Press Conference - Adelaide, South Australia - 11/05/2024

11 May 2024



Subjects: UN General Assembly vote on Palestinian membership; Hamas-Israel conflict.

PENNY WONG, FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you. Earlier this morning the overwhelming majority of the international community, some 143 countries, including Australia, voted for a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly. I would emphasise the resolution changed considerably between when it was first proposed and the final vote. So, I do want to start by explaining what this resolution was and what it wasn't. This resolution retained the observer status of the Palestinian mission, with the extension of some modest additional rights to participate in the United Nations forums. It did not give the Palestinian mission membership of the United Nations. It did not give the Palestinian mission voting rights at the General Assembly.

What it did do, consistent with a two state solution, was to express the General Assembly's aspiration for Palestinian membership of the United Nations, noting that this must be recommended by the UN Security Council, consistent with the UN Charter. It did not indicate the United Nations or Australia recognised a Palestinian state. It did reaffirm the international community's unwavering support for the two-state solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognised borders.

I want to say this is a clear rejection of the goals and methods of Hamas. A two-state solution, both Israel and Palestine, is the opposite of what Hamas wants. Hamas does not want peace and it does not want long term security for the state of Israel. The rejection of Hamas is amongst the reasons why Australia voted for this resolution. Australia has long believed that a two-state solution offers the only hope for breaking this endless cycle of violence and the only hope of achieving lasting peace.

Now, Australians know we are not central to resolving this conflict, but what Australians do want is Australia to add our voice to the efforts of the international community to broker peace. And that is what we have done. This resolution enables expanded Palestinian participation in the UN. And in doing this, the international community is setting out its expectations that parties resume negotiations for tangible progress. Obviously, we consulted with partners around the world because we have to be part of a responsible, international, coordinated effort towards lasting peace. I would make the point that much of our region and many of our partners also voted yes, including our ally, New Zealand, our special strategic partner, Japan, our comprehensive strategic partners, Indonesia, Singapore and the Republic of Korea.

Having said that, this isn't the way we would have done things or the resolution Australia would have proposed, but we have to deal with the vote that is before us now. We all know one vote won't, on its own, end this conflict. It has spanned our entire lifetimes. But we all have to do what we can to build momentum towards peace. I want to be extremely clear again. This vote is not about whether Australia recognises Palestine. We will do that when we think the time is right. What we would say and what I do say is Australia no longer believes that recognition can only come at the end of a peace process. It could occur as part of a peace process.

I have been clear there is no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state. A Palestinian state cannot be in a position to threaten Israel’s security. And I would say this, the Palestinian Authority has a role to play here. We want to see a Palestinian Authority that has undertaken the necessary reforms for it to take up its responsibilities over a unified West Bank in Gaza. We want to see a Palestinian governing authority that is committed to peace, that disavows violence and is ready to engage in a meaningful political process. We want to see a commitment to peace in how the Palestinian Authority leads its people. We also know that the final status of key issues, such as Jerusalem and the final territory of a Palestinian state should be defined through negotiations.

Now I want to make some remarks directly to the Australian Jewish community. I understand that the Australian Jewish community are feeling distressed and isolated. I want to say, you are valued members of our community. You have a right to be safe. You have a right to feel safe. Anti-semitism has no place anywhere. I stand against it. We all must stand against it. This resolution that we have supported is about long term peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. And I truly believe that the only path to securing peace and security for Israel is with the establishment of two states. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Does this constitute a change in policy for Australia and the Middle east?

FOREIGN MINISTER: What the change in policy is that I have said we are open to recognition during a peace process, not necessarily, and only at the end of the peace process. And it is an extension of the position that Australia has had where we have accepted the observer status of the Palestinian Mission at the United nations.

JOURNALIST: How do you respond to Israel's argument that countries that back to the General Assembly resolution have rewarded Hamas?

FOREIGN MINISTER: This is the opposite of what Hamas wants. Hamas does not accept the existence of the state of Israel. The resolution itself is very clear about the existence of two states, security and peace, for both Palestinians and Israelis.

JOURNALIST: Does this not put us at odds with our closest ally?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Look, the US has a right to exercise its vote as it chooses. Australia has a right to exercise our vote as it chooses. And I would make the point that many US allies and our own partners, including Japan and Korea, as I said, exercised a vote in the way that we have exercised our vote.

JOURNALIST: I take what you're saying about Hamas. Look we wouldn't be here apart from the events October 7, would we? I mean, the actions that day, the subsequent retaliation by Israel has led us to where we are today in this kind of change in policy.

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, the international community made a decision to deal with this issue. And what I would say is we looked at the resolution on its merits and we looked at the resolution in terms of that overarching priority, which is how can we, as Australia contribute to a two-state solution. That is what we have done. And I again emphasise this. I know the point you're making. Hamas does not want two states. Hamas is a terrorist organisation dedicated to the destruction of Israel and of the Jewish people. That is why they are condemned and they must be condemned. This is a resolution that looks to seeking two states to enable security for both peoples.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Israeli reaction and the shredding of the charter?

FOREIGN MINISTER: We share the Israeli’s concerns, Israel’s concerns as to the integrity of the UN charter, which is why we pressed along with many other like minded countries for substantial changes to the resolution to ensure it was compliant with the UN Charter and did not disrupt the right under the charter for the UN Security Council to determine membership.

JOURNALIST: Have you had any contact with your Israeli counterparts since the vote and what sort of feedback did you get if you did?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, the vote was obviously about one o'clock this morning, I think. But we engaged with our Israeli counterparts, we engaged with partners around the world. There was obviously a lot of engagement, discussion both in New York but also between capitals about this issue.

JOURNALIST: Is it realistic to expect a future Palestinian state to have absolutely no influence from Hamas?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I've said what I've said, which is Hamas has no place in the future governance of Gaza. What I would also say is what I said in my opening. There is a role for the Palestinian Authority here. Progress towards a two-state solution requires reform and it requires them to lead in a way that is consistent with peace with Israel.

JOURNALIST: What will it take for Australia to recognise Palestinian statehood?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, that's what I've really dealt. We will do that when the time is right. I've dealt with some of this in the opening. We will recognise when the time is right and we would need to see the progress that I have outlined in relation to the reform of the Palestinian Authority, a commitment to peace from the Palestinian Authority, the disavowing of violence and the willingness to engage in a meaningful political process.

JOURNALIST: And all those things would have to happen before a Palestinian state.

FOREIGN MINISTER: We would recognise it, recognise Palestine when the time is right. As I said, this vote does not constitute recognition, but, but, we would want to see progress on those matters before any recognition could occur.

JOURNALIST: And where to now then? What's the next step in the UN process?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I think that this is, what we want to see is obviously a ceasefire negotiated. That is what we'd like to see is an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the commencement of a peace process. Ultimately, the parties have to determine to do so. What you've seen is the international community seeking to encourage, to set up expectations for that peace process.

JOURNALIST: What do you make with the US assessment in the past 24 hours that Israel may have breached its international legal obligations through the use of American supplied weapons in that zone?

FOREIGN MINISTER: I've read those reports. They're obviously concerning. I'll leave the US to respond directly to its own report. I would say, as a matter of principle, Australia has been consistent from the beginning. Israel, all parties, must comply with international humanitarian law. We've been clear about Israel's obligations to comply with international humanitarian law and with any determination of the international, of the ICJ. Anything more? Thank you very much.


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Foreign Minister's Office: +61 2 6277 7500

Authorised by Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia.