ISR"L'S SETTLEMENT POLICY MAJOR OBSTACLE TO MIDDLE EAST PEACE DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE TOLD

18 November 1998
GA/SPD/152

ISR"L'S SETTLEMENT POLICY MAJOR OBSTACLE TO MIDDLE EAST PEACE DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE TOLD

18 November 1998


Press Release
GA/SPD/152


ISRAEL'S SETTLEMENT POLICY MAJOR OBSTACLE TO MIDDLE EAST PEACE DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE TOLD

19981118 Speakers Say Policy Undermines Recent Wye River Agreement; Committee Takes Up Report of Special Committee Investigating Israeli Practices

Israel's policy of settlement construction in the occupied territories constituted a major obstacle to the Middle East peace process, several speakers told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning, as it began consideration of the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

The representative of Bangladesh said that the hope generated by the signing of the Wye River Agreement had been marred by the murky settlement policy of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, which had always been a source of tension. Instead of freezing settlement activities, Israel had gone ahead with the building of a new settlement at Jabal Abu-Ghneim. Completion of that settlement would fully encircle East Jerusalem with settlement chains and eventually significantly affect the demography of the city, by creating a further Jewish majority.

Malaysia's representative said Israel had continued to establish new settlements while expanding existing ones. Those settlements were clearly aimed at effectively altering the demographic character of certain areas in the occupied territories in favour of the Jewish population, particularly in East Jerusalem. Furthermore, such activities represented a clear attempt to prejudge or pre-empt issues reserved for permanent status negotiations. The statement by the Israeli Prime Minister on 12 November 1998 regarding the establishment of a new Jewish settlement at Jabal Abu-Ghneim, which raised questions about Israel's sincerity, was unacceptable.

The representative of Egypt said his country was deeply concerned and disturbed by the Israeli Government's invitation for international construction bids in Jabal Abu-Ghneim to the south of East Jerusalem. The policy of Israeli settlement was at the forefront of practices that posed a clear and real threat to the future of the peace process. The implementation of the 21 June decision to extend the municipal boundaries of the city of

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Jerusalem to include Israeli settlements could change the demographic structure of Jerusalem to the detriment of its Palestinian populace.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Austria (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Brunei Darussalam, United Arab Emirates and Oman. The representative of Sri Lanka, as Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, introduced that body's report.

Also this morning, the Fourth Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution concerning the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Guam, by which the General Assembly would request the administering Power to cooperate in establishing programmes specifically intended to promote the sustainable development of economic activities and enterprises, noting the special role of the Chamorran people in Guam's development.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 11 a.m. Thursday, 19 November, to continue its discusssion on Israeli practices.

Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to begin considering the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/53/661), along with several periodic reports issued throughout 1997 (document A/53/136 and Add.1). The Committee is also expected to take action on a draft resolution on the question of Guam.

The Committee has before it five related draft resolutions on the work of the Special Committee, the applicability of the 1949 Geneva Convention, Israeli settlements, Israeli practices and the occupied Syrian Golan.

By the draft resolution on the work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/C.4/53/L.16), the Assembly would express concern about the recent deterioration in the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, as a result of Israeli practices and measures and the impasse facing the Middle East peace process. It would demand that Israel cooperate with the Special Committee in implementing its mandate. It would also deplore those policies and practices of Israel which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, as reflected in the reports of the Special Committee covering the reporting period.

Also by that text, the Assembly would request the Special Committee to submit regularly to the Secretary-General periodic reports on the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. The Special Committee would be further requested to continue to investigate the treatment of prisoners in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

The draft is sponsored by Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine.

Under a draft on applicability of the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (document A/C.4/53/L.17), the Assembly would reaffirm that the Geneva Convention is applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The Assembly would demand that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, and that it comply scrupulously with the provisions of the Convention.

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By further terms of that text, the Assembly would reiterate the need for speedy implementation of the recommendations contained in its resolutions ES-10/3, ES-10/4 and ES-10/5 with regard to the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention on measures to enforce the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect in accordance with common article 1. The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its fifty-fourth session on the implementation of the resolution.

That draft is sponsored by Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine.

By a draft on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (document A/C.4/53/L.18), the Assembly would demand the cessation of the construction of the new settlement in Jabal Abu-Ghneim and of all Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. It would reaffirm that Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem and in the occupied Syrian Golan, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development.

Also by the text, the Assembly would stress the need for full implementation of Security Council resolution 904 (1994) in which, among other things, the Council called upon Israel, the occupying Power, to continue to take and implement measures, including, among other things, confiscation of arms, with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers, and called for the measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians in the occupied territory.

That draft is sponsored by Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine.

By a text on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem (document A/C.4/53/L.19), the Assembly would demand that Israel, the occupying Power, cease all practices and actions which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people. It would stress the need to preserve the territorial integrity of all the occupied Palestinian territory and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods within the Palestinian territory, including the removal of restrictions on movement into and from East Jerusalem, and the freedom of movement to and from the outside world.

Also by the draft, the Assembly would determine that all measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, in violation of the relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of

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War, of 12 August 1949, and contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, are illegal and have no validity and that such measures should cease immediately.

By further terms of that draft, the Assembly would call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to accelerate the release of all remaining Palestinians arbitrarily detained or imprisoned, in line with agreements reached. It would call for complete respect by Israel, the occupying Power, of all fundamental freedoms of the Palestinian people, pending the extension of the self- government arrangements to the rest of the territory.

That draft is sponsored by Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine.

By a draft resolution on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/C.4/53/L.20), the Assembly would call upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to comply with the relevant resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981), in which the Council, among other things, decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect, and demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision.

Further, the Assembly would also call upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and, in particular, to desist from the establishment of settlements. It would determine that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel that purport to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan are null and void, constitute a flagrant violation of international law and of the 1949 Geneva Convention and have no legal effect.

The draft is sponsored by Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine.

The report of the Special Committee describes its work in 1998, including the holding of sessions and the gathering of information in Geneva, Cairo, Amman, Damascus and New York. The materials and testimony used to prepare the report are included in Annex II. The Committee -- using the testimony of persons from the occupied territories, newspaper reports and written material supplied by the Governments of Syria and Jordan -- addresses the human rights situation of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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Evidence received by the Special Committee showed that restrictions with respect to land, housing and water in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem severely affected the quality of life. It was estimated that more than 74 per cent of the land in the West Bank and some 40 per cent of land in the Gaza Strip had been confiscated by Israel since 1967. Lands confiscated have been used for, among other things, the building of new settlements. Palestinian-owned land confiscated in East Jerusalem is in the heart of the part of the Old City exclusively inhabited by Arabs. Those confiscations were believed to be aimed at reaffirming Israeli sovereignty over all parts of the city.

According to the report, in August 1996 the Israeli Government officially lifted the freeze on the building of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and in February 1997 authorized the building of a new settlement, to be named Har Homa, in Jabal Abu-Ghneim, in East Jerusalem, with construction beginning on 18 March 1997. Har Homa was to constitute the last link in the chain of settlements completely encircling Arab-populated East Jerusalem. The Secretary-General stated that, demographically, the establishment of the settlement would have a significant effect on further advancing the forced alteration of the religious and ethnic composition of occupied East Jerusalem. He further indicated that, economically, the establishment of a settlement on the site was expected to have damaging effects on an already devastated Palestinian economy in the occupied territories.

According to the report, no new structural plans had been established for zones inhabited by Palestinians, although the number of inhabitants had risen sharply. As an example, the city of Nablus had 30,000 inhabitants in 1944 and now has 108,000. The housing shortage was particularly acute in East Jerusalem. While there was no Jewish population in that part of the city in 1967, there were now about 160,000 Jews in East Jerusalem and Arabs constituted a minority in the city. Some 34 per cent of East Jerusalem had been completely annexed. Israel controls the principal aquifer under the West Bank, as well as most of the water sources supplying Palestinians in Gaza. In addition, restrictions on the freedom of movements of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are administered by way of passports, identity cards, travel permits and closures.

The report further states that Israelis and settlers had unlimited access to water all year round, at prices below those paid by Palestinians. Settlers have unlimited supplies of water and are estimated to consume five times as much as Palestinians. Many maintain swimming pools, even at times when Palestinians faced severe water shortages. It was estimated that the 3,000 to 4,000 settlers living in the Gaza Strip used 75 per cent of the available ground water, while the approximately 1 million Palestinians used less than 25 per cent. The high level of contamination and salinity of the water in Gaza also gave rise to water-borne diseases.

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According to the report, another area of concern to the Committee involved the interrogation procedures used by Israel's General Security Service. The Service is permitted to conduct interrogations under government guidelines, which allow for the use of moderate physical pressure. Those guidelines were deemed completely unacceptable by the Committee against Torture. Since October 1994, the Service had been authorized to apply special measures relating to physical pressure on Palestinian detainees, which are believed to amount to aggravated forms of torture. Methods of interrogation used by the Service included suspension with hands tied behind the back, hooding, sleep and food deprivation, position abuse, exposure to very loud music, very bright light and extremes of heat and cold, as well as violent shaking. Violent shaking can cause permanent incapacitation or death through brain haemorrhaging, but did not leave any visible traces on the body.

It has been estimated that some 1,000 to 1,500 Palestinians are interrogated by the Israeli intelligence every year and that 85 per cent of them are subjected to torture, the report states. One former administrative detainee told the Special Committee that he had been questioned up to eight times a day over a period of 60 to 70 days. He had been deprived of sleep for 14 consecutive days. In addition, he had spent four days on a small stool and had been suspended for three or four days, which he described as worse than beating. The Committee against Torture deemed that such interrogation methods constituted breaches of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, which Israel had ratified in 1991.

The report went on to note that the Israeli authorities made extensive use of administrative detention, without charges or trial, of Palestinians suspected of being linked to security-related offences and matters. Administrative detainees were denied due process of law. Some Palestinians have been held in administrative detention for several years. Witnesses testifying before the Special Committee emphasized the arbitrariness of administrative detention.

Serious economic and social problems exist in the occupied territories as well, according to the report. The Special Committee was told by witnesses that employment opportunities in Gaza were currently nil and the economic situation was very bad. Israel was deemed directly responsible for the situation, which had led to serious social polarization between the rich and poor in the occupied Palestinian territories. The borders were closed and all goods coming in and out of the Gaza Strip had to transit through Israel. Such perishable produce as vegetables and flowers were particularly affected, since they were allowed to wilt or spoil on the pretext of security checks and in view of the fact that Gaza still had no seaport or airport.

The report's findings in regard to the Syrian Golan were also addressed. The Golan was occupied by Israel in 1967 and annexed in 1981. That decision had not been recognized by the international community and, in particular, the

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United Nations. Also, the population of the Golan had opposed Israeli moves to impose its law, jurisdiction and administration. The Golan was important to Israel because of its strategic position with regard to Syria, its vast water resources and prime agricultural land. There were numerous settlements in the Golan, the largest one being Katzrin, which was being expanded, as were a number of others, especially since the current Israeli Government took office in 1996.

The periodic report of the Special Committee (document A/53/136 and Add.1) summarizes information on reported violations, based on various sources quoted in the Israeli press and in the Arab-language newspapers published in the occupied territories between 30 August and 31 December 1997.

In the report, the Special Committee describes in detail general developments in the occupied territories, including the killing of Palestinians by Israeli troops or civilians; incidents and deaths resulting from the occupation; and the administration of justice as it applies to the Palestinian and Israeli populations. It also addresses the treatment of civilians, including harassment and physical ill-treatment; and collective punishment, such as the imposition of curfew.

Also contained in the report is information on the economic and social situation in the occupied territories and the situation of children. In addition, the report reviews measures affecting the fundamental freedoms of movement, education, religion and expression, as well as listing settler activities affecting the civilian population. The report also includes the treatment of detainees, annexation and settlement, and information concerning the occupied Syrian Golan.

Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Special Committee on Israeli Practices (document A/53/259), which describes the facilities provided to the Special Committee and the activities of the Department of Public Information (DPI) in support of the Special Committee and the Commission on Human Rights.

The Secretary-General's report on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/53/260) indicates that the Secretary-General addressed a note verbale to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel requesting information on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 52/68, which called on Israel, among other things, to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and, in particular, to desist from the establishment of settlements. The Secretary-General had received no reply, as of 12 August 1998.

Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem (document A/53/264). In it, the Secretary-General states

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that he addressed a note verbale to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel regarding compliance with General Assembly resolution 52/67, by which the Assembly demanded that Israel, as the occupying Power, cease all practices and actions that violated the human rights of the Palestinian people and called upon Israel to accelerate the release of all remaining Palestinians arbitrarily detained, in line with agreements reached. As of 18 August 1998, the Secretary-General had received no reply.

Also, in the Secretary-General's report on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs in the occupied territories (document A/53/660), he indicates that a note verbale was sent to the Foreign Minister of Israel regarding compliance with General Assembly resolution 52/65, by which the Assembly reaffirmed that the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War was applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967. As of 10 November 1998, he had received no reply.

Action on Guam

The Committee took up the draft resolution on the question of Guam, contained in Part VIII of the report of the Special Committee on decolonization (document A/53/23).

By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would call upon the administering Power to cooperate with Guam's Commission on Decolonization for the implementation and exercise of Chamorro self-determination, in order to facilitate Guam's decolonization and to keep the Secretary-General informed of progress to that end.

The administering Power would also be asked to continue to recognize and respect the political rights and the cultural and ethnic identity of the Chamorro people of Guam, and take all necessary measures to respond to the concerns of the territorial government with regard to the immigration issue.

Also by the draft, the Assembly would request the administering Power to cooperate in establishing programmes specifically intended to promote the sustainable development of economic activities and enterprises by the Chamorro people of Guam. The administering Power would also be asked to continue to support appropriate measures by the territorial government aimed at promoting growth in commercial fishing and agricultural and other viable activities.

The representative of Syria, speaking as the Rapporteur of the Special Committee, said the parties concerned desired to find a suitable solution to the question of Guam. The efforts were made possible only by the parties themselves who were involved in a direct manner.

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He introduced agreed amendments to the draft resolution, and expressed his appreciation and cooperation with administering Powers, and asked others to work with the Special Committee of 24 in its future efforts towards decolonization.

PABLO MACEDO, Chairman of the Fourth Committee, then turned to the draft resolution which was approved without a vote, as orally amended.

By the amendments, the General Assembly, in requesting the administering Power to cooperate in establishing programmes specifically intended to promote the sustainable development of economic activities and enterprises, would note "the special role of the Chamorran people in Guam's development".

The Fourth Committee then approved, without a vote, a consolidated draft resolution that included the Guam draft as part VI of the omnibus draft approved on 13 October.

The representative of Cuba thanked the Chairman and all parties that made the compromise possible.

Special Committee on Israeli Practices

JOHN DE SARAM (Sri Lanka), Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, introduced the thirtieth report of the Special Committee to the General Assembly.

NABIL A. ELARABY (Egypt) said that, for the past 30 years, the Special Committee had been bringing to the attention of the international community the facts and realities of the practices carried out by Israel in the occupied Arab territories. During those 30 years, war, conflicts and peace had occurred, yet Israel's practices had remained unchanged. The practices of occupation had remained: construction of settlements, settling of Israeli citizens in the occupied territories, closure and blockades, confiscation of land, destruction of houses, torture of detainees -- a long list of practices that it had been thought and hoped would cease or change. Yet they had not ceased nor changed, but had continued, increased and intensified.

On 21 June, the Israeli authorities had announced the decision to extend the municipal boundaries of the city of Jerusalem in such a way as to include in the city Israeli settlements located to its east. The implementation of that decision established a situation which resulted in changing the demographic structure of Jerusalem to the detriment of its Palestinian populace. Secondly, the Israeli authorities had allowed for the establishment of armed settler militias under the pretext of maintaining the security of those settlers. Such a decision not only constituted a flagrant violation of the obligations of the occupying Power in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention on the transfer of civilian residents to the occupied territories.

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It added another violation, manifested in the legislation on the arming of those persons and granting them a government permit, creating a situation of great tension. The occupying Power must bear full responsibility.

He said the policy of Israeli settlement was at the forefront of practices that posed a clear and real threat to the future of the peace process in the region. International law, the Fourth Geneva Convention and all relevant resolutions of the United Nations had guaranteed the Palestinian people their right to the land on which they lived, the right to their natural resources and sovereignty over them and the right to have a dignified life free of the daily threat of the practices of occupation. Above all, it guaranteed them the natural right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent State. In view of all that, Egypt would never cease to caution that the continuing Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Arab territories, and especially in occupied East Jerusalem, could only result in the destruction of chances for achieving peace.

He said Egypt was deeply concerned and disturbed by the news and official declarations with respect to the invitation by the Israeli Government for international construction bids in Jabal Abu-Ghneim to the south of East Jerusalem. The initial Israeli decision to establish that settlement at the beginning of last year had been subject to prolonged consideration by the Security Council, which had failed twice to adopt a resolution on the issue for reasons that were well known. That decision had resulted in the convening of an Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly which had resumed three times over the same issue. Despite that, and in spite of the signing of the Palestinian-Israeli Wye River Memorandum on 23 October, the Israeli Government continued to deny peace a real chance, and paralleled each step in the right direction with a set of steps that took the peace process backwards, for months and even years.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that in the Palestinian and Arab territories Israel had been pursuing a policy of settlement, confiscation of land, closures, arrest, detention, torture and denial of legal recourse. Such policies systematically violated the relevant United Nations resolutions and international agreements and treaties, including the agreement between Palestine and Israel based on the principle of land for peace. It was regrettable that the hope generated following the recent signing of the Wye River Agreement was marred by the "murky policy" of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories.

He said foreign occupation was a flagrant violation of human rights. On the pretext of its security concern, Israel had been imposing new instruments of punishment against the Palestinian people, such as economic embargoes and collective punishment. Israel often imposed closures on the Palestinian territories, obstructing movement of people and goods within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as in the self-rule areas and Israel itself. Moreover,

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Israeli settlement in the occupied territories had always been a source of tension.

It was regrettable that Israel, instead of freezing settlement activities, had gone ahead with the building of a new settlement in Jabal Abu-Ghneim in the south of East Jerusalem. Completion of that settlement would fully encircle the Arab-populated East Jerusalem with settlement chains, and would eventually have a significant effect on the demography of the city by creating a further Jewish majority. He said Israeli practices were also in contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by depriving children of their right to health, education, expression and play.

KARIN PROIDL (Austria), for the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Iceland and Liechtenstein, said those countries welcomed the promising movement in the peace process brought about by the signing of the Wye River Memorandum. The Union also condemned the recent acts of terrorism, and urged the parties to do their utmost to forestall extremist actions in their attempt to undermine the peace process.

To reduce mistrust and build confidence between Israelis and Palestinians, the parties must avoid all unilateral acts which could become the source of new tensions or prejudge the outcome of the final status negotiations. A sound economy was of high importance to social and political stability among the Palestinian people. It was therefore important for the Government of Israel to fully meet its responsibilities in promoting the conditions for economic development.

She said the European Union believed that the effective implementation of the interim agreement would render the existence of the Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices unnecessary. The Union was convinced that the questions addressed by the Special Committee would be better dealt with in a different context which was more favourable to the spirit of compromise and mutual understanding.

KHADEEM ABDULLAH AL-DERAI (United Arab Emirates) said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had encountered critical problems dealing with the 3.5 million Palestinian refugees, because of reduction in the Agency's budget, resources and donor money in the past five years. More money was needed to continue to help finance its programmes and to meet the humanitarian needs of the refugees.

He said the dangerous practices pursued by Israel did not comply with international law. He cited bombing in southern Lebanon which he said had hampered the work of UNRWA. It was clear that the ongoing policies of the Israeli Government, such as occupation and confiscation of properties and natural resources, went against the interests of the Arab people.

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Illegal settlers continued to colonize the occupied territories, including Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. That dovetailed with Israel's policy of encouraging Jews from around the world to emigrate to Israel and settle on Arab lands. Israeli practices targeted against the Palestinian people were arbitrary and immoral, he said. Collective punishment, blockades, the desecration of holy places at Muslim sites, and arbitrary murders of innocent civilians were in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international law. Member States, particularly those who sat in the Security Council, should apply pressure to stop Israeli violations.

RASTAM MOHAMMED ISA (Malaysia) said the Special Committee's report noted that the Committee had not received the cooperation of the Israeli Government. Over the past 30 years, that Government had continued to refuse the Special Committee access to visit the occupied territories. That deplorable Israeli action had prevented the Special Committee from being able to observe at first hand the conditions prevalent in the occupied territories, and from gathering the most direct information on all questions relating to its mandate.

On the other hand, he said, the Governments of Egypt, Jordan and Syria and the Palestinian Authority had continued to give their cooperation to the Special Committee, enabling it to carry out its work. Malaysia looked forward to the Israeli authorities reversing the policy of non-cooperation with the Special Committee in the near future, so as to signal to the international community Israel's own commitment to peace in the Middle East region.

He said the worsening human rights situation and deteriorating socio- economic conditions in the occupied territories over the past year clearly reflected the cumulative effects of Israel's policies and practices, which were discriminatory and oppressive, continuing to make life extremely difficult for the Palestinian people and other Arabs in the occupied territories. It was important that there be an immediate and full implementation of the existing Israeli-Palestinian interim peace agreements, including the recently concluded Wye River Memorandum of 23 October.

The Israeli Government had continued to pursue its policy of confiscating Palestinian-owned land on a massive scale, demolishing Arab-owned houses as well as establishing new Israeli settlements while expanding the existing ones in the occupied territories, he said. Israel's settlement activities were clearly aimed at effectively altering the demographic character of certain areas in the occupied territories to be in favour of the Jewish population, particularly in East Jerusalem. Such activities represented a clear attempt to prejudge or pre-empt issues reserved for permanent status negotiations.

Israel had committed clear acts of provocation and serious violations of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The continuation of such practices would not be conducive to confidence- building which remained an important ingredient in the achievement and sustenance of peace in the region.

PENGIRAN BASMILLAH HAJI ABBAS (Brunei Darussalam) said her country continued to believe in the land-for-peace formula as embodied in Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 425, and urged the Israeli Government to

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honour its commitment and not to further delay the peace process. The Palestinian Authority, particularly President Yasser Arafat, had shown commitment to peace by arresting a number of people and condemning the recent bomb attacks in Israel.

Violations of basic human rights in the occupied territories continued, she said. The Palestinians' right to an education was restricted, their land ownership violated, and even their access to their own natural resources was limited. Many Palestinians lost their rightful land as a result of Jewish resettlement policies.

Despite the Wye River Memorandum, she said, further Jewish settlements and housing projects in Ras al-Amud and Al-Khali were announced recently. The ill-treatment of prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons was another major concern. Her country urged the Israeli Government to take the necessary actions to fully comply with all United Nations resolutions. Brunei Darussalam also reiterated its support for the Palestinians' legitimate struggle for peace and freedom, and hoped a comprehensive settlement would soon become a reality.

MOHAMMED AL-HASSAN (Oman) said that since the peace process and the agreement by concerned parties his country had refrained from speaking on the subject of Israeli practices. This approach was symbolic, to give a boost to the concerned parties and countries in the region.

However, he added, Oman had decided to speak and send a message that its silence should not be interpreted as a lack of interest in the Special Committee; to be silent on those Israeli practices was wrong, and Oman urged the international community to continue the debate at a greater length.

He said the Israeli practices, ranging from illegal settlements, confiscation of lands, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trials all went counter to the peace process and the mood of dialogue taking place between the concerned parties. The humanitarian thrust of those talks, as well as the basic international conventions, should be respected and cherished. Oman called on the Israeli Government to exercise restraint in such practices and to respect the treaties it had signed. The latest decision, to go ahead with illegal settlement in Jabal Abu-Ghneim in the south of East Jerusalem, was wrong and contradictory to the spirit of the Wye River Memorandum. Oman hoped the Member States would pressure the Israeli Government and send a message that would facilitate a just peace.

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For information media. Not an official record.