ASSEMBLY HAILS THREE-MONTH BETHLEHEM COMMEMORATION AS SYMBOL OF PEACE; SPEAKERS CITE BENEFITS OF PROMOTING TOURISM, UPGRADING INFRASTRUCTURE
ASSEMBLY HAILS THREE-MONTH BETHLEHEM COMMEMORATION AS SYMBOL OF PEACE; SPEAKERS CITE BENEFITS OF PROMOTING TOURISM, UPGRADING INFRASTRUCTURE
ASSEMBLY HAILS THREE-MONTH BETHLEHEM COMMEMORATION AS SYMBOL OF PEACE; SPEAKERS CITE BENEFITS OF PROMOTING TOURISM, UPGRADING INFRASTRUCTURE19991110
Also Approves Recommendations For Follow-up to Social Development, Strategies on Ageing
The General Assembly this morning welcomed the impending celebration in Bethlehem of the birth of Jesus Christ "as a symbol of the shared hope for peace among all peoples of the world".
It took that action without a vote, adopting a resolution expressing support for the Bethlehem 2000 project, a multifaceted commemorative event scheduled to last from Christmas 1999 to Easter 2000.
Further by the text, the Assembly commended the efforts of the Palestinian authority in support of the commemoration, and called for accelerated assistance and engagement by the international community including the private sector, to ensure the project's success. It also asked the Secretary-General to continue to mobilize United Nations actors to increase their efforts in that regard.
Introducing the draft, the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said that the aim of Bethlehem 2000 was to encourage millions of tourists and pilgrims to visit the city to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, promote the city's past, jump- start the Palestinian tourist industry and enhance economic development. To properly welcome and accommodate visitors, the Project aimed to restore the city's religious and historical sites and upgrade its infrastructure.
Speakers hailed the project not only as a symbol of peace and tolerance, but as an investment in the area's economic development and living conditions, which would be key elements in a stable, lasting peace.
The Permanent Observer of for Palestine said that Palestinians had hoped to begin the Bethlehem 2000 celebrations in an independent State and were disappointed that this would not be the case. "However, we are confident that the second portion of this occasion, including Christmas 2000, the start of the year 2001 and the conclusion of the commemorations on Easter 2001, will be celebrated in an independent Palestine and a peaceful Middle East", he said.
Speaking in explanation of vote, Israel's representative said that, had it not been for some unfortunate terminology, the resolution could haveGeneral Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/EF/9655 51st Meeting (AM) 10 November 1999
reflected the universal importance of the commemoration, and received unqualified support. The text had been unnecessarily manipulated to advance a partisan political interest. An example was the reference to Bethlehem as a Palestinian city. The Assembly should have avoided taking a position, in its resolution, that prejudged the outcome of the negotiations now underway.
In other action this morning, the Assembly, also without a vote, adopted a resolution introduced by the representative of Chile, on follow-up to the 1995 World Summit for Social Development. By that text, it emphasized the urgency of placing the goals of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the summit at the centre of economic policymaking. Recalling its decision to hold a special session in 2000 for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the Summit's outcome, it reiterated that the objectives of that session would be to reaffirm the Declaration and Programme of Action and not renegotiate them. It also reaffirmed the need for effective partnership and cooperation between Governments, international organizations, civil society and non-governmental organizations in the follow- up to the Summit and in the special session's preparatory process.
In yet other action this morning, the Assembly, once more acting without a vote, adopted a text introduced by the representative of the Dominican Republic, urging States to take a variety of measures to develop long-term strategies on ageing, furthering the concept of "a society for all ages". It entrusted the Commission for Social Development with revising the International Plan of Action on Ageing (adopted by the World Assembly on Ageing in 1982), and elaborating a new long-term strategy, with a view to their adoption in 2002. The Commission is also asked to consider the desirability and feasibility of convening a second World Assembly in 2002.
Also this morning, the Assembly appointed the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs to oversee the Office of Internal Oversight Services on an interim basis, pending further consultations on the selection of a candidate for the post of Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services.
Also this morning, Jorgen Boher (Denmark) was appointed by the Assembly to coordinate the informal consultations on strengthening of the coordination of United Nations humanitarian disaster relief assistance. The President of the Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) announced that the first such consultations would be held on Friday, 12 November.
Statements were made this morning by the representatives of Senegal, Finland, Malaysia, Egypt, South Africa, Norway, Italy, San Marino, Cuba, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Indonesia, Philippines, Namibia, Peru, Armenia, Israel, Slovakia, Chile, Dominican Republic and the United States. The Observers for Palestine, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Holy See also spoke.
The Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to consider the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.Assembly work programme
The General Assembly met this morning to take action on draft resolutions on the Bethlehem 2000 project, the special Assembly session being held to review implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development, and issues related to ageing.
Draft on Bethlehem 2000
By the terms of the draft resolution on the Bethlehem 2000 project (document A/54/l.20), the General Assembly would welcome the impending celebration in Bethlehem of the birth of Jesus Christ as a symbol of the shared hope for peace among all peoples of the world. The Assembly would further express support for the Bethlehem 2000 project, a multifaceted commemorative event scheduled to last from Christmas 1999 to Easter 2000. It would commend the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in support of the commemoration, and call for accelerated assistance and engagement by the international community, including the private sector, to ensure the success of the commemoration. It would also ask the Secretary-General to continue to mobilize relevant actors in the United Nations system to increase their efforts in that regard.
Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Greece, Guyana, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine sponsored the text.
Appointment of Under-Secretary-General
As noted in a letter from the Secretary-General (document A/54/531), the Assembly has deferred consideration of the appointment of a new Under-Secretary- General for Internal Oversight Services, pending the conclusion of consultations. As the term of the current office-holder was expiring on 14 November 1999, the Secretary-General asked the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs to supervise the Office of Internal Oversight Services in the interim.
Draft on Special Session on Social Development
By a 115-Power draft resolution on social development (document A/54/L.16), the General Assembly would emphasize the urgency of placing the goals of social development contained in the final documents of the 1995 World Social Summit - the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action -- at the centre of economic policymaking. It would recall its decision to hold a special Assembly session in 2000 for an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the Summit's outcome at Geneva from 26 to 30 June 2000. It would reiterate that the objectives of that special session would be to reaffirm the Declaration and Programme of Action and not to renegotiate them.
Also by the text, the Assembly would emphasize the need for revitalized economic and social development everywhere within a framework that places people at the centre of development and aims to meet human needs rapidly and more effectively. It would reaffirm the need for effective partnership and cooperation between Governments, international organizations, relevant actors of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in implementing and following up the Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as in the special session's preparatory process.
Draft on Vulnerable Groups
By a 75-power draft resolution (document A/54/L.6/Rev.1) on follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons (observed this year), the Assembly would urge States to take a variety of measures to develop long-term strategies on ageing, furthering the concept of society for all ages.
By this text, the Assembly would reaffirm the need to integrate a gender perspective in ageing policies. It would also emphasize the need to address the development aspects of ageing, with particular attention to the situation of developing countries.
It would stress the importance - from the standpoint of policy formulation -- of collecting data and population statistics, disaggregated by sex and age, on all aspects of population ageing. It would urge national, regional and international policy and programme development that responds to the rights, needs and abilities of older women. It would also urge Governments to combat discrimination based on age, while urging the media to strive to create awareness of ageing issues, eliminate stereotypes about the elderly, and promote solidarity among generations.
Noting a need for guidelines and recommendations reflecting the current situation of societies and older persons, the Assembly would entrust the Commission for Social Development with revising the International Plan of Action on Ageing (adopted by the World Assembly on Ageing in 1982), and elaborating a new long-term strategy, with a view to their adoption in 2002. The Commission would also be asked to consider the desirability and feasibility of convening a second World Assembly in 2002.
Introduction on Draft
Introducing the draft on Bethlehem 2000, IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that the aim of the Bethlehem 2000 initiative was to encourage millions of tourists and pilgrims to visit the city to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It would promote the city's rich past, jump-start the Palestinian tourist industry and enhance the economic development of the area. That was a crucial step towards building a durable peace.
In order to properly welcome and accommodate the needs of visitors, the project aimed to restore the religious and historical sites of the city and upgrade its infrastructure. This had proved a challenge, as years of conflict had had a detrimental effect on living conditions as well as on public places and services, he said.
He reviewed the Committees programme of activities aimed at creating awareness of the project. He said the United Nations had been at the forefront of the project since its inception in 1997 and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) continued to be involved in a wide range of infrastructural improvements and development of the tourism sector, in close coordination with the Municipality of Bethlehem. The World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) continued to be actively engaged in the project, and the European Commission, NGOs and donor countries had also contributed significantly.
He announced the following additional sponsors: Macedonia, Malta, San Marino, Venezuela, France, Portugal, Spain, Guinea, Namibia, Norway and the Russian Federation.
Statements in Debate
NASSER AL-KIDWA, observer for Palestine, said that in spite of the persistent difficulties on the ground caused by the occupation, throughout the year there had been serious work carried out in connection with the Bethlehem 2000 project. All that had been achieved so far, despite the obstacles posed by the occupying powers, reflected the resilience of Palestinians and their determination to ensure the success of the commemoration.
He said the Palestinian people had hoped to begin the celebrations in an independent Palestine and were disappointed that this would not be the case. However, we are confident that the second portion of this occasion, including Christmas 2000, the start of the year 2001 and the conclusion of the commemorations on Easter 2001, will be celebrated in an independent Palestine and a peaceful Middle East, he said.
He hoped the resolution would be adopted by consensus, he concluded.
MARJATTA RASI (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Union was particularly pleased to make a statement on a Middle East agenda item and draft resolution that had an overwhelmingly positive message. It wholeheartedly supported the Bethlehem 2000 Project; its Commission had organized a conference in Brussels in May 1998, in association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Bank, to attract financial commitments from official sources, private donors and investors from the private sector. The conference had concluded with a series of important pledges for the project.
She said the development of the tourist sector should be promoted as a priority, as it would be crucial to the economy. The Union had provided financial support for such aspects as the expansion of the facilities of Beit Jalla Hospital and the renovation of Manger Square.
The Union reaffirmed its commitment to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and all the subsequent achievements of the Middle East peace process. It would continue its considerable technical and economic assistance to the Palestinians, she added.
JASMI MD. YUSOFF (Malaysia) said that much progress had been made towards the objectives of the Bethlehem 2000 project. However, further financial and technical help was still needed. He therefore called for additional offers of international assistance and support to ensure the success of the project.
The project was not just for the Palestinian people, he said. The infrastructure-building project of the city of Bethlehem would help to cater not only to the needs of the 2 million visitors expected next year, but also those of the 125,000 or more people living in Bethlehem. Improvements in the water, electricity, sewage, roads and waste management system would help to ameliorate the living conditions in that city of great historical and religious importance.
International participation in the project would reinforce the culture of peace, tolerance and forgiveness and provide renewed vigor to the push for peace in the region. Lasting peace could only be achieved through the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent state of Palestine.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said the commemoration was of religious and historic significance not only to the people of Bethlehem, but to the whole world. The preparatory work was bringing together a wide spectrum of people in solidarity and a spirit of peace. That message of peace, which everyone in the Middle East would try to support, would be addressed to the whole world. While he acknowledged the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to pave the way for the event, the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States would also have a profound impact on the success of the festivities especially in areas such as water, electricity, health, basic services and the upgrading of roads.
He said that donor aid should continue, particularly on the part of the private sector. He would also count on the Secretary-General to mobilize the necessary support to ensure the success of the festivities. He hoped the Israeli authorities would cooperate and show increased flexibility in order to provide for the channelling of international aid and for freedom of access to holy places in the historic city. He also hoped that a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue would be speeded up, so that the festivities could take place in an atmosphere of hope.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said that, because of the momentous worldwide religious and historic significance of the millennial event, and its importance to the Palestinian people and the region, it was necessary for the Organization to continue to support and participate in the project. It had the potential to become a catalyst for a new era of peace, reconciliation and the promotion of dialogue. President Arafat had promised, in his address to the Bethlehem 2000 International Conference in Rome earlier this year, that from the first moment of the millennium, a call would be sent for peace and security for all peoples of the world.
He stated that the international community needed to continue providing financial assistance to the project to create a strong, self-sufficient and sustainable economic infrastructure in Bethlehem that would be a foundation for social and political stability, which was in turn a prerequisite to peace. The international community must ensure that the city had all the necessary facilities for its growing population. One of the objectives of the project was to enhance the attractiveness of Bethlehem for tourists and pilgrims. The commemoration would not be successful if believers of all faiths, citizens of all nationalities and visitors from around the world did not have unimpeded access.
JANNE HAALAND MATLARY (Norway) said that Bethlehem 2000 was an ambitious programme of cultural and religious celebration. It was at the same time a project for urban and economic rejuvenation and tourist development and promotion. It could make a lasting contribution to economic growth and social development in the region and to further increasing the popularity of Bethlehem as a tourist destination. Economic growth and social development were important elements in the efforts to contribute to a lasting peace in the Middle East.
Norway viewed Bethlehem 2000 as an opportunity to broaden the donor nations commitment to reconciliation and peace in the Middle East, she stated. It was also an opportunity to focus on the reconstruction and development efforts of the Palestinians.
Norway had participated in the preparations for the celebration with a contribution of approximately $5 million dollars, earmarked particularly for rehabilitation work in the Old City and neighbouring municipalities. She called other donors to step up their efforts to support the project.
PAOLO FULCI (Italy) said it was significant that the idea of celebrating the two thousand anniversary of Jesus Christs birth had first been announced in 1997 - the year that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority had come to a stalemate. It had given rise to a series of initiative pressing for renewed dialogue, solidarity and a concrete commitment from the international community to the people of the region.
Rome had hosted a preparatory conference in February 1998, and Italy had been one of the first countries to make a substantial contribution, of $3 million, to UNESCO for the project. He said that rather than just celebration, the commemoration should be an invitation for dialogue among peoples and cultures, above all among the three great monotheistic religions that had originated in the Holy Land.
GIAN NICOLA FILIPPI BALESTRA (San Marino) said Bethlehem 2000 represented a unique opportunity to join hands in a spirit of dialogue, reconciliation, forgiveness, coexistence and peace. For that reason it was essential that the restoration of religious historic sites and upgrading of infrastructures in Bethlehem be completed before the event took place. General Assembly resolution 53/27, adopted by consensus last year, was clear evidence of the world community's desire to bring a new era of dialogue and reconciliation to the region. He hoped that new era coincided with the beginning of a new millennium.
He said Bethlehem was not only a city of holy places but one where people had to live. Reliable infrastructures were needed for health care, education, residential and commercial facilities. San Marino had decided to finance a project to create infrastructures for children.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said the project was significant, as Bethlehem had a strong religious, cultural and historical importance. It was also important to the Middle East, since over 2 million people would be arriving there. The city had suffered serious damage due its experiences. If the celebrations were to lead ultimately to peace and security, the global community must give unwavering support to the event.
He said Cuba shared the wish for a solution to the problems of the Middle East. The initiative for the project had come at a crucial point in the peace process. In spite of advances attained recently, more still needed to be done. Bethlehem 2000 would provide infrastructure and a solid basis for a solution. The resolution reflected the will of the international community for global fraternity and peace. A.G. RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan) said that the gathering of thousands of people belonging to many nations and religious was important to the consolidation of peace in the world. Those belonging to the Abrahamic faiths would share that blessed season with each other, and others, following different faiths, would surely respect what was considered as blessed by a good part of humanity.
The celebration, he said, came with the expression of hope for swift progress in the Middle East peace process and for achievement of the final settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides in the course of the year 2000.
CONSTANTINE MOUSHOUTAS (Cyprus) said his country was geographically close to the Middle East but was even closer, spiritually and sentimentally, to Palestine. Therefore, the Bethlehem 2000 event was of paramount importance to Cyprus.
He welcomed the rejuvenation of the peace process and hoped that it would produce positive results which would lead to peace and reconstruction in the future. Bethlehem 2000 could make an important contribution to this process. The successful resolution of the Middle East problems would benefit not only the people in the region, but also the people of Cyprus.
He stressed that care should be taken in organizing the event, so that the two million expected tourists could have unhindered and safe access to the holy places. The success of the Project would pave the way to establishing the Palestinian territories as a major tourist destination in the Middle East.
MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said that today's deliberations sent a resounding message of peace in accordance with the long-cherished aspirations of the Palestinian people and indeed of all the people of the region for the establishment of peace and prosperity in the Middle East. Bethlehem should be the shining star in a free and independent Palestine where the yearning of a whole people for freedom and independence would soon become a reality. It should begin a period of coexistence and reconciliation of peoples in the region and a starting point for a peaceful and harmonious future.
Towards that end, the infrastructure of the ancient city of Bethlehem needed to be improved, he said, so that it could be restored to its former glory and splendour, thereby promoting tourism for the nascent Palestinian State. Bethlehem 2000 also offered an opportunity to foster a closer understanding of different cultures and religious beliefs, thereby putting to an end decades of mistrust and misunderstanding. No effort should be spared to assure the success of the historical event of universal significance so that it could be a celebration of the collective aspirations for enduring harmony among peoples and nations. FELIPE MABILANGAN (Philippines) stressed the need to reconstruct the historic sites of the Holy Land and to preserve the historic and religious importance of Bethlehem and instil harmony and solidarity among the people in that area and throughout the Middle East. The project had a distinct spiritual value, over and above its economic dimensions. In commemorating the birth of Christ, it must be shielded from harmful political hindrances that could frustrate its legitimate goal.
Turning to the situation in the Middle East, he said that the peace process had moved forward but reconciliation and enduring peace had been elusive. The historical, archeological and religious sites in Bethlehem bore witness not only to the birth of Jesus but also to the struggles and sacrifices of a brave and persevering people and their quest for peace.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that since the Palestinian Authority had launched the Bethlehem 2000 project, the vast challenges facing the organizers of the event had become well-known. It was up to the international community to contribute positively to ensure that Bethlehem 2000 was successful, and to strengthen the event as a symbol of hope and peace.
He said that in adopting the Rome Declaration, the preparatory conference had ensured the broadest possible international participation. It had also significantly promoted the entire Middle East peace process.
He said Namibia fully supported the draft as an ideal instrument for the message of peace. He hoped it would be adopted without a vote.
JUAN MIGUEL MIRANDA (Peru) said that the importance that the international community attached to the celebration reflected the desire to establish an atmosphere of peace, tolerance and cooperation for the benefit of all peoples.
The best way to celebrate the history and future of the city of Bethlehem would be the attainment of peace, he said. The current situation in the Middle East gave new grounds for believing that it would be possible to reach that objective. He called for the financial support needed for the success of the Bethlehem 2000 project.
ARMAN AKOPIAN (Armenia) noted that the project aimed at the revival of the towns municipal infrastructure, which was very important in a region where economic degradation added dangerously to political tensions. He hoped it would bring economic benefits to the peoples of the region, who needed to see practical results from the peace process.
He said that the commemoration that had been planned was impressive and deserved the support of the international community. The cultural programme was especially important, as the language of art allowed nations to communicate spiritually and establish ties on a subtle level.
JOSE ANTONIO LINATI-BOSCH, Observer for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the launching of the project could not be considered a solution to the problems existing in the region. International cooperation in a coordinated operation was needed -- the United Nations was important in attracting that attention -- so that the project could satisfy the needs of the people involved within a framework of self-determination, national sovereignty and independence.
Only collective efforts would make a significant contribution to a just and lasting peace in the region, he continued. The celebration must also be used to bring economic benefits to the Holy Land. Some of those could be realized by restoring important historical, archaeological and religious sites.
RENATO R. MARTINO, Observer for the Holy See, said that Bethlehem, the patrimony of all humanity, necessitated special protection and guarantees ensuring free and unhindered access to its holy places to those of all religions and nationalities. What Bethlehem and its inhabitants needed most was peace. Peace delayed could become peace denied. Whichever side held the peace talks back would be judged responsible by history for the accumulating negative consequences and the further escalation of violence. The Holy See sincerely hoped that all actors would play their parts in seeing that the millennium was celebrated in an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation, not only in Bethlehem, but also in Nazareth, Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Middle East. It further hoped that promising provisions in the 5 September Agreement would be implemented in a given time-frame.
Peace in Bethlehem was not man-made but God-given, he said. Men and women were not mere beneficiaries of that gift, but real actors in preparing the venue for the gift. Peace was not merely the absence of war, but a growth in harmony. Where the will to forgive prevailed, war and conflict would find no place. The human family needed a moment of self-examination, a moment to realize the evil of which humanity was capable. It needed to commit itself to a new life devoid of egotism and hatred.
He said the United Nations, mandated with maintaining international peace and security, was aware of the difficulties inherent in that task. The awareness that peace was the gift of God would make the international community better realize its limitations and look for the means to create the right environment in which to receive the gift. That was the role of the Organization.
Action on Draft
The President of the Assembly Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) said that Armenia, Grenada, Panama, the Philippines and Cameroon had joined the list of sponsors of the draft on Bethlehem 2000.
The Assembly then adopted the text without a vote.
Explanations of Vote
AARON JACOB (Israel) said that, through the newly established Israel 2000 Authority, his Government had worked extensively to enhance facilities, hotels and roads. Moreover, it had invested close to $1 billion to make the event as fulfilling as possible for the Christian pilgrims.
Cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was essential, he stated. He welcomed the convening of the Bethlehem 2000 Israeli-Palestinian Steering Committee, which had met last week for the first time and was scheduled to continue meeting on a weekly basis. Moreover, Israeli and the Palestinians had already begun joint plans to improve and expand the main thoroughfare leading to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, Route 300. Similar improvements were being made in the crossing facility between Jerusalem and the area of Bethlehem administered by the Palestinian Authority. Such steps would ease access, while continuing to ensure security for all. Those efforts to enhance the pilgrimage experience followed a proud Israeli tradition of promoting religious freedom.
But for some unfortunate terminology, the resolution under consideration could have reflected the universal importance of the Bethlehem 2000 event, and received unqualified support, he said. However, rather than simply promoting an apolitical observance, the text had been unnecessarily manipulated in order to advance a partisan political interest. An example was the reference to Bethlehem as a Palestinian city. Although Bethlehem had been, during the time of Jesus, a Judean city, its current political and legal disposition depended on the negotiated permanent status agreement between the sides. The Assembly should have avoided taking a position that prejudged the outcome of the negotiations, he stressed.
RASTILAV GABRIEL (Slovakia) said his country wished to align itself with the position expressed by Finland on behalf of the European Union.
Statement in right of reply
MR. AL-KIDWA Observer for Palestine, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that any consideration of Jerusalem should be based on the fact that the city was an integral part of the occupied territory to which the 1948 Fourth Geneva Convention applied. It was highly regrettable that Israel's representative had expressed an objection to the fact that the text just adopted had named Bethlehem as a Palestinian city. That was just another example of the Israeli approach.
The Israeli representative believed the city of Bethlehem was a subject to be negotiated, he said. Problems would go on as long as the occupation and the illegal actions of Israel continued. The future was full of hope, as seen in commemoration of Bethlehem 2000. He would therefore prefer the focus today to be on a great event and the adoption of the text.
Introduction of draft on special session on social development
EDUARDO TAPIA (Chile), introducing the draft resolution on follow-up to the Social Development Summit, said that Togo and Guinea had joined as sponsors. He outlined the provisions of the text. The preparatory process had already begun. He reiterated Chile's firm resolve and commitment to implement fully the Copenhagen initiatives and participate in the special session.
Action on social development draft
The Assembly adopted the draft resolution on social development without a vote.
Introduction of draft on ageing
JULIA TAVARES DE ALVAREZ (Dominican Republic) said the draft had already been introduced in October during the Assembly's debate on follow-up to the Year of Older Persons. She made a minor oral revision to the text.
Statement in Explanation of Vote
AMBER M. BASKETTE (United States) said it would join the consensus, based on the understanding that the special session would be financed by extra- budgetary resources.
The President of the Assembly announced that Armenia, Bolivia, France, Guinea, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Republic of Moldova and Senegal had joined in sponsoring the draft.
Action on draft on ageing
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on ageing without a vote.
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