I’ll begin with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The United States continues to work vigorously with the parties, the Quartet, and our international partners to resume negotiations on the basis of the September 23rd Quartet statement. That statement provides a clear and credible path back to the negotiating table, which is the only path to achieve the two-state solution we all seek. The Quartet statement reaffirms President Obama’s vision for peace as laid out in his May remarks. President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu have each agreed to send negotiators to Jerusalem for preparatory meetings with the Quartet envoys on October 26th. Thus, our focus remains on laying the groundwork for these and subsequent meetings leading to the two parties exchanging comprehensive proposals on territory and security by the end of the year, as outlined in the Quartet’s timeline. We urge all members of this Council and all member states to unite to help create a positive climate for resuming negotiations.
Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Only they can reach agreement on the painful issues that divide them: borders and security, refugees, and Jerusalem. We have been very clear that we believe Palestinian efforts to seek member-state status at the United Nations will not advance the peace process but rather will complicate, delay, and perhaps derail prospects for a negotiated settlement. Therefore, we have consistently opposed such unilateral initiatives. We will continue at the same time to exert every effort to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.
Like every American administration for decades, the Obama administration does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. The fate of existing settlements is one that must be dealt with by the parties, along with the other permanent-status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. For that reason, steps by the Government of Israel to advance significant new construction in Givat Hamatos are deeply disappointing.
The illegal trafficking of weapons in Gaza continues to pose a serious threat to civilians in Gaza, in Israel, and in Egypt. It must be stopped. With regard to Hamas, we reaffirm the importance of fulfilling the Quartet principles’ commitment to nonviolence, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and recognition of previous agreements. We call again on Palestinians and Israelis to take constructive actions to promote peace and to avoid actions that complicate this process or undermine trust.
The United States is very pleased that Gilad Shalit has finally been reunited with his family after five long years in captivity.
Madame President, I will now turn to the crisis in Syria. For more than seven months, ordinary Syrians have taken to the streets to demand respect for their most fundamental human rights. The Asad regime has met these peaceful protests with brutal and escalating violence. According to the United Nations, the death toll has surpassed 3,000. It is tragic that Asad’s barbaric acts have recently been met by silence from this Council.
The United States welcomes the Arab League’s renewed efforts to stop the violence, to allow the Syrian people to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy. We are very skeptical, however, that the Asad regime has any intention of allowing the opposition to meet in an environment free of intimidation. We again call for full and unfettered access by credible, professional observers, including human rights monitors, the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, and international observers. In addition, we strongly deplore the violent incursions and raids into Lebanon by Syrian security forces that have resulted in death and injury.
Turning to Yemen, we welcome the Council’s adoption on Friday of Resolution 2014, addressing the grave situation there. Each day that passes without a peaceful and orderly transition of power is another day that the Yemeni people are forced to live in danger and instability. We again urge all parties to cease violence and exercise maximum restraint. We will continue to work intensively with the international community to support the Yemeni people’s aspirations for democracy and protection of their basic human rights.
Madame President, we are pleased that the Government of Lebanon has reaffirmed that it will uphold Lebanon’s international commitments, including Lebanon’s agreement with the Special Tribunal. We believe it is of the utmost importance that Lebanon fulfill its funding obligations to the Special Tribunal within the coming weeks. We remain deeply committed to the full implementation of Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701. The United States continues to support the Lebanese Armed Forces’ ongoing efforts to assert control and maintain stability in southern Lebanon.
Finally, the United States congratulates the Tunisian people on the reported high turnout in Sunday’s elections for a Constituent Assembly. This is a milestone on the Tunisian people’s path from dictatorship to a democratic government founded upon respect for the will of its citizens. We look forward to working with the people and government of Tunisia, including the new Constituent Assembly, over the next phase of their country’s historic transition.
Thank you, Madame President.