UN-Security Council 6 January 2009
Speech of the Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger
New York, 6 January 2009
As this is the first time that Austria takes part in a formal meeting of the Council as one of the new non-permanent members, let me begin by saying that it is an honour for my country to serve the interests of peace and international security in this capacity. During the two years to come, Austria will strive to exercise this important responsibility in the interest of the entire membership of the United Nations.
I should like to thank Foreign Minister Kouchner for taking this very timely initiative. You can count onAustria’s full support and active cooperation in all your efforts to end the bloodshed in Gaza and Southern Israel. We greatly appreciate the presence of the Secretary-General. Mr. Secretary-General, Austria has taken good note of your appeal to the Security Council and your intention to travel soon to the region. You have our full support.
The importance of today’s meeting is also highlighted by the presence of so many Foreign Ministers round this table and in this room.
More specifically, I wish to acknowledge the presence of President Mahmoud Abbas. I have listened very carefully to his statement as well as to that of the distinguished Ambassador of Israel.
For many years, Austria has maintained close and friendly relations with all the countries of the Middle East. Therefore we are extremely concerned about the serious further deterioration of the situation in and around Gaza.
Austria deeply regrets that calls by the Security Council, the Middle East Quartet, the European Union and others for an end to the violence have gone unheeded. We also regret that the Security Council has been unable to formally agree on a call for an immediate, permanent and fully-respected ceasefire during its emergency meeting last Saturday.
In the meantime, the European Union and France as well as other members of this Council have reinforced their efforts to help resolve the crisis. Nonetheless, hostilities have so far continued unabated. There is an ever increasing number of civilian victims.
Austria has repeatedly condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas from Gaza on Israel, and we respect the right of Israel to safeguard the security of her citizens. But we also believe that the military operations under way are clearly disproportionate and continue to inflict an unacceptable toll on Palestinian civilians.
We therefore call on both sides to adhere to an immediate and permanent ceasefire that needs to be effectively monitored: there must be an unconditional halt to rocket attacks by Hamas onIsrael and an end to Israeli military action.
Austria remains highly concerned about the ever more desperate humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and its effects on the civilian population. We therefore call on all parties to take all necessary measures to alleviate the serious humanitarian situation on the ground and to ensure the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies to Gaza, including through a lasting and normal opening of all border crossings. An effective end to the smuggling of arms and ammunition into the Gaza Strip are indispensable prerequisites in this regard.
Moreover, we also call upon all parties to strictly observe the rules of humanitarian law and human rights law.
If violence is not brought to an end, a resumption of the diplomatic process towards a political solution will become more and more difficult. The hostilities have gravely disrupted the various channels of communication that had been successfully established during recent months. Continuing violence will have a lasting negative effect not only on the follow-up to Annapolis, but also on other developments, in particular along the Israeli-Syrian track, towards comprehensive regional peace.
Against this background Austria welcomes the most recent diplomatic initiatives in the region, in particular the important statement made by President Mubarak today and the contacts undertaken by President Sarkozy.
The Security Council must remain actively engaged in encouraging and accompanying all efforts to end the conflict and to bring about what peoples in the region have been yearning for during decades: the creation of a viable, independent, democratic and sovereign Palestinian State living in peace and security with Israel within secure and recognised international borders.
We continue to believe that the objective of the Security Council must be the rapid resolution of the current crisis based on the following elements:
- a call for an immediate, permanent and fully respected cease-fire
- free access for humanitarian supplies into Gaza, including through a lasting and normal opening of all border crossings
- an effective end to the smuggling of arms and ammunition into the Gaza Strip
- a call on all parties to fully respect their obligations under humanitarian and human rights law
- full support for the regional and diplomatic efforts underway to solve the crisis
- a call on Israelis and Palestinians to continue negotiations for a comprehensive solution, as envisaged by Security Council Resolution 1850.
I am convinced that this is an outcome that would be in the interest of all parties. Mr. President, Austria will do everything to support action by the Security Council along these lines, as rapidly as possible.