17 March 1998


Press Release
GA/9400



EMERGENCY SPECIAL SESSION OF ASSEMBLY CONDEMNS ISRAELI FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH PREVIOUS DEMANDS TO CEASE SETTLEMENT ACTIVITIES

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Again Recommends Meeting of Parties to Geneva Convention, To Enforce Its Application in Occupied Palestinian Territory

At its resumed tenth emergency special session this afternoon, the General Assembly again condemned the Israeli Government's failure to comply with its previous resolutions, including the call for an end to its settlement construction at Jebel Abu Ghneim, south of occupied East Jerusalem, and of all other settlement activity in the occupied territories.

It took that action through its adoption, by a vote of 120 in favour to 3 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel and the United States), with 5 abstentions (Australia, Bulgaria, Marshall Islands, Romania and Swaziland), of a draft resolution on such illegal Israeli actions in the territories occupied since 1967 (see annex).

By the term of today's resolution, the Assembly also reiterated all the demands it had made in three resolutions previously adopted during its emergency special session, which was originally convened in April 1977. In those texts, the Assembly demanded that Israel, as occupying Power, accept the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war to the territories occupied since 1967. It also demanded that Israel cease and reverse all illegal actions taken against the Palestinian Jerusalemites.

The Assembly today reiterated its recommendation that the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention convene a conference on measures to enforce the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. The Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as depository of the Convention, was again asked to undertake preparations for such a conference, including the convening of a meeting of experts. Aware that its earlier recommendation for such an expert meeting to be held no later than the end of February had not been fulfilled, the Assembly extended that target date until the end of April.


General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9400 Emergency Special Session 17 March 1998 9th Meeting (PM)

At its earlier resumed sessions, the Assembly again decided to adjourn the emergency special session temporarily, and authorized its President to resume the meeting upon request from Member States.

Addressing the Assembly, the Permanent Observer for Switzerland said that a conference of the High Contracting Parties would be useless without the participation of the two principal interested parties. His Government was proposing a conference in camera between representatives of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Given its role as custodian of international humanitarian law, the presence of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the meeting would be desirable, he said.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Tunisia, Indonesia, Japan, Morocco and Bahrain. The representatives of Australia, Norway and New Zealand spoke in explanation of vote. The representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will meet again at a date to be announced in the Journal.


Assembly Work Programme

The tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its consideration of illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory and to take action on a related draft resolution. (For background on the draft text, see Press Release GA/9399 of 17 March.)

Statements

ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said the Assembly had issued repeated demands that Israel end its illegal practices in the occupied territories, particularly its establishment of settlements. Those actions were in violation of Assembly and Security Council resolutions and of the Fourth Geneva Convention. However, the Assembly had not seen its demands implemented, including its recommendation for the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention.

With the situation in the Middle East characterized by Israel's ongoing illegal policies and practices, lack of respect for resolutions could not be tolerated, he said. Violence in the region has increased, and the Palestinian people had been deprived of their economic and political rights. In view of the emergency situation, the Assembly should adopt a firm position, in accordance with its responsibility to the people of Palestine.

He said the draft resolution proposed for the emergency special session was balanced, and his Government called on all Member States to support it. Tunisia appealed to them to send a clear message which would guarantee the safety of the Palestinian people, who faced acts that were in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said that none of the Assembly's resolutions calling for immediate cessation of Israel's settlement activities had been implemented. The current deliberations were occurring in the midst of a deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and a continuing deadlock in the Middle East peace process. Israel had not demonstrated the will to cease its illegal activities. Recently, the international community had witnessed the indiscriminate use of force by Israeli authorities, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians. Those events had damaged the peace process and prospects for achieving a durable solution to the Middle East conflict.

The draft resolution currently before the Assembly reiterated elements contained in earlier resolutions, he said. He highlighted the draft's recommendation for a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention, aimed at enforcing the Convention in the occupied Palestinian


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territory, including Jerusalem. The draft extended the target date for the convening of the preparatory meeting of the experts of the High Contracting Parties until the end of April.

He expressed his country's solidarity with the Palestinian people, particularly in the exercise of their inalienable rights and for the establishment of an independent sovereign homeland on their national soil. Peace in the region would only be attained through full implementation of the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. The United Nations, since its inception, had borne a historical and moral responsibility to the Palestinian people. It must consider additional means by which their cause could be advanced.

MASAKI KONISHI (Japan) said the peace process between Israel and Palestine was losing momentum as a direct result of Israel's construction of new settlements in East Jerusalem. That stalemate would affect the other tracks of the Middle East peace process and heighten tensions in the region. Japan was concerned that if the situation between Israel and Palestine continued to get worse, the whole region would suffer. It hoped that all the parties to the Middle East peace process, especially the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, would return to the table with flexibility, for the greater cause of peace and stability in the entire region.

In recent weeks, tensions had mounted in the occupied territories, he said. The parties must not allow acts of violence to derail the peace process and should reinforce their cooperation in the area of security. While his Government was prepared to support the current draft resolution, the most vital efforts must come from the parties themselves. For that reason, his Government suggested that the convening of both the expert meeting and the conference of the Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention should not adversely affect the efforts between the parties.

AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco) said that not only was Israel illegally building new settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, but was extending existing settlements and building roads around them. It was also violating the rights of the Palestinian people through the withdrawal of national identify cards and the confiscation of land and water sources.

He said that the hopes brought about by the signing of the Oslo Accords were evaporating as Israel continued its obstinate and arrogant actions, thereby raising tensions in the occupied territories to dangerous levels. Those actions would not be tolerated indefinitely. Israel must live up to its commitments.

He said it was Morocco's firm conviction that efforts to move the peace process forward should be based on the principle of land for peace, and that


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when the Secretary-General visited the Middle East, he would use the wisdom and competence he had recently demonstrated in negotiations with the Government of Iraq in helping to move the region towards peace.

JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said the holding of the emergency special session had demonstrated the support of Member States for an end to Israel's illegal activities in the occupied territories. The Palestinian people were yearning for the day when the United Nations would rid them of those unjust practices. Yet Israel has avoided implementing the Assembly's resolutions and had showed blatant disregard for the will of the international community. Israel's position has lead to a stalemate in the Middle East peace process, with adverse consequences. Bahrain called on the United Nations to salvage the peace process and to stand firmly against Israeli intransigence, which threatened a collapse of the peace process.

The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention must abide by its provisions, he said. Israel must respect those provisions and apply them in the occupied territories. Bahrain supported the draft resolution's request for the holding of conference of the High Contracting Parties, and called on the Assembly speedily to complete preparations for it.

He stressed the need for the Assembly to put an end to the Israeli Government's colonial activities and expansionist policies. Israel was threatening the peace in the entire region. By adopting the current draft resolution, the Assembly would be advancing the peace process in the Middle East.

PETER MAURER, Observer for Switzerland, said it was imperative that the principal interested parties be brought together. Switzerland was proposing a conference in camera between representatives of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Given its role as custodian of international humanitarian law, the presence of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would be highly desirable. Switzerland would participate in such a dialogue in its capacity as depository of the Geneva Conventions.

He said that Switzerland had already indicated last November its view that the conference proposed by the resolutions of the emergency special session would not be of any use except with the participation of the principal interested parties. The conference would have to be prepared with the greatest care to give it a real chance of contributing effectively to an improved situation on the ground. Switzerland had always held the Convention was applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel, including those whose annexation had not been recognized by the international community.


General Assembly Plenary - 5 - Press Release GA/9400 Emergency Special Session 17 March 1998 9th Meeting (PM)

Action on Draft

The draft resolution on illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory was adopted by 120 votes in favour to 3 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, United States), with 5 abstentions (Australia, Bulgaria, Marshall Islands, Romania and Swaziland) (for details of vote, see annex).

Explanation of Vote

CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia), speaking in explanation of vote, said her Government supported in principle the underlying issues of the resolution. Australia was gravely concerned about the current state of the Middle East peace process and had urged the parties to commit themselves to securing a just and lasting peace. The current draft would not advance the peace process, and Australia therefore had abstained in the voting.

HANS JACOB BIORN LIAN (Norway) said his Government feared that the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process created a basis for increased violence. Norway called on both sides to intensify their bilateral contacts, to implement outstanding issues in the interim agreement -- including redeployment in the West Bank -- and to move quickly to the final status negotiations.

The holding of the current emergency special session was not conducive to progress in the peace process, he said. Norway also had reservations regarding a number of elements in the draft resolution. Nevertheless, his Government remained deeply concerned about Israel's continued settlement activities, which only increase tensions. Those activities were not in the spirit of agreements reached between the two sides and ran counter to international law. Therefore, Norway had no choice but to uphold its position, taken at the meeting of the emergency special session in November 1997, and vote in favour of the draft resolution.

MICHAEL JOHN POWLES (New Zealand) said his Government had been pleased to support the resolution, particularly the sections mentioning Israeli settlement practices. Nevertheless, New Zealand had reservations regarding the utility of convening an international conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention. It was vital for the parties to the peace process to refrain from taking steps that would undermine confidence between them, as such confidence was important to a just and lasting settlement.

Right of Reply

CHOE SU HON (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the Israeli representative this morning


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wrongly accused his country of having invaded the Republic of Korea. His country had been a victim of a harsh war engineered by a foreign force. During the cold war, the United States had spread fabrications of an invasion of the Republic of Korea by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. His Government categorically rejected the Israeli accusations, which were based on distortions. Israel's unjustifiable allegation was an attempt to hide its own reckless atrocities against the Palestinian people.

(annex follows)

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ANNEX

Vote on Illegal Israeli Actions

The draft resolution on illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories (document A/ES- 10/L.4/Rev.1) was adopted by a recorded vote of 120 in favour to 3 against, with 5 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.

Against: Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, United States.

Abstain: Australia, Bulgaria, Marshall Islands, Romania, Swaziland.

Absent: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissua, Haiti, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Niger, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Yemen, Zambia.

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