Mr. Kio Amieyeofori

Minister/Political Coordinator

Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations

New York, New York

21st April, 2011

 As Delivered

I would like to thank the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Lynn Pascoe, for his comprehensive briefing.

 For more than two decades, the Middle East peace process has been mediated diligently by the international community. Undoubtedly, the process has been characterized by rigorous negotiations, hints of progress and compromise, followed by seemingly intractable political stalemates. With the failure of the parties to resume direct negotiations, we are witnessing another moment of uncertainty. The parties must now demonstrate their undivided commitment to peace and remove all impediments to the resumption of direct negotiations to resolve the outstanding permanent status issues.

 While it is regrettable that the meeting of the Quartet scheduled for this month failed to take place, we welcome the prospect of new proposals by the United States and Israeli authorities to re-open the stalled talks. We believe, however, that the Quartet Road Map offers a viable pathway to peace and progress. The parties should embrace it as a basis for substantive engagement towards the creation of an independent Palestinian State living in peace and security alongside Israel by the end of this year. This goal will be difficult to achieve if the vicious cycle of violence, attacks and reprisals continues in the region.

 However, there are a number of specific actions that are certain to foster mutual respect and compromise, build confidence, and pave the way for the realization of the two-State solution. In this regard, we encourage Israel to take concrete steps to freeze all settlement-related activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The planned construction of new settler homes will provide fodder for resentment and increased violence. In the same vein, military incursions into Gaza and retaliation for militant attacks are unhelpful to the peace process.

 Palestinian leaders must signal their readiness to return to the negotiating table by making enhanced efforts to forge unity and deal with militancy and other internal security challenges. It is beyond doubt that neither military might nor militancy will resolve the protracted conflict. We therefore reiterate our condemnation of recent rocket attacks on southern Israel by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, and call for maximum restraint from both sides.

A prisoner-exchange programme between the two sides at this point in time would no doubt ease tensions and build trust, as would the unconditional release of Gilad Shalit after more than five years in detention.

 The key lesson we must draw from the tragic events of 31 May 2010 is that confrontation must be avoided in the future delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. While we commend Israel for further easing the blockade on Gaza, we stress its obligation to provide unhindered access for humanitarian and other goods into Gaza. At the same time, we urge the people of Gaza 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 regard, we note the positive role the Palestinian Authority is playing in addressing Israel’s security concerns.

 The fragile security situations in North Africa and parts of the Middle East present challenges and fresh opportunities that demand renewed vigilance and commitment to peace by all stakeholders. It is in that regard that we welcome the proposal by the Russian delegation for a visit to the Middle East at an appropriate time and believe that this will further strengthen our collective resolve for peace in the Middle East, even as we are optimistic that, with our collective engagement, the vision of statehood can be achieved before the end of the year.

 With regard to Lebanon, we support its sovereignty and territorial integrity and urge the new Government to remain steadfast in the implementation of its international obligations, including resolution 1701 (2006). In that connection, we welcome the Government’s pledge to assist the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and restore regional peace and security in line with that resolution. We urge Israel to halt further incursions into Lebanese territory to avoid an escalation of violence. We also stress the importance of maintaining calm along the Blue Line.

 On the Golan Heights, we encourage Israel and Syria to seek a mutually acceptable solution. We underscore the need for all parties to engage in fruitful dialogue and longer-term political reconciliation, even in the face of provocations.

 Finally, by acting together to build confidence, the search for peace will be significantly enhanced. In words and deeds, the parties should demonstrate a strong desire to re-engage in a negotiated settlement of all the core issues of the conflict.