UN Security Council: EU Statement on the situation in the Middle East

United Nations Security Council, Debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, New York, 22 August 2006

Statement by Mr. Jarl-Håkan Rosengren, Minister Counsellor, Chargé d'affaires a.i., Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

*) Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Mr. President,

The European Union would like to thank Under-Secretary-General Gambari for his briefing on the situation in the Middle East. We would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). The European Union gives its full support to the Secretary-General in his efforts to find ways to implement the resolution.

It is now eleven days since the adoption of the resolution, and eight days since the cessation of hostilities went into effect. The region has started the process of recovering from the violence of the past weeks. A number of encouraging steps have been taken. We welcome the quick decision of the Government of Lebanon to send Lebanese Army forces to the South of the country - and its rapid implementation, as well as the beginning of the withdrawal of the Israeli Defence Forces. The EU commends the constructive way the parties have been coordinating with UNIFIL on the withdrawal of the IDF and deployment of the Lebanese Army. The incidents that have occurred especially during the last days demonstrate that the situation is very fragile. Therefore we strongly encourage all parties to do their utmost to ensure that the cessation of hostilities will be maintained and to transform it into a durable ceasefire.

The international community will have to play an important role in contributing to the stabilisation of the situation on the ground. We know that we need to move swiftly to deploy the international force in South Lebanon, in order to support the full implementation of resolution 1701.

The new UNIFIL will be a challenging operation. It will have to be different from the old UNIFIL to undertake it successfully. Many EU countries are willing to participate in this common effort to help bring peace in the region. Some have already made their decisions to send troops, others are considering.

It is also important that all states in the region play a constructive role in order to first contribute to a reduction in tensions and then to be able to fully implement resolution 1701.

Mr. President,

The European Union welcomes the fact that the cessation of hostilities has greatly improved the frequency and quantity of humanitarian assistance. But much remains to be done, and the Secretary-General's report sets out the key priority areas for the humanitarian community during this immediate post cease-fire phase. It is important that the air and sea blockade be lifted as soon as possible to allow unimpeded access to Lebanon for humanitarian operations. There has been a mass return of displaced people. In addition to the need for aid for basic needs of the people, such as water supply and temporary shelter, support is urgently needed in the disposal of unexploded ordnance and cleaning of oil spills.

The EU Presidency Minister for Development Paula Lehtomäki and Commissioner Louis Michel were in the region last week in order to assess the situation from an EU point of view. The EU will continue to contribute to the humanitarian relief work. EU aid already committed amounts to 74 million euro. It is also clear that when the reconstruction work starts in full scale the EU will, in close cooperation with the government of Lebanon and with other international partners, play a role. The Relief and Early recovery conference that will be hosted by Sweden on 31 August will provide an important forum to continue to discuss these pressing issues.

Mr. President,

In addition to Lebanon, the situation in the Palestinian territories also remains a cause for great concern for the EU. The humanitarian situation has been deteriorating for a long time, civilian infrastructure has been destroyed and civilian lives have been lost. These developments continue to pose a risk of further deterioration of the situation in the region. Both Israel and the Palestinian authority need to act to address this situation. The abducted Israeli soldier must be released quickly and unconditionally.

The parties need to return to the peace process on the basis of the Roadmap. An unequivocal commitment by all parties to a viable independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel and its other neighbours is a key to stability and security in the whole region.

The EU is committed to promote a comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East in close cooperation with partners and the countries in the region. There is no military solution to any of the problems facing the people of the region.

Thank you.