Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 23, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Coordinator Wennesland, for your briefing.  We fully support your close engagement, Tor, with all the parties and your continued efforts to foster dialogue.

Today I’d like to discuss three aspects of the situation: the progress afforded by the Abraham Accords, heightened tensions that we heard about in Sheikh Jarrah and throughout the West Bank, and the humanitarian support we can offer those in need.

First, the United States remains committed to widening the circle of peace between Israel and its neighbors and deepening cooperation among the participants in the Abraham Accords. In this vein, we are encouraged by Israeli Prime Minister Bennett’s visit to Bahrain on February 14, and the warm welcome he received from Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. We were similarly encouraged by the February 7 visit of the Emirati Federal National Council delegation to the Israeli Knesset. These visits demonstrate that good-faith engagement can build confidence and create a path to cooperation towards greater security, prosperity, and dignity. In addition to these visits, we support the efforts by the signatories of the Abraham Accords to further their relationships through working groups and other initiatives to develop trade, cultural, and people-to-people ties.  These deepening relations offer new opportunities for the people of the region.

Second, notwithstanding this welcome progress between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as we’ve heard, the situation on the ground in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza remains fragile. We are particularly concerned about tensions and violence in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and throughout the West Bank. Let me be clear: all sides must refrain from unilateral actions. Do not heighten tensions and further undercut prospects for a negotiated two-state solution. Furthermore, when these exacerbating actions violate the law, the perpetrators, whether Israeli or Palestinian, should be held accountable.

Third: we need to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza and for Palestinians more broadly. In Gaza, the need for humanitarian relief, reconstruction, and recovery remains acute. Which is why the United States supports regular, predictable, and sustained access to Gaza for humanitarian actors through the Kerem Shalom and Rafah Crossings. And we urge all Member States to support these lifesaving humanitarian efforts, in which civil society organization have an important role to play.

Similarly, we also strongly encourage states to join us in funding UNRWA, so it can continue to run schools and health services that support Palestinian families. Supportive statements by governments for UNRWA are, frankly, too often not accompanied by financial contributions. At the same time, we invite Member States to join us in promoting efforts by UNRWA to strengthen the organization’s efficiency, its effectiveness, and its financial sustainability. We will also continue working with UNRWA to strengthen the Agency’s accountability, transparency, and consistency with UN principles, including the principle of neutrality.

I want to make clear that the United States is here and stands ready to support the parties in the pursuit of peace. The fundamental reality is that any solution must be agreed by the parties themselves. In this context, holding meetings for the sake of meetings is not going to help. But when the parties are ready to move forward, the United States will be here to support them. In the meantime, we value our close coordination with other members of the Quartet and we will continue to strive to keep us all focused on tangible progress that brings us closer to a lasting peace.

Thank you, Mr. President.