Olof Skoog, head of delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, addresses the plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestine question at the UN headquarters in New York on May 20, 2021. (Evan Schneider/UN Photo/Handout via Xinhua)
by Xinhua writer Wang Jiangang
UNITED NATIONS, May 20 (Xinhua) -- The plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) discussing the situation in the Middle East and the Palestine question Thursday witnessed a big turnout seldom seen during the year-plus pandemic era.
After both the UN Security Council and a meeting of European foreign ministers failed to reach unified positions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Arab Group turned to the UNGA for international support.
More than 100 speakers took the floor and voiced their concerns, complaints, condemnations and solutions regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which resulted in more than 200 deaths and several thousand injuries over the past 10 days.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the international community to do its utmost to help bring a ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
"I call on all members of the international community to do everything in their power to enable the parties to conflict to step back from the brink," the UN chief told the plenary meeting.
"The fighting must stop immediately. I appeal to all parties to cease hostilities, now and I reiterate my call on all sides for an immediate ceasefire," he said.
General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, who chaired the in-person meeting, echoed the calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, urging the parties to "step away from the brink."
Noting that the question of Palestine is the longest standing issue on the UN peace and security agenda, he said that the occupation, compounded by political impasse and lack of negotiations, is "the main underlying source of instability and perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the meeting that "there is no moral or military equivalence between the beleaguered Palestinian people and the powerful Israeli military machine. Instead, it is a war between a military occupier and an occupied people."
He called on the Assembly to mobilize all humanitarian help for the devastated population in Gaza and the other occupied Palestinian territories, stressing that Israel must open all access points to Gaza to ensure the delivery of aid.
He went on to call for the deployment of an international protection force to the region.
The onus for restoring peace rests on Israel, he said, adding that it is only through decisive action that the United Nations can restore its credibility as a keeper of international peace and security.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said that "the Palestinian people are facing many disasters," adding that they have never let go of their struggle.
"Israel is attempting to displace forcibly Palestinian families from East Jerusalem in order to erase any Arab Palestinian presence in the city, with the compliance of the military and settlers," he said.
Every country in the world has a responsibility to hold Israel accountable, he said, calling on the international community to not just "watch and idle."
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the world must not remain silent in the face of unspeakable brutalities and oppression against Palestinian people, because such a silence is equal to complicity.
Calling for a diagnosis of the root causes of the conflict, he pointed to the continuing Israeli provocations in Jerusalem, the desecration of the Aqsa Mosque compound and the forced evictions of the Palestinian people.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is asymmetric by nature, with the issue of occupation at its core.
The international community owes Palestinians a long-overdue territory where they can live peacefully, and it must be able to prevent the reoccurrence of atrocities, Marsudi added.
Praising Palestinians for their tenacity in defending their rights, Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah said the United Nations was established to spare future generations the scourge of war.
Drawing attention to the 86 Council resolutions concerning this issue, he stressed that it is time to activate international political and legal mechanisms to hold the occupying power accountable.
Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi said that no crime could be worse that killing innocent children, referring to the 65 kids who died in the recent violence.
The continuation of occupation and settlement is aimed at changing the composition of Palestinian towns, he said, adding that Israel will continue to act above the law unless held accountable.
Olof Skoog, head of delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, in its capacity as observer, condemned the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and other military groups on Israeli territory, and expressed support for Israel's "right to self-defense," but warned that it must be carried out in a proportionate manner.
He went on to reiterate the bloc's strong opposition to Israel's settlement policy and said it will be important not to proceed with the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.
Voicing support for the efforts of the Special Coordinator and the Quartet, Juan Ramon de la Fuente Ramirez, permanent representative of Mexico to the United Nations, said that, nevertheless, it is the Council that must take a position immediately.
Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun, also the rotating president of the Security Council for the month of May, said that the Security Council held four meetings on the situation in the Middle East and proposed a draft statement to urge all parties to cease hostilities.
Most Council members supported the call for a ceasefire, he said, emphasizing the importance of the international community speaking with one voice to find a just solution to the conflict.
Israel, in particular, should exercise restraint, he said, emphasizing that no "so-called precise strike" can avoid civilian causalities.
There is a need to earnestly implement UN resolutions and protect the rights of the Palestinian people, said the Chinese ambassador, adding that Israeli settlements are in violation of international law and are at the core of the Palestine question.
Noting that the confounding effects of conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of aid has produced a dire situation on the ground in Gaza, he said that as such, Israel should lift the blockade on Gaza and facilitate the supply of aid to the territory. Enditem