Madam President,

I would like to thank the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr Tor Wennesland, for his presentation. In the light of his presentation, the Security Council must firmly reiterate its calls for de-escalation and the protection of the civilian population in the Middle East conflict.

The year 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinian civilians in the West Bank since the United Nations began recording cases in this conflict. But this tragic record has already been broken this month. According to OCHA, in the first seven months of 2023, twice as many Palestinian civilians died in the West Bank than in the same period last year, either during operations carried out by Israeli security forces or due to violence committed by settlers. At the same time, 24 Israeli civilians lost their lives as a result of acts of violence perpetrated by Palestinians. Switzerland condemns this violence against civilians. It has to be said that the unanimous adoption by this Council of a Presidential Statement last February has not yet borne fruit. The commitments subsequently made by the parties must urgently be followed by action.

Switzerland calls on the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to commit themselves unequivocally to de-escalation, to addressing the root causes of the conflict and to restoring a political horizon with a view to a negotiated two-state solution. With this in mind, we call on all parties to respect international law and to refrain from any unilateral measures, acts of provocation or inflammatory language that could fuel the conflict and constitute an obstacle to peace.

These obstacles include the acceleration of settlement development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem. We recall that settlements are illegal under international law and that Israel must refrain from taking measures that would introduce permanent changes, in particular demographic and administrative changes, in the occupied territory. In this context, the displacement of communities, such as the recent displacement of 89 Palestinians, including 39 children, in Ras al-Tin, following violence by settlers and coercive measures by Israel, could constitute forcible transfers. This is likely to further inflame tensions. We remind Israel of its responsibility to protect the occupied population.

Madam President,

Switzerland encourages the continuation of discussions between the Palestinian parties with a view to restoring their political unity. Combined with other measures, such as the organisation of elections at all levels, such a process can help reverse the continuing weakening of the Palestinian Authority, the loss of legitimacy of its institutions and the erosion of essential services to the population.

In this respect, we are concerned about the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation, particularly in the Gaza Strip. The financial difficulties of the WFP and UNRWA are worrying and must be addressed as soon as possible. We hope that the ministerial meeting on UNRWA to be held in New York in September will help to stabilise the agency’s finances.

I thank you.