SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS CALLS FOR MIDDLE EAST OBSERVER FORCE

19 March 2001
SC/7034

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS CALLS FOR MIDDLE EAST OBSERVER FORCE

19/03/2001
Press ReleaseSC/7034

Security Council

Resumed 4295th Meeting (PM)

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS CALLS FOR MIDDLE EAST OBSERVER FORCE

However, Israel States Establishing Force Would Sanction Terrorism

The Security Council heard calls for the establishment of an international observer force for the occupied Palestinian territories and for the resumption of peace talks, as it resumed its consideration of the situation in the Middle East this afternoon.  Similar calls were made by several States when the Council began its open debate on the subject on 15 March.

The representative of Indonesia said that, in view of the pressing circumstances, the Council had no other alternative but to intervene and to deploy a United Nations monitoring force in the occupied territories.  Restoring a climate of trust between the two sides would hopefully lead to the resumption of the peace process.

Iran’s representative said the international community and the United Nations had a responsibility to intervene to stop the Israeli armed forces' brutal campaign against Palestinian civilians.  Unchecked acts by Israel would further exacerbate the situation in the Middle East.  The failure in the Council last December to adopt a draft resolution to authorize the establishment of a United Nations observer force to protect the Palestinian civilians had led to more bloodshed.

The Council, stated the Syrian representative, must take up its responsibility to settle the conflict in the Middle East.  What was occurring in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in full view of the world, was a massacre.  He asked what was the United Nations waiting for before it took serious action to halt Israeli practices.  The peace process begun 11 years ago in Madrid was losing its momentum, he continued, and it was obvious that Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory was the main impediment to peace.

Responding to statements made, the representative of Israel said it was up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to decide on the future of the peace process. Any divergent measures, such as the establishment of an international protection force, were tantamount to sanctioning the Palestinians for acquiring a political objective through terrorism.  Israel was firmly opposed to the resolution which would establish an international observer force.

The Observer for Palestine said he believed that Israel rejected the establishment of a United Nations observer force because such a presence would expose current Israeli practices.  He asked if Israel would accept the resumption

of negotiations at the point where they stopped, and accept the progress that had been made thus far.  He also asked if it would be obligated by the agreements it had already signed. 

The Council was also addressed this afternoon by the representatives of Pakistan, New Zealand, Cuba, Mauritania, Morocco and Lebanon.  In addition, the Chairman of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the observers for the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States spoke during the debate. 

The meeting, which began at 3:10 p.m., adjourned at 5:30 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.  The current Council discussion of this situation commenced on 15 March 2001 at a meeting that was adjourned due to the lateness of the hour.  For details of that last meeting on the Middle East, please see Press Release SC/7031 dated 15 March.

Statements

SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said the issue of Palestine had been debated for well over half a century. The international community had unequivocally pronounced its support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, yet Palestinians had not been given the land which was theirs by right.  Unfortunately, power politics and political expediency continued to disable the Security Council in addressing its Charter responsibilities.

The present deteriorating situation, no doubt, warranted urgent attention, he said.  The international community must act with determination to prevent the situation from worsening.  He urged the Security Council to take necessary measures to protect the Palestinian people by deploying a United Nations protection force in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.  Such a measure was the least that could be done to prevent aggravation of the situation on the ground.

The international community, he said, must also address the broader fundamental issue of the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Last year, there were bold steps taken in the direction of peace, but provocative actions by some individuals had severely undermined that progress.  The Israeli leadership must be compelled to return to the negotiating table in good faith.  The process of peace needed to be urgently put back on track.  Prompt action was, therefore, required by the Security Council to facilitate the realization of the national rights of the Palestinian people.  

DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said that it was clear from over half a century of conflict in Israel and the occupied territories that neither violence nor repression held out any hope for creating peace and security.  The targeting of civilians promoted fear and hatred.  It was for that reason that New Zealand urged both sides to refrain from such actions, and for Israel to lift its siege on the towns of the occupied territories.

He said that the blockade of the Palestinian population was disproportionate to the threat Israel faced, and could not provide the security that Israel sought. Instead, it would simply provide more fertile ground in which extremist groups could seek to expand their destructive causes.

New Zealand urged Israel to release tax payments due to the Palestinian Authority, he said.  The withholding of those funds, combined with the economic effects of the closure of the West Bank and Gaza, had caused a dire situation in the occupied territories.  Loss of work and hope only increased the desperation of the Palestinian population, while the destruction of the Palestinian economy served no one.  He called on the leaders of both parties to find a way past the distrust and to work together to provide a viable future for their peoples.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that it was important that the Council take up its responsibility, in accordance with the Charter and in light of resolutions taken long ago, to solve the situation in the Middle East.  What was occurring in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in full view of the world, was a massacre.  It was, in fact, a methodical form of genocide.  Palestinian children, women and elderly people were being killed by Israeli tanks and missiles as they slept or walked in the streets.  More than 400 women, children and innocent civilians had been killed and more than 15,000 injured.  He asked what the United Nations was waiting for before it took serious action to halt Israeli practices.  Allowing Israel to continue its practices meant allowing a Palestinian genocide. 

The peace process begun 11 years ago in Madrid was losing its momentum, he continued.  It had become obvious that Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory was the main impediment to peace.  The peace process had stopped on all its tracks because Israel insisted on occupation, on rejection of international law, and on non-implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions.  The fall of the last Israeli Government was the result of what the peace process had actually attained.  The last Israeli Government had followed a policy of talking about peace and had taken no concrete steps to bring about peace.  The peace that all Arabs were aspiring to was one which would restore to Arabs their occupied territory, by full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines. 

The measures taken by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which led to their partitioning, were inhuman and sought to obstruct the mobility of the Palestinians, he said.  The recent meeting of Arab foreign ministers had called on the Council to take necessary measures to protect the Palestinian people and prevent any further deterioration of the situation.  It also called on the Council to take necessary steps leading to an international protection force for the Palestinians.  Peace required justice and Israel could not bring about peace and security through the continued occupation of Arab territory.  Peace was the only way to bring about security.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), speaking as Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that the Committee was alarmed by the continuing violence in the territory and the continued reliance by the Israeli Defence Forces on excessive force.  It joined the international community in condemning the practice of extrajudicial killing by Israeli security forces of Palestinian officials.  That policy perpetuated violence, led to a crisis of confidence between the parties and, consequently, pushed back prospects for resuming peace negotiations. 

The international community should not stand idly by while the situation continued to escalate, he said.  Today’s status quo was utterly unacceptable and decisive action was needed to stop the continuation of violence and devastation.  He called on the new Israeli Government to respect the principles of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and the provisions of relevant Council and General Assembly resolutions.

The Committee, he said, had voiced its special concern at the dangers posed by the rapid disintegration of the Palestinian economy as a result of restrictive Israeli policies.  In addition, it shared the view that the fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority should be at the top of the international community’s agenda.

With regard to the peace process, he stated that some pronouncements attributed to officials in the Israeli Government showed that the Israeli side did not seem to be prepared to continue the talks from the point where they were left.  If that was indeed the case, the negotiating process might be thrown back many months.  The year 2001 marked the tenth anniversary of the Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid.  Progress made in the past decade simply could not be allowed to wane.

MOHAMMAD H. FADAIFARD (Iran) said that there had been an increase in the level of violence in the Palestinian territories since a more aggressive Israeli faction took up the reigns of power.  That change in leadership had led to the intensification of the policy of suffocating and besieging cities and villages in the West Bank and Gaza.  The tightening of blockades of Palestinian territories by the occupiers was further preventing Palestinians from access to basic necessities, including medical treatment and work.  That amounted to collective punishment of a whole people in the name of security for the occupiers.

Indiscriminate killing of Palestinians negated the Israeli pretence of a desire for peaceful coexistence with the Moslems and Christians in the region, he said.  Israel's repeated crimes and heavy-handed approach run counter to its high-sounding claims of seeking peace.  The fundamental question that the international community now faced was the extent to which Palestinian agony could be justified before the occupiers were tamed.

In Iran's view, the international community and the United Nations had a responsibility to intervene to stop the Israeli armed forces' brutal campaign against Palestinian civilians.  Unchecked acts by Israel would further exacerbate the situation in the Middle East.  The defeat by the Council last December of a draft resolution to authorize the establishment of a United Nations observer force to protect Palestinian civilians had led to more bloodshed.  Iran expected the Security Council to fulfil its responsibility this time and take concrete measures to that end.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said that the Council was discussing one of the most complicated and recurring issues on its agenda.  In addition to the resolutions adopted by the United Nations, the Secretary-General had continued his tireless efforts to solve the current crisis.  How frustrating it was to realize that despite all such efforts, Israel continued its occupation and continued to violate the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The over 400 Palestinians dead and several thousand wounded clearly reflected the tragic human costs of the past six months. The closure of borders and other actions with grave economic consequences required international condemnation.  If Israel had complied with relevant United Nations resolutions, the situation today could have been avoided. 

Once again, he called for the deployment of an international observer force. Israeli polices and practices which denied the aspirations of the Palestinian people would never be compatible with a just and lasting peace, he said.  The Palestinians must be allowed to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as their capital.  Also, Israel must withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan.  Different standards continued to be applied to Israel.  As long as hegemony and narrow domestic interests determined the course of the Council’s action, there would be no peace.  He appealed to the Council to act without further delay.  It must immediately establish an observer force to protect Palestinian civilians.  Israel must be forced to comply with United Nations resolutions.

MAHFOUDH OULD DEDDACH (Mauritania) said that it had been six months since the beginning of the Palestinian popular uprising.  The Council had discussed the situation many times and had yet to reach a suitable solution.  Mauritania called for the lifting of the suffocating blockade against the Palestinian people and the halting of the violence.  The Mauritanian people expressed their full solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The Security Council, as the guarantor of international peace and security, was being called upon to send an international observer force under the auspices of the United Nations, he said.  Mauritania fully supported the establishment of that force and hoped a resolution doing that would be adopted unanimously.  The escalation of the conflict represented an impediment to bringing about peace in the Middle East.  No just and comprehensive peace could be achieved without the full implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions and the full realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

ELHASSANE ZAHID (Morocco) said that, having listened attentively to the many statements on the tragic situation in the Palestinian territories, he wished to echo the cries of distress and the appeals for reason.  For many months, violence had ravaged the Palestinian territories due to the impasse in the peace process.  The grave deterioration in the security situation had compounded the deterioration of the daily lives of the Palestinians.  Children could not attend school and mothers did not have access to hospitals.  Such conditions could only exacerbate violence. 

The situation, he continued, also threatened the peace and security of the entire region.  The hundreds of Palestinians who were victims of Israel’s violent measures and closures demanded urgent action by the international community, which must ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians.  The repression must come to an end, as should the economic sanctions against the Palestinians.  He called on Israel to comply with the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians and to put an end to closures, in order to restart the peace process.

He said he was very concerned about the grim prospects in the occupied territories and called on the Council to establish appropriate measures to allow Palestinians to exercise their inalienable rights.  The Council should examine, once again, sending a protection force, and bringing Israel back to the negotiating table in accordance with the Madrid and Oslo principles.  The path to peace, just like the path to prosperity and security, meant the resumption of negotiations and withdrawal from Arab territories.  Violence bred more violence.  The international community had a more and more pressing obligation vis-à-vis the Palestinian people.

SELIM TADMOURY (Lebanon) said it was regrettable to witness the suffering of the Palestinian people due to the use of excessive force by the Israeli occupation forces.  He was concerned about the escalation of violence and the attempt to bring the Palestinian people to their knees.  Recent measures taken by the Israeli Government represented a violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people. The tragic situation would only bring about more violence.

It was fair to say that the international community had given new life to the idea of an international observer force for the occupied Palestinian territories, he said.  The creation of an international observer force was only a small step and a not solution to the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel.  Nevertheless, it would provide reasonable conditions for both parties to go back to the negotiating table.

The Security Council, he said, was being called upon to provide assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.  It was in the Council’s interest to establish an international force as the first step to peace. A lasting peace could only be achieved through implementation of relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, and within the framework of land for peace. Israel should acknowledge the legitimate advice of others.

MOKHTAR LAMANI, Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that there was good reason to believe that the Council would not remain impassive, particularly since the international community had entirely mobilized itself behind the Palestinians.  Peace, security and prosperity would not be achieved in the region as long as an adequate solution was not implemented which guaranteed a dignified life for all peoples in the Middle East.  It was not with more repression and blockades that peace would be further consolidated.  Such measures could only serve to exacerbate the situation.  In the current situation, he called on the international community to act immediately and effectively to put an end to the violations committed against Palestinians.  Given the intransigent nature of the Israeli Government, the situation in the region was a serious one, threatening regional and international peace.  The Council must try to provide necessary protection for Palestinians and ensure that Israel lift the blockage.  Those measures could lead to conditions which would restart the peace process.

ALI A. ABBAS, speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, said the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories had reached a stage where it required immediate and urgent action by the Security Council.  The Council should do its utmost to prevent the further deterioration of the situation in the region, and should face up to the serious Israeli measures.  Efforts by Israel to stop the Council from adopting a resolution on an international protection force were of no surprise.  Israel tried to protect itself with the assistance of a permanent member of the Council, while international bodies had begun to expose its inhumane policies.

Israel, he said, was trying to present itself as a country that was occupied and not occupying another land.  The occupation was the essence of the crisis. Israel was treating the world with utter disregard and the true nature of its position had become well known to the international community.  The co-sponsors of the peace process, especially the United States, should shoulder the responsibility and take the necessary steps to bring the two parties back to the negotiating table.

The League of Arab States had always expressed its interest in a just and lasting peace, he said.  In view of the seriousness of the situation, the Council should adopt a resolution to establish an international observer force for the occupied Palestinian territories.  The Council should also move with the utmost speed to implement the provisions of its relevant resolutions and the Madrid peace agreements.

MAKMUR WIDODO (Indonesia) said that on 18 December 2000, the Council did not adopt a resolution which would have dispatched a mission comprising of military and police observers to stop the deterioration on the ground, due to the lack of necessary votes.  If it had, a needless loss of Palestinian lives would have been averted and the violence would have been contained.  The Council should, therefore, no longer delay in taking such action, for no amount of convoluted logic or pretext could justify inaction on its part.  It should be recalled that conflicts of far lesser magnitude had resulted in the Council taking swift and even hasty action. 

In view of the pressing circumstances, he said that the Council had no other alternative but to intervene now by deploying a United Nations monitoring force in the occupied territories, so that the killing of innocent civilians would cease.  It would also ease tension on the ground and bringing about a return to normalcy as soon as possible.  Further, restoring and fostering a climate of trust between the two sides would hopefully lead to the resumption of the peace process.  The basic elements for a peaceful settlement remained unchanged, and comprehensive peace could only be attained with the unfettered exercise of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the establishment of its own independent homeland.

YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) said that Israel had reasons for believing that this dialogue with the Security Council was a constructive exchange of views and in the spirit of openness.  Although the condemnation of the terrorist aspects of the intifada by Council members had taken place in carefully crafted rhetoric, it was still healthy and sound.  Israel was sensitive to the calls by several countries for a return to the negotiation table.

Certain Member States had singled out Israeli occupation as the source of the present conflict, he said.  Because there was often an attempt to rewrite the history of the Jewish people, he felt compelled to recite a brief history of the Israeli-Arab conflict since 1967.  The present Israeli occupation was the result of an attempt on the part of the Arab world to destroy Israel.  Egypt, which was currently denouncing the Israeli occupation, was itself the occupying Power of the entire Gaza Strip for 19 years.  During that period, it never occurred to them to establish a Palestinian state.

The Permanent Representative of Tunisia had asked what Israel was waiting for, he said.  Israeli was waiting for a scenario that would allow its survival following a final Palestinian-Israeli agreement.  Everyone understood that the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, if it were to be carried out as the Palestinians had urged, would, in fact, be equivalent to the death of the Israeli State.  Israel did not expect to die as the result of a demographic flood.  It was here that the Palestinian position was frozen.

The word occupation, as applied to the territories of 1967, seemed like the beginning and the end of Palestinian frustration, he said, but the reality of the situation was far more complex than the simply dichotomy of occupier and occupied. Israel hoped to resume negotiations with the Palestinians.  It was up to Israelis

and Palestinians to decide on the future of the peace process.  Any divergent measures, such as the establishment of an international protection force, would be tantamount to sanctioning Palestinian efforts to acquire a political objective through terrorism.  Israel was firmly opposed to a resolution that would establish such an international observer force.

M. NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that the contents of the statement by the Israeli ambassador reflected the usual arrogance of the Israelis.  Following Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’ meeting with the Council, various press agencies quoted him as having said that negotiations with Palestinians would not resume as long as the Palestinians continued to call on the United Nations to station observers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  He wondered if that was a threat to the Palestinians or to the members of the Council.  The main issue was the occupation, and the main tragedy was that Israel did not want to acknowledge that.

The positions taken by Israel and Israeli officials affirmed his suspicions that their view was that Israeli blood was more precious than Palestinian blood, he said.  While the number of Palestinian victims were 10 times greater than those of Israeli victims, the Palestinians were seen as the cause of the tragedy.  The Israeli ambassador spoke of rejection of the Palestinian position on refugees.  Israel should, in principle, accept its responsibility vis-à-vis Palestinian refugees.  The Palestinians were prepared to negotiate with Israel on certain measures which took into account all Israeli fears, including the security of Israel.

He said that the Israeli ambassador said that Mr. Arafat had refused to sign an agreement with Mr. Barak.  What was important now was what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was saying concerning the peace process.  He asked if Israel would accept the resumption of negotiations at the point where they stopped, and accept the progress that had been made, and whether it would be obligated by the agreements it had already signed, or prefer to destroy them and set out a new transitional process.

Until now, he said, he had not understood why Israel rejected a United Nations observer force.  He believed that the presence of observers would contribute positively to controlling all forms of violence and restoring the situation to what it was before 28 September 2000.  The international community hesitated in the face of Israeli intransigence because the most powerful member of the Council continued to support Israel.  He called on the Council to be obligated to uphold the minimum of international law, international humanitarian law, and its resolutions.  He urged it not to support any position that did not lead to the resumption of the peace process.

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For information media. Not an official record.