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SOURCE: PTI

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas is impacting the safety of maritime commercial traffic in the Indian Ocean, including some attacks in the vicinity of India, a top Indian diplomat told members of the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

“The ongoing conflict is also impacting the safety of maritime commercial traffic in the Indian Ocean, including some attacks in the vicinity of India,” R Ravindra, the Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations said in his remarks during a UNSC Open Debate on the Middle East.

“This is a matter of great concern to the international community and has a direct bearing on India’s own energy and economic interests. This fraught situation is not to the benefit of any party, and this must be clearly recognised,” Mr Ravindra said.

Mr Ravindra said the message that India has conveyed since the start of this conflict is clear and consistent – it is important to prevent escalation, to ensure continued delivery of humanitarian aid. The humanitarian situation needs to be addressed in earnest, he said, adding that India welcomes the efforts of the UN and international community in this regard.

India, he said, has delivered shipments of relief material to the Palestinian people in Gaza. We have also provided USD 5 million, including the USD 2.5 million we provided in end December, to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) which will go to support the Agency’s core programmes and services, including education, healthcare, relief and social services provided to Palestinian refugees.

Reiterating India’s long-standing support for a Two-State solution where the Palestinian people are able to live freely in an independent country within secure borders, with due regard to the security needs of Israel, Mr Ravindar said India firmly believes that only a Two-State solution, achieved through direct and meaningful negotiations between both sides on final status issues, will deliver an enduring peace that the people of Israel and Palestine desire and deserve. For this, we urge all parties to de-escalate, eschew violence, avoid provocative and escalatory actions, and work towards creating conditions for an early resumption of direct peace negotiations,” he said.

In her speech, Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights of the United States, called on Israeli leaders to take feasible precautions to minimise civilian harm in line with international law.

She also emphasised Hamas’ role in unleashing the conflict and condemned attacks in the wider region by Iran and its proxies. Emphasising that the only guarantor of peace is a Two-State solution — with Israel’s security guaranteed — she called for a strong Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza, even if this was “difficult to imagine”.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres told the Security Council that any refusal to accept the two-State solution by any party must be firmly rejected and stressed that Israeli leaders’ recent, clear and repeated rejection of a Two-State solution is unacceptable.

The denial of the right to Statehood would indefinitely prolong the conflict, and a One-State solution — huge Palestinian populations inside that State without any real sense of freedom, rights and dignity — would be inconceivable. The only way to address the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians is through the Two-State formula, he underscored.

Riyad Al-Maliki, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine, said that Israeli leaders “do not see our people as an empirical and political reality to coexist with, but as a demographic threat to get rid of through death, displacement or subjugation”.

The Israel’s representative, urged the council to shift its focus towards addressing the real, significant security threats in the Middle East, which is suffering from “cancer” — the continuous threat posed by Hamas, which exploits international aid to turn Gaza into “a war machine”, as well as the “genocidal goals of annihilating Israel” pursued by Hamas during the 7 October events where over 1,200 Israelis were killed.

Describing the council members’ calls for a ceasefire as “shocking”, he warned that any such measure would leave Hamas in power, allowing them to regroup and rearm while “Israelis will face another attempted Holocaust”.

Stéphane Séjourné, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, Council President for January, speaking in his national capacity said that the Council has two possible options. The first is division, argument and fanning the flames — the choice of those who invade their neighbour.

His choice, however, would be the second option — to stand alongside both Israelis and Palestinians, for peace and the good of both, which entails difficult things for both sides.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the council has not mounted an appropriate response to the situation due to the position of the United States. He called for a world order based not on Anglo-Saxon rules, but on international law with the United Nations playing a central role. Western countries want to focus on the day after the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as if the escalation in Gaza had already ceased, he pointed out, adding that the cunning logic of Western delegations is obvious, as they have blocked all council efforts to call for an acutely necessary ceasefire.