The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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One miscalculation or mistake in Middle East 'could lead to the unthinkable’ – UN Secretary General

Thursday, 18 April 2024, 17:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

Kevin Schembri Orland reporting from the United Nations in New York City

UN Secretary General António Guterres has said that the Middle East is on a precipice, where "one miscalculation, one miscommunication or mistake could lead to the unthinkable, a full scale regional conflict."

Guterres was addressing a debate at the UN Security Council regarding whether or not to grant Palestine full UN membership. A vote is expected later in the day.

He said that the moment of maximum peril must be a time for maximum restraint. He condemned the Iran attack on Israel in April and also condemned the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus by Israel.  


"It is high time to end the bloody cycle of retaliation. It is high time to stop.

The UN Secretary General said that the risks are spiralling on many fronts. "We have a shared responsibility to address those risks and pull the region back from the precipice."

Guterres said that ending the hostilities in Gaza will diffuse tensions in Middle East, and reiterated calls for an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages in Gaza. He said that the October 7 attacks were a breach of the most fundamental rules of international law. He said that in Gaza, a humanitarian hellscape has been created, adding that Gazans are staring down starvation. He quoted UNICEF as saying that 13,800 children have been killed in Gaza.

He said that the ultimate goal remains the two-state solution.

'The Middle East is experiencing one of the bleakest and most volatile periods in modern history' - Borg

Foreign Affairs Minister Ian Borg, who was also chairing the meeting, spoke in his capacity as Malta's representative.

"The Middle East is experiencing one of the bleakest and most volatile periods in modern history. As underlined by the Secretary-General last Sunday, the 'Middle East is at the brink of a full-scale conflict' one which we need to collectively avoid by calling on all parties to show restraint. These latest events continue the downward spiral witnessed in the six months since the heinous terror attacks of Hamas on 7 October and the beginning of military action by Israel in Gaza. It provides further proof of the importance of an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and the need to rebuild a political horizon in the Middle East."

He said that it is deeply worrying and completely unacceptable that this Council's demand for a ceasefire in accordance with Resolution 2728 has been disregarded by the parties. "We wish to reiterate that, under Article 25 of the Charter, the Members of the United Nations agreed to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. Security Council decisions are binding."

"We have consistently condemned Hamas for its reprehensible terrorist acts on 7 October, including the murder of over 1,200 Israelis, the taking of hostages, and any acts of sexual violence committed," he said. "We once again reiterate our demand that Hamas release all hostages immediately and unconditionally. However, in Gaza, it is not only the hostages who are suffering." Borg said that over 33,700 Palestinians have been killed, most of them women and children.

"With over half of the population on the cusp of a man-made famine, coupled with a decimated health system, children are also dying from a lack of food and water."

He said that targeted attacks on healthcare violate all of the unique protections under international law for pregnant, birthing and post-partum women, as well as children. "We stress that all parties have a legal obligation under international law, including international humanitarian law, to protect civilians."

He said that the heightened tensions in the region and the increased escalations and skirmishes in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen push the region closer to an untenable conflagration, and stressed the need for immediate de-escalation and restraint.

"We welcome ongoing efforts towards reinforcing and revitalising the Palestinian Authority. The international community must support all actions which would allow its effective governance in line with the two-State Solution, and with Gaza as part of an independent Palestinian State. Fundamentally, a just resolution of this conflict demands a reality which embraces the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations for UN membership and Statehood. It also demands a reality in which Israelis live in security, without being held hostage by the threat of terrorism."

"Malta reaffirms its unwavering commitment to a comprehensive political solution based on a two-State Solution along the pre-1967 borders, addressing the legitimate aspirations of both sides, with Jerusalem as the future Capital of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, in line with the relevant Security Council resolutions and internationally agreed parameters."

'Security cannot be achieved with endless wars' - Ziad Abu Amr

Mr Ziad Abu Amr, Special Representative of the President of the State of Palestine, said that the Palestinian people are the victim of a history not of their making. "These people suffered a catastrophe in 1948 and Israeli occupation since 1967."

He said that since 1988, "the Palestinian leadership has been represented by the Palestinian Authority, the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The leadership has shown preparedness to sit at the negotiating table and find a just solution for the Palestinian question."

Abu Amr argued that since 1993 the Palestinian leadership chose the path of negotiations in the hope of the desired solution. The international community supported the two-state solution, he said.

"Palestine has sought and called on the world to accept it as a full member of the UN as we believe an international resolution of this regard will protect the two-state solution and will reflect the Palestinian people's right to a state." He said that granting Palestine full membership will lift some of the historic injustice that succeeding generations have been subjected to, adding that it would open wide prospects before a true peace based on justice.

He asked how could granting the state of Palestine full membership damage the prospects of peace between Israel and Palestine? "How could it harm international peace and security," he asked. "We specifically ask this to the USA and other countries that oppose granting Palestine full membership, when they recognise Israel as a full UN member."

"To those who say recognising the Palestinian state must happen through negotiations and not a resolution, we ask, how was the state of Israel recognised? Wasn't that through a UN resolution?"

He said that it is high time for the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility to the Palestinian people and adopt Palestine as a full UN member. "Those hindering the resolution are not helping the prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine."

'The child murdering Hamas rapists are watching this meeting and smiling' - Gilad Erdan

Gilad Erdan, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nation, also addressed the Security Council. "How many times has this Council met to announce ways to release the hostages in Gaza? Not even once. How many condemnations has this Council issued for the Hamas attacks on 7 October? Zero," he said.

This Council instead will be voting on a resolution to grant the Palestinian Authority full membership status, he said. "How detached can this council be from reality to discuss a resolution so disconnected from the reality on the ground. A resolution that will have zero positive impact for any party," one that will cause destruction for years to come, he said.

He said that "the child murdering Hamas rapists are watching this meeting and smiling," adding that there is no bigger prize for terror than this meeting. He spoke about the requirements to be recognised as a full state, adding that a principle in the UN Charter is that membership is open to all peace-loving states. "What a joke. Does anyone doubt that the Palestinians fail to meet this criteria? Did anyone hear a Palestinian leader condemn the attacks?" He said that the Palestinian Authority has no control over Gaza. "The Palestinian Authority, ironically, has no authority."

He said that to some of the UN members, the Palestinians inability to meet the criteria doesn't matter, saying that it is political. He said that according to the report from the Council's commission for admission of new members states: "several members expressed the view that the admission of the state of Palestine was a political matter rather than a technical or legal requirement. In other words international law be damned."

Erdan said that what the Council decided to focus on is to grant a prize to terrorists. If the resolution passes, he said the Council should be known as a terror council. He said the Palestinians rejected every peace plan ever made and continue to boycott negotiations. "They can say no to any American president but still get here what they demand as the UN is guided by politics, not truth." He pleaded for the members not to support "this dangerous resolution."

Photos: MFET


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