29 November 2007
General Assembly
GA/10663

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Plenary

58th Meeting (PM)


ANNAPOLIS MEETING GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR TWO-STATE SOLUTION IN MIDDLE EAST,


SAYS GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT, AS DEBATE BEGINS ON QUESTION OF PALESTINE


Many Member States Stress Crux of Issue Israel’s Brutal Occupation;

Caution Talks Will Be Difficult, Major Concessions Required by Both Sides


With Palestinian and Israeli leaders optimistic that they can seal a long-elusive peace agreement by the end of 2008, delegations in the General Assembly today cautioned that the freshly proposed talks would be difficult and major concessions would be required of both parties to deliver a Palestinian State at peace with Israel, and build on the promise of the international conference on the Middle East, which wrapped up just yesterday in Annapolis, Maryland.


Meeting 60 years after its decision to partition Palestine, and in the immediate aftermath of the United States-sponsored summit, the Assembly returned to “the question of Palestine”, an issue many speakers said was the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  While calling on Israel to immediately end its “brutal” occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, some urged the Palestinian side –-with Arab regional powers –- to do more to unite Palestinian political factions and to bring an end to rocket attacks against Israel.  Nearly everyone agreed that the outcome at Annapolis brought hope to Israelis and Palestinians alike.


Opening the debate, Assembly President Srgjan Kerim said that the outcome of the Annapolis conference offered a great opportunity for a permanent two-State solution.  A prerequisite for success required “a resolute commitment to boldly follow words with deeds”.  The most encouraging aspect of the meeting was that both sides had agreed to the two-State approach.  They had also expressed determination to “usher in a new era of peace based on freedom, security, justice, dignity and mutual respect”, principles at the core of the United Nations, he said.


“We must seize every opportunity to fulfil the decades-long aspiration of the Palestinian people to live in freedom with dignity, and the right of the Israeli people to live in peace and security with their neighbours,” he said, calling on all Member States to strongly support that process.  Praising Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Abbas for their willingness to engage in substantive discussions, he said both leaders had spoken in unity when they stated “the time has come” for putting the past behind them.  He also commended United States President George W. Bush for bringing the parties together.


The only way to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace was through continuous dialogue and compromise, Mr. Kerim said, adding that both Israelis and Palestinians must be honest with their own people about “the price of peace”.  Difficult choices and sacrifice from both sides was required.  “The stakes are high but the alternatives are worse,” he added, appealing to Israeli and Palestinian officials to “redouble their efforts” to immediately implement their respective Road Map obligations, and create the necessary conditions for long-term peace.


The Assembly must continue to play a significant role in that process.  “True reconciliation requires not only an end to hostilities but also a change of attitude,” he said.  “Some people believe that to make peace is to forget,” but, as he had said earlier today, “to reconcile is a fair compromise between remembering and forgetting”.  He ended his statement calling for “hard work” in preparation for the next meeting of the parties in Moscow on 12 December.


Yasir Abedrabou, Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said that, 60 years on, Palestinians remained a stateless and dispossessed people, deprived of their legitimate and inalienable rights of self-determination, independence and sovereignty, and the right of more than 4 million Palestine refugees to return to their homes and properties. 


He said Israel, in grave violation of international law, continued its military aggression against the Palestinian people, including its incursions and raids into Palestinian areas, excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions and tens of thousands of injuries.  It also continued to destroy Palestinian homes and lands, and continued to entrench its occupation of the Palestinian Territory, via the construction and expansion of illegal colonial settlements.  Meanwhile, after declaring the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” in September, Israel had continued to close all the border crossings into and out of Gaza, intensifying the siege there and causing the catastrophic deterioration of the humanitarian situation. 


The peace process had remained stagnant over the past few years, he said, because Israel had obstructed any progress and aborted all efforts to resume talks aimed at achieving a final, just and comprehensive settlement.  The Annapolis conference had been successful due to the international community’s efforts, which were reflected in the great number of countries who had participated, particularly the 16 Arab States.  He expressed hope that the conference would serve as an important push for the donor conference to be convened in Paris next month. 


“The time for speeches and statements has passed,” he said.  More than good intentions were needed to achieve peace.  The international community should take strong and effective positions and decisive measures to bring an end to the Israeli occupation.  It was a historic opportunity, and all who wanted peace should seize it.  Finally, noting that the Palestinian people were hopeful for the support and assistance of the international community, he said it was needed now more than ever.


Having just returned from Annapolis last night, Israel’s representative described the occasion as “memorable”, with representatives of more than 40 nations, chief among them moderate States from the Arab and Muslim world, committed to supporting the bilateral process between Israel and the Palestinians.  While noting that the air in Annapolis had been “filled with hope”, he said:  “Back here in New York […] in a place so distant from Annapolis in body, mind and soul -- I cannot help but wonder whether today’s debate will contribute to the promise and hope of Annapolis.”


After all, along with the resolution that created the State of Israel, the Assembly Hall had also been the birthplace of the annual 21 resolutions defaming Israel “with a litany of predetermined, impractical and completely biased conclusions that have only given the Palestinians a fictitious sense of reality and a discourse of rights without responsibilities”.  Today –- 29 November -– was the greatest example of how the Assembly continued to stifle hope for peace in the Middle East.  According to the United Nations calendar, today was the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, “which by definition precludes Israel”, he said.


For Jews and for Israelis, today was not a bitter day at all.  Jews and Israelis were not “downtrodden or haunted by vanquished dreams”.  It was a day of victory over oppression, commemorating the resilience of the Jewish people.  “It is the greatest insult to us, to history, and to this Assembly, that, while Israel celebrates, others at the United Nations mourn.”  The Arab refusal to recognize the existence of the Jewish State had been at the core of the Palestinians’ inability to achieve their own.  When the Jews had accepted the United Nations partition plan, the Arabs had made a fateful –- and indeed fatal -– choice to reject it and invade the newly-born Jewish State, rather than co-exist with it.


“Annapolis –- I hope and believe –- represents a new wind of change,” he said, stressing that moderate Arab and Muslim States today recognized that the Israeli and Palestinian conflict was not the cause of instability in the region and that the conflict “can and will end”.  He hoped the winds of Annapolis would blow to the North, “to this very Hall”.  For there could be no better time for the nations of the world, especially moderate Arab and Muslim States in the Assembly, to show their commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian process, now more than ever, “with the winds of change blowing from Annapolis, to New York, to the Middle East, to all corners of the Earth”, he said.


The representative of Syria said that, while Israel continued to say that it was for peace, the people of Palestine were still suffering under its illegal and inhumane practices and policies.  It fell upon the United Nations to shoulder its responsibility to ensure the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, especially since Israel refused to abide by its own international obligations.


He said the fact that the Security Council had not taken any action on the matter, because of the well-known objection to such action by one of its permanent members, was in itself a crime akin to those being committed almost daily by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  In essence, that body had become a silent partner, but a partner nonetheless, in the crimes being committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.  Moreover, because of the Council’s failure to act, Israel had continued to build its apartheid wall, which had continued to increase the suffering of the people of the West Bank.  The international community must compel Israel to abide by the International Court of Justice decision to halt construction of the wall and tear down those sections that had been built.


Syria had participated in the Annapolis meeting because of its belief that the situation in the Middle East must be addressed by action on all tracks of the peace process.  He hoped that the current process would end the Israeli occupation of all Arab lands, including Syrian Golan and Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms region.   Syria still believed that bringing about a just and lasting peace could be achieved only with the full implementation of all United Nations resolutions, in line with the Arab Peace Initiative and the process begun at Madrid.  That was the only way to halt the violence that threatened the region and the international community as a whole.


The representative of Senegal, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, also addressed the Assembly, informing delegates that the co-sponsors of the four resolutions that had been circulated under this agenda item had asked for more time to update the language of the texts in light of the recent political developments.  He said those drafts would be introduced at a later date.


Malta’s representative, Rapporteur of the Committee, introduced that body’s annual report (document A/62/35).


Also speaking today were the representatives of Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Yemen.


The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 30 November, to continue its discussion of the question of Palestine and consider the situation in the Middle East.


Background


The General Assembly met this afternoon to begin its consideration of the Question of Palestine.


The Assembly had before it a report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/62/35).  The report notes that a “comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, must be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions and the following essential principles:  the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and from the other occupied Arab territories; respect for the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized boundaries; and the recognition and exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination”.


During the 4 October 2006 to 4 October 2007 reporting period, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory reached 40-years duration, the report states.  Over that time, Israeli policies have caused major hardship to the Palestinian people, due to the systematic alteration of Palestinian land through the illegal building of settlements and, more recently, the construction of a wall in the West Bank; enforced closures, such as sealing off the Gaza Strip; incursions into Palestinian population centres; and a humiliating system of checkpoints throughout the West Bank.  The reinforcement of those policies during the period, along with the decision by international donors to cease direct assistance programmes to the Hamas-led cabinet that took office in March 2006, have rendered the Palestinian Authority nearly dysfunctional.


The report notes that, despite consistent efforts by major Palestinian political organizations and groups to achieve national unity, the National Unity Government which came about following the Mecca agreement was short-lived.  Polarization within Palestinian society led to further deterioration of the situation when armed Hamas forces took control of the Gaza Strip, in June 2007.  Further, the Israeli army continues to conduct military operations in Palestinian population centres, including by carrying out extrajudicial killings, house demolitions and arrests.  The Palestinian response included regular rocket and mortar fire by armed Palestinian groups and a suicide attack within Israel.  For most of the year, the political process remained stalled.


The report says that, despite some diplomatic momentum achieved since June, when major international stakeholders became re-engaged, the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, remains complex and volatile.  Due to Israel’s closures of crossings into the Gaza Strip, allowing only basic humanitarian goods to enter, economic activity has been stifled.  The humanitarian situation has reached crisis proportions.  The Committee notes that illegal settlement activities in the West Bank and unlawful construction of the wall, in contravention of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (see A/ES-10/273 and Corr. 1), posed a grave threat to a peaceful, negotiated resolution of the conflict, precluded improving the economic and humanitarian situation, and was making a two-State solution virtually impossible.


The Committee continues to support international efforts to overcome the stalemate in the political process and resume meaningful negotiations between the parties, including the renewed Arab Peace Initiative and reinvigorated efforts by the Quartet aimed at resuming the peace process.  Further, the report calls upon the Palestinian leadership, the leaders of all factions and all Palestinians to unite behind the elected President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Government and all democratically elected Palestinian institutions and to resolve their political differences by peaceful means.  The report reiterates the Committee’s long-standing position that the Palestine Liberation Organization was the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and an essential party to any negotiations aimed at resolving the question of Palestine by peaceful means.


In the report, the Committee strongly condemns the killing of innocent civilians by either side, and calls upon Israel to end its military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and other measures that undermine Palestinian institutions.  It also denounces rocket attacks on Israel, and calls for a cessation of these activities by Palestinian armed groups.  Also, the report says that there seems to be greater awareness that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the major underlying factors of the rift between Western and Islamic societies.


In its conclusion, the report reiterates that the question of Palestine can only be resolved through negotiations and the establishment of two States based on 1967 borders.  It further takes note of steps taken to commence the work of the United Nations Register of Damage Caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and urges all involved to expedite rendering the Register operational.  It further expresses satisfaction with the many activities of the Division for Palestinian Rights in calling attention to the need for advancing a peaceful solution, and notes the rise in international awareness of the fact that a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region would remain elusive until the national rights of the Palestinian people were realized.


Also before the Assembly is the Secretary-General’s report on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (A/62/344-S/2007/553), which covers the September 2006 to September 2007 period, and contains replies received from the Security Council President and concerned parties to the notes verbales sent by the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 61/25 (2006).  It also contains the Secretary-General’s observations on the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and international efforts to move the peace process forward.


Among its positive observations, the report notes that bilateral dialogue between the Israeli Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization had resumed in a context of renewed regional and international engagement, to help realize the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security.


Nonetheless, violence between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as among Palestinians, continued into the seventh year since the collapse of the Oslo Process, the report states.  The Secretary-General deplores internecine violence in Gaza, condemns terrorist acts –- notably suicide bombing in Eilat and Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip -- and deplores continued Israeli military operations into the Gaza Strip.  While fully acknowledging Israel’s right to self defence, he recalls that it must be exercised in line with international law.


The Secretary-General remains deeply conscious of the challenges, particularly in light of the continued Israeli settlement policy, de facto division of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and potential for opponents to peace to derail the peace process through violence.  He will continue to ensure that the United Nations works towards the creation of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State, living side by side in peace with a secure Israel, within the framework of a comprehensive regional settlement.


The Assembly also has before it several relevant draft resolutions, including its traditional texts on United Nations activities and organs dealing with Palestinian rights.  By a resolution on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/62/L.18), the Assembly would express its appreciation to that panel on its work, and request it to “continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people […] to support the Middle East Peace process and mobilize international assistance for the Palestinian people”.


The text would also authorize the Committee to “make such adjustments to its approved programme of work as it may consider appropriate and necessary in light of the developments”, and further request the Committee to continue to extend assistance to Palestinian and other civil society organizations, and to continue to involve additional civil society organizations in its work in order to mobilize international solidarity and support for the Palestinian people, “particularly during the critical period of humanitarian hardship and financial crisis”.


The draft resolution on the Division for Palestinian Rights (document A/62/L.19) would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to continue to provide that Division with the necessary resources and ensure that it continued to carry out its programme of work, in consultation with the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and under its guidance, monitoring the development relevant to the question of Palestine, the organization of relevant international conferences, and, among other things, further development and expansion of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine.  The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to ensure continued cooperation of the Department of Public Information and other units of the Secretariat in helping the Division carry out its work.


By a related text on the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information (document A/62/L.20), the Assembly would consider the programme “very useful” in raising the international community’s awareness on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East and that it is “contributing effectively to an atmosphere conducive to dialogue and supportive of the peace process”.


The draft would request the Department, in cooperation and coordination with the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to continue its special information programme for the biennium 2008-2009, in particular to continue to issue and update publications on the various aspects of the question of Palestine in all fields; to expand its collection of audio-visual material on the question to continue the production and preservation of such materials and to update on a periodic basis the public exhibit on the question of Palestine displayed in the General Assembly building; and to organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.


The final draft resolution before the Assembly on this item, on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/62/L.21), would have the Assembly reaffirm the illegality of all Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Territory, as well as its illegal actions aimed at changing the status of Jerusalem, including measures such as the so-called E-1 plan [which aims to connect Jerusalem to the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim], and that Israel’s ongoing construction of a wall in the Occupied Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, is contrary to international law.


The Assembly would express its deep concern about the continuing Israeli policy of closures and severe restrictions on the movement of persons and good, including medical and humanitarian personnel and goods.  It would express further concern about the continued establishment of Israeli checkpoints in the Occupied Territory, and the transformation of several of those areas into “structures akin to permanent border crossings”, which severely impaired the territorial contiguity of the Occupied Territory and severely undermined all efforts and aid aimed at rehabilitating and developing the Palestinian economy.


The Assembly would welcome the convening of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting, under the chairmanship of Norway, on 24 September 2007 [and the December meeting planned for Paris] to provide assistance to the Palestinian people to alleviate the financial, socio-economic and humanitarian crisis they are facing, and acknowledging the contribution of the Temporary International Mechanism in this regard.


The Assembly would recognize the efforts being undertaken by the Palestinian Authority, with international support, to rebuild, reform and strengthen its damaged institutions, and emphasize the need to preserve the Palestinian institutions and infrastructure.  It would also note the Israeli withdrawal from within the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, and the importance of the dismantlement of the settlements therein as a step towards the implementation of the Road Map.


The draft would nevertheless express the Assembly’s concern over the negative developments that have continued to occur in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, over the past seven years, “as a result of ongoing Israeli military actions and excessive use of force, including the large number of deaths and injuries, mostly among Palestinian civilians, the widespread destruction of public and private Palestinian property and infrastructure, the internal displacement of civilians, and the serious deterioration of the socio-economic and humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people”.


Stressing the “urgent need for international involvement”, including by the diplomatic Quartet, the Assembly would take note of the initiative by the President of the United States and welcome the convening of a substantive and serious international meeting aimed at achieving a just and comprehensive solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a w hole, ending the occupation and achieving a just and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the resumption of negotiations on all tracks, in accordance with the terms of reference contained in the present resolution.


It would emphasize the importance of the safety and well-being of all civilians in the whole Middle East region, condemn all acts of violence and terror against civilians on both sides, and stress the urgent need for sustained and active international involvement, including by the Quartet, to support both parties in revitalizing the peace process towards the resumption and acceleration of direct negotiations between the parties for the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement on the basis of United Nations resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map.


The Assembly would call on the parties themselves, with the support of the Quartet and other interested parties, to exert all efforts necessary to halt the deterioration of the situation, to reverse all measures taken on the ground since 28 September 2000, and to immediately resume direct peace negotiations towards the conclusion of a final peaceful settlement on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, especially from the Security Council, the Arab Peace Initiative, the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference and the Road Map.


It would also call on the Quartet, together with the international community, to take immediate steps, including confidence-building measures between the parties, aimed at halting the deterioration of the situation, promoting stability and restarting the peace process.


Further by the draft, the Assembly would demand that Israel comply with its


legal obligations under international law, and reiterate its demand for the complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, and call for the full implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.  It would, among other things, stress the need for Israel’s withdrawal from the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination and the right to their independent State.


Statement by General Assembly President


General Assembly President SRGJAN KERIM, of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said there was an opportunity today to “bolster the authority and international standing of the Assembly” by addressing the question of Palestine in light of recent developments.


Over the years, the conflict had produced great losses and immense human suffering on both sides, and had wider security implications for the region, he said.  Recalling the words of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that security and a just peace could only be achieved through mutual respect based on equality between both peoples, he said that to achieve that goal, the importance of restoring inter-Palestinian dialogue to rebuild national unity must be recognized.


Praising Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Abbas for their willingness to engage in substantive discussions, he said both leaders had spoken in unity when they stated “the time has come” for putting the past behind them.  He also commended United States President George W. Bush for bringing the parties together.


The outcome of the Annapolis Conference offered a great opportunity for a permanent two-State solution, he continued, noting that a prerequisite for success required “a resolute commitment to boldly follow words with deeds”.  The General Assembly had reaffirmed its commitment to support a peaceful two-State solution, and the most encouraging aspect of the Annapolis meeting was that both sides had also agreed to that approach.  They had expressed determination to “usher in a new era of peace based on freedom, security, justice, dignity and mutual respect,” principles at the core of the United Nations.  He called on all Member States to support that process.


The only way to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace was through continuous dialogue and compromise, he said, adding that both Israelis and Palestinians must be honest with their own people about “the price of peace”.  Sacrifice from both sides was required.  “The stakes are high but the alternatives are worse,” he added.


The Assembly had repeatedly expressed concern at the continued deterioration of conditions in Gaza and the West Bank, he said.  Without immediate progress, Palestinians’ humanitarian, economic and security situation would be exacerbated.


Moreover, he said the Assembly was committed to ensuring that a peaceful resolution to the conflict remained at the forefront of the international agenda.  Quartet Representative Tony Blair had proposed concrete measures to strengthen Palestinian institutions and rehabilitate the economy, while the Paris conference in December offered an important opportunity to fund those proposals.  He urged the global community to offer its full financial, technical and political support to make those reforms reality.


In closing, he appealed to Israeli and Palestinian officials to “redouble their efforts” to immediately implement their respective Road Map obligations, and create the necessary conditions for long-term peace.  The Assembly must continue to play a significant role in that process.  “True reconciliation requires not only an end to hostilities but also a change of attitude,” he said.  “Some people believe that to make peace is to forget,” but, as he had said earlier today, “to reconcile is a fair compromise between remembering and forgetting.”  He urged hard work in preparation for the next meeting of the parties in Moscow on 12 December.


Statements


PAUL BADJI (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said today marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Assembly’s resolution 181, the “Partition Resolution”, by the adoption of which the United Nations took upon itself the permanent responsibility for the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects, in accordance with international legitimacy.  Since that time, the Organization’s involvement had been growing, assuring the Palestinian people would not be abandoned by the international community until a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to this “burning issue” had been achieved.


“Our Committee is proud to be an essential party of the United Nations efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the question of Palestine and vows to continue its important work entrusted to it by the General Assembly,” he said.  The Committee’s position was that the continuing illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territory remained the root cause of the conflict, and the panel therefore emphasized the urgent need for a negotiated solution that would end the occupation, ensure the exercise by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights and guarantee security for the State of Israel.  Such a solution must be based on international law and relevant Assembly and Security Council resolutions, as well as the principles outlined by the Quartet-backed Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.


He said the Committee was encouraged by the latest diplomatic efforts aimed at revitalizing the peace process and, in that regard, the Committee was hopeful that the Annapolis conference would generate the much needed momentum and lead to effective permanent status negotiations, resulting in a two-State solution.  It was also important that members of the Quartet and their regional partners assisted the parties by themselves engaging in that crucial endeavour.  In the meantime, he said the Committee was “greatly disquieted by the unacceptably difficult situation” in the Occupied Territory.  The Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip bore the brunt of this, but all Palestinians in the Territory were forced to endure daily hardship and humiliation as a direct consequence of the policies and practices of Israel.


Settlement construction in the West Bank and the presence of over 400,000 Jewish settlers in the Territory violated international law, a fact often neglected by the media and rarely noticed by the wider public.  Further, the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice concerning the separation wall in the occupied West Bank and around east Jerusalem had never been heeded since it had been issued in 2004.  The human rights of the civilian Palestinian population were routinely violated, and those populations were frequent victims of Israeli military operations.


“Our Committee strongly condemns any activities indiscriminately targeting civilians, either by the Israeli army or by Palestinian groups firing mortars and rockets at Israeli towns,” he said, emphasizing that such attacks on both sides must be stopped.  At the same time, however, the Committee was alarmed by Israel’s declaration of the Gaza Strip as a “hostile territory” and the introduction of stifling new sanctions, such as reducing fuel and electricity supplies.  Those measures amounted to yet another form of collective punishment of the population of Gaza, and contravened international law as well.


“We are calling for the restoration of the situation in the Gaza Strip to that which existed prior to the June events, and for measures to be taken to preserve the territorial unity and integrity of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” he declared, also calling on the Israeli Government “at this critical time,” to refrain from actions that destabilized the situation further, in particular the disproportionate use of military force, and the settlement activity, including so-called “natural growth” in existing settlements.  The occupying power needed to take steps to significantly improve the humanitarian situation by lifting curfews, easing restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, and resuming the return of Palestinian tax payments, he added.


Finally, he called on the Organization, especially the Security Council, to maintain and step up its engagement in the situation.  He informed the Committee that the co-sponsors of the four resolutions that had been circulated under this agenda item had asked for more time to update the language of the texts in light of the recent political developments.  Ambassador Badji said the draft resolutions would be introduced at a later date.


SAVIOUR F. BORG (Malta), as Rapporteur of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the Committee’s report, which covered developments relating to the question of Palestine, the peace process and the Committee’s activities through 5 October 2007.  Among other issues, the report examined Israeli military incursions into the Gaza Strip and military operations in the West Bank; restrictions on movement in the West Bank imposed by Israel; continued construction of the wall in disregard of the International Court of Justice advisory opinion and illegal settlement activities; the situation in the Gaza Strip; as well as the Israeli Security Cabinet decision to declare the Gaza Strip “hostile territory” and to apply additional sanctions.


He said the report also addressed the high poverty rate among Palestinians; Palestinian prisoners in Israel; the decreasing water supply in the West Bank and Gaza; and difficulties faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  Further, it denounced the excessive and indiscriminate use of force, extrajudicial killings and destruction of Palestinian homes, civilian infrastructure and agricultural lands.  In addition, it strongly condemned all attacks against Israeli civilians.  It also noted the adoption of the Riyadh Declaration in endorsement of the Arab Peace Initiative; the appointment of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as Quartet Special Representative; the reactivation of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee to address assistance management, financial support to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian institutional reform; and United States-led efforts to revitalize the political process.


The report then reviewed action taken by the Committee, the General Assembly and the Security Council, and gave a detailed account of the implementation of the programme of work of the Committee and the Division, he said.  It also provided information on cooperation with intergovernmental organizations as well as with non-governmental organizations and civil society, among other activities.  Finally, the report gave an overview of the work done over the year by the Department of Public Information in pursuance of General Assembly resolution 61/24 of 1 December 2006.


In its conclusion, he said, the report noted that the Occupation was the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory adversely affected the lives of Palestinians and had rendered the Palestinian Authority nearly dysfunctional.  The Committee called upon Israel to end military operations in the Occupied Territory, and reminded that country that it was bound by the Geneva Convention, requiring the protection of civilians during hostilities.  It further condemned the killing of innocent civilians by either side, denouncing rocket attacks on Israel and calling for a cessation of those activities.  It further called upon all Palestinians to unite in support of the Palestinian President and the Palestinian Authority and to resolve their differences by peaceful means.


The Committee reiterated that only a negotiated solution could bring about a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine through the establishment of two States, Israel and Palestine, based on 1967 borders and relevant Security Council resolutions, he said.  Further, it called on the Council to decide on effective steps to protect the civilian population, end hostilities and guide the parties, with the participation of the Quartet and regional actors, to a negotiated settlement.  It requested all involved to expedite efforts to render the United Nations Register of Damage caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory operational.  The Committee further recognized the essential contributions of the Division for Palestinian Rights, civil society organizations, and the United Nations Department of Public Information.


YASIR ABEDRABOU, Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, noted that 60 years had passed since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 (II), which had partitioned historic Palestine into two States, and said that while one of those states -– Israel -– had come into being, the other had not yet been established -– Palestine.  The Palestinian people remained a stateless and dispossessed people, deprived of their legitimate and inalienable rights of self-determination, independence and sovereignty, and the right of more than 4 million Palestine refugees to return to their homes and properties. 


He said Israel, the occupying power, in grave violation of international law, continued its military aggression against the Palestinian people, including its incursions and raids into Palestinian areas, excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions and tens of thousands of injuries.  Israel continued to destroy Palestinian homes, properties, infrastructure and lands, and continued to entrench its occupation of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, via the construction and expansion of illegal colonial settlements.  Early last month, Israel had issued orders to confiscate at least another 110 hectares of land belonging to four Palestinian villages in an area outside occupied East Jerusalem.  That confiscation would facilitate the creation of a continuous settlement bloc in that area, while preventing Palestinian territorial continuity between occupied East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley.


Israel also continued to construct the “enormous apartheid, annexation Wall” in the West Bank, including in and around East Jerusalem, he said.  It had walled-in and transformed Palestinian cities, towns and villages into massive prisons and ghettos.  On its official website, the Israeli Government had posted a new map of the wall that showed its actual annexation of huge tracts of Palestinian land.  That new route affirmed reports that the wall would encompass more illegal Israeli settlements, in flagrant and deliberate violation of international law and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.  The illegal settlement campaign and the wall not only constituted an obstacle to the achievement of a just and lasting peace between the two peoples, but was also a hard blow to the prospects for the actual establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State.  As a result, the city of Jerusalem was isolated from surrounding areas, including Bethlehem, and access of civilians to the city was restricted.  The occupying power also continued to carry out numerous measures intended to “judaize” the Holy City and change its legal status, historical and cultural character and demographic composition.


Israel continued to unlawfully detain and imprison approximately 11,000 Palestinians, he continued.  It also imposed measures of collective punishment on the Palestinian people, including severe restriction on the movement of persons and goods into and from the Occupied Palestinian Territory through prolonged closures and the establishment of more than 550 checkpoints and roadblocks.  Those caused the further fragmentation of the contiguity and unity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Meanwhile, after declaring the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” in September, Israel had continued to close all the border crossings into and out of Gaza, intensifying the siege there and causing the catastrophic deterioration of the humanitarian situation. 


In addition to being serious violations of international and humanitarian law, those actions were totally contradictory to the measure of confidence-building needed to continue, to support and to advance the peace process, he continued.  He said that, as depressing, negative and frustrating as those facts might be –- and as repetitive as they might sound –- that was the tragic reality of the Palestinian people living under Israel’s occupation, and it was his duty to draw the international community’s attention to that unjust situation until it ended.


The peace process had remained stagnant over the past few years, he said, because Israel had obstructed any progress and aborted all efforts to resume talks aimed at achieving a final, just and comprehensive settlement.  The international conference just held in Annapolis was successful due to the international community’s efforts, which were reflected in the great number of countries who had participated, particularly the 16 Arab States.  He expressed hope that the conference would serve as an important push for the donor conference to be convened in Paris next month. 


Noting that negotiations between the two sides had officially begun yesterday on all final status issues, he affirmed the necessity for Israel to comply with all of its obligations by ceasing all illegal Israeli settlement activities, dismantling outposts and roadblocks, ceasing construction of and dismantling the apartheid wall, removing checkpoints, opening crossings, reopening Palestinian institutions, and releasing prisoners.  He stressed that respect for the Annapolis joint statement was necessary to advance a peace agreement before the end of 2008, based on known terms of reference, including Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003), the Arab Peace Initiative, the Road Map, and the principle of land for peace.  Endeavours to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region must also address the question of the Occupied Syrian Golan and the Lebanese lands.  Any attempts to undermine the current exceptional opportunity or any attempts to obstruct it by adhering to narrow agendas or desires to maintain the status quo should be confronted.


The time for speeches and statements had passed, he said.  More than good intentions were needed to achieve peace.  The international community should take strong and effective positions and decisive measures to bring an end to the Israeli occupation.  It was an historic opportunity, and all who wanted peace should seize it.  Referring to the “regrettable events” that had occurred in the Gaza Strip last June, he affirmed the necessity for the situation there to revert to that which had existed before June 2007, and the legitimacy of the Palestinian National Authority institutions under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas should be re-established to allow for a dialogue between all Palestinian factions.  Finally, noting that the Palestinian people were hopeful for the support and assistance of the international community, he said it was needed now more than ever.


RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, today, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the global community should reaffirm its support for that heroic peoples’ efforts to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination and to achieve independence and freedom.  The international community should also recall that the Palestinian people had been stateless and dispossessed for some 60 years, awaiting fulfilment of their right of return, and had suffered for more than 40 years under brutal foreign occupation.  “On this occasion we must pledge to redouble our efforts to bring an end to this injustice by exerting the necessary efforts to resolve the question of Palestine in all its aspects, and to achieve the peace and justice that are long overdue,” he said.


The Non-Aligned Movement was “gravely concerned” about the constant deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Territory, particularly as a result of the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Israel against the Palestinian civilian population, and its many other illegal policies and practices, he said.  The Movement condemned such practices, as well as Israel’s prolonged occupation of the Palestinian Territory, and expressed grave concern that for decades Israel had been “unrelentingly” violating international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law.  It had also been carrying out “deliberate and unlawful” policies and practices aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and nature of the Palestinian land, he added.


In addition, Israel continued to impose a “humiliating and discriminatory” network of hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the Occupied Territory, seriously fragmenting and undermining its contiguity and integrity, he said.  The Movement condemned such illegal actions, including military raids and incursions into Palestinian population centres, which had caused extensive loss of life, and called for their immediate cessation.  Underscoring the “critical situation” being faced by the civilian population in the Gaza Strip “due to the suffocating siege and closure of all its crossings by Israel”, he stressed that Israel must respect its obligations under international law, including under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and cease all such inhumane practices.


The Movement also called on all States and the wider international community to urgently provide economic and financial assistance to the Palestinian people “during this critical period”.  It also once again called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility by taking the necessary steps to ensure implementation of its own resolutions, and to compel Israel to respect international law and end its occupation and the illegitimate and illegal practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  It was unacceptable that the Council continued to fail to fulfil its permanent responsibility regarding the Palestinian question, in all its aspects.


He said the Movement hoped that the international meeting in Annapolis would effectively contribute to the efforts by the international community to re-launch the Middle East peace process, with the aim of addressing the final status issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole -- the peaceful resolution of which were of the highest importance to all the Movement’s member countries, and of critical importance to international peace and security.  The Movement acknowledged the common understanding agreed by the Israeli and Palestinian sides at the meeting, and would stress the urgency of resuming direct, substantive and accelerated negotiations that would address final status issues and, ultimately, end the occupation by Israel of all Arab territories.


MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the Islamic world saw clearly the centrality of the cause of Al-Quds Al-Sharif to the question of Palestine and had a strong, emotional attachment to the issue of Palestine in general.  The Muslim world had been disappointed by the perceived inability -- or unwillingness, at times -- of those with power and influence to promote a solution to the Middle East crisis, where international law had been allowed to be violated with impunity.  Apathy and perceived double standards had come to be regarded as the major underlying cause of the “rift and mistrust” between the Western and Islamic worlds.  “This is an unfortunate, entirely unnecessary and unintended situation,” he added, since it was clear that the tragedy inflicted on the Palestinian people had moved the conscience of all peace-loving peoples of the world, and the entire international community supported the struggle of Palestinian people for self-determination and freedom from foreign occupation.


He said the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict was the Israeli occupation of Arab territory.  An end to the occupation was a prerequisite for peace.  There was wide consensus that final settlement of the core dispute of Palestine must be reached through dialogue and negotiation, which meant renouncing aggression and unilateralism.  The craving for peace was intensifying, and the futility of force more than evident.  The international community must translate the craving for peace into tangible results on the ground.


At the invitation of the United States, Islamic countries had participated in the Annapolis conference to signal their commitment to peace between Israel and Palestine.  They welcomed the commitment to start final status negotiations, which, in turn, should be resolved on the basis of previous agreements, resolutions, the principle of land for peace, the Madrid Peace Conference terms of reference, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.  It would entail Israeli withdrawal from Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  A peace agreement reached through forthcoming negotiations should then be supplemented by appropriate mechanisms for their full implementation by all sides, and the Security Council and the General Assembly should play their rightful role in that regard.  In the meantime, Israel must end actions that could prejudice final settlement, such as by changing the realities on the ground in ways that could affect the integrity and viability of a future Palestinian State.


He added that peace required a cessation of military campaigns by Israel, the release of prisoners, halting of the construction of the illegal separation wall, freezing settlement activities and ending the siege of Gaza.  The provision of essential goods and services to the Palestinian people in all occupied territories must be restored.  The Palestinian Authority must receive help in building State institutions, including security apparatuses, and to that end he said he looked forward to a successful donor conference in Paris.  Efforts must also continue to revive Palestinian unity, together with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and an essential step to reach their reconciliation was for the situation in Gaza to be restored to that which existed before June 2007.  Progress must also be made on parallel tracks to address the Syria-Israel and Lebanon-Israel aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Concluding, he said the “time is ripe for concluding peace, but time is not unlimited”.  The consequences of failure were dire -- the rise of extremism and violence that could engulf the entire Middle East.


MAGED ABDEL AZIZ ( Egypt) said there was cautious optimism regarding efforts towards peace and the establishment of a viable Palestinian State on the entire territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem, by the end of 2008.  He said the Annapolis conference was a first step towards reviving the peace process and launching final status negotiations, whose success would require political will and credible efforts by Israel to reach final agreement on the six final status core issues, among them Jerusalem and the refugee question.  He called for a specific timetable and an international mechanism to monitor implementation of the Road Map, under the auspices of the Quartet.


Further, he said the General Assembly’s support for a just settlement of the Palestinian question was a significant recognition of the need to end the occupation, establish an independent State of Palestine, and provide international protection for Palestinian civilians, as well as to enhance international respect for the equality of human rights.  He called for measures that would end systematic violations of international law by the occupying power.  Also, he said that confidence-building measures were needed, if renewed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians were to lead to a lasting solution under Security Council and other relevant international resolutions and references.  He called on Israel to cease its practices of collective punishment and return to the 28 September 2000 borders to that end.


He said the Israeli and Palestinian sides were responsible for restoring confidence through the simultaneous implementation of the first phase of the Road Map, halting the settlement policy, releasing Palestinian prisoners and officials, returning Palestinian Authority institutions to East Jerusalem, ending rocket attacks on civilian areas by both sides, and releasing the abducted Israeli soldier.  He welcomed the political will shown by President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, and hoped that the final status negotiations would start to break the cycle of violence and improve the humanitarian situation of Palestinians, so that they might come to trust the peace process.  He also supported the unity of the Palestinian people and the integrity of the Palestinian Territory as a single, integrated political unit.


DAN GILLERMAN ( Israel) said he had just returned from Annapolis, a “memorable occasion” with representatives of more than 40 nations, chief among them moderate States from the Arab and Muslim world, committed to supporting the bilateral process between Israel and the Palestinians.  The air in Annapolis had been filled with hope that by working together, the two sides could realize a peaceful and better tomorrow.  “I have no doubt that this sense of optimism was felt by all those in attendance,” he said, but emphasized that, “Back here in New York […] in a place so distant from Annapolis in body, mind and soul -- I cannot help but wonder whether today’s debate will contribute to the promise and hope of Annapolis.”


After all, the Assembly Hall was also the birthplace of the annual 21 resolutions defaming Israel “with a litany of predetermined, impractical and completely biased conclusions that have only given the Palestinians a fictitious sense of reality and a discourse of rights without responsibilities, both of which render the United Nations incapable playing a meaningful role in addressing the conflict”.  Today –- 29 November -– was the greatest example of how the Assembly continued to stifle hope for peace in the Middle East.  According to the calendar of the United Nations, today was the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, “which by definition precludes Israel,” he said.


“Let me be clear:  Palestinian self-determination is a cause Israel wholeheartedly supports,” he said, recalling that in Annapolis, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had pledged to find a way to assist the Palestinians in finding a proper framework for their future, which would be established in the territories agreed between the two sides.  But, over the years at United Nations centres worldwide, and as he listened to the statements made in the Assembly today, the cause of Palestinian self-determination had been transformed into a “denigration and defamation of the Jewish State”.


Indeed, the derogatory, repetitive, one-note, defamatory and “viciously boring” statements made thus far –- and he was sure there would be more -- were emblematic of what such debates had become in the Assembly.  “Broadway might have been on strike until today, but the theatre on the East River is always open for business,” he said.  For Jews and for Israelis, today was not a bitter day at all.  Jews and Israelis were not “downtrodden or haunted by vanquished dreams”.  It was a day of victory over oppression, commemorating the resilience of the Jewish people.  “It is the greatest insult to us, to history, and to this Assembly, that while Israel celebrates, others at the United Nations mourn.”


Israel had stopped addressing the Organization’s annual 29 November proceedings, because the sessions were routinely hijacked by some Member States and abused for their own political interests and turned into yet another venue to demonize Israel.  “We cannot allow that to happen any longer.  Today is our day,” he declared, stressing that it was high time for Israel and all those committed to peace in the region to reclaim the day for what it truly meant:  the peaceful coexistence of two States in the region, a Jewish State and a Palestinian State, living side by side, each fulfilling the national aspirations of its respective people.


He went on to say that the Arab refusal to recognize the existence of the Jewish States had been at the core of the Palestinians’ inability to achieve their own.  When the Jews had accepted the United Nations partition Plan, the Arabs had made a fateful –- and indeed fatal –- choice to reject it and invade the newly-born Jewish State, rather than coexist with it.  Had the Arabs accepted that plan, there would have been two States all this time, for the past 60 years.  He said that the “wrong choices” did not end in 1947, but continued in 1967, 1973, 2000, and in 2005, when Israel had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip only to have the Palestinians bring Hamas into power.   Israel had paid a terrible price for Hamas’ brutal violence and intransigence, with the lives of its people.  “The terrorism we still see today stems from the innate refusal to recognize Israel […} and a refusal to recognize the value of our lives.  So long as there is a denial of the existential issues, I fear there can never be an agreement on the territorial ones,” he sad.


“Annapolis –- I hope and believe –- represents a new wind of change,” he said, stressing that moderate Arab and Muslim States today recognized that the Israeli and Palestinian conflict was not the cause of instability in the region, and that the conflict “can and will end”.  They also recognized that the real dangers came directly from Islamic extremism “and its champion, Iran, who sponsors terrorism around the globe […], tries to obtain nuclear weapons, denies the Holocaust while preparing for the next one, relentlessly defying the will of the international community”.  The coalition at Annapolis had pledge to support the peace process, and he hoped it would also “counter and confront the extremists in Teheran”.


“I hope the winds of Annapolis will blow to the north, to this very Hall.  For there could be no better time for the nations of the world -– and particular moderate Arab and Muslim States in this Hall today –- to show their commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian process,” he said.   Israel’s message to the Arab nations and the Palestinians had not changed:  “Shoulder to shoulder for the common good.  Now more than ever, with the winds of change blowing from Annapolis, to New York, to the Middle East, to all corners of the Earth.”


TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR ( Bahrain) supported the statements by Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference.  The occupying power had, for forty years, sought to change the Palestinian territories through illegal policies and practices, including the construction of settlements and the separation wall.  The paralysis resulting from closures, checkpoints and military operations was condemned by the Governments of the Group of 77 developing countries on 27 September, when they stated that the illegal building of settlements and the wall were the root causes of the Palestinians’ deteriorating social conditions.  There was no doubt that the wall’s construction was in total disregard of the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.  An Economic and Social Council report had also said that its construction had had a grave impact on Palestinian communities.


He said the General Assembly’s extraordinary session in 2006 had established the creation of a United Nations register for damage caused by the wall, and the appointment of three international experts.  However, Israel’s rejection of a registry office had denied Palestinians their right to register their claims of damage.  Moreover, the establishment of settlements in territories, including in East Jerusalem, had breached international law.


The suffering of Palestinians resulting from Israeli policies of isolation and displacement constituted a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, he continued.  The humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was exacerbated by increased poverty and unemployment, which could, in turn, enhance extremism and violence.  Arab countries had appealed for ending the conflict in a peaceful manner, and had deployed all efforts to reach a comprehensive and just settlement that recognized two States living side by side within recognized borders.  Ending the Arab-Israeli conflict would lead to a just peace in the region, and end Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other territories occupied since 1967.  There was an opportunity for peace now.  That required implementation of resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the Road Map, the land-for-peace principle, and establishment of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.


HABIB MANSOUR ( Tunisia), noting the deterioration of the situation of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, stressed the need for the situation to be resolved.  To that end, efforts should be undertaken in the context of Arab and world action in order to bring an end to the crisis in the Middle East.  Given the deterioration of the situation and the difficulties encountered by the Palestinian people, particularly their inability to exercise their basic rights, he reiterated his country’s support for them.  He also called for the lifting of the Israeli blockade of those people, who constantly suffered from the actions of the occupying power.  Further, Tunisia called on all international bodies to find an international approach that could guarantee the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and would allow them to have an independent State in the area.


Highlighting the work of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people, he expressed support for its efforts.  He called for the continuation of the Committee’s activities, as well as a stepping up of efforts to bring peace to the region.  Referring to a statement made by the President of Tunisia, in celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People earlier in the day, he called on all relevant parties to build from past efforts and agreements.  He also stressed the President’s statement that all Palestinian people should be included in the peace process and the establishment of an independent State.  To achieve the goal of setting up a fair and comprehensive peace in the region, which had suffered for so many years, all parties, including the United Nations, must share the responsibility and allow the Palestinian people to enjoy their rights, so they could have an independent State.


In addition, he said a final outcome for all pending issues, including the Syrian Golan and all Palestinian territories, was also necessary.  He reiterated Tunisia’s support for the Palestinian people and said that his country would always provide support for them, so that they could enjoy their rights and establish an independent State in the region.  Stressing the extreme importance of peace and security, he said ongoing peace was necessary in order to bring an end to a conflict that gone on for so many years.


BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said the Assembly met today to commemorate the reaffirmation of support to the Palestinian people in the achievement of all their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and the right of return of Palestinian refuges to their homeland.  In spite of all the international community’s efforts, the people of Palestine were still suffering the effects of the illegal and inhumane practices and policies of Israel.  It fell upon the Organization to shoulder its responsibility to ensure the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, especially since Israel refused to abide by its own international obligations.


He said the fact that the Security Council had not taken any action on the matter, because of the well-known objection to such action by one of its permanent members, was in itself a crime akin to those being committed almost daily by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  In essence, that body had became a silent partner, but a partner nonetheless, in the crimes being committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.  And that regime continued to commit such crimes, including the imposition of closures and checkpoints, as well other brutally oppressive actions that were leading to the serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Territories and turning the area into what some had called the largest prison on earth.


He said that, while Israel continued to say that it was for peace and that it had pulled out of the Gaza Strip in the name of peace, it yet controlled Gaza’s airspace, land and marine boarders.  It had used that control to continue depriving the Palestinian people living there of their rights.  Israel’s most recent decision to declare the Gaza Strip a hostile territory, and use that as an excuse to cut power and electricity to the area, was proof that Israel was an “outlaw” that needed to be reigned in by the international community.


Moreover, since the Security Council had not acted, Israel had continued to build its apartheid wall, which had continued to increase the suffering of the people of the West Bank.  The International community must compel Israel to abide by the International Court of Justice decision to halt construction of the wall and tear down those sections that had been built.


He said Syria had participated in the Annapolis meeting because of its belief that the situation in the Middle East must be addressed by action on all tracks of the peace process.  He hoped that the current process would end the Israeli occupation of all Arab lands, including Syrian Golan and Lebanon’s Shebaa farms region.  Syria still believed that bringing about a just and lasting peace could be achieved only with the full implementation of all United Nations resolutions, in line with the Arab Peace Initiative and the process begun at Madrid.  That was the only way to halt the violence that threatened the region and the international community as a whole.


MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) took the opportunity of the International Solidarity Day to urge States to accept the challenge of ending the suffering of Palestinian people.  At the crux of Palestinians’ hardship was the denial of their right to self-determination, and Indonesia would continue to support their quest for it, as they were entitled to peace and freedom.


He said Indonesia welcomed various initiatives to establish a peace process, with the goal of creating an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State, including the recent conference at Annapolis, Maryland.  With a blueprint to conclude a final solution by the end of 2008, he hoped the conference would mark the “beginning of the road” to end the conflict.  The agreement by both parties to immediately resume long stalled negotiations was a commendable step forward.  While they must seize that momentum, the global community -– through the United Nations —- was obliged to monitor efforts for a peaceful settlement.


The peace process could have traction only if Israel demonstrated a genuine desire to engage in resolving core issues, he said, adding that for such progress, the Security Council must ensure that Israel respected its resolutions.  As Israeli occupation was the root cause of the Middle East conflict, recognized by various resolutions, a just solution should resolve all outstanding issues, including borders, refugees, Israelis settlements, the status of Jerusalem, water resources and security.  Palestinian unity was also a prerequisite for sustainable peace, and Indonesia urged Palestinians to set aside their differences through dialogue.


He said the worsening humanitarian situation must be urgently addressed, and assistance should go to all Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  In that regard, Indonesia welcomed the upcoming Paris Conference, and would co-organize an Asia-Africa meeting on capacity-building for Palestine next year.  Indonesia had always supported a speedy solution to the question of Palestine, and agreed that a comprehensive approach was needed to settle all core issues.  He commended the work of the Palestinian Rights Committee, and would continue to support an extension of its mandate.


ISMAT JAHAN ( Bangladesh) said her country was committed to the just cause of the Palestinian people, and totally supported their inalienable right to a sovereign State.  Aligning herself with the statements by Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, she said Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine was the primary cause of regional violence.  Indeed, Palestinians had been denied their right to live freely since 1967, and millions were living in refugee camps in abject poverty.  Their distress was compounded by Israel’s policy of collective punishment in the form of excessive force, extra-judicial killings, military incursions and targeted assignations, among other actions.  Continued closures had isolated the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Territory, while life in the West Bank had been hampered by military operations, checkpoints and the construction of a separation wall.  Israel must realize that such an approach had proved itself wrong.


Bangladesh was concerned by the illegal construction of the separation wall and restriction on the movement of Palestinians in the Occupied Territory.  She reiterated the call to immediately dismantle the wall and withdraw such restrictions.  Further, she urged the global community to ensure Israel’s full compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which it was a signatory.  At the same time, her country was frustrated at factional infighting among Palestinians, as a lack of unity made peace ever more elusive.  Palestinians must consolidate unity in their own national interest.


The Palestinian crisis could be resolved only through the full implementation of relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, she said.  Bangladesh would cautiously observe the outcome of the Annapolis conference, as fulfilling the promise of the Road Map towards Palestinian statehood would now require more intensified efforts for concrete advancement.  It was time to abandon piecemeal approaches to resolving the Middle East crisis and start final status negotiations that addressed all disputed issues.  Bangladesh would remain supportive of all initiatives that would give momentum to the Middle East peace process.


ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI ( Yemen), associating his country with the statements made by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and by Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said every consideration by the United Nations of the situation of the Palestinian people since the Organization’s start –- beginning with the “Nakba” –- had seen deterioration.  That included human suffering and the destruction of Palestinian institutions and lands by the Israeli occupying power. 


Hope may spring from the ruins of war and the tragedies the war caused, he said.  Indeed, today all eyes were focused on the meeting in Annapolis in anticipation of what might result.  There was cautious optimism about the continuation of negotiations between the two sides, which might result in the return of the refugees and the establishment of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  In fact, many who aspired and desired a just and lasting peace in the Middle East hoped that the United States mediator would enjoy the international community’s support, and that the United Nations would play an important role in the peace process. 


He emphasized that the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and the establishment of the capital in East Jerusalem was essential to establishing peace.  Those who believed that they could impose security were living an illusion and had not learned from world history, nor from the history of the Holy Lands.  He expressed his country’s hope and commitment to working for a just and lasting peace in the region.  Yet, he stressed that peace could be realized only through a resumption of negotiations from where they had stopped, not by beginning a new round.  Such a resumption would include the complete withdrawal of Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights, and a return to the vision of peace as held by Yitzhak Rabin. 


He underscored his Government’s emphasis on the need to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty.  Negotiations should be resumed in a manner that would also see the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese lands, including the Shebaa Farms.  Saying the peace process could not succeed in one track without progress in the other peace tracks, he emphasized the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace throughout the region. 


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For information media • not an official record