Switzerland remains very concerned about the high level of violence and the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East. The number of civilian casualties on both sides continues to rise.
A month ago, this Council adopted a Presidential Statement calling on the parties to create the conditions for peace. This call was reiterated on 19 March in Sharm el-Sheikh. Switzerland welcomes the efforts to de-escalate and urgently calls on the leaders of all parties to put their commitments to this end into practice.
The statements of the Israeli Finance Minister denying the existence of the Palestinian people are unacceptable. We call on Israel to respect previous agreements towards a two-state solution, as well as the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, as it has just committed to do. Provocations and calls for hatred by all parties must stop immediately.
Protecting the civilian population is the priority. Switzerland is concerned about operations by Israeli security forces in the West Bank which frequently result in a high number of Palestinian victims. We condemn the acts of violence against Palestinian civilians committed by settlers, in particular in Huwwara. We also condemn acts of violence by Palestinians against Israeli civilians, such as in Tel Aviv on 9 March. Violence must be unequivocally condemned by Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Also, already 16 children have been killed since the beginning of the year. Children should never be the target of violence or put at risk.
We reiterate that allegations of disproportionate use of force as well as acts of violence by all parties must be investigated and not go unpunished. We urge the parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.
Switzerland notes with concern the transfer of governance of settlers' civil affairs in the occupied territory. In accordance with international humanitarian law, Israel must refrain from taking measures that would introduce permanent changes, in particular demographic and administrative changes in the occupied territory. Switzerland deplores the revocation of several clauses of the Disengagement Act. This contradicts the commitments made in Sharm el-Sheikh. The settlements are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution, as Resolution 2334 also notes. In this sense, Switzerland is concerned about the developments in Khan al-Ahmar, Masafer Yatta and East Jerusalem. These are likely to further inflame the current tensions.
We call for the restoration of Palestinian political unity. Indeed, the continued weakening of the Palestinian Authority and the loss of legitimacy of its institutions are impediments to peace. In this context, we note with concern the increasing mobilisation of armed groups.
At the beginning of the religious holidays, Switzerland calls for restraint so that everyone can celebrate in peace. We urge the relevant authorities to minimize the risk of tensions around the holy sites and to ensure respect for the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, including by preventing any action that would violate the sanctity of these sites. We also note Israel's announcement to ease movement restrictions in preparation for Ramadan. We call for their effective and sustainable implementation.
Switzerland encourages the parties to pursue the path of dialogue and the resumption of real peace talks, addressing the root causes of the conflict. We remain at their disposal.