SECURITY COUNCIL REITERATES CALL FOR MIDEAST CEASEFIRE, ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL; WELCOMES MISSION OF UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE

4 April 2002
SC/7355

SECURITY COUNCIL REITERATES CALL FOR MIDEAST CEASEFIRE, ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL; WELCOMES MISSION OF UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE

04/04/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7355

Security Council

4506th Resumed Meeting (Night)

SECURITY COUNCIL REITERATES CALL FOR MIDEAST CEASEFIRE, ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL;

WELCOMES MISSION OF UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE

Resolution 1403 (2002) Adopted Unanimously

Gravely concerned at the further deterioration of the situation on the ground in the Middle East, the Security Council this evening demanded the implementation of its resolution 1402 (2002), which it adopted early on the morning of 30 March. 

Unanimously adopting resolution 1403 (2002), the Council welcomed the mission of the United States Secretary of State to the region, as well as efforts by others, in particular the special envoys from the United States, Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations Special Coordinator, to bring about a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. 

The Council requested the Secretary-General to follow up the situation and keep the Council informed and decided to remain seized of the matter.  In addition to reaffirming resolution 1402 (2002), the Council reaffirmed its resolution 1397 (2002) of 12 March, which, among other provisions, affirmed the Council's vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, lived side by side within secure and recognized borders. 

Among its provisions, resolution 1402 (2002) calls for:   both parties to move immediately to a meaningful ceasefire; the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah; and full cooperation with Special Envoy General Anthony Zinni, and others, to implement the Tenet security work plan as a first step towards implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations, with the aim of resuming negotiations on a political settlement.

Prior to the text's adoption, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said resolution 1402 (2002) provided the elements needed to begin to de-escalate the present crisis, and resolution 1397 (2002) of 12 March provided the framework for a permanent settlement.  Everyone needed to intensify efforts to see that those resolutions were implemented without further delay.  He said that “building blocks of peace, once broken down, are not easily rebuilt”.  Recent events had had a further, severely corrosive effect on mutual confidence.  On both sides, bitterness and despair were at an all time high.  “We all need to cling to the conviction that, in the end, however long it takes, there will one day have to be a peaceful settlement of this conflict”, he said.

Third-party mediation was needed more than ever as the parties were unable, on their own, to find a way out of the present situation, he said.  In that connection, he strongly welcomed President Bush’s decision to send Secretary Powell to the region.  The road back to the negotiating table would not be easy or smooth, but all sides could take the first steps by exercising maximum restraint so as to reverse the current dangerous deterioration of the situation. 

Statements before action were also made by the representatives of Syria and Israel.  The Permanent Observer for Palestine also spoke.

The Council's action came in the context of a resumed meeting, which had been suspended yesterday evening at 8:05 p.m. following a debate during which

58 speakers took the floor.  The meeting was requested by the representatives of Tunisia, for the Arab Group, and South Africa, for the Non-Aligned Movement.

The meeting was resumed at 7 p.m. this evening and adjourned at 7:35 p.m.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 1403 (2002) reads, as follows:

The Security Council,

Reaffirming its resolutions 1397 (2002) of 12 March 2002 and 1402 (2002) of 30 March 2002,

Gravely concerned at the further deterioration of the situation on the ground and noting that resolution 1402 (2002) has not yet been implemented,

“1.   Demands the implementation of its resolution 1402 (2002) without delay;

“2.   Welcomes the mission of the U.S. Secretary of State to the region, as well as efforts by others, in particular the special envoys from the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations Special Coordinator, to bring about a comprehensive, just and lasting peace to the Middle East;

“3.   Requests the Secretary-General to follow the situation and keep the Council informed;

“4.   Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

Background

The Security Council met this evening to resume its consideration of the situation in the Middle East, following its day-long debate yesterday in which

58 speakers participated.  It had before it a further draft resolution on the matter (document S/2002/347), following the adoption on 12 and 30 March of two other resolutions.  (For details, see Press Releases SC/7352 of 3 April and SC/7348 of 29 March.)

Statements

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) expressed his great appreciation for all the efforts that the Council had undertaken to unite in the face of the challenges faced in the Middle East.  The Council had moved in view of Israel’s aggression.  The position being adopted was the Council’s expression of the firm support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  By putting forward the text, the Arab Group had wished to communicate to the international community the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Syria’s support of the text reflected its true desire to see the Council assume its role effectively and confirmed the importance of the unity of the Council’s work.

YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) expressed his profound gratitude for the presence of the Secretary-General and for his highly significant contribution to the proceedings of the Council during its last discussions.  Today’s resolution followed United States President Bush’s important statement that Secretary of State Colin Powell would be travelling to the region to work for implementation of resolution 1402 (2002).  For its part, Israel was willing, with the full cooperation of the United States mission, to engage in steps, together with reciprocal Palestinian actions, to achieve an immediate and meaningful ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all Palestinian cities, and the implementation of agreed portions of the Tenet plan and Mitchell report.  At the same time, there must be a cessation of all acts of terror, in accordance with recent Council resolutions.

He said that President Bush, in his valuable statement, again had articulated his vision for peace in the Middle East, including an end to terrorism and its incitement, withdrawal of Israeli forces, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel.  President Bush had indicated to both sides the steps that should be taken to bring about meaningful and peaceful coexistence.  Israel was giving that statement the careful attention it deserved and would reassess the situation in light of its major operative parts.  Sending Secretary Powell was a powerful demonstration of that country’s commitment to end the violence and bring peace to the region.  Israel would spare no effort to make that mission a success and bring about a genuine ceasefire leading to a return to the negotiating table. 

He wished to add to President Bush’s expressed concern about the continuing assaults by Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border.  Those actions were a clear and unambiguous violation of the “Blue Line” and Council resolutions.  In that regard, he referred to the statement made yesterday by the Syrian representative.  He would not respond now to all aspects of his statement, which had been filled with hatred and distortions, but one aspect deserved to be addressed, namely, the Syrian allegation of Israeli contempt for United Nations resolutions.  Despite Israel's full and confirmed implementation of 425, in full accord with the Council’s will, Syria continued to exhibit a total disregard for that resolution.  Through its overwhelming control of Lebanon and continued support of Hezbollah, violations of the Blue line continued to occur.

Today, those dangerous and illegal attacks continued for the sixth straight day, firing on civilian and military targets in northern Israel, he went on.  In addition, three unarmed United Nations observers and two peacekeepers were injured by Hezbollah forces.  Ironically, it was a member of the Security Council who defied consensus of resolution 425 with impunity and enabled such reprehensible attacks to occur.  He, therefore, was obliged to deplore such violations of the resolution and the Blue Line, as well as the fact that a Member State of the United Nations and Security Council deliberately defaulted on implementation of resolution of a body of which it was itself, a member. 

He added that the situation along the blue line threatened to undermine regional stability and escalate current hostilities into a broader arena.  Syria must act to immediately halt the illegal activities of Hezbollah.  It was a crucial moment in the region.  Once again, through the resolve and leadership of the American President and the intervention of the international community, he, again, had cause for hope.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, thanked the Council for its efforts.  He repeated his thanks to the Secretary-General for his constant effort to put an end to the Middle East tragedy.  The Council was about to adopt another important text by consensus, and he appreciated very much the position expressed by Syria, which was embodied in its willingness to support the resolution and cooperate with international efforts.  The Council had important assets embodied in resolutions 1397, 1402 and today’s text.  He called for the implementation of resolution 1402 without delay. 

He noted the important statements made by President Bush today.  That statement was being studied by Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian leadership, under difficult circumstances.  He greatly valued what the statement reflected in terms of United States readiness to be involved in the peace efforts at the highest level.  He also appreciated the new rapprochement in response to addressing both the political and security situation in the region. 

He said he had noted that the statement called upon Israel to withdraw from Palestinian cities, and also called for an immediate ceasefire, putting an end to settlements and combating terrorism, including the network of terrorism.  All that was definitely positive.  It went without saying, however, that he had reservations regarding the unjustified criticism of Mr. Arafat, the elected leader of the Palestinians.  The legitimate fears of the Palestinian side must be overcome so that all could move towards implementation of the agreements as soon as possible.

He welcomed the visit of Secretary of State Powell to the region. Mr. Arafat was absolutely willing to cooperate with Mr. Powell to ensure the success of his mission.

Mr. WEHBE (Syria) said the Council was just moments away from the adoption of a very important resolution, which he was joining out of unity with the Council.  It was aimed at halting the aggression of the Israeli people against the Palestinian people.  Syria's record was well known to all members of the Council, and it was an honourable one.  When it managed to become a member, it was with a majority of 160 members.  The Council was aware of the considerable contributions made by Syria in dealing with the various problems before the Council in the maintenance of international peace and security.

He said he was not forced to respond to the allegations and false claims made by the Israeli representative, and he did not intend to turn the session into polemics.  Resolution 425 had not been implemented in full; the partial implementation had been made under resistance, and today there was daily aerial violation to scare and terrify the Lebanese citizens, rendering everything "topsy turvy".  He was not here to state that Israel had not implemented all resolutions.  He was adopting the present resolution because Israel had not implemented the previous two.

Statement by Secretary-General

KOFI ANNAN said that the situation in the Middle East -- between Israel and Palestine, and across the Blue Line -- continued to deteriorate.  All parties risked making “serious miscalculations” about the effect their actions would have on each other.  Such miscalculations could all too easily draw the region into greater and greater danger, whether intended or not.  He called on the international community to consider urgently how best to intercede with the parties to persuade them to draw back from their present course.

He said that in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, Security Council resolution 1402 (2002) provided the elements needed to begin to de-escalate the present crisis, and resolution 1397 (2002) provided the framework for a permanent settlement.  Everyone needed to intensify efforts to see that those resolutions were implemented without further delay.  Israeli actions, since the adoption of resolution 1402 (2002), did not bode well for stabilizing the situation and renewing political talks.  On the contrary, the Government of Israel appeared to be moving in the opposite direction to that prescribed by the two recent resolutions; that was a “sure path to further escalation”. 

Israel had justified its acts as self-defence and counter-terrorist measures.  But “self-defence is not a blank cheque”, he said.  Responding to terrorism did not in any way free Israel from its obligations under international law, nor did it justify creating a human rights and humanitarian crisis within the occupied Palestinian territory.  There was an urgent need to comply with all provisions of international law, particularly those that banned indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force, as well as the humiliating treatment of a civilian population.

He said that forcing Chairman Arafat into exile would be “reckless”.  He was the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and his exile would only lead to even more violence and chaos.  Deportation was specifically prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention.  It would be a miscalculation of monumental proportions to believe that removing Chairman Arafat from the political scene and dismantling the Palestinian Authority would create conditions where Israel could achieve security for itself.

“I understand the bitterness, anger and disillusion felt by Israelis”, he continued.  But the military route taken by that Government would not pacify the Palestinians.  Nor did he see how that approach could bring peace and security to Israel.  Only a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement could do so.  History had shown that it was a grave mistake for the more powerful party to believe that power alone would ultimately subdue the weaker party.  In fact, the world was witnessing an increase in the resolve and unity of the Palestinians, as well as increasing public anger across the Arab and Islamic world and beyond.

He said he was not arguing that the spiralling violence was to be blamed on one party alone.  The Palestinian Authority seemed to believe that failing to act against terrorism and inducing turmoil, chaos and instability, would cause the Government and people of Israel to buckle.  “They will not”, he said.  That approach was only spurring on the Israeli Government in its present course.  It also united the Israeli public behind the military option.

Under direct assault from the Israeli military, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian security services were seriously limited in their ability to contain terrorism.  Terrorism was never justified.  The Palestinian leadership must acknowledge that and the Palestinian public must accept that.

He called on the Government of Israel to give the “Quartet” full access to the compound of Chairman Arafat and to the Chairman himself.  Together with General Zinni’s mission, the Quartet arrangement could be used as an effective instrument to pursue implementation of resolution 1402 (2002). 

There had been persistent reports about the limitations placed on access by humanitarian and medical workers to those Palestinians in urgent need of assistance, he continued.  Those workers and agencies must be granted full access to the affected areas.

He said there was plenty of reason for pessimism, but there was at least one recent positive development.  The promise represented by the Arab League’s Beirut Summit marked a significant turning point.  It should be ensured that the Saudi initiative endorsed by the Arab League did not founder.  “Let us hold onto and nourish that vision amid the encircling gloom and worrying rise in regional tension”, he said.

Next, he expressed his very serious concern over events along the Blue Line.  It must be ensured that all sides respected the Blue Line.  Escalations along the Blue Line could have serious consequences for peace and security in the region, beyond Israel and Lebanon, as was known from the past.  Efforts seemed to be coming from Lebanese territory to deliberately create instability along the Blue Line.

It needed to be made clear to Hezbollah and others who might be involved that attacks across the Blue Line -- whether into northern Israel or into occupied Syrian territory -- were violations of Security Council resolutions and “are not acceptable”.  He strongly urged those with influence to ensure adherence to the resolutions on that subject.  The Government of Lebanon was aware that it was responsible for any hostile actions undertaken from its territory.

He said that “building blocks of peace, once broken down, are not easily rebuilt”.  Recent events had had a further, severely corrosive effect on mutual confidence.  On both sides, bitterness and despair were at an all time high.  “We all need to cling to the conviction that, in the end, however long it takes, there will one day have to be a peaceful settlement of this conflict”, he said.

Third party mediation was needed more than ever as the parties were unable, on their own, to find a way out of the present situation, he said.  In that connection, he strongly welcomed President Bush’s decision to send Secretary Powell to the region.  The road back to the negotiating table would not be easy or smooth, but all sides could take the first steps by exercising maximum restraint so as to reverse the current dangerous deterioration of the situation. 

He said that resolutions 1397 (2002) and 1402 (2002), taken together, provided the vision for a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the immediate security and political steps needed to move beyond the present crisis.  Efforts should focus on implementing those texts.

The Council then adopted resolution 1403 (2002) by a vote of 15 in favour to none against.

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For information media. Not an official record.