We have the will – find the way

April 23, 2015 by J-Wire Staff
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New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations has delivered a speech to the General Assembly advocating a return to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

In his speech to the Security Council, Ambassador Jim McLay said:

Ambassador Jim McLay

Ambassador Jim McLay

In January, I said that New Zealand supports, in principle, the idea of a suitably balanced Security Council resolution, and I outlined the five points that guide New Zealand’s approach to the Middle East Peace Process.

I said that this Council doesn’t just have a responsibility to remain seized of the matter – it should also go further and actively promote negotiations leading to a just, sustainable, long-term peace agreement.

Agreeing a role for this Council isn’t going to be easy, but New Zealand believes that it is essential.

We’ll also need to overcome the concerns of some who feel that this Council should not play a role at all.

While it’s clearly for the parties themselves to reach final agreement, we believe that now is the time for this Council, with its “primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security”, to use its moral and legal authority, and the practical tools at its disposal, to shift the dynamics back to productive negotiations.

Again, this won’t be easy: If it’s to assume that role, this Council will have to form a collective opinion on issues that are sensitive, nuanced and are weighed down with historical baggage.

We must respect the significant investment many countries have made over decades, and the direct, national interest of many states in the final outcome.

And we need to convince stakeholders to take difficult, politically costly decisions in the interests of peace and long-term stability.

This isn’t easy but it is necessary.

We’ll be told that it’s not the right time; but it’s always “not the right time”; there never will be a perfect time.

We can’t continue to kick the can down an endless road, as outgoing Special Coordinator Serry said to us last month.

And, we all know that, if this Council only addresses symptoms and not the root causes of the conflict, there can be and will be no lasting peace.

Mr President.

We assess that there is a finite window of opportunity for the Council to set this process in motion.

In the January Open Debate, New Zealand committed to exploring options for the Council to inject new momentum into negotiations, once elections were concluded in Israel.

That time has come.

It’s appropriate that the Council take action, now that those elections are over, and before other election campaigns begin.

New Zealand’s friendships with Israel and with the Palestinians motivates us to make a constructive contribution, and to work for progress.

New Zealand wants this Security Council to focus on a practical outcome – so we have been working on a text that might serve the purpose of getting negotiations started.

That, Mr President, is the important next step – to get negotiations started.

It will require that both sides step back from their optimum or preferred outcomes, and that they both put any pre-conditions to one side.

There’s already been reference to the fact that France is working with others on a parameters resolution.

We know how difficult it will be to achieve nine votes in favour, and no veto; but we remain convinced that this Council has to discharge its responsibilities.

We’ve not seen the latest French text, but if it has a chance of succeeding New Zealand stands ready to engage and to be helpful.

Friends in the region have told us a second text would complicate the process; so, at this stage, New Zealand is prepared to wait to see how current efforts play out.

But we do firmly believe that for success and buy-in it’s important that any text is considered through an inclusive and transparent process.

We’ve got to break the cycle that has undermined previous Council attempts to support the Middle East Peace Process.

So, New Zealand stands ready to work with all members to ensure that the next Resolution that comes to this Council has a genuine chance of bringing the parties to the negotiating table.

Mr President, like the UK Ambassador, this is the last time I will speak in the monthly Middle East Council debate. I’d therefore, like to add some further remarks.

I’ve talked today about the need for the Council and other stakeholders to get round the table and talk about Syria.

As we sit here in New York, one must be struck by the fact that discussions in this Council are often formulaic and often disconnected from reality.

We exist in a world of diplomatic niceties, carefully avoiding the elephants in the room (usually, I might add, in a room deliberately screened from the rest of the world).

We endorse resolutions to protect civilians in Libya, but we can’t stop the salvo of barrel bombs in Syria.

We talk of populations besieged, as we’ve done today, in Syria, but we find it much harder to talk about the same in Gaza.

Even when we can discuss the most sensitive issues, key players are often left out of the discussion.

Mr President. New Zealand is a very strong believer in the United Nations and in this Security Council. We deeply appreciate that so many of the UN’s membership had faith in us to elect us to this Council for a two-year term. In seeking that mandate, we promised that we would say what we believed and that we’d listen and that we’d consult with all. We meant what we said.

And so, Mr President I end with a call for all of us to deliver on our responsibility – our collective responsibility – to work together to end conflicts like that in Syria and that between Israel and Palestine.

We have the blueprints – the Geneva Communique for Syria, and the decades of work and the known parameters for the Middle East Peace Process.

Mr President. We have said that we have the will. What is left is for this Council to find the way.

Ambassador McLay also spoke on the current situation in Syria.


3 Responses to “We have the will – find the way”
  1. harry rich says:

    Ambassador Mc Lay’s speech to the Security Council is strong in idealism but
    unfortunately, pretty weak on actual facts. With Hamas ruling Gaza,
    with its charter of the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of its citizens, which is etched into the minds of Palestinians almost from the cradle to the grave, what negociated process can change this poisonous attitude. What negotiations can improve on the 95% granted and rejected by their leaders.
    What negotiations can neutralize the fatalism of the majority of Israelis when one talks about the peace process.
    Ambassador McLay mentions the difference of the rarified air of New York compared with brutal reality on the ground in Israel. It would take more than a miracle not only to re- commence peace negotiations but even more
    to succeed, even in a small way,for the parties to find some minuscule
    points of agreement.

  2. Rabbi Pinches Woolstone says:

    New Zealand a very minor actor on the political international stage.
    They have been an irritating factor for Israel.
    They would be better served concentrating on their Rugby and exporting lamb at least they would be making a positive contribution to themselves.

    • Eleonora Mostert says:

      Yes a very minor actor but unfortunately they will be listened to if one the side of wrong. But you did give me a giggle, maybe the lambs can play Rugby too.

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