United Nations General Assembly: National Statement at the 10th resumed Emergency Special Session

Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, Ambassador Elina Kalkku delivered Finland's national statement at the UN General Assembly's 10th resumed Emergency Special Session on Wednesday, December 20th, 2023.

Mr. President, 

The escalation of hostilities, first in Israel and then in the Palestinian territory has now lasted for over two months. The scale of human suffering and the extensive loss of life is shocking.

Last week Finland co-sponsored and voted in favor of a General Assembly resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of hostages and ensuring humanitarian access. Finland has condemned the brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel in the strongest terms. Over 1200 people lost their lives in the attack, most of them civilians. Hamas and other groups still hold hostages in Gaza, and they need to be released immediately.

Terrorism is never justified. Finland fully recognizes Israel’s right to protect its civilian population from terrorist attacks. However, we have also strongly and consistently underlined that military operations must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law. All possible measures to spare civilian lives must be taken in all situations.

Since the start of Israel’s military operation, nearly 20 000 people have reportedly been killed in Gaza - most of them women and children. Tens of thousands of others have been injured. Homes have been destroyed, and nearly two million people have been displaced. The humanitarian situation is catastrophic, and not nearly enough aid is reaching those in need.

Secretary-General Guterres has sounded the loudest possible alarm on the imminent danger of the catastrophic humanitarian situation deteriorating even further, and the humanitarian system collapsing. Civilian life must be protected, and aid cannot be delivered while the fighting rages. Finland therefore joins the Secretary-General’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire to ensure the protection of civilians and the delivery of enough life-saving aid throughout Gaza. International humanitarian law must be respected by all parties. The suffering of civilians must end.

Mr. President,

The risk of a wider escalation also remains high. The tensions in the broader region - especially in the border area between Israel and Lebanon - have intensified, and we call on all actors in the region to de-escalate the situation.  In the West Bank, the international efforts to de-escalate are hampered by the increasing violence by Israeli settlers. Israel has the legal obligation to protect civilians also from the violence of Israeli citizens residing in the settlements, which are all illegal under international law.

The situation once again demonstrates the need for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the pre-1967 borders. Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem together form the Palestinian territory. The future solution must meet both Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, end the occupation that began in 1967, and resolve all permanent status issues. We all know that this is the only sustainable way to ensure peace and security for everyone in the region. It is high time to make a renewed international effort to resolve this conflict. The people in the region finally deserve a future without violence.