|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
330th Meeting (AM)
Secretary-General, in Palestinian Rights Committee, Says Israeli Settlements
Illegal, Hamper Efforts to Re-launch Negotiations, Prejudge Their Outcome
Says Palestinian Authority, with Strengthened Institutions, Deserves Recognition
As Dependable Partner; Palestine Observer Seeks Broad Global Support for Statehood
“As we enter a new year, I am very concerned at the lack of progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
As the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held the first meeting of its 2011 session, the Secretary-General said that he had repeatedly expressed his regret that Israel had not frozen settlement activities and had repeatedly stated his position that settlements prejudged the outcome of the permanent status negotiations and hampered efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. Deploring the recent demolition of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem and concerned at continued house demolitions and evictions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he called once again on Israel to freeze all settlement activities.
“We need to move beyond the current stalemate and return the parties to meaningful negotiations aimed at resolving all permanent status issues and achieving a historic agreement,” he said, noting that the Quartet target dates for reaching agreements were eight months away and that the Quartet and the Arab Peace Initiative had important roles to play in that regard.
He said the Palestinian people had the right to an independent and viable State of Palestine, living side-by-side with the Sate of Israel in peace and security. Israel had the legitimate right to exist in peace, within secure and internationally recognized borders, and to be fully integrated into the region. A way must be found for Jerusalem to emerge as the capital of two States, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all. “There is no place for irresponsible rhetoric that calls into question these fundamentals, seeks to de-legitimize the others’ heritage or incites hatred and violence,” he said.
The Palestinian Authority had made major strides in strengthening its institutions and deserved recognition as a dependable partner, he said. Encouraged by the World Bank’s assessment that the Authority was well-positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future, he called on donors to continue their support for the Palestinian State-building plan.
Turning to Gaza, he said that even though 2010 had seen reduced levels of violence, the recent escalation of rocket attacks by Palestinians and Israeli air strikes had the potential to spiral out of control. The shootings of unarmed Palestinians in the vicinity of the Gaza border were also unacceptable. He called on all parties to demonstrate responsibility, de-escalate tensions and fully ensure the protection of civilians. The provisions of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) should be fully respected. Although Israeli measures to ease the closure of Gaza were in the right direction, much more needed to be done to enable full-scale reconstruction and recovery.
Regrettably, no progress had been made towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation, he said. He also regretted that Israeli Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit was still in detention. The issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israel was also of critical importance. Release of prisoners by Israel, as called for by the Palestinian Authority, would serve as a significant confidence-building measure.
“I know we all share the hope that this year will see a decisive upsurge of efforts to bring an end to the conflict and to the 43 year-old occupation — through the creation of a State of Palestine, living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security, and through comprehensive peace in the region, consistent with Security Council resolutions, previous agreements, the Madrid framework, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative,” he said in conclusion, adding that the Committee could make a positive contribution to that mission.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said he was encouraged by the Secretary-General’s statement as well as by the Security Council meeting of 19 January, in which more than 40 speakers had agreed on the illegality of Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Territory. There was a global consensus that those activities were a major obstacle to negotiations. He thanked the more than 120 countries that had so far sponsored a draft resolution in that regard. He hoped the Council would adopt the text and that Israel would comply with it to make possible a return to negotiations.
He urged Quartet members at their upcoming meeting on 5 February to demonstrate decisive leadership so that an agreement could be reached on ending the occupation and establishing an independent State of Palestine, to enable Palestine to become a full Member of the Organization in September. The Palestinian leadership and people were working very hard to prepare for freedom and independence, and he hoped that that day was not far away.
Thanking the seven countries from the South American and the Caribbean region that had recognized the State of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders, he asked all to help in broadening the basis of recognition by States. So far, 107 countries had recognized Palestine, and he hoped that soon the threshold of a two-thirds majority of General Assembly members could be reached.
The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, was working hard on other fronts, including implementation of the Fayyad Plan to end occupation and build Palestine’s infrastructure by August. He hoped that the results of all those activities would converge by then, in order to produce an agreement on ending the occupation and on the independence of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as it capital.
Thanking the Government of Egypt for hosting the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine focusing on the plight of Palestinian political prisoners in Israel, he said the issue of Palestinian prisoners was the seventh final status issue. Peace was not possible without freeing all Palestinian prisoners. He announced that today, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails had started a hunger protest in connection with the death of one inmate and the worsening of their conditions.
Newly elected Committee Chairman Abdou Salam Diallo ( Senegal), speaking in his national capacity, said the peace process in the Middle East resembled the Sisyphus myth. The slow pace was contributing to a deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Territory. In East Jerusalem, the occupying Power had demolished a number of Palestinian homes and evicted the families living there. The decision by the Government of Israel to place the Tombs of the Patriarchs and of Rachel on the list of the national patrimony demonstrated Israel’s desire to wipe out the multireligious character of the city.
Concerned at Israel’s repeated violations of humanitarian law and frustrated by the deadlock of the peace negotiations, owing to Israel’s refusal to freeze settlement activities, he called on Israel to lift the Gaza blockade and to freeze all settlement construction. Force alone could not create right or law, or establish a fait accompli. The prospect of a normal life for all peoples of the region could only be provided through a peaceful, just and lasting settlement to the question of Palestine. He called on Committee members not to give in to discouragement or fatigue, but to continue working tirelessly towards the full implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
Mr. Diallo then presented an overview of events since the last meeting of the Committee on 29 November 2010, including the 9 December declaration by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that negotiations on permanent status issues would not be accepted as long as Israeli settlement construction continued. On 23 December, the Israeli Peace Now Movement had reported that Israeli settlement construction had witnessed a rapid increase and that Israel had started the construction of more than 1,700 units in several settlements.
He said that according to Israeli official sources, the year 2010 had seen the fewest militant attacks against Israel and the least number of Israeli casualties in a decade. Nine Israelis had been killed by armed Palestinians, down from 15 in 2009, and 150 rockets and 215 mortars had been launched. According to a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) report of 5 January, 107 Palestinians had been killed in 2010 and 400 Palestinians had been arrested. Meanwhile, the Israeli Government had approved 16,479 new homes in West Bank settlements, demolished 145 Palestinian-owned homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and had issued 1,334 demolition orders. On 9 January, Israel had demolished the historic Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem to build a complex of 20 luxury apartments for settlers.
He reported that, on 14 January, Guyana had become the seventh South American nation to recognize Palestinian statehood, following Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile.
At the outset of the meeting, the Committee, on the nomination of the representative of Mali and seconded by the representative of Cyprus, had elected Mr. Diallo, by acclamation, as Chairman, as well as Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) and Pédro Nuñez Mosquera (Cuba) as Vice-Chairman, and Saviour F. Borg (Malta) as Rapporteur.
The Committee also approved its programme of work for 2011 (document A/AC.183/2011/CRP.1). In introducing that programme, Chairman Diallo drew attention to the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, to be held on 7 and 8 February in Cairo. It would focus on Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israel—Palestinian Peace, followed by a civil society event in support of the Palestinian people, would be held in Uruguay at the end of March, and the United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process as well as the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People would be held some months following that, both tentatively in a European capital.
Also today, the Committee accredited four civil society organizations: “One Voice Movement” and “Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution”, both United States-based; “Sharek Youth Forum”, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; and the “Palestine Solidarity Campaign Thailand”.
* *** *For information media • not an official record