The General Assembly this morning conferred upon Palestine, in its capacity as Observer, additional rights and privileges, including the right to participate in the general debate of the Assembly, to speak under agenda items other than Palestinian and Middle East issues at any meeting of the plenary, and to exercise the right of reply.
Further, the Assembly gave Palestine the right to co-sponsor draft resolutions and decisions on Palestinian and Middle East issues and to raise points of order related to the proceedings on Palestinian and Middle East issues.
The Assembly took that action by adopting a resolution, as orally amended, by a vote of 124 in favour to 4 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, United States), with 10 abstentions (Bulgaria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras, Liberia, Malawi, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Rwanda and Zambia). (See Annex.)
By the terms of the resolution, Palestine will be able to make interventions with a precursory explanation or the recall of relevant Assembly resolutions being made only once at the start of each Assembly session. Seating for Palestine will be arranged immediately after non-Member States and before other observers; and with the allocation of six seats in the General Assembly Hall.
At the start of today's meeting, the Assembly observed a moment of silence in tribute to the memory of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Angola, Alioune Blondin Beye, and to the members of the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola who perished in the aircraft incident of 26 June. On behalf of the Assembly, the Vice-President of the Assembly, Herbert G.V. Young (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), conveyed condolences to the bereaved families.
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Also today, the Vice-President announced that Honduras had made the necessary payment to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter. That article states that a Member in arrears shall have no vote in the Assembly if the amount equals or exceeds the amount of contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.
The Permanent Observer for Palestine expressed gratitude to those States which had supported the resolution in spite of pressures not to do so. The decisive answer to those in opposition had been contained in today's vote. He hoped that reliance on today's resolution would not last long, and that the United Nations would accept Palestine as a Member State in the near future.
The Permanent Representative of Israel said the attempt to gain additional rights and privileges in order to obtain a symbolic shift in status contradicted the bilateral basis of the Arab-Israeli peace process. The international community should deplore those efforts and encourage the parties to resolve their differences at the negotiating table and not in the General Assembly.
Calling the text "the wrong resolution at the wrong time", the representative of the United States said the text undermined efforts to get the peace process back on track and hurt everyone's interests, including those it was most intended to help. Overturning decades of practice and precedent governing the participation of non-Members and observers might lead others to press their claims for enhanced status and disrupt the orderly conduct of United Nations business.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Swaziland, Uruguay, Austria, Russian Federation, Canada, Australia, Japan and Nicaragua.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this morning to take action on a draft resolution on participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations (document A/52/L.53/Rev.2).
By the terms of the 22-Power draft resolution, the Assembly would confer upon Palestine, in its capacity as observer, additional rights and privileges in the Assembly and United Nations international conferences, including the right to participate in the general debate of the Assembly; the right to speak under agenda items other than Palestinian and Middle East issues at any meeting of the plenary; and the right of reply.
The Assembly would also decide to confer upon Palestine the right to co-sponsor draft resolutions and decisions on Palestinian and Middle East issues and to raise points of order related to the proceedings on Palestinian and Middle East issues.
According to the draft, Palestine would be able to make interventions with a precursory explanation or the recall of relevant Assembly resolutions being made only once at the start of each Assembly session.
Also by the draft text, seating for Palestine would be arranged immediately after non-Member States and before other observers; and with the allocation of six seats in the General Assembly Hall.
The sponsors of the draft are Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam and Yemen.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was granted observer status by the General Assembly in 1974 (General Assembly resolution 3237 [XXIX]). In 1988, the Assembly decided that the PLO was entitled to have its communications issued and circulated as official documents of the United Nations (document 43/160A). Also in 1988, the Assembly acknowledged the proclamation of the state of Palestine and decided that the designation "Palestine" should be used in place of the designation "Palestine Liberation Organization" (document 43/177).
BILL RICHARDSON (United States), speaking before the vote on a draft resolution concerning Palestine's participation in the work of the United Nations, said "this is the wrong resolution at the wrong time".
The aim of negotiating an agreement in the Middle East that would lead to accelerated negotiations on permanent status was one which the United
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States strongly endorsed, he said. The fact remained, however, that by adopting the text the General Assembly would make it more difficult to accomplish that objective. Focusing on symbols likely to divide rather than on steps to promote cooperation would lead nowhere. Moreover, supporting unilateral gestures which raised suspicion and mistrust between negotiating partners would not move the process closer to its goal.
Furthermore, the resolution would undermine efforts to get the peace process back on track and hurt everyone's interests, including those it was most intended to help, he said. Exchanging momentum towards real progress for symbolic progress did not strike the United States as a good bargain.
Adoption of the text would also set a dangerous precedent likely to be copied in other United Nations forums, he went on. Overturning decades of practice and precedent governing the participation of non-Members and observers might well lead others to press their claims for enhanced status. That reaction would have serious repercussions for political relations among Member States, as well as a deleterious effect on the orderly conduct of United Nations business. Member States had a strong interest in maintaining a clear distinction between States and non-States, which should continue to be respected.
DORE GOLD (Israel) said that Israel opposed the draft resolution because of both the preambular language and the operative paragraphs. The draft, which was co-sponsored by 13 Arab States, made reference to Assembly resolution 181 of 29 November 1947. It was ironic that every single Arab State, as well as the Palestinian leadership, had rejected resolution 181. To come now as a group insisting on an improvement in the Palestinian participation in the United Nations, on the basis of a United Nations resolution that they forcibly resisted, misrepresented the experience of the United Nations in the matter.
He said further misrepresentation in the preamble was in the references to General Assembly resolution 43/177. That resolution changed the designation of the PLO within the United Nations system "without prejudice to the observer status and functions of the PLO within the United Nations". Today's resolution overlooked that qualification.
He went on to say that reference to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in parts of the West Bank and Gaza represented a transparent effort to create a political link between that resolution and the status of the disputed territories. The purpose of that effort was to affect the outcome of the permanent status of negotiations over the territory by abusing the United Nations system.
Both the preambular and operative parts of the draft made clear that there was no effective change of the status of the PLO in the United Nations, he said. The attempt to achieve additional rights and privileges with the
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intention of obtaining a symbolic shift in status should be opposed, since it contradicted the bilateral basis of the Arab-Israeli peace process.
He said Israel had been prepared to resume the permanent status negotiations since the signing of the Hebron Protocol on 15 January 1997. The PLO had refused to resume those talks and, instead, sought to obtain symbolic elements of changed political status by means of United Nations resolutions. The international community should deplore those efforts and encourage the parties to resolve their difference bilaterally at the negotiating table and not in the General Assembly.
MOSES MATHENDELE DIAMINI (Swaziland) said the text called into question the real issue at stake, namely, a lasting peace in the Middle East. It also raised the question once again about the role of the United Nations in that regard, which should be to ensure that peace prevailed in that region. His delegation considered the impact of today's resolution in the context of achieving such peace.
The duty of the United Nations was not to exercise a double standard, but to tell the truth in order to help the parties involved, he said. The Palestinian people had waited long enough, especially in light of recent one- sided events and developments. The United Nations was duty-bound to search for a way towards peace and to save and support such sovereign States. All efforts should be made to encourage the two parties to come to the table.
JULIO BENITEZ SAENZ (Uruguay) said the draft highlighted a very technical and legal problem regarding the status of United Nations observers. The Organization's legal department should render an independent legal opinion concerning the scope, impact and regulatory implications of the draft. Only then should a decision be taken. Its adoption would change the status of observers, not in general but in just one specific case, through a different course than the one defined in the current regulations. In particular, provisions in the text relating to raising points of order and the right to co-sponsor draft resolutions would confer certain rights, comparable to those accorded Member States, on one observer.
Action on Draft
The Assembly then adopted, by a vote of 124 in favour to 4 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, United States), with 10 abstentions (Bulgaria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras, Liberia, Malawi, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Zambia). (See Annex.)
Statements after Vote
ERNST SUCHARIPA (Austria), speaking on behalf of member countries of the European Union, as well as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania,
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Slovakia, Slovenia, Iceland and Norway, said the Union recognized the potential of practical difficulties resulting from the fact that neither the Charter nor any text of a general nature codified the rights and privileges of observers at the United Nations. Since the rights and privileges had been granted on a case-by-case basis, the current resolution did not create a precedent.
Since the Assembly had suspended consideration of the item last December, the aim of the European Union had been to ensure clear formulations and to avoid ambiguities. The text of the resolution just passed met those requirements. He hoped the practical measures contained in the resolution would facilitate the future work of the Observer for Palestine.
SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said adoption of the resolution giving Palestine additional rights did not contradict the status of observer, and did not set a precedent for other situations.
ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) said he voted in favour of the resolution because it would permit the Palestinians to participate better in the work of the United Nations. Negotiations had removed some of the difficulties in earlier drafts, such as the suggestion that the PLO was attaining rights reserved for Member States. Canada continued to support the peace process.
CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia) said she voted in favour of the draft because it was practical and would clarify Palestine's place in the United Nations. While the text enhanced Palestine's current rights, it had no bearing on the issue of Palestinian statehood, which would be determined through negotiations.
MASAKI KONISHI (Japan) said the draft provided a more detailed description of the additional rights and privileges conferred on Palestine in its capacity as observer. From a political perspective, however, the efforts most critical to the Middle East peace process were those made by the parties most directly involved. The adoption of the resolution must not be permitted to adversely affect those efforts.
From a legal perspective, the Assembly had never discussed the additional rights and privileges of observers. Therefore, further study and clarification was needed concerning Palestine's Observer status. It might also be necessary for the Assembly to review the rights and privileges enumerated in the draft on the basis of the information requested of the Secretary-General.
ENRIQUE PAGUAGA FERNANDEZ (Nicaragua) said he had voted in favour of the draft consistent with his country's position of supporting any decision that promoted universal representation and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
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NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said today was important for Palestine and for the United Nations which had dealt with the question of Palestine since its inception. The Assembly had upgraded the representation of the Palestinian delegation in spite of pressures, campaigns and threats. He thanked those who had co-sponsored and supported the resolution. Without their support, the Palestinians would not have been able to succeed in their achievement. The overwhelming majority who voted in favour of the resolution made the Palestinians proud and strengthened their convictions in the justice of their cause. It increased their confidence that right could be achieved.
He expressed astonishment when a certain party claimed that a certain act constituted a "unilateral action" at a time when 124 States had supported that act. He would not enter into a discussion of views which he rejected. The decisive answer to those views was contained in today's vote. He hoped that reliance on today's resolution would not last a long time, and that the United Nations would accept Palestine as a Member State in the near future, perhaps in the fifty-third session of the General Assembly.
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Vote on Participation by Palestine in Work of United Nations
The draft resolution on the participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations (document A/52/L.53/Rev.2) was adopted by the General Assembly by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to 4 against, with 10 abstentions:
In favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Libyan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
Against: Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, United States.
Abstain: Bulgaria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras, Liberia, Malawi, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Zambia.
Absent: Albania, Angola, Bahamas, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Lesotho, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Uruguay, Uzbekistan.
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