|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
22nd Meeting (AM)
DEEPLY ALARMED BY NUMBER OF MINES LAID EACH YEAR, GENERAL ASSEMBLY WOULD URGE AID
FOR DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL MINE-ACTION CAPACITIES, BY FOURTH COMMITTEE DRAFT
In Debate on Israeli Practices, Focus Shifts to Separation Wall, Deemed
‘Noxious’ to Palestinian Welfare, ‘Pretext’ for Israeli Claim to East Jerusalem
The General Assembly, deeply alarmed by the number of mines laid each year, as well as the presence of a still very large number of square kilometres infested by mines and explosive remnants of war as a result of armed conflicts, the General Assembly would urge all States to assist countries affected by mines and explosive remnants of war in the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities, according to a draft text approved today without a vote by the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).
The draft resolution, which was orally amended, would also have the Assembly urge all States to support national programmes, while taking into consideration the differing impacts mines and explosive remnants of war had on women, men, girls and boys. It would also urge States to provide reliable, predictable and timely contributions, and necessary information and technological, technical, financial and material assistance to this end.
In a general statement before the text was approved, the representative of the United States said his country would join the consensus, but noted inconsistencies in the text regarding the use of the terms “anti-personnel mines” in some instances, and “mine” or “mines and explosive remnants of war” in others. That lack of uniformity weakened the resolution’s impact by signalling that the use of only one category of mine should be curtailed, while declaring that funds should be provided for the clearance of all mines and explosive remnants of war.
While the United States was pleased with the addition of new language that recognized the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Mine Action Service and its coordinating role within the Organization, he said a strategic framework should be constructed to sustain the efforts of countries affected by mines and explosive remnants of war, in order to encourage them to take national ownership of their programmes.
Speaking after approval of that text, Turkey’s delegate said that, while the last preambular paragraph stressed the pressing need to urge non-State actors to “halt immediately and unconditionally” new deployments of mines, States concerned should be informed and their consent should be sought when engagement with non-State actors was contemplated, since the rights and obligations enshrined in the Mine Ban Convention and in the Nairobi Action Plan applied only to States parties.
Further, he said his country believed that engaging with non-State actors in implementing the Mine Ban Convention, formally, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, should not serve the purposes of terrorist organizations. He underlined the need for Member States to take effective measures to prevent the transfer and use of mines by non-State actors, and to make such transfers illegal.
Before taking action on the mine assistance draft resolution, the Committee continued its general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the Occupied Territories, hearing from many speakers who stressed that Israel’s actions in the territories it occupied, especially its construction of a separation wall, violated international law and were of particular concern during the crucial lead-up to the forthcoming peace conference in the United States.
Underlining that Israel had mocked international law by destroying lands and property, seizing power, blocking roads, arresting people arbitrarily and illegally, and adopting laws that affected all aspects of the lives of the Palestinian people, the representative of Saudi Arabia said Israeli policies bred despair and disappointment. Its continuing construction of the separation wall on the lands of the Palestinian people also showed flagrant contravention of many United Nations resolutions. Although Israel said the wall protected its people, that claim was a pretext to change the situation on the ground, in order to allow East Jerusalem to be under Israeli sovereignty.
Saying the wall was “noxious” to the Palestinian people’s well-being and constituted a violation of human rights and international law, Jordan’s delegate stressed that, in addition to destroying land and property, the barrier shredded the Palestinian social fabric and caused thousands of Palestinians to join the ranks of the impoverished.
He underscored that Israeli activities, particularly its building of the wall, threatened the potential for a two-State solution, at a time when the region was at a “decisive phase”. Unless an agreed timetable was established, the entire region would fall into chaos, bloodshed and warfare. Thus, the forthcoming conference in Annapolis, Maryland was an opportunity that should be grasped to produce an agreement for a defined solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, and all concerned parties should be present.
Expressing full support for the upcoming conference, Portugal’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the present opportunity and stressed how crucial the event would be for regional and international partners to effectively support a comprehensive peace process. She commended the efforts of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and encouraged them to take courageous steps in their political dialogue, in order to achieve concrete results that would lead to meaningful final status negotiations, along with their shared goal of a two-State solution.
To consolidate the progress achieved so far and to fulfil the potential of the current process, however, she also stressed the need for the parties to desist from any action that threatened the viability of a just, lasting and comprehensive solution.
The representatives of India, Morocco, Egypt, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Sudan also spoke during the general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the Occupied Territories.
The representatives of Israel and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 November, to conclude its general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the Occupied Territories. It was also expected to take action on the draft resolution relating to Tokelau.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to continue its discussion on Israeli practices affecting human rights of Arabs in the Occupied Territories, and to take action on a draft resolution relating to mine action (document A/C.4/62/L.6**).
Statements on Israeli Practices Affecting Human Rights of Arabs in
ADHIR RANJAN CHOWDHURY, Member of Parliament, India, unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism, as well as any provocation and incitement to violence. Equally, he criticized any form of harsh and disproportionate retaliatory measures and any measures that suggested collective punishment. The contours of a solution to the Middle East question were known to be a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State within well-defined and secure borders, living side-by-side and at peace with Israel. He hoped for meaningful gains in the weeks ahead.
He called on the Government of Israel to stop the construction of the separation wall and to stop “alienating” more Palestinian lands, as well as to cease the expansion of settlements in the Occupied Territories. He also called on Israel to restore the freedom of movement for Palestinians and to expand access to and from the Occupied Territory. The early restoration of international assistance and a rightful share of tax and other revenues to the Palestinian National Authority was also desirable.
At the same time, all Palestinian parties should comply fully with the Road Map, as elaborated by the Quartet (Russian Federation, United States, European Union, United Nations Secretary-General), and to effectively prevent indiscriminate attacks against civilians. All Palestinian groups needed to resolve their internal differences, which would help create an atmosphere conducive to resuming direct negotiations, with a time-bound solution for peace.
YOUSEF S. M. ALGAHRAH ( Saudi Arabia) said that any occupation that went on for more than 40 years affected all aspects of the life of those suffering under its burden. Those long years gave the occupier the chance to violate all human rights criteria, including international conventions and covenants. All organizations and humanitarian agencies that worked in the Occupied Arab Territories gave proof in their reports of the unjust practices of the occupying Power. Those organizations had also suffered from Israeli practices, along with the Palestinian population, particularly women, children and senior citizens.
He said that Israel had mocked international law by using destruction of lands and property, seizing power, blocking roads and arresting people arbitrarily and illegally, and adopting laws that affected all aspects of the lives of the Palestinian people. The Israelis blocked roads and deprived the Palestinian people of their rights. The continuing construction of the separation wall on the lands of the Palestinian people showed the occupier’s flagrant contravention of many United Nations resolutions. The Israelis also destroyed gardens and trees to build that very ugly wall. Although Israel claimed that the wall protected them, it was a pretext to change the situation on the ground to allow East Jerusalem to be under Israeli sovereignty.
Continuing, he said that the Israelis were also clearly trying to implement a displacement policy by controlling water resources. Their policies bred despair and disappointment. The Palestinian people were deprived of resources –- a situation that harmed their human dignity. It was unfortunate that Israel had been committing those acts in an organized and controlled way, despite the awareness of many States, organizations and the media of the dangerous nature of those acts and its “disconnect” with international law.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the Israeli violations against the Al-Quds Mosque and the excavations that threatened the mosque’s foundation, he said. It confirmed the Islamic nature of Al-Quds, as well as the requirements of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), and of Israel’s need to compensate Lebanon in the wake of the conflict there. It also condemned Israeli actions in the Golan Heights and asked the Security Council to impose sanctions if the Hebrew State continued to mock its obligations under international law.
SAADIA EL ALAOUI ( Morocco) recalled the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in which he had talked of ongoing violations of international law and human rights treaties by the Israeli occupier. The Israelis had systematically destroyed Palestinian property and expanded their settlements there, as well as acquired West Bank territory and annexed others. It continued to build a separation wall in the face of international condemnation, which had the effect of restricting the movement of West Bank Palestinians. Such restrictions had made it difficult for Palestinians to earn a living and had the effect of reducing Palestinian cities into separate islands, which also slowed down the economy.
She added that the economic and financial “blockade” imposed on the region by some in the international community had further contributed to worsening the humanitarian situation. Poverty had now enveloped more people. The national Government had become “frozen”, which undermined the reform of vital sectors, such as education and health. It did not help that thousands of political prisoners were being held in Israeli jails, including Palestinian leaders.
The people of the occupied Golan Heights also suffered human rights violations, she said. The imposition of high agricultural taxes and the seizure of lands for settlements had caused additional problems. Several human rights organizations, both Palestinian and Israeli, had affirmed Israeli negligence vis-à-vis civilians. Morocco supported the establishment of a legal framework to ensure the protection of civilians. It had also supported those parties working towards the establishment of a Palestinian State, as well as Syria in recovering its territory. Indeed, all parties should honour the commitments as stipulated in relevant Security Council resolutions, as well as the provisions of the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative, including the principle of “land for peace”. She said her country eagerly awaited the upcoming international conference.
AMR El-SHERBINI (Egypt) said that today’s discussion took place at a time when the peace process was at a crossroads: parties must choose to resume negotiations aimed at an agreed solution, or else enter a new cycle of violence and tension, where the occupying Power, Israel, would continue to violate Palestinian human rights.
He expressed concern that the occupying Power had not allowed the Special Committee to visit the Occupied Arab Territories, in the same manner that it continued to bar any visits by a mission of the Human Rights Council, which would have been headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu. Furthermore, the systematic violations by the occupying Power of basic Palestinian human rights, such as the imposition of restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and other forms of collective punishment, raised questions regarding the Israeli side’s true intentions. It continued to build a separation wall, in violation of United Nations resolutions and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. In relation to that, Egypt welcomed the establishment of the Register of Damages resulting from life behind that wall.
In addition, Israel continued to confiscate Palestinian territory and natural resources, he said. The construction of bypass roads and checkpoints affected the territorial integrity of the Palestinian “State-to-be”, and on that subject, he reaffirmed what the Special Committee had said in its report regarding Israeli actions that would compromise the emergence of a viable Palestinian State. He rejected unlawful efforts to annex the occupied Syrian Golan and to change its character through the expansion of settlements and use of natural resources. A just peace could not be achieved in the Middle East unless Israel fully withdrew from all Occupied Arab Territories.
He noted that Israel had not achieved security through military actions. He looked forward to the international meeting called by the United States to promote agreement on the six core issues of the peace process.
ADI KHAIR ( Jordan) expressed support for the report of the Special Committee and underlined the importance of that body’s continuing work until the occupation had ended. Hopefully, the international community would truly grasp the deterioration that had occurred in the Occupied Territories as a result of the occupation, which was itself a violation of international law. Noting the lack of medical services for the Palestinians, he said that the obstacles created by checkpoints had inflicted humiliation on them. The world was watching the occupation in silence, but it could not gloss over the suffering of the Palestinian people. The dire situation unfolding with the lockdown of Gaza destroyed any hope for peace; the deterioration of the situation could quickly become a humanitarian crisis. All military occupations eventually failed.
He reiterated his country’s concern over and interest in matters relating to the separation wall, which was “noxious” to the Palestinian people’s well-being and constituted a violation of human rights and international law. It also affected Jordan quite directly. He noted the dangerous nature of the practices of the occupying Power and the impact on the lives of the Palestinian people, resulting, at times, in death. In addition to the destruction of land and property, the wall shredded the Palestinian social fabric and caused thousands of Palestinians to join the ranks of the impoverished. He also condemned the settlements and the dangerous measures taken to limit the movements of the Palestinians, which also denied them their right to self-determination. He underscored the need for Israel to put an end to the occupation and its activities, which threatened the potential for a two-State solution.
Further, he said that Israeli settlements were a burden and prevented development in the Palestinian areas by depriving them of water and electricity resources. The settlements were also in violation of international and humanitarian law. Indeed, Israeli settlements were one of the main obstacles to negotiations between Palestine and Israel. The settlements would also have detrimental effects to Israel as well, and he urged Israel to dismantle them. In addition, the Palestinian economy must be revitalized, but that would only be possible if the checkpoints were dismantled and military operations were ended.
The Palestinian situation was at the heart of the Middle East conflict, and the region was in a decisive phase, he said, adding that, unless an agreed timetable was established, the entire region would fall into chaos, bloodshed and warfare. The forthcoming conference in Annapolis, Maryland was an opportunity that should be grasped to produce an agreement for a defined solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. All concerned parties should be present. If that opportunity was not seized, the future of the peace process might be jeopardized. Launching negotiations was not an end in itself, but achieving a peace acceptable to everyone was, he added.
YUN YONG IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the Middle East issue originated from the Israeli occupation of Arab Territories, which had resulted in depriving the Palestinian people of their right to return, as well as their right to work, to education and to medical treatment. The extension of Israeli settlements, the construction of the separation wall and the setting up of checkpoints by Israel had caused the “further destruction of the Palestinian Territory”. Israel had gone so far as to close all the crossing points to the Gaza Strip, blocking economic activities and restricting even the humanitarian activities of United Nations agencies in the area.
He said that the restoration of human rights, peace and security in the Middle East was not conceivable unless Israel ended its illegal acts. Yet, although a series of measures had been taken at the international level, they had yet to be translated into action. For its part, Israel had become ever more “undisguised” in challenging those measures because of attempts of “certain forces backing Israel politically, militarily and logistically”. The Middle East issue, including the Palestinian one, should be resolved fairly, as quickly as possible, in conformity with the relevant United Nations resolutions and international law. Israel should withdraw from all the Occupied Arab Territories and take full responsibility for the damages caused by its occupation of Arab Territories and its violations of human rights.
The international community should call into question the acts of those countries that connived at, and even backed, the Israeli territorial occupation and human rights violations for political purposes, he urged. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea wished to renew its solidarity with the Palestinian people in their just struggle to achieve national unity and regain their legitimate national rights, including the right to the independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
KHALID M. ALI ( Sudan) said the report drew a very bleak picture of the situation of the Palestinian people. Stressing the situation imposed on the Gaza Strip, he noted that Israel, the occupying Power, had declared it an “enemy entity”. In the West Bank, the Palestinian lands were being confiscated and Palestinian people were being forced to leave. The land there was also being affected by bypassing roads and construction of the separation wall. Despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and the destructive effect of the separation wall, the wall was still being built.
He said his country continued to call for respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and for their right to establish an independent State. It also called for Israel to honour its obligations under international law. He underlined the report’s description of the situation of Arab citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, and the effects on their lives of restricted water resources and landmines. He expressed the desire to extend the mandate of the Special Committee, stressing that the Palestinian people should be allowed to determine their own future. A just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine would be based on legitimacy within international law and the United Nations system, as well as on the Arab Peace Initiative. That would end the suffering of the Palestinian people and bring peace to the region. His delegation supported any efforts towards that goal.
HELENA MALCATA ( Portugal), on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the present opportunity for progress on Israel-Palestinian peace. She commended the efforts of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and encouraged them to take courageous steps in their political dialogue, in order to achieve concrete results that would lead to meaningful final status negotiations, along with their shared goal of a two-State solution. She expressed full support to the upcoming international meeting, as a crucial opportunity for regional and international partners to effectively support a comprehensive peace process.
To consolidate the progress achieved so far and to fulfil the potential of the current process, she stressed the need for the parties to desist from any action that threatened the viability of a just, lasting and comprehensive solution. She also underscored the need for them to enhance cooperation on the ground. Stopping all acts of violence and terror among the parties was of utmost importance for the peace process to succeed, and the European Union remained concerned by civilian casualties occurring during Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas. It also strongly condemned the firing of rockets by Palestinian militias into Israeli territory. While recognizing Israel’s right to self-defence, the Union called on Israel to exercise utmost restraint, underlining that no action should contradict international law.
Acknowledging the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the separation wall, she reiterated the Union’s demand that Israel stop and reverse the wall’s construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around Jerusalem, which diverged from the Armistice Line of 1949 and was contrary to the relevant international law provisions. Expressing concern about Israeli settlement activities in and around East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, she said that activities contrary to international law and to Israel’s commitments under the Road Map should be stopped. The European Union would not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by the parties, and was seriously concerned about the Israeli authorities’ intentions regarding the E1 area (of the Maale Adumim settlement). She called on Israel to desist from implementing its plans there.
The European Union remained concerned about the serious and violent events in Gaza and condemned them in the strongest terms, she said. It also reiterated its grave concern at the humanitarian situation there, and underlined the importance of uninterrupted emergency and humanitarian assistance, especially the continued provision of essential services. Recalling the importance of the full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access, she called on the parties to work urgently for reopening the Gaza crossings. She also urged the immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldier, and commended efforts by partners in the region for his release. She repeated the Union’s call for the immediate release of Palestinian legislators in Israeli custody.
Rights of Reply
The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, noted that, yesterday, Syria’s representative had compared Israel’s actions in terms of restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people to actions by the Nazis. He strongly suggested that that representative review the history of the Holocaust, which was laid out in the United Nations history of those dark times.
Referring to the right of reply of the Palestinian Observer yesterday regarding realities on the ground, he said he did not know what the term “reality” meant when such descriptions never once referenced Palestinian acts against Israel.
Responding to statements made about Israel’s labelling of Gaza as an “enemy entity”, he asked how else a territory that was controlled by a terrorist group that deliberately targeted and fired missiles on Israel and its citizens should be defined.
As long as one side to the conflict was of the opinion that all the virtue and righteousness belonged to it, and that all the evil belonged to the other side, progress in resolving that conflict would be all the more slow, he said. It was in that context that the mandate of the Special Committee should be reviewed, for the Special Committee made it that much harder for peace to be achieved.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria said that similarities between Nazi and Israeli practices were numerous. Isolating an area containing 1.5 million people and ending the supply of water, electricity and fuel to that area constituted a war crime, according to international law.
Action on Draft Resolution on Assistance in Mine Action
Concluding its discussion for today on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the Occupied Territories, the Committee turned to the issue of assistance in mine action.
After making a minor amendment to the text, the Committee Chairman, ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD ( Sudan), opened the floor to any States wishing to make a general statement.
The representative of the United States said he would join the consensus on the draft resolution on assistance in mine action (document A/C.4/62/L.6**), but noted that there were inconsistencies in the text regarding the use of the terms “anti-personnel mines” in some instances, and “mine” or “mines and explosive remnants of war” in others. That weakened the impact of the resolution, signalling that the use of only one category of mine should be curtailed, while declaring that funds should be provided for the clearance of all mines and explosive remnants of war.
He said that the United States, as the world’s largest mine action donor, did not discriminate between anti-personnel landmines and explosive remnants of war. All mines and explosive remnants of war that threatened civilians should be cleared; certainly, the United States did not want mine-affected countries to continue laying anti-vehicle mines, even if they stopped using anti-personnel landmines.
The United States believed in coordinated action to eliminate the effects of landmines, and was pleased with the addition of new language recognizing the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Mine Action Service and its coordinating role within the Organization, he said. So far, the United States’ cumulative contribution to mine action since 1993 stood at $1.2 billion. However, recognizing that resources were limited, a strategic framework must be constructed to sustain the efforts of countries affected by mines and explosive remnants of war, in order to encourage them to take national ownership of their programmes.
Following that statement, the Committee approved the draft resolution on assistance in mine action, as orally amended (document A/C.4/62/L.6**).
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Turkey said his country shared the vision of a world free of anti-personnel landmines, and was fully committed to fulfil its contractual obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Mine Ban Convention) and the Convention on the Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons). Turkey also welcomed and supported the efforts of the United Nations and its Members to strengthen mine action, and its delegation had joined the consensus on the draft resolution.
Yet, with respect to the last preambular paragraph stressing the pressing need to urge non-State actors to “halt immediately and unconditionally” new deployments of mines, he said that when engagement with non-State actors was contemplated, countries concerned should be informed and their consent should be sought, since the rights and obligations enshrined in the Mine Ban Convention and in the Nairobi Action Plan applied only to States parties. Turkey was also of the view that engaging with non-State actors in implementing that Convention should not serve the purposes of terrorist organizations. A clean line should be drawn between activities serving the interests of humanity and giving publicity and indirect credence to terrorist organizations. Finally, he underlined that it was incumbent on all Member States to take effective measures to prevent the transfer and use of mines by non-State actors and to make such transfers illegal.
* *** *For information media • not an official record