SECURITY COUNCIL CONCLUDES DEBATE ON SITUATION IN MIDDLE EAST, INCLUDING QUESTION OF PALESTINE
SECURITY COUNCIL CONCLUDES DEBATE ON SITUATION IN MIDDLE EAST, INCLUDING QUESTION OF PALESTINE
4204th Resumed Meeting (PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL CONCLUDES DEBATE ON SITUATION IN MIDDLE EAST,
INCLUDING QUESTION OF PALESTINE
Statements Made by More Than 40 Speakers
The Security Council this afternoon concluded its three-day debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine. During the debate the Council heard from over 40 speakers.
During today’s meeting, speakers addressed the use of force by Israel, the killing of unarmed Palestinians and the resultant threat to advances made so far in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. They also expressed the hope that the Council would assume its full responsibility in light of the current state of events.
Sudan's representative said the inability of the Council to fulfil its obligations to protect the people of Palestine would damage its credibility in the eyes of the international community, and promote the idea that it was adopting selective policies.
Indonesia's representative said that ever since the peace process had begun in 1991, the Palestinian people had been subjected to procrastination, broken promises and intransigence. He was even more appalled that despite the efforts of the Palestinian leaders to enter into a ceasefire agreement, the violence continued unabated as the situation worsened.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Israel's representative said reality was more complex than the cliché about an Israeli war machine pitted against Palestinians throwing stones. The Palestinian militia and police, who came under the Palestinian Authority, were engaged in armed and organized violence. The Authority had launched a campaign of ongoing provocation and had much to answer for.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the Permanent Observer for Palestine said Israel's representative had stated how Israel was deeply moved by the death of Mohammed al-Dura. He did not deny those feelings, but asked what the difference was between the death of that child and other murders. Violent incidents continued to occur despite efforts yesterday and today in Paris and Sharm Al-Sheik. He said no agreement had been reached in Paris because Israel had rejected the idea of an international inquiry into who was responsible for the violence.
Statements were also made this afternoon by the representatives of Libya, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Morocco, Lebanon, Nepal, Viet Nam, Spain and Malta. The representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Organization of African Unity (OAU) also made statements.
The meeting resumed at 3:18 p.m. and adjourned at 5:50 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this afternoon to resume its meeting, suspended yesterday evening, on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine.
ISA AYAD BABAA (Libya) said the occupation of Palestine was a problem that had been before the United Nations since its beginning. The Palestinian people had been subjected to torture, murder, confiscation of land and confrontation with authorities and settlers. The oppressors denied that the Palestinians were a living people struggling to retain their rights to their own territory. The entire world had watched dozens of defenceless youngsters being killed in cold blood by snipers, grenades, missiles and rockets from helicopters. There were even more atrocious sights not recorded by journalists. That bloody scenario occurred day in and day out in Palestine. There were heavily armed settlers who provoked Palestinians and killed them, while an occupation army protected those Zionists. Others defended them inside and outside the United Nations. There would be no solution without the return to Palestine of its land and its total independence. There would be no peace without justice.
He said that today one could only salute the Palestinian people in their struggle. The massacre now raging was not the first and would not be the last, so long as the international community was unable to protect the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights -- and so long as a super-Power was not prevented from giving its support in order to satisfy its Zionist lobby for electoral purposes.
He called on the Council to halt the Israeli aggression. Where was the defence of human rights, and respect for the Geneva Convention’s provisions for the protection of civilians? He called on the Council to provide full protection to the Palestinian people and its property, in accordance with international law and the Geneva Convention. The Council should condemn the use of lethal cluster weapons against defenceless Palestinian civilians, and ensure that those who caused the bloodshed were tried before an international court for the crimes and injustices they had perpetrated.
ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said optimism over the peace process dwindled daily due to Israeli intransigence. Ariel Sharon’s visit to Jerusalem and the subsequent desecration of Al-Haram Al-Sharif was just one episode in a series of conflagrations kindled by the expansionist practices of Israel. The visit also exposed the fallacy of Israel’s claims on the issue of Jerusalem’s sovereignty. The recent wanton killing of unarmed and helpless Palestinians was a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It also demonstrated support by the present Israeli Government for armed intimidation. Sudan strongly condemned the massacres in which hundreds of elderly Palestinians, women and children were either killed, maimed or wounded.
He said he was confident the Council would assume its full responsibility in relation to the heinous crimes currently being committed by Israeli soldiers, using the most sophisticated weapons of destruction. Sudan urged the Council to exercise the necessary pressure on Israel to desist from its oppressive practices and its violation of human rights. The inability of the Council to fulfil its obligations to protect the people of Palestine would damage its credibility in the eyes of the international community, and promote the idea that it was adopting selective policies.
MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said that ever since the peace process began in 1991, the Palestinian people had been subjected to procrastination, unkept promises and outright intransigence. The blatantly provocative visit by Ariel Sharon to Al-Haram Al-Sharif constituted a deliberate and intentional act to incite violence. He was even more appalled that despite the efforts of the Palestinian leaders to enter into a ceasefire agreement, the violence continued unabated as the situation worsened.
The fact that the Council had dealt with the conflict for so long made it incumbent on it to shoulder forthwith its responsibilities for implementation of the resolution before it. Failure on the part of the Council to act in light of the increasing number of casualties would cast doubts about its credibility and indeed its moral stature, particularly when it had often condemned instances of lesser magnitude. The use of military might could never detract from the historical and indisputable fact that Al-Haram Al-Sharif was an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory. It would therefore behoove Israel to refrain from using force in the future.
At this critical juncture, as the spectre of violence loomed, there could be no other alternative but for Israel to assume its solemn obligations and pursue the peace negotiations in all earnestness. The violent incidents were reminiscent of past strife, and it would serve the international community well to come to the realization that the patience of a people would only endure for so long. This was a time to strike out boldly for real peace with the valiant Palestinians, he said. He hoped that the ongoing talks in Paris and later in Cairo would result in ending the conflict and lead to the resumption of peace talks.
FUAD BIN MUBARAK AL-HINAI (Oman) said the latest massacre of Palestinian civilians by occupying Israeli security forces in Al-Haram Al-Sharif and other territories would have serious consequences that threatened security and stability in the Middle East. He expressed profound sorrow for the families of the victims, and condemned the military actions of the Israeli forces as a gross violation of the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Convention.
As images of Palestinian children and elderly people, caught up in the Israeli war machine, unfolded under the eye of the media, world public opinion and Council Members must surely be moved to take a firm position against those who had committed such acts. Indeed, the international community had finally realized that the cause of this massacre was the provocative visit by the head of Israeli's Likud Party and a military escort to Al-Haram Al-Sharif. That visit to the area -- home of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock -– which was at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, posed a challenge to Moslems in and outside the occupied territories.
The Israeli Government had approved that visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif and areas considered holy by Moslems the world over, even though it knew the consequences of the misunderstanding that would ensue. The international community must now seriously question the seriousness of the Israel Government’s desire to arrive at a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East. The Council was now obliged to take effective and necessary measures to stop Israel from continuing its military offensive. The Council should move quickly to fulfil its responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, by ensuring that Israel withdrew its forces from the occupied territories and complied fully with the Geneva Convention. It was imperative that the Council send a clear message against State terrorism visited upon civilian populations.
MOHAMMAD J. SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said that today’s meeting had special importance for efforts to put an end to the violence in the occupied territories. Following the provocation by Ariel Sharon, with his visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, Israeli security forces under the instructions of the Israeli Government had launched a brutal attack against worshippers. The attack laid bare Israeli intentions with regard to the peace process. The images of their brutality against unarmed civilians were seen all over the world as they used internationally banned arms to kill children. They had even disguised themselves in Palestinian uniforms to arrest Palestinian children attending the funerals.
He said the political leadership in the United Arab Emirates had been among the first to make diplomatic contact with the Presidents of the United States and of France, with the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation and with the Secretary-General, in an effort to contain the violence and to consider effective international and bilateral measures to end the continuous crimes perpetrated by the Israeli forces, especially against stone-throwing children and unarmed women. His country’s further aim was to restore the negotiations in order to find a peaceful solution based on the relevant resolutions of the United Nations, and to investigate the crimes committed against the Palestinian people and prevent the repetition of such crimes. Despite yesterday’s Paris meeting, the Israeli Government continued to perpetrate massacres against the Palestinians -– creating 47 martyrs and wounding thousands of people, destroying houses, arresting Palestinians and jailing them simply because they were defending their inalienable rights.
The United Arab Emirates condemned those violations and brutal crimes and held the Israeli Government fully responsible. He called on the co-sponsors of the peace process and others to assume their historical responsibility for effecting immediate measures to end the repression and callous murders being perpetrated by the Israeli forces throughout the Palestinian territories. He reemphasized that a just and lasting peace required the implementation of Council resolutions 242 and 348. Without full Israeli compliance, the problem would continue and would reflect on international peace and security.
MOKHTAR LAMANI, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said Israel paid lip service to its desire for peace but pursued activities and practices that starkly negated peace. The Islamic Group had recourse to the Security Council because Al-Quds Al-Sharif held a special place in that body and the General Assembly. United Nations resolutions had provided a legal framework for the city, yet Israel continued to violate rulings spelled out by the international community -- thus showing how determined it was to undermine and bombard the peace process while spreading tension and anarchy in the region. The Organization of the Islamic Conference supported the Palestinian position, which was based on their upholding sovereignty over Al-Quds Al-Sharif. The Palestinian people were major partners in the peace process. No peace could be just if they were deprived of their legitimate rights.
HIDEAKI KOBAYASHI (Japan) said his Government and people extended condolences to the bereaved families and hoped that those who had been wounded would have an early recovery. In response to a request from the Palestinian Authority, Japan had decided to provide -- through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) --- $500,000 worth of emergency humanitarian assistance for the purchase of medical equipment that was urgently needed in the West Bank and Gaza. Further casualties must be avoided, he stressed. The immediate task was therefore to halt the clashes as soon as possible. He urged the parties concerned to act with utmost restraint and refrain from any further acts of provocation and violence.
Nothing could be achieved through violence, he said. That only claimed more victims and left deeper scars in the hearts of people. The current crisis attested most starkly to the need to realize a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. That was what the people of the region desperately desired, and what the international community was committed to achieving. “We must not allow this crisis to derail the ongoing peace process”, he said.
ELHASSANE ZAHID (Morocco) said he had been horror-struck at the indescribable scenes of what had happened at Al-Haram Al-Sharif and in the Palestinian territories in the last week. He was aghast at the Israeli response to the Palestinians who had protested those actions. He condemned the Israeli actions and said that the casualty figures -- 80 dead, 1,000 wounded -- were more indicative of a fight against an army, not a people. Such brutality was inexcusable and could not be justified.
He said it would take the Palestinian people a long time to forget what had happened. The Palestinians had made enough sacrifices. They should be left in peace to bind their wounds. Those responsible for the events should be ashamed of themselves. Those who had committed the massacres had aimed to destroy the peace process and they had almost succeeded. They had succeeded in destroying part of the trust that had been built up.
He reaffirmed his country’s support for the peace process. No just and lasting peace would be seen unless the principles of the Madrid Conference were respected, particularly that of land for peace. In that regard, he also underlined the importance of the implementation of Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), in order to help the Palestinian people regain their legitimate and inalienable rights, particularly the right to establish an independent State on their own territory with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capitol. He added that he hoped the meetings organized by France, the United States and Egypt would succeed.
SELIM TADMOURY (Lebanon) said that once again the world was witnessing the consequences of the stupid behaviour of an official of Israel’s Likud Party. Lebanese memories were still full of the tragedies and massacres that the same person had already inflicted on Lebanese and Palestinians alike. Now he had returned to further stoke memories and violate the peace. His work was characterized by violent and bloody campaigns of oppression that victimized innocent people, including children. Lebanon appealed to the Council for action. Israel had no right to manage Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the occupied territories at whim and will, outside of the frameworks established by international resolutions.
He said Israel could not resort to force instead of justice. Violations of human rights were not acceptable. Al-Quds Al-Sharif had a special meaning for many Arab countries. It was a holy place and he regretted seeing it soaked in blood. The Council was called upon today, more than ever before, to try and halt the deliberate events and their consequences in Al-Quds Al-Sharif, and to bring both parties back to the negotiating table. The requisites of peace were well known. It fell on both the opposition and the Government of Israel to realize that the persistence of violence would not achieve peace and security.
MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said the recent eruption of violence was a disturbing reminder that the Middle East peace process was still precarious and that there were people who did not mind derailing it. There should be a full investigation into the flare-up, and those who were responsible for precipitating it must be held accountable for their actions. The excessive use of force to control the protests had further vitiated the environment for improving the situation and retrieving the peace process, he added.
He said peace might not be so urgent for those who took ill-advised trips to sensitive areas surrounded by a posse of security personnel. It was, however, truly urgent for ordinary people in Palestine and Israel who were tired of living under fear; to mothers whose children were likely to be killed in violence on the way to school; to widows who had lost their husbands; to old people who could not run swiftly from the scenes of violence; and to children who otherwise had a long and fulfilling life ahead. The present cycle underscored all the more the urgent need for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Now was the time to put mutual animosities aside, build bridges and apply energies and resources to promoting peace and prosperity in the region. All sides must exercise leadership to preserve the achievements made so far.
NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam) said the unjustified killings of innocent people marked a new cycle of violence and excessive use of force in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He urged all parties to act with utmost responsibility and restraint, and to refrain from any acts of a provocative nature.
He reiterated his country's unreserved and unswerving support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and the right of the Palestine refugees to return to their homeland, both enshrined in the Hanoi Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, held in Hanoi, Viet Nam, last March.
He called on both parties to the conflict to make all efforts to overcome the current obstacles and persevere in their pursuit of a just and lasting solution to the conflict. The only possible option to restore peace in the region was through a solution based on the resolutions of the Council and of the General Assembly, on the "land for peace" principle and in the spirit of the various international agreements signed by the parties concerned.
AMADOU KEBE, Permanent Observer of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), said the situation was so serious that it could jeopardize the entire peace process, which the international community had managed over the years to get on track. Referring to a statement by Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary-General of the OAU, delivered on 4 October, he expressed the Organization’s concern over the deplorable violence and the turn that events had taken. The situation had arisen as a result of the visit by Ariel Sharon, under strong military escort, to Al-Haram Al-Sharif. The Palestinian people had seen that visit as a provocation.
He called on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to create conditions to end the violence and resume direct negotiations to achieve peace in the region. He welcomed the recent initiative of the United States and hoped that it would defuse the crisis. He reaffirmed the support of the OAU for the Palestinian people and for the exercise of their national independent rights.
INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said his Government was extremely concerned about the present events in the occupied territories. Those events revealed how easy it was for a destabilizing and unacceptable provocation to generate a spiral of violence of unimaginable dramatic consequences. Both the responsible parties and the international community should urgently adopt as many measures as needed to reduce tension and violence.
It was essential, he said, to strictly observe international law and international humanitarian law. The parties should honour their agreements to cease the violence, and the presence of armed forces should be reduced as much as possible. Everyone must show restraint and caution. An international commission for an objective investigation of the events would significantly contribute to reducing tensions.
He hoped that the Paris and Sharm Al-Sheik meetings would facilitate the implementation of the necessary steps and provide new momentum for the peace process, thus preventing the enemies of peace from reaching their goals. The international community must not play into the hands of those who wanted to boycott the peace process. It was important to reach a peace agreement. He hoped that the sad events had not closed the window of opportunity. It was even more important to reach a fair, satisfactory and mutually acceptable agreement, particularly when it came to the question of Jerusalem. A just peace for all people in the region would only be guaranteed by a feasible and lasting agreement on those issues.
WALTER BALZAN (Malta) said his country shared the concerns already expressed by the European Union regarding the ongoing incidents, and supported President Arafat's request for the creation of an international commission entrusted with determining the root causes and consequences of the incidents. Malta unreservedly condemned the irresponsible provocations of those elements hostile to the peace process, which had resulted in tragic loss of life. The shameful use of force perpetrated by those responsible for the maintenance of order was in clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The international community should not allow those incidents to reverse or undermine the progress achieved so far in the peace process, he said. Those devastating circumstances should strengthen the international community's commitment to a comprehensive peace, based on the relevant Security Council resolutions and on respect for international law. He appealed for an end to the violent events and an immediate return to the negotiating table. It was only through constructive dialogue and political will that a long-lasting, just and comprehensive peace could be attained. The international community should not give up hope; neither should the parties involved. This was why it was so necessary to ensure that any hostile actions which undermined the achievement of such a noble goal be stopped.
Right of Reply
YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that to move peace along despite all the backward steps that had occurred, there was a need for healthy restraint in action as well as words. There was one choice -- the language of peace and the teaching of peace, and not red-hot rhetoric. That was an excessively simplistic approach that reduced everything to the absurd and held Israel solely responsible for the deterioration of the current situation. The reality, however, was more complex than the cliché that had developed about an Israeli war machine pitted against Palestinians throwing stones. There was armed and organized violence by the Palestinian militia and police who came under the Palestinian Authority. That body had launched a campaign of ongoing provocation and had much to answer for. There had also been a call in the Palestinian Parliament for the blanket killing of Israelis. That call had received support.
He said Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount had been identified as the root cause of the current events. Others saw it as a premeditated effort between Mr. Sharon and Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel. Some even saw the visit as a deliberate attack on holy places. Those assertions were outrageous. Mr. Sharon’s visit had proceeded based on the fundamental freedoms of Israeli democracy. In addition, Temple Mount was also one of Judaism’s most holy places, just as it was sacred to Islam as Al Haram Al-Sharif. He emphasized that the Camp David negotiations and subsequent talks had made enormous progress. They had all been inspired by the Barak Government. What could not be touched previously had been touched upon. Chairman Arafat and Mr. Barak had both come to the Millennium Summit to contract a true peace -- albeit one that could not include everyone’s dreams and utopias.
He said the current debate was both serious and bitter. Rhetoric must not prevail because it would not cover everything. Bahrain had made implications about a Nazi regime. Iraq had challenged Israel’s right to exist. Algeria condemned butchery, yet had butchery in its own lands. In this unfortunate era of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the need for compassion should not be too much to assert. “Our hearts are broken over the death of Mohammed al-Dura, and we weep together with Palestinians over those who have died”, he said. He called for a return to calm and the swift advent of peace. There were still contradictions in the peace process, but “if we are to heal, we must heal together, and that must be done in peace”.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, in right of reply, said the director of a Palestinian hospital had said at least one of the wounded brought to the hospital had been struck by a dum dum bullet, which was designed to explode inside the body. Another had been shot dead as he tried to rip down an Israeli flag on an Israeli post inside Gaza. Such incidents continued to occur despite the efforts yesterday and today in Paris and Sharm Al-Sheik. Those meetings had not yet led to specific positive results. No agreement had been reached in Paris because Israel had rejected the idea of an international inquiry into who was responsible for the violence. Prime Minister Barak had not gone to Sharm Al-Sheik to meet with Secretary of State Albright and President Arafat.
Regarding the visit of Ariel Sharon to Al–Haram Al-Sharif and references by the representative of Israel to Israeli democracy, he said it was not his intention to debate the question of Israeli democracy. The Council was talking about an occupied territory -- East Jerusalem. Israel was saying that dealing with that part of the occupied territories was a part of Israeli democracy.
The holy sanctuary was part of East Jerusalem, he said. It belonged to the Moslems and had to be under Palestinian authority. Any allegation of Israeli authority over Al-Haram Al-Sharif would not be accepted. The Palestinians had accepted Israeli authority over the Wailing Wall even though it was in East Jerusalem. Israel’s claim of rights in the holy mosque could only be interpreted as trying to change the present conditions. It did not have any relation to sincere religious sentiments.
He said the representative of Israel had said how much he was affected and how Israel was deeply moved by the death of Mohammed al-Dura. While he did not deny those feelings, what was the difference between the death of that child and other murders, especially of children? he asked. The main difference was that the camera on channel 2 of Canal France had captured the act. The camera was what had caused Israel to express its emotions. Israel was refusing to assume responsibility for the crimes that had taken place. He hoped that Israel would assume its responsibility for all cases and apologize to all the families who had lost their children.
In his earlier intervention, he said, he had stated that the Israeli allegation that the incitement had been organized by the Palestinians could only be made by a racist. Now he would add the adjective “stupid”. The cameras had exposed what had happened to the whole world. Such events had occurred inside Israeli itself. Israel had to desist immediately from its shameless accusations. That would be a step towards truth and assuming its responsibilities. Otherwise it would not be possible for Israel to claim that it was willing to work for peace. He hoped the Council debate would enable it to adopt a clear and constructive position and call for an urgent international inquiry. He expressed thanks to all the participants in the current debate for defending the concept of justice in this world.
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