Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Assistant Secretary-General Fernandez-Taranco, for your briefing today.
Mr. President, last month, Israeli and Palestinian leaders took the momentous step of returning to direct talks. The core issues of this longstanding and tragic conflict will not be easily resolved. Direct talks are the path for the parties to reach a solution that resolves all issues, ends all claims, and establishes a viable state of Palestine alongside a secure state of Israel, as a key part of a comprehensive peace among Israel and all of its neighbors.
The United States will continue to be a vigorous and steadfast partner in this vital effort. We are working closely with both sides to allow these negotiations to continue. We were disappointed by the announcement of new tenders in East Jerusalem on October 14, which was contrary to our efforts to resume negotiations. We have long urged both parties to avoid actions that could undermine trust, including in Jerusalem, and we will continue to do so as we work to make progress toward Middle East peace. Ultimately, however, forging a lasting and just peace will depend on leadership, vision, and courage from the Israelis and the Palestinians.
As President Obama has noted, we have urged Israel to extend the settlement moratorium, which we believe makes sense as long as constructive talks are underway. As we continue to urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to institute another moratorium, we also urge President Abbas to resume negotiations, which remain the only way to resolve the conflict’s most difficult issues and give the Palestinians the dignity of an independent state of their own.
We know that many obstacles lie ahead. We know that attempts to move toward lasting peace may be met by rejectionists and terrorism. But we must not let the forces of violence and despair determine whether Israeli and Palestinian children will live in peace or languish in conflict. We must press forward together toward our common goal of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace including a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security. That goal is in the interests of Israelis, Palestinians, the United States, and all those who seek to maintain international peace and security. Those in the region who want a Palestinian state should do all they can to support the parties’ efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace. And those around the world who seek an end to this bitter conflict should support these efforts and do nothing to undermine them.
Mr. President, let me turn to the situation in Gaza. We continue to view the situation there with concern. Israel’s July 5 announcement was an important step in improving the flow of goods and material into Gaza. That progress is continuing several months later, and we encourage the Government of Israel to take further steps to expand trade in both directions, consistent with its security needs. All those wishing to deliver goods should do so through the expanded established channels to ensure that Israel's legitimate security needs are addressed even as the Palestinians’ humanitarian needs are met.
Let me also draw attention to the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas abducted in 2006 and who remains in captivity. We call again for his immediate release.
In its June 1 presidential statement on the flotilla incident, the Council called for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation conforming to international standards. We commend the Secretary General’s constructive initiative in convening a panel that will receive and review the results of Israel and Turkey’s investigations. We welcome the spirit of cooperation that this panel represents and continue to regard it as the primary and most appropriate method for the international community to review the incident.
Mr. President, let me conclude by touching on the situation in Lebanon. The United States remains firmly committed to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, and therefore to the full implementation of Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701. We continue to be gravely concerned by attempts by foreign players to undermine Lebanon's independence, endanger its stability, and interfere with its sovereign affairs. The continuing flow of weapons and war-fighting material across the Syrian border to Hizballah is a reckless practice that risks plunging the region into open conflict. We urge this Council to remain vigilant to these destabilizing trends, which threaten international peace and security and the lives of innocent civilians on both sides of the Blue Line.
Finally, let me turn to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. On October 6, the Secretary-General rightly and unequivocally noted that the Tribunal is an independent body, with a clear mandate from the Security Council to uncover the truth and end the era of impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon. The Tribunal is an independent judicial entity; its work is not a matter of politics but of law. The Tribunal is fulfilling its independent judicial mandate under this Council’s Resolution 1757, at the request of the sovereign government of Lebanon. We completely endorse the Secretary-General's statement that the Tribunal’s efforts must go forward without interference. Efforts to discredit, hinder, or delay the Tribunal’s work should not be tolerated, and those who engage in them do not have the interests of Lebanon or justice at heart.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
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