EMERGENCY SPECIAL SESSION CONSIDERS MECHANISM TO ENSURE ISR"L'S COMPLIANCE WITH GENEVA CONVENTION ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN WAR TIME

17 March 1998
GA/9399

EMERGENCY SPECIAL SESSION CONSIDERS MECHANISM TO ENSURE ISR"L'S COMPLIANCE WITH GENEVA CONVENTION ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN WAR TIME

17 March 1998

Press ReleaseGA/9399

EMERGENCY SPECIAL SESSION CONSIDERS MECHANISM TO ENSURE ISRAEL'S COMPLIANCE WITH GENEVA CONVENTION ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN WAR TIME

19980317 Draft Resolution Would Again Call For Meeting of Convention's High Contracting Parties

Israel, as occupying Power, had, for more than 30 years, committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war, and it was time to put an end to those destructive practices, the Observer for Palestine said this morning, as the General Assembly resumed its tenth emergency special session to consider illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.

The continuation of settlement activities by Israel represented a direct violation of the agreements which formed the framework of the Middle East peace process, he told the Assembly. Israel's view that the agreements concluded under that peace process allowed it to continue settlement activities was ludicrous. Such violations should be ended through the mechanism which had been recommended by the emergency special session, he said.

By the terms of a draft resolution before the special session, the Assembly would again demand the full cessation of such settlement activities, including its construction of a settlement in Jebel Abu Ghneim to the south of occupied East Jerusalem. It would demand that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention to the occupied territories and again recommend that steps be taken to hold a conference of its High Contracting Parties on measures to enforce the Convention in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem.

As a preliminary step, Switzerland, as depository of the Convention, would again be asked to convene a meeting of experts from the High Contracting Parties to prepare for the proposed conference. Citing that text, the representative of the United States said its adoption would complicate, rather than enhance, Middle East peace efforts. With the Secretary-General about to visit the Middle East, he questioned the wisdom of holding the emergency session and of the draft resolution. He said his Government supported a face-to-face dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian experts on important issues of mutual concern.

The representative of Israel said that, despite many real cases of aggression and occupation since 1949, only in the case of Israel had the General Assembly actually recommended the convening of the High Contracting

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Parties to the Geneva Convention. However, while Israel had repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to its agreements under the peace process, the Palestinian Authority was doing nothing to fulfil its part. Its action in addressing threats against Israel's security had not been constant, but rather had been held back as a negotiating card. Israel was willing to take risks for peace, but sought to receive something in return, he said.

Introducing the draft resolution, the representative of Egypt said that all States, except Israel, acknowledged the applicability of the Geneva Convention to the occupied territories. Israel should refrain from confiscating land it had occupied, from undertaking construction or establishing settlements on them. The Assembly had met today to reaffirm what it decided during its last resumed session in November, aimed at ensuring Israel's respect for the Convention.

Statement were also made by the representatives of Cuba, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Colombia, Bangladesh, Russian Federation, Singapore, Pakistan, United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Malaysia and Iran.

Also this morning, the President of the Assembly announced that 34 Member States were in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions under the terms of Article 19 of the Charter, which would result in the suspension of their voting rights.

The Assembly will meet again at 4 p.m. today to continue its tenth emergency special session.

Assembly Work Programme

The Assembly this morning resumed its tenth emergency special session which is considering "Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian Territory". It had before it a draft resolution (document A/ES-10/L.4/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would reiterate all the demands it made in three earlier resolutions adopted during the emergency special session (resolutions ES-10/2, ES-10/3 and ES-10/4).

In those texts, the Assembly demanded the immediate and full cessation of the construction by Israel of a settlement in Jebel Abu Ghneim to the south of occupied East Jerusalem, and of all other Israeli settlement activities, as well as of all illegal measures and actions in Jerusalem. It also demanded that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war to all the territories occupied since 1967, and that it comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

By other terms of those resolutions, the Assembly demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, immediately cease and reverse all actions taken illegally, in contravention of international law, against Palestinian Jerusalemites. It also demanded that Israel make available to Member States information about goods produced or manufactured in the illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.

By today's draft, the Assembly would reiterate its condemnation of Israel's failure to comply with the provisions of those resolutions and stress the necessity of their full and immediate implementation. It would reiterate once again its recommendation to the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to convene a conference on measures to enforce the Convention in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. It would also reiterate its recommendation to the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the depository of the Convention, to undertake the necessary preparatory steps to that end, including the convening of a meeting of experts.

Aware that its earlier recommendations for such an expert meeting of the High Contracting Parties to be held "not later than the end of February 1988" was not fulfilled, the Assembly would extend that target date until the end of April. It would also reiterate its request to the Swiss Government to invite the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to participate in the recommended conference, as well as in any preparations for it. The Assembly would also reiterate its decision that, in case of continued lack of compliance by Israel with its earlier resolutions, it would reconsider the situation with a view to making further appropriate recommendations to Member States.

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Finally, the Assembly would decide to adjourn the tenth emergency special session temporarily, authorizing the Assembly President to resume its meetings upon request from Member States.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam and Yemen.

Statements

HENNADIY UDOVENKO (Ukraine), President of the Assembly, drew attention to developments since the last meeting of the emergency special session, particularly the holding of the Conference in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People from 24 to 25 February in Brussels. The Conference had emphasized the permanent responsibility of the United Nations on the question of Palestine until it was resolved in conformity with the relevant United Nations resolutions. The Conference demonstrated the international community's continued support for the Middle East peace process and its determination to set the peace process back on track.

M. NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said that Member States were obliged to reaffirm their commitment to "uniting for peace" because Israel continued to violate the resolutions of the emergency special session, as well as relevant Security Council resolutions. In addition, the mechanism for ensuring respect for the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war, through the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties on measures to enforce the Convention in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, had not been implemented. A meeting of experts of the High Contracting Parties which should have preceded the conference, to be convened no later than the end of February, had not taken place.

The adoption of a new resolutions was therefore required to reaffirm the recommendations of previous resolutions, while extending the target date for the expert meeting until the end of April, he said. It was essential that there be respect and serious follow-up to the resolutions adopted by the emergency special session.

He said that Palestine continued to seek the convening of the expert meeting within the time-frame to be stated in the resolution and could not bargain on that point. However, it did not object to any contacts or consultations prior to the expert meeting which might contribute to its success. Such consultative meetings should be held in the framework of the implementation of the Assembly's recommendations regarding the expert meeting and be held prior to the recommended date. They should not constitute a meeting of experts or undermine the actual meeting. None had the right to

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ignore the will of the overwhelming majority of the High Contracting Parties, as expressed in the resolutions of the emergency special session and in the inquiries conducted by Switzerland in its capacity as the depository of the Geneva Conventions.

Israel, as the occupying Power, had for more than 30 years committed grave breaches of the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war, he said. It has destroyed the property of Palestinians, exploited their natural resources and confiscated private, communal and public land. The Israeli Government had also transferred around 350,000 civilians to the occupied territories and established a separate settlement for them. It was time to put an end to those destructive practices through the mechanism recommended by the emergency special session.

Israel has stated that the agreements concluded within the framework of the Middle East peace process allowed it to continue its settlement activities, he said. Nothing could be more ludicrous. The agreements could not and did not negate or supersede international law. They complemented them. The agreements reached called for mutual recognition of the legitimate and political rights of both sides. The continuation of settlement activities represented a direct violation of the basic components and concepts of the agreements, particularly with respect to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority and the elected Council. The agreements provided for the postponement of negotiations on the fate of the settlements, among other issues, to the final status negotiations.

Despite those agreements, Israel continued its settlement activities, he said. The Government also continued its attempts to change the legal status and demographic composition of Jerusalem. It continued deporting Palestinian Jerusalemites from the city and isolating the city from the rest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli Government's ideological position was in direct contradiction to the essence and texts of the agreements reached. That had lead to the systematic and continuous violations of those agreements, with the purpose of casting them aside and imposing a new framework on the Palestinian people.

He called upon the international community, and particularly the co- sponsors of the peace process, to intensify their efforts to save the peace process. He also called upon them to impose respect for and compliance with the agreements already reached before it was too late. In the coming days, the Secretary-General would visit the Middle East. It was hoped that his visit would have a positive effect on the situation.

DORE GOLD (Israel) said that, despite the many real cases of aggression and actual occupation since 1949, the one case for which the General Assembly had actually recommended the convening of the High Contracting Parties to the

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Fourth Geneva Convention was the case of Israel. Ironically, Israel was the one State which had actually implemented, in practice, the provisions of the Convention with respect to occupied territory. In contrast to the many real cases of aggression, Israel's position in the West Bank and Gaza Strip stemmed from a defensive war in 1967, during which Israel was encircled by a coalition of armies that had massed their armoured and mechanized forces along three of its borders. They had requested the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeeping forces and cut off Israel's southern port of Eilat with a military blockade.

Moreover, since the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, Israel had been engaged in negotiations which would ultimately determine the status of those territories, he said. Under the Oslo Accords, 97 per cent of the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip were already under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and, hence, no longer under the administration of the Israeli Defence Forces. Israel had implemented and would continue to implement its obligations under the Oslo Accords.

The commitment of the Government of Israel to that process had been repeatedly proven by concessions made over the past 18 months, he went on to say. Israel had redeployed from Hebron, freed prisoners, transferred significant funds to the Palestinian Authority, and lifted its closures, more than doubling the number of Palestinian workers benefiting from the Israeli economy.

Nevertheless, there were issues that Israel could not implement by itself, he said. It needed to reach agreement with the Palestinian Authority on a protocol to open the Gaza Airport and the Karni Industrial Park. The latter could supply employment to 20,000 Palestinian workers. It was Israel's firm belief that negotiations on those two matters could be completed in a matter of days. Those interim measures, along with resumption of permanent status negotiations, would restore needed hope and momentum to the Middle East peace process.

However, the Palestinian Authority had no interest in completing those interim protocols and bringing benefit to the Palestinians, he said. Instead, it had chosen a deliberate strategy of constant crisis. The underlying assumption of its strategy was that, under conditions of diplomatic impasse, international political pressure would continue to build on the State of Israel and not upon itself.

Such pressure was intended to force Israel to make concessions that would go beyond the Oslo agreements, such as a unilateral Israeli settlement freeze -- while Palestinian villages expanded -- and further sizeable redeployments, he said. At the same time, it sought to preclude the need for Palestinian Authority to comply with commitments under the Oslo agreements, particularly in the area of security. What was being sought through the

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mechanism of international pressure was not land for peace, but land for nothing.

He said that, while Israel was fulfilling its part under the Oslo agreements, and particularly under the post-Hebron "Note for the Record", the Palestinian Authority was doing nothing to fulfil its part. Hamas continued in an unimpeded way to expand its organizational network for military operations against Israel. New bomb factories were being created under the area of jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and were only dismantled in exceptional circumstances after strong Israeli protests. Palestinian security actions against those threats had not been constant, but rather had been held back as a negotiating card to be offered only if Israel make further concessions.

Meanwhile, the murderers of Israelis were, in the best of cases, "under dubious detention in Jericho and in other Palestinian cities", he went on to say. In the worst cases, they had actually been drafted into the Palestinian security services and continued to engage in terrorist operations. Israel was willing to take risks for peace, but seeks to receive something in return. The United Nations could give a powerful push for peace if it insisted that the parties resolve their differences among themselves. If it engaged in singling out Israel alone in the entire international community, as in the proposed resolution, it was damaging both the peace process and the entire United Nations system.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba), Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said it had been three months since the General Assembly overwhelmingly concluded that the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations would lead to serious consequences. The situation remained extremely fragile and volatile. It was common knowledge that 1997 had been largely wasted from the standpoint of peace negotiations because of the policies of the Israeli authorities. Its promising start had been quickly negated by Israel's actions.

The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, continued to be bleak and disturbing, he said. The Palestinian Rights Committee had, on a number of occasions, drawn the attention of the international community to the alarming deterioration of the situation, particularly on the question of Israeli settlement activities, the prolonged blockades, and the exacerbation of violence and tension. The settlement activities continued, and there were reports of the expansion of the existing settlements, construction of bypass roads linking the settlements, setting up by settlers of mobile homes on Palestinian land, and the denial of residency rights to Palestinian Jerusalemites. Perhaps most worrying were the declarations of intent by Israeli government officials regarding plans for the construction of new settlements.

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Last week, news of the most recent increase in tensions in the West Bank in the vicinity of Hebron had been received with great concern and dismay, he said. The several days of violent confrontations in the city and other parts of the West Bank followed the killing of three Palestinians by Israeli border troops earlier last week. To date, there had been dozens of Palestinians injured, including children. As had happened many times before, armed settlers had again been involved in the shootings.

The situation in the occupied territory, including Jerusalem, remained tense and carried a potential for renewed violence, he said. The Committee, therefore, wished to reaffirm the urgency of impressing on the Government of Israel the need to abide by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the principles of international humanitarian law. As a Member of the United Nations, Israel was also duty-bound to respect and uphold the principles enshrined in the Organization's Charter, as well as those contained in the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.

MOHAMMAD J. AL-SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said the recent events in the Middle East clearly demonstrated Israel's refusal to apply the legal obligations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in all the occupied territories. It was obvious that Israel did not respect its obligations under international legal instruments. The Assembly should decide to convene the expert meeting of the High Contracting Parties to ensure that Israel would respect its obligations under the Convention. Switzerland should take the necessary steps for the holding of that expert meetings.

He expressed concern that the delay in the implementation of Assembly resolutions could be seen as encouraging Israel to pursues its punishing policies in the occupied territories, which included the demolition of houses, deportation of citizens and confiscation of land. Those actions violated rules of international human rights law and embodied Israel's avoidance of its obligations. Israel continued to assert that the issue of security justified its actions, but that excuse concealed its true reason, which was the pursuit of deliberate expansionist objectives.

The United Arab Emirates condemned all such Israel practices and its unwarranted violations which ran counter to the fundamental rules of international human rights principles, he said. The United Nations must discharge its legal responsibility to address the question of Palestine. He called on all the actors in the peace process to make further efforts to bring pressure to bear on Israel so that it might comply with its obligations. He also called for the full implementation of all relevant Assembly resolutions.

A lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East could not be realized in the face of Israel's continued campaign to build settlements and its violations of the peace agreements, he said. The international community

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must act to deter those practices. The United Arab Emirates appealed to all member of the international community, and particularly the donor countries, to extend technical and humanitarian support to the Palestinian people to help them improve their living conditions. ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that resolutions calling for an end to illegal actions, including the building and expansion of settlements in the occupied territories, had gone unheeded by the occupying Power, Israel. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which aims at protecting civilians in time of war and preventing an occupying Power from settling its own people in occupied territory, undoubtedly applied to Israel.

The failure of the international community to take firm action in the face of Israel's illegal activities in the occupied territories could be misconstrued as approval, he said. The time had come for the international position to change from one of mere verbal condemnation to action that would guarantee compliance with international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions. The recent killing of three Palestinian workers made it imperative that the international community take a strong stand.

ALVARO FORERO (Colombia) said the international community should ensure that no effort was spared to find a path to peace in the Middle East. The international community could not comply with that obligation without full respect for international humanitarian law and for General Assembly resolutions. Israel's decision to continue its settlement policies in the occupied territories was a perversion of the spirit of the Oslo agreements and eroded the environment of cooperation. Out of that situation arose the need for the Assembly to find a way to protect the valuable gains achieved in the Middle East peace process. The most urgent goal was the protection of international law in the occupied territories. Therefore, the High Contracting Parties should convene a meeting to ensure compliance with the Geneva Convention.

A preliminary meeting of experts would be a positive step in ensuring that the conference of the High Contracting Parties would be a success, he said. Initiatives were needed to reactivate the peace process, which was now dangerously stalled. Colombia supported the draft resolution currently before the Assembly. It represented an effort to make use of available tools to protect international humanitarian law. ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said it was totally unacceptable that a single State should continue to defy the international community and violate international law and treaty obligations. The international community could not stand idly by in the face of such blatant violations by Israel of the decisions taken by the general Assembly. That concern had also been voiced at meetings of the Arab Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the "Group of 77" developing countries during the regular session of the current General Assembly.

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Bangladesh condemned Israel's policy of systematically violating international humanitarian law and the fundamental freedoms and basic human rights in the occupied territories, he said. The international community had a responsibility to recall Israel's obligation under the Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions to guarantee the basic human rights of the people under its occupation, and to ensure that those rights were respected. For the people under Israeli occupation, the crucial issues related to maintaining personal dignity, restoration of rights and property, and autonomy in decision making.

He said his country disagreed with arguments in favour of dissociating the Security Council and the General Assembly from the peace process -- a process which rested basically on Council and Assembly resolutions. The United Nations had an abiding responsibility for resolution of the problems in the Middle East. The establishment of a sovereign, independent state of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital remained at the core of that situation.

SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said his Government called on all the parties involved in the Middle East peace process to avoid any action that could lead to further bloodshed. The key to moving the peace process ahead was full compliance by all the parties with all prior agreements and obligations. The Russian Federation noted the efforts of the Government of Switzerland to find a format agreeable to all parties for the holding of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. The holding of a preliminary meeting of experts must be preceded by full cooperation by all parties and thorough preparations. The Russian Federation would remain a partner in the Middle East peace process.

KWOK FOOK SENG (Singapore) recalled that in 1997 the General Assembly held four resumed sessions of the tenth emergency special session to consider the situation in the occupied territories. It was regrettable that in the four months since the most recent last resumed session, little progress had been made. The peace process was the only path to lasting security for the Palestinians, Israelis and neighbouring countries. Singapore was committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region, based on United Nations resolutions and on international law. It would continue to support efforts to bring about the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.

He stressed the importance of full and immediate implementation of all the relevant General Assembly resolutions. Singapore supported extending the target date for convening the meeting of experts of the High Contracting Parties until the end of April. The Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention, should convene that meeting of experts. The High Contracting Parties were urged to convene a conference on measures to enforce the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.

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AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan) said that his Government, as a signatory of the Geneva Convention, supported the convening of the High Contracting Parties as soon as possible, as well as the recommendation in the current resolution to extend the target date for convening the meeting of experts until the end of April. Israel, in flagrant violation of the provisions of the Convention, had pursued its reprehensible policy of building new settlements in Jebel Abu Ghneim in the south of occupied East Jerusalem. Those measures, aimed at changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, had no legal validity and must be rescinded. Pakistan deplored all such acts.

He said that Pakistan had steadfastly supported the just struggle for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It had consistently stated that Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) continued to provide a viable and just framework for a durable and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The Government and people of Pakistan believed that Al-Quds Al-Sharif, occupied by Israel since 1967, was the core issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict and remained central to any comprehensive settlement. No lasting peace would be possible in the region without the return of Al-Quds and all the occupied territories to the Palestinian authorities.

Sir JOHN WESTON (United Kingdom) spoke on behalf of the European Union and the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Iceland and Liechtenstein. He said the Union deplored Israel's failure to respond to the appeals of the General Assembly and the international community to cease construction at Jebel Abu Ghneim/Har Homa in the occupied West Bank. Those activities were contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war. The Union called on Israel to recognize that the Convention applied, de facto and de jure, to those territories and to comply with its provisions.

The mandate of the proposed expert meeting should be to follow up on the draft resolution before the Assembly, he said. It should aim to make recommendations on dates, locations and participants, and it should commission any necessary reports. The meeting should also discuss the situation in the occupied territories relative to the Geneva Convention, as well as the political and legal implications of the conference, taking into account the obligations of Israel and other States parties to the Convention. In addition, the meeting should take place in Geneva on an informal basis. Participants should include expert level representatives of the High Contracting Parties, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

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MAGED A. ABDEL AZIZ (Egypt) introduced the draft resolution. He said that all States, with the exception of Israel, acknowledged the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories. Israel should refrain from confiscating land it had occupied or from undertaking construction thereon or establishing settlements therein. Such actions signalled Israel's total disregard for international law, as well as for all peace agreements to which it had agreed. The Assembly met today to reaffirm what it had decided during its last resumed session in November, he said. That included the means of convening a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to ensure that Israel respected the articles of the Convention. Egypt still looked forward to intensified efforts that would lead to respect for the Assembly's earlier resolutions on the subject, including its call for the holding of the expert meeting. All States parties should prepare for the holding of such a meeting and should undertake their collective responsibility. No High Contracting Party should be allowed to absolve itself of breaches referred to in the Convention.

He said that Egypt regretted the present deterioration in the peace process, for which Israel was fully responsible. Its settlement policy was a blatant challenge to international rules and a mockery of will of the international community. Egypt called on all Member States to act in solidarity and cooperation and implement the previous Assembly resolutions, in order to force Israel to end its illegal settlement practices.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said it had often been argued by some that the various resolutions tabled in the General Assembly and the Security Council had not advanced the peace process, and that they had made the task of rebuilding confidence and of reactivating a productive negotiating process more difficult. The truth was that, given the intransigent attitude of Israel, which ignored all international appeals and pressed ahead with its controversial settlement activities, Palestine had no recourse but to continue to bring the issue to the attention of the international community.

Ultimately, a final solution would have to satisfy not only the security interests of Israel, but also the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Palestinian people, he said. What was needed, therefore, was a sober assessment by Israel of its current policies, which had not worked and would not usher in the peace and security for which they had obviously, but mistakenly, been designed. If it was sincere in its desire to live peacefully with its Arab neighbours, Israel would have to live up to all its treaty commitments and eschew its current policies in favour of cooperation, collaboration and friendship with the Palestinians. He said Malaysia believed that the major Powers and the friends of Israel could and should continue to play a constructive role. He called upon them, particularly the main sponsors of the Middle East peace process, to

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exert their influence and use their leverage to move the process forward. In that regard, Malaysia welcomed the proposed visit by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, in his capacity as President of the European Community, to the Palestinian occupied territories, including Jebel Abu Ghneim, to look at the objective realities on the ground.

BILL RICHARDSON (United States) said his Government opposed the draft resolution calling on Switzerland to convene experts to prepare for a meeting of the Geneva Convention's High Contracting Parties to enforce the Convention in the occupied territories. It was unreasonable to ask the Government of Switzerland, a non-Member observer State, to respond to a non-binding Assembly resolution. The draft resolution represented another step towards politicizing the Fourth Geneva Convention.

After consultations with the international community, the Swiss authorities had proposed a meeting of Palestinian and Israeli experts under the auspices of the ICRC, he said. That proposal was wise, fair and balanced. The United States understood that both sites had indicated that they would attend an expert meeting as proposed. The Assembly would be more effective if it simply endorsed the Swiss efforts to convene Palestinian and Israel experts, but the draft resolution makes no mention of those efforts. Instead, it implicitly criticizes Switzerland.

Adoption of the draft resolution would complicate, not enhance, Middle East peace efforts, he said. With the Secretary-General about to visit the Middle East, the United States questioned the wisdom of holding the emergency special session and of introducing the current draft resolution. His Government supported a face-to-face dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian experts on important issues of mutual concern. Such a dialogue could contribute usefully to the peace process and possibly bring tangible benefits to the peoples of the region. The United States would vote against the draft resolution and strongly urged other Member States to do the same.

HADI NEJAD-HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said the grave situation in the Middle East was a direct and inevitable consequence of Israel's unlawful policies and brutal practices. The international community could not be indifferent to the dangerous and devastating backlash that such practices would unleash. The Assembly should, therefore, address the issue.

One year after adoption of the first resolution of the emergency special session, the Assembly should now pursue the objectives of its previous resolutions with renewed determination. A meeting of experts of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention should be held by the end of April, as recommended in the draft resolution. A conference of the High Contracting Parties could hopefully contribute to the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

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Israel's settlement policies clearly contravened the rules of international law, he said. They had also exacerbated the situation in the region, which had been engulfed in a whirlpool of conflict, tension and instability. The Organization of the Islamic Conference had consistently called upon the international community to renounce unlawful Israeli policies and to restore the rights of the Palestinian people. Iran called upon the Assembly to take a firm stand against the atrocities committed by Israel in the occupied territories. The present calamity would not exist if the international community had pressured Israel to respect international principles through the implementation of previous resolutions.

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For information media. Not an official record.