Address by the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East and African countries, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Mikhail Bogdanov at the International Meeting on the Settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, Paris, June 3, 2016
I extend my cordial greetings to all the participants of this meeting.
We commend France and personally Minister Ayrault for their efforts to organize today's forum, which brought together in the capital of France such important and reputable participants.
We are meeting here today at a very challenging moment for the region of the Middle East and North Africa, which remains turbulent, giving rise to all kinds of threats to the entire global community, the major one being international terrorism.
It must be said, however, that the Palestinian issue is essential for the whole Middle East. Until it is successfully resolved, it is impossible to address multiple major challenges. There should be a comprehensive approach to this task, building on the strategic vision of a wide range of issues. Certainly, progress towards the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would reduce the level of the terrorist threat in the region by weakening the extremists and decreasing the appeal of their ideology.
The Palestinian-Israeli settlement process is currently undergoing an extremely important and challenging phase. The pause in the political dialogue between the parties is far too long. The two-state solution is jeopardized. Although it has not been removed from the agenda, the prospects of a just settlement on the internationally recognized legal basis are virtually fading away before our very eyes. We are fast approaching the point of no return. Such developments would only contribute to further escalation of tensions.
Things are aggravated by a highly volatile security situation. Radicals are trying to take advantage of the lack of dialogue. Unfortunately, they are achieving their goals: according to the recent opinion polls, the antagonism between the Palestinians and the Israelis is steadily growing. There are still fresh memories of the events of last autumn when violence claimed lives of more than 200 Palestinians and over 30 Israelis. The reasons that provoked a wave of confrontation still remain unaddressed. Besides, isolated incidents occurring now and then in the West Bank and Jerusalem clearly demonstrate that the risks of further escalation remain high.
The situation around the Gaza Strip raises grave concern. The exchange of strikes between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza earlier this May, the most intense since the conclusion of the cease-fire agreement in August 2014, is yet another confirmation of well-known thesis. It implies that without a sustainable solution to the enclave's problems, without lifting its blockade and restoring its infrastructure destroyed by Israel, inter alia, in summer 2014, the recurrence of confrontation cannot be ruled out.
Russia certainly condemns any outbreaks of violence, regardless of their motivations. We have repeatedly called upon the parties to the conflict to show restraint and take measures to reduce tensions. In our contacts with our Palestinian and Israeli partners, we always emphasize the necessity to stabilize the situation and return to the negotiation table as soon as possible.
Nonetheless, it is obvious that the calls for restraint and prudence will only be heard when political prospects become clear, in other words, when there is an understanding that a mutually acceptable political settlement based on the relevant international decisions is possible. In this regard, we actively work through the Middle East Quartet, which remains a unique generally recognized mechanism assisting the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. The special representatives of the Quartet are now finalizing the draft report on the developments in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. We will do our best to make this document balanced, with unbiased and impartial analysis of the situation on the ground, as well as sound recommendations regarding necessary measures to be taken by the parties for preserving a two-state solution. We expect that the Quartet's report will be taken into account by the participants of our meeting.
We welcome the intention of the French sponsors of the Forum to promote the internationally recognized framework incorporating the well‑known UN Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Principles and the Arab Peace Initiative as a legal basis of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. It is this Initiative repeatedly reaffirmed by the League of Arab States and supported by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries that creates a solid foundation for a sustainable settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and, more generally, the Arab-Israeli conflict and opens up a unique prospect for building region-wide cooperation, including in the security field.
Today, additional responsibility for further developments on the ground rests with the participants of our meeting. I believe everyone agrees that in the absence of real efforts the situation can only deteriorate. Therefore, it is necessary to contribute in practice to the reconciliation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We are convinced that the main criterion to evaluate the utility of a particular dialogue restart model is a clear understanding of its "added value" and chances of its successful implementation.
In 2005, Russia, as you remember, came forth with the idea to hold an international conference on the Middle East in Moscow. The forum was intended to be convened after the parties to the conflict had made significant progress in the dialogue on all issues concerning the final status of the Palestinian territories. However, favorable conditions for our initiative are yet to be created. The idea of an international conference is still perceived negatively by Israel and its opinion cannot be ignored. These circumstances should also be taken into account in the work of the Paris forum, as any externally imposed solutions will likely fail.
Another negative factor impeding the peace process is the divisions among the Palestinians. This issue should be prioritized to ensure that the Palestinians are represented in the negotiations on the final status by a single united delegation. Russia fully supports the efforts to restore the unity among the Palestinians as soon as possible on the basis of the PLO platform and the Arab Peace Initiative; it is also engaged in the dialogue with the representatives of the whole range of Palestinian groups, primarily Fatah and Hamas, to reach relevant agreements. We hope that this approach is shared by other members of the international community.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that Palestine's acquisition of national sovereignty is certainly in line with the interests of the international community and would facilitate regional peace and stability and help build a democratic and prosperous Middle East.
Our meeting today seeks to contribute to the general effort in this field. I wish fruitful work to all its participants.