South Africa firmly believes that Palestine-Israeli question remains the core issue to peace and stability in the Middle East.

That was the view expressed by Pretoria’s envoy to the United Nations, during a Security Council debate on challenges to the maintenance of peace and security in the region. The meeting was also attended by United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who accused Iran of fomenting terror and unrest in the region.

China – for its part – urged a reduction of tensions by removing power politics and bullying from engagement in the region.

Crises abound in the Middle East.

From the largest humanitarian emergency in the world in Yemen, to protracted conflicts in Syria, tensions in the Persian Gulf particularly over freedom of navigation, terrorist activities and the long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Ambassador Jerry Matjila says, “South Africa believes that in order to address the root causes of the peace and security challenges in the Middle East, the Council needs to display the necessary political will and good faith to resolve long standing and festering conflicts such as the question of Palestine, which has been a source of tension in the region for many decades. South Africa believes that only multilateral and collective actions and a continued commitment to preventative diplomacy and inclusive dialogue as to opposed confrontations and conflicts, will reduce such tensions, culminating in a more peaceful and prosperous region.”

South Africa joined a majority of countries that lamented the United States withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal – known as the JCPOA –urging Washington to reconsider its position.

UK Ambassador Karen Pierce, “While our efforts at multilateral solutions have not always worked out as well as we might have hoped, the alternative looks decidedly worse. Experience tells us that however imperfect, de-escalation and dialogue, political processes and support for the international rules based system are the best means to address tensions that risk undermining our collective interest in security, stability and prosperity. We know this is true around the world; it’s so true in the Middle East today.”

Russia warned that tensions in the Persian Gulf would have devastating consequences while China’s envoy Zhang Jun said it was firmly opposed to the threat or use of force.

“China is against external intervention, power politics and bullying. The issue of Palestine is are the core of the Middle East issue – it is the root problem in the Middle East. Maintaining legitimate Palestinian rights is the common responsibility of the International Community. The two-state solution is the only right way to address the Palestinian-Israeli issue.”

Secretary Pompeo said his government continued to work to revive America’s leadership role in the region while accusing Iran of creating instability.

Pompeo said,”The Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies continue to foment terror and unrest in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, with devastating humanitarian consequences. Since the US declared our intention to bring all Iranian oil purchases to zero in April, the Ayatollah has gone all-in on a campaign of extortion diplomacy.”

Several countries also reiterated calls for the strengthening of the multilateral and international rules based system as the only means to ensure progress in the Middle East.