concern that the Middle East peace process is in a “deep freeze”.
He said Israel and Palestine seem “more polarised than ever, and a two-state solution is farther away than at any time since the Oslo process began in 1993.
“I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
“Let us get the peace process back on track before it is too late,” Mr. Ban told reporters at his year-end press conference.
Mr. Ban said he has been deeply involved in facilitating the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and has been urging the parties not to provoke each other.
He said the announcement by Israel of new construction activities is a “near fatal blow to a very fragile Middle East peace process.”
While it is encouraging that the ceasefire is holding, “it is very fragile, and therefore either side should not take any provocative action which may derail this very fragile process,” Mr. Ban said.
Britain’s Permanent Representative to the UN Mark Lyall Grant read a statement on behalf of the European Union saying that the viability of the two-state solution, which is key for Israel’s long-term security is threatened by the systematic expansion of settlements.
He said that France, Germany, Portugal and the UK believe that the viability of the two-state solution is at stake and must be preserved.