UN Security Council: Statement by Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen on the situation in the Middle East

5493rd meeting of the Security Council;

The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question; New York, 21 July 2006

Statement by H.E. Ms. Kirsti Lintonen Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union

Mr. President,

I have the honor 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 Hertzegovina, Serbia and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement.

The European Union is acutely concerned at the situation in the Middle East. In particular, we are concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The European Union deplores the loss of civilian lives on all sides. These developments pose a serious threat to peace and security in the region. The European Union calls for the release of abducted soldiers and an immediate cessation of hostilities.

The European Union recognises Israel's legitimate right to self-defence, but it urges Israel to exercise utmost restraint and not to resort to disproportionate action. All parties must do everything possible to protect civilian populations and to refrain from actions in violation of international humanitarian law.

It is urgent to stop violence and return to diplomacy. Only a political process of negotiation can bring lasting peace to the region. It is urgent that the international community engage actively in this. We express our full support for the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General and for the efforts of actors in the region. The European Union welcomes an active role of the United Nations Security Council including through examining the possibility for an international monitoring presence. We support the agenda set out in the G8 statement. The European Union's High Representative Solana is also actively engaged in the region.

Concerning the developments in Lebanon and Israel, the European Union condemns the attacks by Hezbollah on Israel and the abduction of two Israeli soldiers. The European Union calls for their immediate and unconditional release and for the cessation of all attacks on Israeli towns and cities.

The European Union recalls the need for the Lebanese state to restore its sovereignty over the whole of its national territory and to do its utmost to prevent such attacks. The European Union expresses its support for Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. The European Union urges the full implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1680, including disbanding and disarming of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, and strict respect of the sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and political independence of Lebanon. Continued escalation will only aggravate the vicious circle of violence and retribution.

The European Union appeals to all parties to ensure the safe and speedy passage from Lebanon of all those citizens of European Union Member States, as well as other expatriates, who wish to leave Lebanon in the current situation. The European Union calls on Israel not to hinder shipping in international waters.

Concerning the situation in Gaza,the European Union remains deeply concerned at the deteriorating situation between Israel and the Palestinians and deplores the loss of civilian life it has brought. The European Union reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldier. It calls on the Palestinian leadership to bring an end to violence and terrorist activities, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory.

The European Union calls on both parties to alleviate the desperate humanitarian situation of the civilian population and urges Israel to engage in the restoration of the destroyed civilian infrastructure. The Israeli air strikes on Gaza's only power plant have had a far-reaching impact on Gaza's hospitals, food production facilities, water and sanitation systems. The Rafah crossing was open for passage from Egypt to Gaza on 18 July. In addition to the Rafah crossing,  the European Union urges that other border crossings such as Karni be opened and remain open to allow at least the passage of humanitarian aid and basic products to Gaza and the safe return of Palestinians currently on the Egyptian side of the border.

The European Union remains particularly concerned about the detention of elected members of the Palestinian Government and legislature and calls for their immediate release.

The European Union commends the efforts of President Abbas to create the widest possible consensus in support of the objectives of the Roadmap. The European Union reiterates that it stands ready to work with a Palestinian government that meets and implements the three principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel's right to exist and acceptance of existing agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. The European Union encourages progress in the Palestinian National Dialogue to that end.

The European Union is committed to pressing ahead with the further expansion of the proposed Temporary International Mechanism established in order to channel humanitarian aid directly to the Palestinians. The European Union and its Member States have contributed significantly. The European Union encourages donors and others in the region to make full use of the mechanism. The European Union urges Israel to resume transfers of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues.

This crisis underlines the need for the negotiation of a just and lasting settlement. The European Union calls on both parties to demonstrate urgently an active commitment to the search for a negotiated two-state solution. The European Union supports the central role of the Quartet in this process.

Thank you Mr. President