Building upon the momentum generated by the Arab Peace Initiative and the Annapolis Conference, which had been hailed by the international community as positive moves in the Middle East peace process, we did witness some encouraging developments. These include the renewed dialogues between Israel and Palestine on such core issues as the status of Jerusalem, the frontiers of a future Palestinian State, settlements in the West Bank, the return of refugees and security and water resources. The 7.4 billion USD pledged by countries and international organizations at the Paris Donor Conference to support the development of Palestine , the steps taken by the Government of Israel to freeze the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and release Palestinian prisoners as well as those taken by the Palestinian Authority in implementing economic reforms, restoring law and order and seizing unlicensed weapons can also be mentioned. With those and the scheduled Moscow conference, the Middle East peace process did seem to move in the right direction and promise progress. Unfortunately, our new hopes were injured by recent developments causing new loss of lives of Palestinian and Israeli civilians, new tension in the region, and more seriously, a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip putting more than a million people in harmâ€™s way. In this connection, the decision of the Security Council to hold on 22 January 2008 an emergency debate on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was necessary and timely. We remain concerned about the worsening living conditions of the people on the ground and the cross-border influx of refugees to neighboring countries causing anxiety and uncertainty. My Delegation once again emphasizes the need for the parties concerned to exercise restraint, respect international law, including international human rights and humanitarian laws and cease all acts of violence. We call upon Israel to put an end to all restrictions on movement and business activities of the people and take steps to protect civilians and create safe conditions for the return of refugees, thus reducing tension and helping to bring the Middle East peace process back on track.
A durable peace in the Middle East will only come with a lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine issue. The establishment of an independent Palestinian State that coexists in peace, side by side with Israel, on the basis of relevant United Nations Resolutions taking into account the legitimate rights and interests of all parties concerned remains the only viable solution. A real momentum for continued direct, substantive and peaceful negotiations along this line must be restored. The forth-coming Moscow conference can and should be exploited towards this end.
While commending the efforts undertaken by the League of Arab States and the Government of Lebanon in advancing the political process in the country, my Delegation is deeply concerned about the volatile situation there, especially the 25 January 2008 bombing in Beirut and the repeated postponement of the Presidential elections. We urge all parties concerned to search for compromise solutions to bring the country back to normalcy, thus contributing to regional peace and stability. Noting with great concern the recent tension in the Israel-Lebanon relationship, we urge parties concerned to exercise restraint with a view to settling disputes through peaceful negotiations. We call for a full implementation of Resolution 1701, especially with regard to the respect for Lebanonâ€˜s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the protection of assets and livelihood of civilians.
In conclusion, let me once again express Viet Namâ€™s appreciation and suport for the role of the Quartet, the League of Arab States, regional countries and the United Nations, especially the Security Council in the quest for a lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East. We look forward to making our own contributions!
I thank you, Mr. President