Mr President, Excellency,
I would like to thank you for organizing this Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East. I also thank the Secretary-General, Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland and his deputy Lynn Hastings for their important interventions. The presence of numerous foreign ministers and other senior representatives of member states testifies to the seriousness of the moment
As the depositary of the Geneva Conventions, Switzerland has made the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law a priority of its mandate on the Security Council. We are committed to a Council that even in times of emergency – and especially in times of emergency – makes respect for international humanitarian law a priority.
As early as 7 October, Switzerland strongly condemned the acts of terror, indiscriminate rocket fire against the Israeli population and hostage-taking perpetrated by Hamas. All hostages held in Gaza must be treated humanely and released immediately and unconditionally.
From the beginning of this crisis, we have also recognised Israel’s legitimate concern for national defence and security. International humanitarian law takes account of legitimate security and military necessity. We remind the parties of the binding nature of all its rules, without exception, in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities.
Even before 7 October, we were talking in this Council about the death toll, which had already reached appalling records. Today we mourn the victims of Hamas’s acts of terror and the deaths of thousands of civilians, including thousands of children, in Israel and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. We offer our deepest condolences to their families.
Last week, many people have been killed or injured when the hospital Al-Ahli in Gaza was hit. Switzerland has joined the Secretary General in an unequivocal condemnation. It has asked for an investigation to be carried out so that the facts can be clarified.
It is vital to protect civilians and persons who are no longer taking part in hostilities. They must be protected from acts of terror in Israel, they must be protected in Gaza and the West Bank, where the increase in violence, particularly by settlers, is worrying. We also stress the need to investigate all violations of international law so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
Two weeks after the start of hostilities, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is catastrophic. The people of Gaza, including the one and a half million displaced persons, need urgent assistance and protection. They are now completely besieged, deprived of water, electricity and essential services. The capacity of UNRWA infrastructures and hospitals has been completely exceeded. In response to this emergency, I am pleased to announce that Switzerland has decided to rapidly mobilise additional funds for the ICRC and OCHA.
It is important that adequate volumes of aid enter Gaza and that rapid, full, safe and unhindered access is allowed and facilitated in accordance with international humanitarian law. Humanitarian pauses are also necessary.
We must exert our influence on the parties to prevent an even more serious escalation, or even a regionalisation of the conflict. This also means calling for respect for international humanitarian law, which is essential if the spiral of violence is to be halted.
Humanitarian action and crisis management are essential. But we must not lose sight of the fact that the only foundation on which peace and stability can rest is the two-state solution: two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in peace, within secure and recognised borders, as envisaged by this Council.