Mr. President, 

I would like to thank the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Tor Wennesland, for his presentation at this high-level debate.

Switzerland is following the situation in the Middle East with the utmost attention. The period of the major religious holidays was marked by acts of violence in the heart of the Haram elSharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem, followed by the launching of rockets into Israel from Gaza, from southern Lebanon and from Syria. Switzerland has strongly condemned these acts of violence. The risk of escalation is real.

It is crucial to ease tensions in and around the holy sites in Jerusalem. We call once again for respect for the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and for respect ofJordan's role as custodian. Concrete steps must also be taken to support the peaceful coexistence of all communities in Jerusalem.

Regarding the Gaza Strip, despite the positive development in the number of exit permits issued by Israel last year, especially for day laborers, the humanitarian situation remains worrying. 60% of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid. While most medical care is not available in Gaza, we deplore the fact that more than 200 patients did not receive exit permits in February. Switzerland recalls that as occupying power, Israel is obliged to ensure that the basic needs of the population of Gaza are met. While Israel is entitled to impose restrictions on the entry of certain goods, their consequences for the population must be proportionate to the legitimate objective of ensuring its security. Switzerland calls for the lifting of the closure, which has been imposed for almost 16 years.

Switzerland also remains concerned about the high level of violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel. We urge the parties to protect the civilian population by respecting their respective obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. 

In this regard, Switzerland notes that a total of 21 children died in violent circumstances in 2023. In this regard, we call on all parties to continue the dialogue initiated last December with the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and to take measures to prevent and end grave violations against children. 

In this situation, which remains highly volatile, Switzerland calls on the leaders of all parties to make every effort to reduce tensions and to refrain from any unilateral measure, any act of provocation and any inflammatory language that could fuel the conflict. We call on the parties to implement the commitments made in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh in the wake of the Security Council's Presidential Statement of 20 February. Switzerland is concerned by the continued planning of settlements in recent weeks, despite these commitments. It recalls that settlements are illegal under international humanitarian law and represent an obstacle to peace. 

It is urgent that the parties address the root causes of the conflict. The recent commitments should serve as a concrete basis for confidence building towards a negotiated two-state solution in accordance with international law and internationally agreed parameters, including Security Council resolutions. Switzerland stands ready to facilitate the resumption of a credible dialogue for such a solution, including through its good offices. 

Thank you for your attention.