Prof. U. Joy Ogwu

Ambassador and Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations

New York, NY

19th January, 2011

As Delivered

I would like to join others in thanking Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe for his briefing, and the Permanent Observer for his statement.

 For too long, the situation in the Middle East has remained a matter of grave concern to the international community. Today’s debate opens against the backdrop of a deadlock in direct negotiations and a deteriorating security situation in the region, as Mr. Pascoe reported this morning. Nevertheless, this debate affords us the opportunity to take stock of the preceding year. In doing so, we need to soberly reflect on the circumstances that hindered the sustenance of the resumed direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

 Our unequivocal message, today as always, is a simple one. There should be an independent State of Palestine existing side by side with a secure State of Israel, free from threat and intimidation. I have no doubt that the entire Council is united on this. Speaking with one voice, it is important for the Council once again to call on the parties to resume direct negotiations without further delay on all the permanent status issues, in particular borders, security, the status of Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees.

 Each of the parties can play an important role in fostering peace. To this end, we call on Israel to take concrete steps to freeze all settlement-related activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a confidence building measure. The planned construction of 1,400 new settler homes and the approval two days ago by the Jerusalem City Council of 122 housing units to be built in East Talpiot and Pisgat Ze’ev in East Jerusalem not only are provocative, but run counter to the objective of building confidence. Indeed, such actions provide fodder for resentment and increased violence. In the same vein, the incursion yesterday by Israeli tanks into northern Gaza, east of Beit Hanoun, which resulted in the death of 23-year old Amjad al-Zaanein, in retaliation for Palestinian militant attacks, was unhelpful to the peace process.

 The Palestinians also have a role to play in building confidence. It is important for Palestinian leaders to signal their readiness to return to the negotiating table through enhanced efforts to forge unity and deal with acts of militancy. Rocket attacks and other harmful actions undermine peace and security. As is well known, in this conflict such actions have often attracted swift reprisals. We believe that the prospect of a Palestinian State, recognized and supported by the international community, should serve as an incentive to all Palestinians to sheath their swords and embrace the peace process. It is beyond doubt that neither militancy nor military might will resolve the lingering conflict.

 We call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to demonstrate in their words and deeds a strong desire to re-engage in a speedy negotiated settlement of all the core issues of the conflict. In addition, they must recommit themselves to their obligations under the Road Map. They should endeavour to overcome the obstacles that have hindered the realization of a two State solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders. The international community, and more especially the Quartet, should remain engaged and exert pressure on the two parties to negotiate in good faith.

 We commend Israel’s announcement last month of further measures to ease the blockade on Gaza. We hope that the time will come sooner rather than later when the blockade will be lifted completely. In the meantime, we urge the people of Gaza and other stakeholders to utilize only legitimate channels to transport persons, goods and materials out of the territory in order to address Israel’s legitimate security concerns. In this connection, we acknowledge the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to address Israel’s security concerns.

 With regard to Lebanon, we want to stress the need for calm and restraint. We call on the United Nations and concerned parties to continue to support the independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon. We commend the Special Tribunal for Lebanon for its work in very challenging circumstances. It is our expectation that the Tribunal’s findings will provide a good basis for justice, peace and stability to reign in Lebanon. We commend President Michel Sleiman’s resolute support for the independence and mandate of the Special Tribunal. We underscore the need for continuous dialogue amongst the parties to preserve the stability of the country.

 In the final analysis, achieving lasting peace in the Middle East will depend not on bullets or blockades, but on the courage and determination to make painful sacrifices in support of peace. Lasting peace requires accommodation and flexibility on both sides to reach necessary compromises in the negotiations. I hope that the parties can demonstrate this spirit.