Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power at a Press Conference on the September Program of Work for the UN Security Council

09/03/2014 08:07 PM EDT

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power

Samantha Power, photo by United States State Department

AMBASSADOR POWER: Hello, everybody. Okay, sorry to keep you waiting. Forgive, and thank you again for coming.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Edith Lederer from the Associated Press. Madam Ambassador, we understand that negotiations are going on right now on a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire to try and ensure that it becomes permanent with some kind of monitoring, verification, and some other measures. Could you tell us whether the United States supports this and whether you expect Council action on this in the coming weeks before the GA starts?

AMBASSADOR POWER: Thank you, Edie. I’d say a few things. First, there is now a ceasefire in place that has held in recent days, and our first point of reference here would be to make sure that nothing we do be unhelpful as it relates to current talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which are meant to resume, as you know, in Cairo. So that’s a do-no-harm proposition that I think we should always keep in mind here in New York.

The second point I’d make though is that, yes, we have been engaging – we, the United States; I’m speaking in my national capacity – we’ve been engaged for some time within the Council on a number of ideas about how the Council might potentially contribute to the effort to secure a sustainable ceasefire. Those discussions are continuing, and the United States is of the view that a Council product could conceivably play a positive role in supporting a durable solution. And as you indicated, those discussions are underway. But again, our emphasis is going to be on what the Council can do that will be additive and seen as additive by the parties on the ground, given that there is a calm of sorts that we very much seek to preserve.

MODERATOR: In the back. Lou from Reuters.

MODERATOR: Al Jazeera. Yes.

QUESTION: Hi. Kristin Saloomey from Al Jazeera English. Will your – would the United States support a resolution, a ceasefire resolution which supports what the Palestinians are now asking for, some sort of a timetable? We heard from Hanan Ashrawi here yesterday that they wanted a timetable for an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Is that something that the U.S. could support? And how do you respond to her criticism that the U.S. peace efforts have just been buying time for the Israelis to take more Palestinian land?

AMBASSADOR POWER: Well, I think our position on how to bring about peace in the Middle East is relatively well known. We believe that negotiations are the way in which a two-state solution can be achieved, must be achieved. We don’t think there are shortcuts or unilateral measures that can be taken at the United Nations or anyplace else that will bring about the outcome that the Palestinian people most seek.

In regards to your second question, I would just say that similarly the U.S. position on settlement activity is very well known. We have long made clear our opposition to settlement activity. We’re deeply concerned by the reports of expanded settlement activity over the last few days, and we call on the Government of Israel to reverse its decision. I think that these actions are contrary to Israel’s stated goal of achieving permanent status agreement with the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Does that not lend credence to the Palestinian argument though that the peace talks aren’t moving forward in the current form and that a change is needed, haven’t listened to your (inaudible) to stop settlement activity?

AMBASSADOR POWER: Again, if you mean to secure a permanent peace Israel has to be a part of that negotiation, just as a practical matter. So to think that you can come to New York and secure what needs to be worked out on the ground is not realistic, and in fact, is likely to have very counterproductive effects on whether on the sustainable ceasefire that we seek for what has just – the crisis that has just been – whereby a ceasefire has just been negotiated, you don’t want to do anything that interferes with that or risks that. And ultimately, in order, again, to secure the desired outcome, the parties are going to have to come together and it is going to have to be negotiated with the Government of Israel.

MODERATOR: New York Times.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can you elaborate a little bit more about why you think a Security Council resolution is necessary, post-ceasefire? And do you think that disarmament is critical – disarmament of Hamas militants, in particular, is crucial to such a resolution? And can the UN play some sort of a role, whether in monitoring or otherwise?

AMBASSADOR POWER: In order to answer your question about elaborating I would have had to have actually said what you said I said, which I didn’t. What I said is that we are open to the possibility that a resolution can be added and then can help build on what has been achieved in the Cairo context. But those negotiations, again, are underway, and in terms of the specifics about what would cross that threshold for us for the Council as a whole, I’m just not in a position to comment on that at this time.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Talal al Haj from Al Arabiya news channel. Madam Ambassador, the Palestinian leadership has been discussing this strategy, the new strategy they want to adopt not only with the leadership of Hamas but also with the Saudis and with the Egyptians and two days ago with the leadership of the faction of Palestinians. It really – and also today they’re discussing it in the State Department in D.C., Saeb Erekat and head of intelligence is also there. They want delineation of the borders, preferably to the 1967 and also determining a date maybe within – after three years of ending their occupation. And they are also saying that if this is not done, they will ask the occupying authority, which is Israel, to take all the responsibility of the six million Palestinians living under occupation, including taxing, cleaning streets, hospitals, and schools. It’s going to be discussed on the 7th of September in Egypt by – with all the foreign ministers, by President Abbas. What can the United States, as the honest broker, stop the deterioration of this situation? What can you offer the Palestinians in hope?

AMBASSADOR POWER: Well, you are more familiar with the details of what is being proposed, and I’m not going to comment on proposals that we haven’t seen. You’re right that Secretary Kerry is holding meetings today, and perhaps he will engage publicly in the wake of those meetings. I have nothing on that. In terms of the larger issue, I think what people saw from the United States over the better part of the last year is a relentless effort on the part of Secretary Kerry to try to advance the cause of a two-state solution and advance the cause of an independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace with its neighbor through negotiations. Those negotiations did not produce the outcome that we sought, and we’ve seen in the last two months the devastating impact of a military confrontation when it takes hold.

So nothing underscores the urgency of securing, again, a negotiated two-state solution like the crisis in Gaza and the heartbreak that so many people on both sides suffered throughout that crisis. At this point, really, given that I’m not even familiar with the proposals and we haven’t had a chance to process them, I will only underscore again that unilateral actions, particularly after negotiations have broken down, may be appealing to people. They may seem as if they can get you the outcome that you seek, but there is no two-state solution that can be brought about unilaterally. It is going to have to be negotiated with the Government of Israel.

# # #