Friday, November 27, 2015

The Situation in the Middle East, Including The Palestinian Question

Statement by
H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin
Vice Chairman of the Committe on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
Before the Security Council
The Situation in the Middle East, Including The Palestinian Question


Mr. President,

In my capacity as Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, allow me to congratulate you on the exemplary manner in which you have been steering the work of the Council during this month. I would also like to express my appreciation to H.E. Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet of Gabon for his efficient presiding over the Council during the month of March.

On behalf of the Committee, I would like to express my appreciation to the United Nations Secretariat for the monthly briefings on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. Briefings such as this serve a useful practical purpose as they reflect the latest developments on the ground, as well as the efforts by various stakeholders in the international community to move the peace process forward.

Sadly, Mr. President, as we meet here today, there appears to be little hope for a serious turnaround in the all too familiar patterns of events on the ground. Violence continues to affect the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. Our Committee has condemned the use by Israel of its military might against the occupied Palestinian people, be it the bombing of areas in Gaza, incursions into Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza, or dispersing non-violent protestors in front of the separation wall built illegally on Palestinian land. Our Committee has also been unequivocal in condemning the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian groups from Gaza into Israel. Violence from either side has to stop.

Our Committee also considers it alarming and totally unacceptable that the Government of Israel continues to flagrantly dismiss numerous calls by members of the international community, including the Quartet, for halting the illegal settlement activity in the Occupied West Bank and especially in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s latest statements in that regard send a clear message to the international community that the Israeli strategy is to continue to build in Jerusalem in violation of international law. At the same time, the occupying Power has continued to displace Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem through illegal house demolitions, evictions and residency right revocations.

Our Committee is also seriously concerned about the new Israeli military order that went into effect yesterday threatening thousands of residents in the West Bank with deportation. This order is part of the Israeli policy of consolidating and perpetuating its occupation of Palestinian land through forced displacement of the population. Implementing this order would constitute a breach of the Forth Geneva Convention, in particular its Article 49, which prohibits forcible transfers as well as deportations of protected persons, individual or mass, from the occupied territory.

It is absolutely clear that, by creating such facts on the ground, the occupying Power is undermining efforts at restarting the political process and is pre-determining the outcome of the sensitive permanent status negotiations on the status of Jerusalem. This approach renders any such negotiations devoid of purpose. In the same vein, Israel’s actions and policy on the issue of settlements are a serious threat to the concept of achieving a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-State solution. It is obvious, Mr. President, that these illegal and provocative actions of the Israeli leadership are also directly undermining current efforts at resuming the political process between the parties.

Our Committee fully supports the demand by the Middle East Quartet that Israel freeze all settlement activity, dismantle outposts and refrain from illegal house demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem. I would like to emphasize here that these are NOT pre-conditions for resuming the negotiating process. These are Israeli obligations under the Road Map, as endorsed by this Council. It is hoped that the ten-month freeze of settlement expansion declared by the Israeli Government would be comprehensive, extended to East Jerusalem and retained indefinitely.

I would like to inform the Members of the Council that, at the end of March, our Committee convened its annual United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People. Its goal was to draw the attention of the international community to the Programme of the Palestinian Authority entitled “Palestine: Ending the occupation, establishing the State” – the programme that has become known as the Fayyad Plan. This programme might be understood as the Palestinian answer to Israeli settlement-building by creating unilaterally positive facts on the ground. Unlike Israel’s settlement activity, the Palestinian Authority’s programme is consistent with international law, welcomed and supported by the international community, and promotes rather than impedes prospects for a peace agreement. The plan reflects the Palestinian determination to empower themselves by taking their destiny into their own hands and shouldering their share of responsibility through building state institutions under the Israeli occupation with a view to ending it.

This forward-looking programme of the Palestinian Authority deserves the full attention of and tangible support by the international community. The Palestinian Authority has proven its ability to transform international support into concrete government-administered programmes, as demonstrated by the reform of the law and order sector and improved transparency at all levels and in all sectors of its activity. The Fayyad Plan is a logical continuation of these efforts.

It has to be borne in mind that this programme is not being implemented in a political vacuum. It is now, and will be in the foreseeable future, critically affected by developments in the political process. In fact, its success is determined by the measure of progress in the political area. On the international level, support needs to be built for the broad recognition of an independent Palestinian State. At the end of the projected two years of the plan, this recognition could be enshrined in a Security Council resolution, clearly determining the borders of the Palestinian State based on the pre-1967 lines.

Our Committee has come out strongly in support of the Palestinian Authority’s State-building programme. We would like to encourage the Members of the Security Council to support the realization of this plan, which has already been endorsed by the United Nations Secretary-General, the Quartet and the League of Arab States. By putting the weight of its authority behind this plan, the Council will create the necessary political framework for ending the occupation and implementing the two-State solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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The Situation in the Middle East, Including The Palestinian Question

commemorative meeting of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Women

Statement by HE Dr. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations

Chairman of Asian Group for the month of March

on behalf of Asian Group

to the commemorative meeting of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Women

Mr. President,

First and foremost, on behalf of the Asian group, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to Chile. We wish the Chilean people a speedy recovery and we admire their strength during these tragic times.

Mr. President,

On behalf of Asian Group, it is an honor for me to address this historic gathering commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration.

In September 1995 we gathered in Beijing for the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on women. Today, fifteen years later, we come together again to commemorate the occasion, acknowledge progress made and challenges ahead, and pay tribute to the ideals embodied in the Beijing Platform of Action. In Beijing we unequivocally declared our shared determination to advance the goals of equality, development, and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity; we recognized the persistent inequalities between men and women and the repercussions they have on societies; and we acknowledged that the situation is exacerbated by the abject poverty that affects the lives of many of the worlds people, in particular woman and children. We concluded by dedicating ourselves to addressing these constraints and obstacles, and, perhaps more importantly, we recognized the urgency of this endeavor and the need for collective determination and cooperation for the tasks ahead.

In assessing our progress in implementing the commitments we made to the world’s women in Beijing, we realize much progress has been made, but considerable obstacles remain that hobble and dehumanize women throughout the world.

Women’s rights are progressive and evolving. Since the Beijing conference men and women throughout the world have become ever more aware of the inequities that women endure, and they have spoken up to demand change. It is that demand that has brought about the improving recognition of women’s rights in each country’s legal system and here at the United Nations.

Furthermore, the Beijing Conference cemented the notion that it is unacceptable to differentiate women’s rights from human rights. But still in many countries around the world women are not safe from the threats of domestic violence, continued discrimination, and wide-ranging socio-economic barriers. We must continue our efforts toward the implementation of Beijing Declaration.

But progress has been made through a concerted effort of the international community, national governments, and in part through the action of women and girls themselves. According to the World Bank, women in South Asia now live longer than men for the first time. This improvement in women’s longevity is an indicator of better treatment of women and girls and a valued outcome identified in the Beijing Platform for Action. In addition, high economic growth has led to significant reduction in gender gaps in the labor markets of Asian and Pacific nations.

In the political realm, Asia, where, according to the World Bank, women political leaders are more prevalent than anywhere else, has certainly made progress through the introduction of quota systems to increase women’s representation in political governance structures. For example, in Afghanistan where the misogynistic Taliban once ruled and women were deprived of their very basic human rights, now constitutional law stipulates that 27% of all seats in parliament must be filled by women.

Undoubtedly, because of our actions over the past three decades, women’s issues have gained prominence on the international and national development agendas. Attention has gone not only to the plight of poor and disenfranchised women in developing countries, but also to the unfinished gender agenda in more developed countries, such as addressing women’s representation in higher-paying jobs and management positions and reducing the prevalence of gender-based violence.

We gather here today to commemorate this special occasion, to celebrate a cause, to celebrate progress, but more importantly to realize that our job is not finished – to realize that there are remaining and arising new challenges. We have come a long way since the conference in Beijing; we shall be ruthlessly unyielding in our pursuit to ensure that our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, are treated with equality, respect, and dignity.

I thank you, Mr. President.

Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN

At the Security Council

Open debate

On the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Mr. President,

At the outset, let me congratulate you for assuming the Presidency of this Council for the month of November. I would also like to thank you for convening and chairing this meeting. In particular, I would like to thank Foreign Minister Spindelegger, for making this issue such a priority and for his presence here today. I would also like to thank His Excellency the Secretary-General and Under Secretary-General Mr. Holmes for their statements.

Mr. President,

This week Europe and America remember the ends of two World Wars, which were international conflicts conducted between states and empires. Since then, the nature of conflict has evolved. Where sixty years ago state actors were the central players in international war, today asymmetric warfare with non-state actors is increasingly common.

Now, children walk into markets with bombs strapped to their chests. Girls become targets just for trying to go to school. Aid workers are threatened specifically because they do so much good. The protection of civilians is an issue of growing importance for us all.

Mr. President,

The Geneva Conventions, signed sixty years ago, remain central to our understanding of our responsibilities in conflict, but in Afghanistan, our enemies do not respect even these most basic rules of war. The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups show complete disregard for human life. More, they deliberately target anyone, civilian or military, who does not embrace their extremist philosophy. They target those with no conceivable military connection: teachers, healthcare workers, students on the way to school. It is estimated that more than five thousand people were killed, injured or kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2008 alone as a result of terrorist activity.

These groups cannot hope to defeat the world’s greatest armies with their military strength. Rather, their strength lies in their brutality and viciousness, which they use  to lend an atmosphere of control and inevitability to their fight. The Taliban will never be able to provide security, governance or development. Their goal is not to build an alternative state; their goal is to prevent any state from being built.

Mr. President,

Civilian casualties, in this fight, are both a human and a political tragedy.

The human tragedy is obvious.

From January to August 2009, UNAMA recorded 1500 civilians deaths in Afghanistan, an increase of 24% over the same period in 2008. 68% of these attacks can be attributed to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. This percentage has been increasing steadily as the terrorists rely increasingly on bombs and indiscriminate attacks. And although the proportion of deaths attributed to the international and to some extent Afghan military forces has decreased over previous years, they still account for 23% of civilian deaths. 300 died as a result of airstrikes.

Mr. President,

The political cost is more subtle, though equally damaging.

The Taliban’s main tactic is to encourage the alienation of the international community from the Afghan people. The people of Afghanistan know from past experience exactly how brutal and repressive the Taliban are, and show consistent resistance to them.  However, they have higher expectations from the international community.

Afghans want to see their government and our international partners be their protectors. When we fail to protect and respect the Afghans, the Taliban and their allies use the people’s disappointed expectations to strain the partnerships that are so central to this fight, and damage our ability to earn the trust and engagement we need to succeed.

Mr. President,

Concern for the lives of civilians is therefore not only an important moral and humanitarian issue. It is also crucial to our political, military and economic goals in Afghanistan, and the region.

We should adopt a strategy that values the protection of people, respects their lives, rights and property, and enables positive and constructive interactions with local communities. We fully support the new NATO strategy which emphasizes the protection of civilians and introduces important follow-up mechanisms to ensure accountability. We appreciate the increased sensitivity that has been shown in response to concerns about the conduct of searches and arrests. And we support other strategic changes that have been proposed to improve the protection of civilians.

Further, we stress the need for increased emphasis on training the Afghan National Security Forces. Afghans are eager to take increasing responsibility for the security of their country and the protection of their people. Unfortunately, lack of capacity and resources continues to hobble our progress, and we hope to address this with the international community in the coming years.

Mr. President,

We appreciate the steadfast condemnation voiced by the Security Council in response to terrorist attacks across the world, and in particular your strong and unwavering support for UNAMA following the appalling attacks in Kabul on the 28th of October. Groups that deliberately target civilian populations should continue to be strongly condemned in these halls, and their unwillingness to obey even the most basic rules of combat should strip them of any legitimacy in our eyes.

Mr. President,

The blood of Afghans has been continuously spilled amidst thirty years of local, regional, and global power struggles. In 2001, we undertook to rebuild this shattered country and ensure that it could never again be used as a launch-pad for regional or international terror. As I mentioned Monday in the General Assembly, eight years ago we were debating how to build what did not exist; today we are debating how to take what we have built and make it better. This is a substantial achievement. Nevertheless, violence still threatens the lives of Afghan civilians. International military forces should take all necessary measures to ensure protection of civilians. And we have a shared responsibility to condemn with the utmost severity any attacks by the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their allies that target civilians or result in civilian death. We must enforce the rules of war that bind us all, and make it clear to our enemies that targeting civilians will only alienate them further from the international community and from the populations they seek to control.

I thank you, Mr. President.