Statement by H.E. Mr. Kazuyoshi Umemoto
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the Open Debate of the Security Council
On the Situation in the Middle East
24 April 2013
At the outset, I would like to thank Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana, Permanent Representative of Rwanda, for his leadership in convening this open debate. I would also like to express appreciation to Mr. Jeffrey D. Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, for his briefing.
Japan has long understood the Palestinians’ aspiration for building an independent State and has supported the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Japan thus endorses a two-state solution, under which Israel and a future independent Palestinian State would co-exist, side by side in peace and security. In light of this, Japan voted in favor of the General Assembly resolution regarding the status of Palestine at the United Nations last November.
Japan once again calls upon Palestine to immediately resume direct negotiations with Israel and not to use its non-member observer state status accorded by the GA resolution to act in a way that might negatively affect or hinder direct negotiations with Israel. We ask for prudence with respect to conduct such as applying for membership in international organizations, an action which might negatively affect prospects for the resumption of negotiations.
Israel, for its part, should freeze its settlement activities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Transfer of tax revenues which Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority is a necessary task that Israel should conduct for the fiscal stability of the PA. In this regard, Japan appreciates Israel’s resumption of the transfer in March. With respect to the issue of Palestinian prisoners, Japan worries that this issue would worsen the feeling of Palestinians and thus negatively affect the Peace Process. We hope to see the new Israeli administration create conditions for a resumption of meaningful negotiations.
As for the situation in Gaza, Japan is concerned by sporadic rocket firing into Israel that occurred recently despite the ceasefire brokered by Egypt last November. We urge all parties concerned to respect the ceasefire with a view to realizing a durable calm in Gaza.
The entire international community should mobilize political and economic means at its disposal to help Israel and Palestine overcome their differences and realize substantial progress this year. Japan welcomes the renewed U.S. commitment to the peace process following President Obama’s visit to the region last month. At this critical juncture, we need to engage with key stakeholders in Arab and other regions in a more effective manner. In this context, Japan renews its commitment to make an active contribution, in cooperation with the United States, Arab countries, the Quartet, and other partners to that end.
Japan has been committed to assisting Palestinian state-building efforts since the Oslo accord. During the last fiscal year, Japan provided assistance in the amount of approximately 85 million USD, including budget support for the PA as well as contributions to UNRWA. We have also been addressing the needs of socially vulnerable communities in East Jerusalem, Area C, and Gaza by implementing various projects such as job creation and social participation of youth, child education, health services and hygiene.
Japan has been promoting regional cooperation. Our initiative, “Corridor for peace and prosperity,” has been making steady progress since 2006. In addition, Japan launched a new cooperation framework among East Asian countries to assist Palestinian development through co-hosting, together with Palestine, the first “Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD)” in February this year in Tokyo. As a follow-up, a meeting among participant countries’ aid agencies and a business leaders meeting are respectively scheduled to take place during the course of this year. We believe that synergetic effects can be generated with the new U.S. initiative that Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced on business expansion in the West Bank.
Allow me now to touch upon Syria. Japan is deeply concerned by the serious and aggravating situation in Syria and profoundly deplores the death of many thousands of people as a result of continued violence. The briefings at this Council by U.N. humanitarian organizations last week was yet another occasion to listen to appalling accounts of tragic incidents taking place on the ground every day.
As an active member of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People, Japan reiterates its call to all parties in Syria to immediately halt the violence and abuses of human rights and condemns the Syrian authorities for not keeping their own commitments and responsibilities to protect their own citizens.
It is hardly realistic to expect a smooth political transition with President Assad remaining in power. At the same time, we need to deal with threats posed by extremists. From this standpoint, Japan supports diplomatic efforts by Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States and hopes that the Syrian National Coalition, as widely acknowledged by the international community as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, will consolidate its base to play a major role in advancing the process of a Syrian-led political transition.
We regret to see that the Security Council has been failing so far to take necessary action to bring about political transition in Syria, despite its primary responsibility in maintaining international peace and security in accordance with the U.N. Charter. Under such circumstances, Japan will favorably consider Qatar’s initiative to seek the avenue of the General Assembly to underscore the urgent necessity to stop violence and explore a political solution based on the Geneva communiqué.
With regard to chemical weapons, Japan urges Syrian authorities to refrain from using them or transferring them to non-state actors in any circumstances. Supporting the Secretary-General’s investigation into all alleged use of these weapons, Japan also demands that full and unfettered access be granted to his investigation team by Syrian authorities.
Lastly, there is an urgent need to address the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria. Japan urges all parties in Syria to ensure the rapid and unimpeded access for aid organizations to those in need and to cooperate fully with U.N. and relevant organizations to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The funding situation also needs to be improved. I would like to announce that Japan has already disbursed a total of about 65 million USD that it pledged at the High-level International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria last January in Kuwait City. As a result, Japan’s assistance has now totaled 80.5 million USD. We remain committed to significantly contributing to international efforts and encourage other donor countries to do so as well.
Thank you, Mr. President.