|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
321st Meeting (AM)
Secretary-General, Addressing Palestinian Rights Committee, Calls for Greater
Engagement by Quartet Mediators in Continuing Quest for Two-State Solution
Blockade on Gaza, Enclave’s Humanitarian Crisis,
Evictions in East Jerusalem Continue to Cause International Concern
The creation of a Palestinian State coexisting in peace and security alongside Israel required more engagement by mediators of a “revitalized” Middle East Quartet –- the United States, Russian Federation, European Union and the United Nations –- as well as the active contribution of the Palestinian Rights Committee, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
As the Committee –- known formally as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People –- held the first meeting of its 2010 session, the Secretary-General said that, in the absence of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, confidence in the peace process had diminished, tensions had risen in East Jerusalem, and people in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel continued to suffer violence. However, intensive efforts were under way to restart the talks, he said, voicing his support for United States-led efforts to resume meaningful negotiations on all final-status issues, including the security of Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees and Jerusalem.
Notwithstanding Israel’s decision to restrain settlement construction in the West Bank, he said, such activity -– and financial support for it –- continued, despite repeated calls for a halt to construction throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which was in violation of international law and in contravention of the Road Map. “This is in no one’s interest”, Mr. Ban added, emphasizing that settlement activity only undermined trust, appeared to prejudge the outcome of future permanent status talks and imperilled the basis for a two-State solution.
Noting that “worrisome” events in East Jerusalem had stoked tensions and threatened regional stability, he stressed that the international community did not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which remained part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. As for the highly sensitive question of Jerusalem, he said a way must be found for that city to emerge as the capital of two States living side by side in peace and security, with arrangements for its holy sites that would be acceptable to all.
Turning to Gaza, he said that a year after the end of hostilities there, neither the issues that had led to the conflict nor its aftermath had been fully addressed. Few key measures for stability outlined in Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) had been implemented. Both Israel and the Palestinian authorities must immediately conduct credible, domestic investigations into charges of human rights violations, he stressed, expressing concern about Gaza’s grave humanitarian situation. It was deeply regrettable that the United Nations proposal to kick-start civilian reconstruction had not been approved, he said, calling on Israel to end its blockade of the enclave and fully respect international law.
At the same time, the Secretary-General said he was greatly concerned about those in southern Israel who lived in fear of Palestinian rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Calling for a complete end to the attacks, he also reiterated his firm commitment to bringing an end to the occupation and the conflict through the creation of a Palestinian State, living side by side with Israel in peace and security, and through the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region.
Briefing the Committee on regional developments, Feda Abdelhady Nasser, Charge d’Affairs of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, remained critical and particularly dire in Gaza. Despite the fact that one year had passed since Israel’s military aggression against the enclave, its humanitarian, social, economic and psychological conditions remained grave. People in Gaza had been traumatized by brutal crimes, including war crimes, and by their inability to rebuild their lives due to the illegal blockade.
Indeed, the blockade prevented the reconstruction of homes, hospitals, schools and businesses, she continued. Economic recovery had been impossible and the precarious situation had only worsened with rampant unemployment. Health standards were declining rapidly, education standards were plummeting and civilian infrastructure was falling into further decay. The immediate remedy was well-known, she said, pressing Israel to abide by international humanitarian law.
At the same time, she said, Israel continued to build settlements on confiscated land, as well as its construction of the separation wall, in defiance of the 2004 advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice. East Jerusalem in particular remained the target of a deliberate policy to alter its demographic composition and distinctly Palestinian Arab character, in addition to efforts to sever it from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Israel had accelerated its attempts to consolidate its control over the city and create an overwhelming Israeli majority, notably through the destruction of Palestinian homes and the revocation of their residency rights, she said. In 2008, the Israeli authorities had revoked nearly 5,000 such residency rights, the highest number in any one-year period since the beginning of the occupation. Despite the Security Council’s numerous resolutions demanding an end to settlement construction, Israel continued its destructive colonization campaign.
She said that, while the Palestinian leadership had taken positive note of the denunciations of recent settlement construction by the United States and the European Union, words alone were not enough. Serious measures were needed to compel an end to Israel’s colonization of Palestinian lands. Peace talks could not resume as long as colonization continued, she emphasized, appealing to the global community, especially the Security Council, to implement the relevant resolutions. The Council’s 27 January debate on the Palestine question would afford another opportunity to call for collective action, she said, calling for the widest possible participation in that meeting to ensure that the issues of Jerusalem, Gaza and settlement of the question of Palestine remained a priority in the year ahead.
Committee Chairman Paul Badji ( Senegal) presented an overview of events since its last meeting, on 30 November, drawing attention first to the General Assembly’s strong support for the four draft resolutions submitted by the Committee on the question of Palestine. That support showed that an overwhelming majority of Member States wished to see a just and lasting settlement of the Palestine question.
He went on to state that on 15 December the Committee had expressed its utmost concern about the continuing illegal settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. On 17 December the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process had briefed the Security Council, and just yesterday, the Secretary-General had appointed Filippo Grandi as Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), replacing Karen AbuZayd. (See Press Release SG/A/1215)
Introducing the Committee’s draft programme of work, the Chairman said Section I summarized resolutions adopted during the General Assembly’s sixty-fourth session. Section II outlined developments on the ground, denouncing in particular, illegal Israeli policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including settlement construction, house demolitions and the eviction of Palestinian residents. Section III detailed priorities for the year ahead, including work to heighten awareness of the Palestinian question and activities to support the achievement of a two-State solution and help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Section IV described the planned activities of the Committee and the Division for Palestinian Rights.
Mr. Badji said the theme for next month’s International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace would be “The urgency of addressing the permanent status issues –- borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, water”. The Meeting, to be held in Malta, would provide a forum for exchanging views on the peace process and encourage dialogue aimed at creating a political climate conducive to the resumption of negotiations on permanent status issues.
Expanding on that, Committee Rapporteur Saviour F. Borg ( Malta) said the Meeting represented the body’s “revamped” objective of strengthening the role of parliamentarians and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace, as well as stability in the Mediterranean region. It also represented a “first” in that it followed the granting of observer status to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, a platform for regional diplomacy with its headquarters in Malta. Importantly, the Meeting would open a new chapter in the “chequered” history of the Committee and introduce a new opportunity for it to work with a regional organization seeking peace in the Mediterranean region.
Acting earlier on a proposal by María Rubiales de Chamorro (Nicaragua), the 23-member Committee unanimously re-elected Mr. Badji (Senegal) as its Chairman, Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) and Pedro Núñez Mosquera (Cuba) as Vice-Chairmen, and Mr. Borg (Malta) as Rapporteur. It also approved the draft programme of work for 2010 (document A/AC.183/2010/CRP.1) and the provisional programme for the International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, to be held in Qawra, Malta, on 12 and 13 February.
Also speaking today were representatives of Sierra Leone, Senegal, Cuba, Mali, Ecuador, Jordan, Egypt, Venezuela and Turkey.
A representative of the African Union also made a statement.
The Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.
* *** *For information media • not an official record