SPEAKERS IN SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESS REGRET, DISAPPOINTMENT AT ISRAEL’S REFUSAL TO COOPERATE WITH JENIN REFUGEE CAMP FACT-FINDING TEAM

3 May 2002
SC/7391

SPEAKERS IN SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESS REGRET, DISAPPOINTMENT AT ISRAEL’S REFUSAL TO COOPERATE WITH JENIN REFUGEE CAMP FACT-FINDING TEAM

03/05/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7391

Security Council

4525th Meeting (PM & Night)

SPEAKERS IN SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESS REGRET, DISAPPOINTMENT AT ISRAEL’S

REFUSAL TO COOPERATE WITH JENIN REFUGEE CAMP FACT-FINDING TEAM

Many Say Council Authority, Credibility Undermined; Lacking

Council Action, Arab Group Will Call for General Assembly Emergency Session

Expressing disappointment and regret at Israel's decision not to cooperate with the fact-finding mission to the Jenin refugee camp, speakers in today's public meeting of the Security Council also warned that such a failure to comply with Council resolutions would jeopardize the Council's authority and undermine its credibility.

Several speakers added that, in the absence of Council action to ensure compliance with its resolutions regarding the fact-finding mission, they would seek a resumption of the Tenth Emergency Session of the General Assembly on that issue.

Sudan's representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that Israel's rejection of the fact-finding team and of resolution 1405 (2002) had not come as a surprise, as that country had persistently flouted Council resolutions and gravely violated international law, including international humanitarian law.  The question now was what the Council intended to do in the face of the grave challenge by Israel.  The Arab Group’s request for today’s meeting was aimed at bringing about international justice and fairness.  The Council must rise to its responsibility or the Arab Group would resort to the General Assembly, he said.

The Observer for Palestine strongly condemned Israel’s rejection of the fact-finding team and expressed regret that the Council had not responded accordingly.  The Council should order Israel not to throw up obstacles to the team, in line with a previous draft tabled by the Arab Group, which had not gained enough support in the face of opposition by a permanent member, he said.  Backtracking by the Council would constitute an abdication of its responsibilities. 

Israel's representative said that considerable disinformation and confusion had been generated about the mandate of the fact-finding team.  Initially, the Palestinians had said that thousands of bodies were buried under the rubble in Jenin, but the figure had then been reduced to hundreds.  Now the outcome was 47 Palestinian gunmen and 23 Israeli soldiers killed, as well as seven Palestinian civilians.  Civilian causalities had occurred because armed Palestinians had built a terrorist network in the very midst of the civilian population.  Palestinians

were even reported to have dug up bodies buried elsewhere and reburied them in Jenin to bolster claims of Israeli atrocities.

Spain's representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, recognized the importance of the Secretary-General's initiative to obtain accurate information about events in Jenin and deplored the fact that the fact-finding team would not be able to proceed.  While Israel professed to have nothing to hide, the “long shadow” cast by recent events would remain in the absence of a fact-finding exercise.  He stressed the obligation of all United Nations Member States to accept Security Council decisions. 

The representative of the United States said that the language of resolution 1405 (2002) did not make demands of either the Palestinians, Israelis or the Secretary-General.  It welcomed his proposal for a fact-finding team and it was regrettable that Israel had denied access to the fact-finding team.  Diplomatic efforts by the United States were dedicated to working with both the Palestinians and Israelis and embraced three elements:  the restoration security for both parties; the need to address humanitarian needs; and building market institutions for the Palestinian people, who needed access to jobs and markets.

Cuba's representative, however, described the United States position on resolution 1405 (2002) as ridiculous, noting that that country had itself introduced the text, only to then obstruct its implementation.  The United States had introduced the draft in order to obstruct a previous text tabled by the Arab Group and to divert attention from the proposal that a multinational force be sent to the occupied Palestinian territories.  The Council must condemn such actions by the United States, as well as its supply of aircraft and other weaponry that enabled Israel to carry out its military actions, he added.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the so-called Quartet, meeting in Washington, D.C., yesterday, had come out strongly for concerted action to restore peace in the Middle East.  The proposal by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah must be carried out, and all resolutions fully implemented.  There could be no double standards in the Council as they would undermine its work.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Council members Ireland, Cameroon, Guinea, Colombia, Bulgaria, China, Mauritius, Syria, Mexico, United Kingdom, Norway, France and Singapore.

The Council also heard from the representatives of Tunisia, Chile, Egypt, Canada, Jordan, Pakistan, Malaysia, South Africa, Turkey, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Morocco, Argentina, Iran, Brazil and Lebanon.

The Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also spoke.

Today's meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and was suspended at 4:36 p.m.  It resumed at 6:23 p.m. and adjourned at 10:19 p.m.

Background

A letter from the Secretary-General (document S/2002/504), dated 1 May, describes his efforts to implement Council resolution 1405 (2002).  That resolution welcomed the Secretary-General's initiative to gather accurate information about recent events in the Jenin refugee camp through a fact-finding team.

In the letter, the Secretary-General states his intention to disband the fact-finding team and his regret at being unable to provide the information requested by the Council in resolution 1405 (2002).  (The Secretary-General subsequently disbanded the team on 2 May.)

The letter details events that delayed deployment of the team after it gathered in Geneva on 25 April, focusing on Israeli concerns over:  the composition of the team; the scope of its mandate; how the mandate would be carried out; and various procedural matters.  Those concerns led to the following announcement by Israel's Ministerial Committee on National Security on 30 April: "Israel has raised essential issues before the United Nations for a fair examination.  As long as these terms have not been met, it will not be possible for the clarification process to begin".

Responding, the Secretary-General said he was drawn reluctantly to the conclusion that while continuing to express its concerns to the United Nations mainly in the form of procedural issues, Israel had developed concerns about resolution 1405 (2002) “that were fundamental in nature”.  He adds, "In light of yesterday's announcement by the Government of Israel, it seems evident that the team will not be able to proceed to the area to begin its mission in the near future".

The team was to be headed by Martti Ahtisaari, and included Sadako Ogata and Cornelio Sommaruga, along with four senior advisers -- Major General William Nash as Military Adviser, Deputy Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald as Police Adviser, Tyge Lehmann as Legal Adviser and Helena Ranta as Medical/Legal Adviser.

Also before the Council was a letter from the Permanent Mission of the Sudan to the United Nations, on behalf of the Arab Group (document S/2002/510), requesting that the Council meet to consider the grave situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Statements

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, recalled that 14 days ago the Council had adopted resolution 1405 (2002) welcoming the Secretary-General’s initiative to develop accurate information on recent events in the Jenin refugee camp and requesting him to keep the Council informed on the matter.  The resolution addressed the horrific humanitarian situation of the civilian Palestinian population in Jenin and set the framework within which to address the situation.

Following adoption of the resolution, he said, the Secretary-General had constituted a team of three eminent personalities, advisers and experts in various areas.  That was welcomed as a serious step towards establishing what had happened in Jenin.  Subsequently, there had been a complete Israeli backtracking from acceptance of the team and a series of Israeli attitudes aimed at undermining and jeopardizing any results that it might reach, as well as attempts to blackmail the Secretary-General and the United Nations to accommodate Israeli reservations.

He said that the day before yesterday, the Secretary-General had addressed a letter to the Council containing his intention to disband the team.  That letter constituted a complete condemnation of Israel’s position regarding the team.  He strongly condemned Israel’s rejection of the team and its efforts to impede and obstruct its work.  The Council should have thrown its weight behind the Secretary-General’s efforts a few days earlier and his delegation had proposed that to the Council.  Regrettably, it had not responded accordingly.  In the wake of the Secretary-General’s decision, the Council should order Israel not to throw up obstacles, request the Secretary-General to dispatch the team immediately and require the two sides to cooperate with it. 

The Arab Group had tabled a resolution along those lines, which had, unfortunately, not gained enough support in the face of opposition by a permanent member of the Council, he said.  Backtracking by the Council would constitute a genuine scandal, a breach of the Charter and an abdication by the Council of its responsibilities.  The Palestinian side hoped that the Council would be able to adopt an appropriate resolution and, even if it failed to do so, his delegation would seek a resumption of the Tenth Emergency Session of the General Assembly.

He said Israel’s position regarding the team proved beyond any doubt that the occupation forces had indeed committed unspeakable atrocities against the Palestinian people, especially in Jenin.  The denial of medicines and medical care and the denial of access to Jenin for humanitarian agencies constituted crimes of war.  What remained was to establish their scope.  The world must examine those crimes, get to the bottom of the facts and adopt the necessary measures to prosecute the war criminals -- the commanders and members of the military forces who had committed a massacre against civilians.

YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) said constructive discussions had been held a week ago between United Nations officials and an Israeli delegation about the parameters for the Secretary-General’s initiative to set up a fact-finding team about recent events in the Jenin refugee camp.  However, considerable disinformation and confusion had been generated regarding the mandate of that team.  Israel believed that any fact-finding team must have its objectives and parameters clearly established prior to its departure to the region and in the current case should be based on both operative paragraph 2 of resolution 1405 (2002) and United Nations guidelines for fact-finding.

The six points of concern raised by the Israeli Cabinet stemmed directly from the operative paragraph and the guidelines.  Israel understood the international community’s wish to develop an accurate, thorough and balanced report on the recent events in Jenin, but it should not ignore reports of the international press and representatives of independent organizations present in Jenin that had surfaced in recent days.  Those reports had confirmed Israel’s position that what occurred in Jenin was an intense battle between the Israeli military and Palestinian terrorists, that weapons were widespread in the camps, and that many buildings had been booby-trapped with explosive devices.

From the beginning, he said, Palestinian statements were alarmist.  They said initially that thousands of bodies were buried under the rubble in Jenin, and then the figure was reduced to hundreds.  Now they must face the unfortunate outcome:  47 Palestinian gunmen killed; 23 Israeli soldiers killed; and seven Palestinian civilians, whose deaths we profoundly regret.  Palestinian officials themselves were now presenting the events not as a massacre, but as a fierce battle.  Civilian causalities stemmed from the fact that armed Palestinians fired from populated areas and built a terrorist network in the very midst of the civilian population in blatant disregard for the safety and well-being of Palestinian civilians.  Reports have been received that Palestinians have dug up bodies buried elsewhere and reburied them in mass graves in Jenin to bolster their claims of Israeli atrocities.

The Council might also wish to consider why massacres, such as those that have claimed the lives of hundreds of Israeli civilians, do not also merit the most serious international attention.  Would it not be fair to investigate such deliberate massacres of Israeli civilians or to examine Chairman Arafat’s direct involvement in such attacks?

With regard to the situation at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Palestinian side has sought to portray as an Israeli siege what is in reality a hostage crisis.  Armed Palestinian terrorists have taken over a religious shrine, fired from it, prevented the individuals inside from leaving and desecrated the sanctity of that holy place, as confirmed by three Armenian monks who managed to escape from the scene.  Fortunately, negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli representatives have been constructive.  A number of Palestinians have been released from the Church in recent days, and we hope that a full and non-violent resolution of the stand-off will be reached shortly.

OMAR BASHIR MANIS (Sudan), on behalf of the Arab Group, said that Israel, the occupying authority, had backtracked from its acceptance of the fact-finding team by subsequently declaring its explicit rejection of the team.  That had led the Secretary-General to state that he would not be able to keep the team, because of the Israeli Government’s position. 

The rejection of the initiative, and of resolution 1405 (2002), had not come as a surprise to the Arab Group, he said.  Israel had persistently flouted Council resolutions and gravely violated international law, including international humanitarian law.  The Group strongly condemned and denounced Israel’s position and called upon the international community also to condemn its explicit rejection, as well as its defiance of the Council and of international humanitarian law. 

He said the question now was what the Council intended to do in the face of that grave challenge.  The Group called on the Council to bring about respect for its authority by condemning the rejection and insisting on obtaining the details of the heinous crimes perpetrated in Jenin, and all massacres committed against the Palestinian people as seen by the world on television screens.

Israel had persistently acted as if it loomed large above the law, he said.  It was encouraged by the Council’s failure to demand respect for its resolutions and had gone forward with its military measures.  The Council must rise to its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.  Failure to undertake its duties would prompt the Arab Group to resort to the General Assembly, which would express the position of the countries of the world regarding the crimes committed in Jenin and other crimes of State terror in the occupied territory, including Jerusalem.

He emphasized that the Arab Group’s request for today’s meeting was not an attempt to facilitate the repetition of statements, but to bring about international justice and fairness and to prevent the Council from abdicating its responsibilities.  The Council should face the challenges to the principles and purposes of the Charter.  It should not allow Israel to impose its will on it.

NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said the international community was facing a three-fold crisis, and history would not forgive it for looking the other way.  First, there was the humanitarian crisis.  An army had occupied and isolated a refugee camp in Jenin, and then carried out a massacre of unknown proportions.  The extent of the massacre would be unknown until an investigation was conducted in the matter, an investigation that Israel refused to carry out.  The Council had refused to act on that refusal, thus failing to shoulder its responsibility to the Palestinian people.

The second was a multi-faceted moral crisis, he continued. How could a country with a claim to intelligence get so mired in an operation led by a man with a well-known past, and how could the Israeli peace camp allow such unconscionable acts to take place?  How could Mr. Sharon be portrayed as a man of peace while his tanks besieged President Arafat, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.  How could siege be imposed on one of the world’s holiest shrines, the Church of the Nativity?  No wonder the world, with few exceptions, was squarely pointing an accusing finger at Sharon’s Israel.

The third crisis was that of undermining the authority of the Security Council, which was the most serious of the three, he said.  The Council, the highest international body entrusted with maintaining international security and peace, was consistently ignored and defied by Tel Aviv.  Within a few weeks, it had adopted three resolutions and a presidential statement, but all were ignored.  Let us imagine that an Arab State had committed an act many times less grave than those perpetrated by Israel.  Immediately a coalition force would have been formed, the rule of law would have been invoked, the binding nature of Council resolutions would have been reaffirmed and sanctions would have been imposed and the provisions of Chapter VII would have been applied in full.  The policy of double standards, however, had become a permanent feature of the Council’s work.

It must be impressed upon Israeli authorities that they had to comply – today and not tomorrow -- with Security Council resolutions, he continued.  Ongoing efforts should not be used as a pretext to lose sight and give up on that demand.  It was incumbent on the Council to support the efforts of the international community in persuading Israel to desist in its behaviour towards President Arafat and realize that he was the one to negotiate with.  Never before has the world witnessed a colonial Power indulge in acts of arrogance and cruelty as those displayed by Israel in its treatment of President Arafat.  He demanded the immediate cessation of Israeli military operations.

“What is even more tragic is the situation in which the Security Council finds itself”, he said.  With the mentality of “might is right,” Israel rode roughshod over four Council resolutions, the latest of which was a United States initiative.  That resolution would remain a dead letter.  In such cases, the Charter provided for measures to bring recalcitrant States to comply.  It was inadmissible for the Council to renounce its prerogative and succumb to the will of Tel Aviv.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said that the Council was once again failing to fulfil its responsibilities and showing its inability to act in the face of an extremely grave situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.  It was clear that the situation required a resolution such as that tabled by Syria and Tunisia, on behalf of the Arab Group.

Following long consultations, the Council had been expected to adopt a more modest resolution, but that text had eventually not been put to the vote for reasons known to all.  It could not be adopted because the United States had explicitly indicated to Council members that it would invoke its veto for the twenty-fifth time since 1973.

He said the United States position was ridiculous, because that country had itself introduced resolution 1405 (2002), only to then obstruct its implementation.  The United States had never been serious about discovering the truth about the situation in Jenin.  It had introduced its own draft in order to obstruct the Arab Group text and to divert attention from the proposal that a multinational force be sent to the occupied Palestinian territory.

With or without a fact-finding team or a resolution, the truth could not be concealed, he said.  What had happened, and the continued siege of the Church of the Nativity, were a result of Israel’s being allowed for so long to act with impunity and of the inertia with which the Council had contemplated the flagrant violations of its own resolutions.  Nothing could happen in the Council as long as Israel had the fullest support of a permanent member, which used vetoes and threats of vetoes to obstruct action.

He said the Council must condemn such actions by the United States, as well as its supply of aircraft and other weaponry that enabled Israel to carry out its military actions.  The United States must end its support for Israeli State terrorism, if it really wanted a global war on terrorism.  In the absence of Council action, the General Assembly must act in support of the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people.

J. GABRIEL VALDÉS (Chile) said that four Council resolutions had been adopted on the Middle East since the present crisis had erupted.  They contained clear provisions and specific deadlines, but all had been ignored by one or both parties in the conflict.  He affirmed his country’s concern at the lack of cooperation displayed by one of those parties, when what was required was a prompt response to the Council resolutions.

He condemned terrorist attacks on civilians in Israel, but stressed that the grave humanitarian situation brought about by the Israeli invasion on Palestinian territory was also to be condemned, he said.  A detailed and complete investigation was needed, and he regretted the efforts of the Israeli Government to prevent that.

The Council must be resolute in dealing with the situation in the Middle East, he continued.  Otherwise, its work would be weakened, and a blow would be struck at the dignity of all Members of the Organization.  He appealed that rigid positions be abandoned and a constructive attitude be taken to resolve the conflict.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that Israel’s delaying tactics demonstrated its continued flouting of Council resolutions and of the Council’s authority. 

Over the last two weeks, the Secretary-General had kept the Council informed of the repeated delays in allowing the dispatch of the fact-finding team.  In spite of all that, he had tried to accommodate Israel's requests for clarifications, but there had been further delaying tactics and attempts to gain time.

Deploring Israel’s continued disdain for Council resolutions while hiding behind powerful Council members, he said the Council had failed to preserve its credibility and that of its resolutions.  Today, the Council was sending a clear and disturbing message to the Palestinians and to other people around the world of its powerlessness.  Besides showing an inability to maintain international peace and stability, that message showed that the Council was often strong and united in the face of the poor and weak, but not in the face of aggression.

He said Egypt had decided not to raise all the recent events that had occurred in the West Bank, but preferred to make its statement in order to point to the Council's policy of double standards and a moral dysfunction that jeopardized the world order emerging after the Second World War.  The images of that war were being repeated, the most recent one being an Israeli tank stopping in a street yesterday to bomb surrounding buildings, while the Council observed in silence.  The Council had not only lost its credibility before the international community, but also its authority in the face of a State that violated international law and international legality.

PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) called on Chairman Arafat to use his authority to prevent further violence; attacks against innocent civilians were never justifiable.  He also called on both parties to ensure that the standoff at the Church of the Nativity ended without further violence or destruction. 

He noted that Israel had not yet fully withdrawn from cities in the West Bank, as called for in resolution 1402.  Under Article 25 of the United Nations Charter, Member States bound themselves to “accept the decisions of the Security Council”.  Accordingly, Israel must complete its withdrawal immediately.  With the prior concurrence of Israeli leaders, the Secretary-General had adopted the fact-finding team concept and the Council had given its unanimous endorsement of the initiative.  It was in the interest of both parties that a credible and transparent investigation take place. 

Such an exercise, he added, must include and examination of all alleged wrongs, whether Israeli or Palestinian.  The Israeli position had implications beyond the tragedy of the Middle East conflict.  The Security Council was at the heart of international architecture for the preservation of peace and security.  Thus, he profoundly regretted the Israeli decision not to cooperate with the fact-finding team, which was compromising the Council’s authority.  

The meeting suspended at 4:30 p.m.

When the Council resumed at 6:25 p.m., ZAID AL-HADIDI (Jordan) said that Council resolution 1405 (2002) had been adopted against scenes of widespread physical destruction and the killing of unarmed Palestinian civilians.  By that resolution, the Council had requested the Secretary-General to develop accurate information through a fact-finding team, a request that had come following assurances by the Government of Israel that it had nothing to hide and that it would welcome efforts to establish the facts.

He said that, despite the enormous preparatory work done by the Secretary-General and intense diplomatic work, it was clear that Israel had no intention of cooperating with the fact-finding team or facilitating its task.  Israel had no intention of seeing an impartial and accurate account of what had happened in Jenin, which would expose its military officers and result in Israel being held accountable for violations of the laws governing armed conflict and human rights.

The Secretary-General’s letter had outlined the inability of the team to carry out its task, he said.  Jordan, while supporting the Secretary-General’s efforts and the contents of his letter, called on the Council not to reverse itself in the face of Israeli intransigence.  It was hoped that the international community would not tolerate Israel’s flouting of Council resolutions, on the one hand, while demanding that Iraq abide by its resolutions and supporting the use of force against it.  Jordan called on the Council to act on what had happened in Jenin, as the only way to save its dignity.

MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) was deeply concerned that Israel persisted in its defiance not only of the successive resolutions adopted by the Council, but also of the Secretary-General’s initiative to send a fact-finding mission to Jenin.  Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the mission was indicative of a desire to cover up the facts.  A comprehensive and impartial inquiry should be conducted to find out what happened in Jenin.  Fact-finding missions to areas where gross violations of humanitarian law occurred, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, should be a matter of course, not an exception.  Such missions should not be held hostage to the whims of one of the parties. 

The Council, he said, must not allow selectivity and double standards in the implementation of its resolutions.  It must take decisive, effective and immediate measures to ensure the immediate cessation of all Israeli military action and the total withdrawal of its forces from the occupied territories in accordance with its own resolutions.  There had never been a time when the Council’s very credibility and moral authority were more at stake. 

The objective, he continued, was not just to achieve a ceasefire and withdrawal.  It was the attainment of a final peace settlement in the Middle East, the framework for which already existed –- in the recent peace initiatives, in Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002) and in the Beirut Declaration.  Those who had the responsibility to maintain international peace must, therefore, act and act now to realize that objective and save what remained of the hopes for a durable peace in the Middle East.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that Israel’s decision to block the fact-finding team only strengthened the widely held suspicion that it intended to conceal the truth about what happened in Jenin from the international community.  The reasons given by Israel for its refusal were unreasonable and should have been rejected by the Council.  What was at issue was not whether the United Nations was “biased” against Israel, as it alleged, but whether Israel was a responsible and law-abiding Member of the United Nations. 

The failure to send the mission would do a great disservice to the efforts of the Secretary-General, undermine his credibility, as well as the credibility and authority of the Council, he said.  It demonstrated that, for some countries, the Council’s decisions were not necessarily binding; they could be resisted, manipulated and even ignored with impunity.  The message was clear –- Israel could get away with defying the Council, while others would pay the price if they did so.

He called for appropriate penalties to be taken against Israel, as provided for in the Charter, should it continue to defy the Council.  Continued non-action by the Council would be tantamount to condoning Israel’s inhumane and repressive policies and practices and allowing the situation to slide into a wider regional conflict.  He continued to believe that what was urgently needed to stop the violence and pave the way for the resumption of negotiations was for the Council to dispatch an international peacekeeping force to the occupied territories.

INOCENCIO ARIAS (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the international community had engaged in various efforts to stop violence and the loss of innocent Palestinian and Israeli lives.  Those efforts had already brought about positive changes on the ground, including the non-violent resolution of the situation at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and the end of Chairman Arafat’s isolation.  Both parties should build on that modest measure of agreement, stop the violence and start talking to each another.

Despite those efforts, he said, the Union remained concerned about the unresolved standoff at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  After a month, contacts between both parties to resolve the situation had produced few results.  The risk of open confrontation in the area persisted and the Palestinian civilian population of Bethlehem continued to live under curfew and military occupation.  He called on Israel to immediately halt all of its military operations in the Palestinian territories, and immediately withdraw its troops from all cities or areas under control of the Palestinian Authority.

The Union fully supported the efforts of the Secretary-General to implement resolution 1405 (2002) and recognized the importance of his initiative to obtain accurate information about events in the Jenin refugee camp through a fact-finding team, he said.  The Union deplored that the team would not be able to proceed to the area and begin its mission.  It shared the Secretary-General’s view that the team would have provided an accurate, fair and professional account of the events.  Israel professed to have nothing to hide, but the “long shadow” cast by recent events would remain in the absence of such a fact-finding exercise.  He recalled the obligation of all United Nations Members to accept the decisions of the Security Council. 

He expressed concern at the destruction of basic structures in the Palestinian Authority.  That situation diminished the capability of the Palestinian Authority to enforce the rule of law and could lead to a dangerous security vacuum.  The unprecedented damage caused by recent Israeli military operations to Palestinian civil infrastructure and private property, and the disruption of basic social services with no security role whatsoever, could not be justified by Israel’s legitimate fight against terrorism.  The Union urged Israel to end those practices and reserved the right to claim reparation in the appropriate forums.

The Union remains convinced that a third-party monitoring mechanism on the ground was essential to the process of restoring mutual confidence and making progress on the political and security fronts, he said.  The Union stood ready to participate in such a mechanism, and welcomed the Secretary-General’s views regarding a multinational force in the Middle East.

DUMISANI SHADRACK KUMALO (South Africa) said his country deplored Israel’s decision not to cooperate with the Secretary-General’s efforts to investigate events in Jenin.  The international community could not allow Israel to veto attempts to investigate facts about possible massacres and war crimes in Jenin and elsewhere in the occupied territories.

The Council could no longer ignore the culture of impunity Israel seemed to enjoy, which was beginning to erode the credibility and legitimate standing of the United Nations as a whole, he continued.  Israel had refused to cooperate with the Secretary-General, forcing him to disband his fact-finding team for Jenin.  Yet, everyone was now witnessing the true extent of the vandalism and wanton destruction carried out by Israeli soldiers in the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, and indeed throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.  The Council must now take a stand, or it would be guilty of the selective application of its authority and inconsistency in ensuring compliance with its decisions.

On 29 April, ministers of the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement had met in Durban, South Africa, he said, and expressed outrage at the willful killing, vast destruction and other atrocities committed by the Israeli occupying forces, including reports of war crimes and massacres committed in the Jenin refugee camp and other Palestinian cities.  They called for the immediate and full withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces from Palestinian cities and expressed full solidarity with the elected President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat.

UMIT PAMIR (Turkey), supporting the European Union statement, said that one belated but modestly encouraging developments was the removal of the siege around the compound of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah.  Turkey was appalled by that siege and had never accepted such disrespectful treatment towards the legitimate leader of Palestine.

He expressed the hope that all concerned would respect the agreement that had resulted in the removal of that siege, that the current standoff at the Church of the Nativity would be resolved peacefully and that all restrictions on Palestinians would be lifted without delay.  Turkey also condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the morally repugnant suicide attacks against the Israeli people.

Calling for active on-site third-party involvement, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative to create a fact-finding team to gather accurate information regarding the events in Jenin.  Turkey was deeply disappointed by the failure of that initiative and the non-implementation of resolution 1405 (2002).  Yesterday’s meeting between the Secretary-General and the Quartet was another step forward that had helped to rekindle hopes for the future.

He said that Turkey, with its unique position vis-à-vis the parties to the conflict, had always assumed a conciliatory role for the solution of the Middle East question.  As the recent crisis had escalated, Turkey had remained in constant contact with them and tried to be instrumental in seeking mutually acceptable solutions.  The recent visit to Israel and Palestine by the Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Greece had displayed a unique example of harmony and dialogue between two neighbourly countries known for their divergent views on several other issues.

MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) opened his statement by welcoming the recovery of Chairman Arafat’s freedom of movement, and expressed appreciation to the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom in the transfer and monitoring of prisoners who were allegedly involved in the assassination of the former Israeli Minister of Tourism.  He added that, when the Council had adopted resolution 1405 (2002), Japan, like others in the international community, had also welcomed the idea of dispatching a fact-finding team to develop accurate information regarding the recent events in the Jenin refugee camp.

It had been regrettable, then, that due to objections raised by the Israeli Government, the Secretary-General had expressed the intention to disband that team.  That development had greatly eroded the Council’s authority and credibility and he hoped it would take a clear position on the matter.  Japan was still concerned about the humanitarian conditions that the Palestinian people faced and had decided to extend, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) $3.3 million in emergency humanitarian assistance on their behalf. 

He also said that, in response to the emergency appeal of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), his Government had pledged $1.2 million in medical and health assistance.  His Government was studying the possibility of extending additional assistance.  In spite of all the difficulties, he added, efforts to restore calm in the region must continue.  Japan had been urging both sides to respond positively to the international community’s efforts on their behalf and to take decisive steps to bring about a ceasefire and resume the peace process.

He said that Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs had recently advocated a multi-layered approach, with Japan’s active participation, that would put the political process back on track.  First, it was necessary to guarantee the implementation of a ceasefire agreement and promote the political process through an international conference.  Second, it was important to enhance the “fruits of peace” -- regional stability and development -- by, among other options, resuming the multilateral tracks of the peace process aimed at regional cooperation projects.  And the third element was to build up mutual trust between the two sides.  Japan was prepared to host a forum bringing together Palestinians and Israelis from a broad range of perspectives to discuss the peaceful coexistence of both peoples, as well as the vision of a future Palestinian State.

ABDULLAH KHAMIS AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that despite the adoption of resolution 1405 (2002), the same States that had sponsored it had hastened to retreat from efforts to find the truth, in order to disguise their failure to convince the Israeli Government to abide by Council resolutions.  The United Arab Emirates deeply regretted the failure by influential Council members to support efforts to unearth the truth.  Their efforts to get Israel to cooperate were not only insufficient, but also mild in the face of Israel’s blatant defiance and rejection of the team.

Expressing disappointment at the Council’s unbalanced approach, he called forcefully on the Council and its influential members to shoulder their responsibilities in support of implementation of resolutions serving the weak.  The international community should condemn Israel for the war crimes it had perpetrated, which it attempted to justify by claiming it was fighting terrorism.

The Council should shoulder its legal and ethical obligations to investigate what had happened in Jenin, just as it had done in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, he said.  The Council must comply with the provisions of the United Nations Charter in facilitating the lifting of the siege of the Church of the Nativity and on Ramallah, and in halting massacres of the Palestinian people and the destruction of their institutions.  It should deal with Israel in accordance with its resolution, through the dispatch of an international force to pave the way for the reconstruction of Palestinian institutions destroyed by Israeli forces. 

MOCHAMAD SLAMET HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said his country remained profoundly concerned at the tragedy facing the Palestinian people.  The continuing siege on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was particularly alarming.

His delegation had joined with other States in pressuring the Secretary-General to dispatch a fact-finding team to ascertain events that had occurred at the Jenin refugee camp, he continued.  Israel’s refusal to allow deployment of that team was another act of defiance against the international community.  It would have been in the interest of all parties to have the facts about Jenin known.  The fact that Israel continued to flout Security Council resolutions should in no way diminish international pressure on its Government.

There could be no respite from the escalating crisis in the Middle East until there was an immediate withdrawal of Israel forces from the occupied territories, he said.  The Security Council must take immediate action, including the deployment of an international security force in those territories.  He hoped that the current meeting would contribute to the cessation of violence and bloodshed in that region.

MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said that the destruction in the occupied territories had not been carried out primarily out of military need, but in order to break apart what the Palestinian Authority had spent almost 10 years building in preparation for the advent of the Palestinian State.  That included schools, social centres, libraries and the archives of the national education system.  Israel was pushing a whole people into a situation where they could feel only bitterness and despair.

He said the aim of the fact-finding team was only to report the facts, not to pass judgement, assess guilt or bring anyone to justice.  Resolution 1405 (2002) had welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative to develop accurate information regarding Jenin.  He had the support of the entire international community in setting up the fact-finding team of eminent persons of unquestionable reputation.  He had provided all the clarifications that Israel had requested.  However, the Israeli Cabinet had employed one delaying tactic after another, finally rejecting the team and refusing to cooperate with it.

There was no question of Israel dictating conditions about the way it wanted the team to conduct its mission, he said.  The team did not need Israel’s authorization to visit Jenin, because it was in occupied territory.  More serious than the team’s failure was that the entire United Nations credibility was now jeopardized.  Israel’s actions had made a mockery of the Council, an extremely worrying development for international peace, as everyone understood the need to preserve the United Nations.

He said that in deciding to disband the team, the Secretary-General had made Israel aware of its responsibility.  He had spoken diplomatically of the long shadow that would remain forever over the events of Jenin.  That shadow would also remain over the Israeli institutions responsible for those events.  The Council could not be paralysed because one Member State refused to cooperate with it.  The Secretariat and all those of good will must be mobilized and a report made available, if not through direct access, then through indirect access.

ARNOLDO M. LISTRE (Argentina) said it was clear that the parties needed the assistance of a third party to move forward.  Thus, Argentina welcomed the announcement by Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington, D.C., yesterday calling for an international peace conference for next June.  The political, security, economic and humanitarian issues must be discussed in an integrated manner.  It was also hoped that the Saudi peace initiative adopted by the Arab League Summit in Beirut and the diplomatic efforts by the United States and the Quartet would bear fruit.

Strongly condemning all acts of violence, terrorism, provocation and destruction, particularly the indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population, he reiterated the concerns expressed by the heads of State of the Rio Group about the military operations in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  The last few weeks had demonstrated that violence only provoked more violence and resentment.  Argentina called on both parties to implement fully Council resolutions 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002).  The Palestinian Authority must unequivocally condemn and punish acts of terrorism and Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories.

He reiterated Argentina’s support for Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002) and for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent and viable State, as well as Israel’s inalienable right to live in peace within secure borders that were recognized internationally, and particularly by the States of the region.  Argentina asked both parties to act with a real sense of compromise and to make the inevitable concessions, in order that the vision of Israel and Palestine living peacefully side-by-side became one of the first achievements of the new millennium.

HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said international humanitarian and human rights organizations were arriving at the consensus that the Israeli Army had perpetrated war crimes in the course of its latest incursion into the occupied territories, especially the Jenin refugee camp.  Having visited those war-ravaged areas, the organizations had documented the atrocities committed by the Israelis.  Those war crimes were also being frequently reported and widely broadcast by the international news media.  It was quite obvious that Israel had blocked an official investigation into its aggression in order to avoid the disclosure of the massacres its forces had committed in Jenin, and elsewhere.  By doing so, Israel sought, in vain, to conceal the fact that its hands were stained with the blood of innocent Palestinian refugees.

He said the wider international community was expressing dismay at the circumstances that had led to the disbanding of the fact-finding team sent to examine the situation in the Jenin camp.  Dismantling the mission -- and acquiescing to Israel’s refusal to cooperate -- was just another example of the double standard that had paralysed the United Nations for so long.  That decision would also cast a long shadow over the future activity of the Council, as it attempted to address other international peace and security issues.  It was unfortunate that the Council, and to a certain extent, the entire United Nations system, had once again proved itself powerless to decisively address the actions of the Israeli regime.

In light of those recent events -- obvious blows to the Council’s credibility -- he wondered how any effort to enforce implementation of Security Council resolutions could ever again appear legitimate.  How could the Organization hope to enforce any future investigations, when it had so willingly backed down on the mission mandated to look into Jenin?  While appreciating the efforts of the Secretary-General, he believed the dissolution of the fact-finding team had been premature.  Efforts to ensure that its mandate be fulfilled had not been fully exhausted.  It might have been able to carry out its investigation in ways other than visiting the crime scene, he added.

Iran believed, along with the rest of the world, that the Israeli occupation of Arab lands was at he heart of the crisis in the Middle East.  It was hypocritical and deceitful to ignore that fact.  In that regard, Iran was deeply concerned about the decision to disband the mission and deplored the Council’s failure to take decisive action under Chapter VII of the Charter to stop the Israelis from flouting Council resolutions.  Iran believed the United Nations should use all means necessary to force Israel to comply with the will and demands of the wider international community.  It was also essential that the international community take a fresh look at whether a regime that actively and readily committed crimes against innocent people and flouted humanitarian law could still claim a place in the world’s multilateral organizations.

GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said at this time of uncertainty for the entire global community, the Council must state the facts unequivocally:  the Israeli authorities had just done grave damage to their own cause by refusing to cooperate with a United Nations fact-finding mission that they themselves had called for.  The wider international community had a right to know exactly what had happened in Jenin.  As long as the Israeli authorities refused to open the refugee camp up for international scrutiny, dark clouds of skepticism would continue to haunt all the world’s peoples.

The obstruction would, however, not prevent the truth from surfacing, he continued, as witnessed by reports of independent agencies and international media organizations.  Those reports revealed compelling evidence that violations of human rights and international humanitarian law were, in fact, committed in the raids against Jenin.  While expressing its full support for the Secretary-General, as well as understanding at his decision to call off the fact-finding mission, Brazil could not but deeply regret it.  Brazil deplored attempts to tamper with well-established practices in the conduct of such missions and could not condone the fact that the impartiality of the team had been put into question.

Beyond Israel’s decision not to cooperate with the United Nations, he said, the Council must also consider the impact such action would have on its credibility and authority.  The Council could not be perceived as a secondary player in the search for peace in the Middle East.  No party could blatantly dismiss the Council’s decisions.  He welcomed recent engagement and the leadership role played by the Quartet and by leaders in the region to act as brokers between the two sides.  He was also pleased that the Quartet appeared ready to push ahead with proposals for a ministerial conference aimed at dealing with all aspects of the crisis in a comprehensive manner. 

The central issues to be resolved, he said, were illegal foreign occupation and denial of self-determination.  The Council needed to be clear on those points.  While renewing its call for the cessation of all acts of violence and terrorism, he appealed for the total withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the Palestinian occupied territories.  He also called for an end to illegal settlements, an end to the siege at the Church of the Nativity, and for a resumption of political dialogue with the Palestinian Authority.

HOUSSAM DIAB (Lebanon) said the Security Council had unanimously adopted resolution 1405 (2002) to voice its concern for the Palestinian population.  The resolution stressed the urgency of providing medical supplies and aid to the people of the Jenin refugee camp, and the need to send a fact-finding team to determine events that had occurred there.  On 12 April, Israel denied United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson entry into the Jenin camp.  Israel’s continued denial to allow entry into the camp would only lend further credibility to the allegations of independent sources.

The Security Council endorsed the Secretary-General’s initiative to obtain accurate information about the events at Jenin, he said.  Some 13,000 people were registered at the camp with UNRWA.  Those residents were pushed out of their villages when they were occupied by Israel.  Now, after more than half a decade, Israel had followed them into the camp, bulldozed it from over their heads and denied them the right to live.

Mrs. Robinson noted that 800 dwellings had been destroyed in Jenin, leaving up to 5,000 people homeless.  How many refugees had been massacred, and how many dwellings had actually been razed to the ground?  Would the international community ever find out?  Mrs. Robinson said there was a need for accountability on all sides for what had happened.  A failure to investigate serious human rights abuses there would undermine the entire human rights system.

The Secretary-General said he had tried to put together a fact-finding team with wide experience, one that everyone would accept as competent -- the best that could be found.  Israel’s reasons for denying the team access to Jenin should be rejected outright.

RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan), Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, expressed dismay over the fact that the Council had been stymied in its ability to follow up its own resolutions regarding the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.  It was a great disservice to the Council, and the credibility of the United Nations as a whole, that the fact-finding team had to be disbanded in light of Israel’s refusal to cooperate.  That decision was an affront to the Organization and to the Council.

He said that, although time worked against an investigation, the Council -- or if it failed again, the General Assembly -- should look into the possibility of making such an account possible, even if the evidence was not collected directly by a United Nations fact-finding team.  It was not about assigning blame, but about justice and fairness.  It was about deterring and hopefully putting an end to Israel’s contravention of international humanitarian law and its continuing efforts to humiliate, subdue and perhaps uproot the Palestinian people.

Security should not be the only dimension discussed, but should go hand-in-hand with political and economic arrangements, he said.  A clear-cut and manageable time-line for future negotiations and the implementation of their results should be established.  Extremists on both sides should not be given a veto on the process and their acts should not be used as an excuse to stall progress.  An international presence should be established for the implementation period, if not before.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that normalizing the situation in the Middle East would require a multi-faceted effort on the part of the international community.  The so-called Quartet had met in Washington yesterday for that very reason.  The group came out strongly for concerted action to restore peace in the Middle East.  The Saudi Arabian proposal must be carried out, and all resolutions fully implemented.  There could be no double standards in the Council, which would undermine its work.

Israel had no justification for denying the Secretary-General’s fact-finding group access to the Jenin refugee camp, he continued.  Russia supported the Secretary-General’s actions taken in that regard, which unfortunately were unsuccessful.  Now the situation revolving around the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem must be resolved.  He believed that practical steps must be taken to resolve the Middle East tragedy, at the same time as diplomatic efforts.  That was the focus of the Quartet initiative to hold a peace conference on the Middle East.  His Government would continue to be actively involved in those efforts.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) recalled that Israel’s Foreign and Defence Ministers had given clear-cut commitments that Israel would cooperate with the fact-finding team.  Resolution 1405 (2002) was drafted in straightforward language provided by the sponsoring delegation.  Israel had asserted that it had nothing to hide.  If that had been the case, it could only be assumed that Israel could only benefit by a revelation to the world of the truth about what had happened in Jenin.

Ireland had fully supported the approach of the Secretary-General and the team, he said.  It understood and supported the conclusion that, due to the Israeli decision, it had proved impossible for the mission to go to Israel and that no option was left but to disband the team.  The Council should collectively support the Secretary-General and condemn in forthright terms the decision to prevent the team to proceed to the area and begin its mission, as well as to impugn the team’s impartiality.

He said Ireland shared with the Palestinians, the Arab States and decent people everywhere, sadness and repugnance at the recent events perpetrated in Jenin and elsewhere.  Equally regrettable was the fact that there would be no balanced and impartial account of the facts as they had happened on the ground.  Israel would be the loser.

Ireland supported the statement by the Quartet in Washington, D.C., yesterday, he said.  It also supported the relevant Council resolutions and the position adopted by the Arab League Summit held in Beirut.  Ireland welcomed the lifting of the siege in Ramallah and hoped the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem would be resolved without further bloodshed.  Ireland also hoped for a solution that would provide the peace with security to which Israel had every right, and a national Palestinian homeland to which the Palestinian people had aspired for far too long.

MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said the circumstances that had made today’s meeting necessary were well known.  Those included the Secretary-General’s fact-finding team being denied access to the Jenin refugee camp.  The meeting was also an opportunity to overview the entire situation in the Middle East.  Several events had been referred to in the discussion in that regard, such as the lifting of the siege in Ramallah and President Arafat regaining his freedom of movement.  He urged respect for the sanctity of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

He welcomed the proposal at yesterday’s meeting of the Quartet in Washington, D.C., to hold a conference this summer on the Middle East.  Settling the question of Palestine was vital, since it had taken so many victims and led to so much destruction in the region.

After so many years of effort by the Palestinian to build up their infrastructure, it had been reduced to rubble, he said.  Anger was rumbling all over the world because there had been no implementation of Council resolution 1405 (2002), particularly paragraph 2 welcoming the initiative of the Secretary-General to develop accurate information about recent events in Jenin through a fact-finding team.  Had that been respected, things could have been quite straightforward.  The team would have informed the Security Council about what had actually happened in Jenin.  On the basis of that, some trust between the parties could have been rebuilt and the peace process revived.

His delegation regretted the decision to disband the fact-finding team, but understood it.  The Secretary-General had stated that time was a critical factor.  With the situation changing by the day, it would have become increasingly difficult to establish recent events that had taken place there.  The Secretary-General was unwilling to go along with a report that would not be based on facts.

BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) said that the Secretary-General’s initiative to set up a fact-finding team, initially accepted by the Israeli Government, had gradually been questioned with the intention of delaying or jeopardizing its mission.  Far from being discouraged, the United Nations had outdone itself in answering the questions raised by Israel and the team’s mandate had been clearly set out.  From procrastination to delay, the Cabinet decision had finally reached the Council in the form of a refusal to cooperate with the mission.

In light of the refusal, the Secretary-General had reluctantly decided to disband the team, he said.  It had proved impossible for the team to go to Jenin, and even less to facilitate an impartial and credible finding of the facts.  Everything must be done to get the Israeli Government to respect its international obligations.  The Council should consider new measures to facilitate full clarifications of the events in Jenin.  He said Guinea was pleased with yesterday’s meeting in Washington, D.C., where members of the Quartet had made a commitment to work with the Arab governments and the international community by confronting the political, security and economic considerations of the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said his country remained concerned about the humanitarian situation in Jenin refugee camp.  Council resolution 1405 (2002) had called for a lifting of restrictions and emphasized that humanitarian groups must have access to civilians.  The language of the resolution did not make demands of the Palestinians or Israelis, or the Secretary-General.  It welcomed his proposal for a fact-finding team.  It was regrettable that Israel had denied access to the Secretary-General’s fact-finding team to that camp, but the United States supported him in disbanding that team.

Now it was necessary to address present needs and look to the future, especially urgent humanitarian needs.  Council resolution 1402 (2002) had called on both parties to move immediately to implement a ceasefire, remove occupying troops and cease all acts of violence.  In those respects, significant progress had bee made in recent days, including resolution of the situation in Ramallah.  In New York, however, no one would know anything positive had occurred over the past week.

Diplomatic efforts on the part of the United States to resolve the Middle East situation had continued, he said.  Members of the Quartet, which had met yesterday in Washington, were dedicated to working with the Palestinians and Israelis.  For its part, the strategy of the United States in approaching the Middle East embraced three elements.  First, security must be restored for both parties, and Mr. Arafat must be encouraged to restore calm.  The second element was to address humanitarian needs, and the third was to build market institutions for the Palestinian people.  The Palestinians needed access to jobs and markets and the United States was determined to respond to those needs -- in keeping with the message of resolution 1405 (2002).

ANDRÉS FRANCO (Colombia), describing the members of the fact-finding team as people with impeccable professional credentials and unquestionable ethical qualities, said there had been a few encouraging signs amid the widespread tragedy and despair in the region, thanks to intense diplomatic efforts, including those by the United States and the United Kingdom.  The lifting of the siege in Ramallah had strengthened Mr. Arafat and yesterday’s announcement of the intention to hold an international conference deserved the Council’s support.

He said the basis for negotiations was well known:  Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), land-for-peace, the initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah and Council resolution 1397 (2002), adopted only recently.  An additional element was the need to tackle the conflict on three fronts:  security, humanitarian assistance and economic recovery.  One without the others would not lead to a solution.

The situation was overshadowed by the refusal of the Israeli Government to accept the fact-finding team, he said.  He regretted that refusal, as well as the fact that the Secretary-General had been forced to disband it.  Israel had lost the opportunity to demonstrate that, as members of its Government had said time and again, its actions were necessary and proportionate.  Israel had nothing to fear and Colombia was surprised by its decision.

He said the Council had built a consensus on the Middle East situation that had resulted in the adoption of important resolutions.  Building that consensus had not been easy and the Council’s inability to react properly to Israel’s decision had cost it the opportunity to rescue its own relevance, since the numerous charges of violations of international humanitarian law should not remain without clarification.  His Government could not accept or conceive of circumstances justifying the Council's failure to follow up its own resolutions.

Mr. YOTOV (Bulgaria) said his country was deeply concerned about the continuing situation in the Middle East.  Hostilities must immediately cease and every effort must be made to restore the peace process.  He commended the diplomatic efforts made by the Quartet to resolve the Middle East situation, welcoming concrete steps it had agreed on at its last meeting in Washington.  He supported the proposal to hold an international conference in early summer to deal with economic and humanitarian issues in the region.

However, the Israeli pullback from the occupied territories had not yet been completed, as required by the Council. He regretted that Israel could not cooperate with the Secretary-General's proposal to send a fact-finding team to the Jenin refugee camp, and appreciated his efforts to develop accurate information about the camp.  He commended international efforts leading to a peaceful solution of the situation at Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah.

Basic food and health care were still desperately needed by the Palestinian Authority.  The international community should take action in that regard.  The parties must not only guarantee full and unimpeded access to humanitarian organizations, but actively cooperate with them in the field.  As for the stand-off in Bethlehem, talks should be resumed as soon as possible to prevent violence and bloodshed in that holy site.  The international community should build on every positive element achieved so far to build peace and stability in the Middle East.

WANG YINGFAN (China) said that Israeli forces, in the name of anti-terrorism, had indiscriminately killed Palestinian civilians in Jenin and demolished their houses.  The Secretary-General and the members of the fact-finding team had made unremitting efforts to go to Jenin in order to find out the truth, but Israel had made dispatch of the team impossible.  Israel must assume full responsibility and China condemned it.

He said the current violent conflict clearly showed that the Middle East question must be settled by political negotiation and that military action would lead nowhere.  Thanks to diplomatic efforts, a just framework to resolve the situation had been put forward that addressed the legitimate rights of the Palestinians to a national State, Israel’s right to live within secure borders, the withdrawal of Israeli military forces and recognition of Israel by regional States.

All sides must work together to make that framework a reality, he said.  The Palestinian people were now facing extreme economic hardships, as well as a dire humanitarian situation.  The Palestinian infrastructure had been devastated.  China supported the Secretary-General’s conclusion that the Palestinian people required immediate humanitarian assistance.

BIJAYEDUTH GOKOOL (Mauritius) said the fact that the month-long siege at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority had been lifted and that President Arafat could move freely were very important developments, which could ease tensions on the ground and pave the way for a meaningful resumption of the political process in the region.  Still, those recent events were no cause for celebration, as international media organizations had reported the sheer devastation of the siege, particularly the virtual destruction of the infrastructure of Palestinian civilian life and many of the institutions set up in the Oslo Accords.

It was not an exaggeration to say that Palestinian society had been reduced to ruins, he continued.  The international community should step up its efforts to identify and initiate plans for the rebuilding of the Palestinian society.  While Israel’s security concerns, including Israel’s right to protect its people from terrorist attacks, were understandable, it should be made clear that self-defence was not a blank check.  Responding to terrorism in no way freed Israel from its obligations under international law, nor did it justify the deepening humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian occupied territories.

He said the ongoing siege at the Church of the Nativity was unacceptable.  Noting that 200 people were still trapped there, he called on Israel to lift the siege, stressing the need to prevent a real human tragedy at a Christian holy site.  He added that the situation at the Jenin refugee camp was another issue of concern for the international community.  After the world’s outcry at the horrors being committed there had initiated the creation of a fact-finding mission to investigate the situation, the Israeli Government continually put up obstacles that stifled the mission’s deployment for some 12 days.  The Secretary-General had disbanded the mission due to Israel’s uncooperative attitude.

The Israeli challenge to the Secretary-General and rebuff of Council resolutions were unacceptable and should be condemned, he continued.  Israel’s flouting of resolution 1405 (2002) was a further blow to the Council’s credibility and authority.  Perhaps the disbanding of the mission was the price the Council had to pay for its reluctance and hesitation.  The Council’s inability to take decisive action in a timely manner continued to raise questions as to the body’s relevance in broader efforts to maintain international peace and security.  The dangerous precedent set today would surely be used by other countries in similar situations to further weaken the Council’s credibility and call the Secretary-General’s authority into question.

He welcomed the meeting of the Quartet yesterday and welcomed the proposal of holding an international conference on the Middle East.  He stressed the historic significance of such an event and urged all parties to seize the opportunity, as it might eventually lead to a resolution for both sides -- giving Israel its much-needed aspiration to live within secure and recognized borders and giving the Palestinian people their long-overdue homeland.  The success of such a conference depended on many factors, not least of which was full respect for recently adopted Council resolutions.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that representatives of international humanitarian organizations had spoken about the Jenin refugee camp, describing it as an unspeakable tragedy.  Israel had committed two crimes in Jenin -- the first when it stormed the camp and the second when it prevented any form of relief reaching the wounded and afflicted for 13 days.  The residents were essentially Palestinian refugees who had been uprooted in 1948.  Jenin was the only tragedy that had moved from the mid-twentieth to the twenty-first century unresolved, despite dozens of Council resolutions that had attempted to resolve it.

His country welcomed the Secretary-General's initiative to dispatch a fact-finding team to determine events in Jenin, he continued.  Several Israeli officials had said they had nothing to hide and were not afraid or ashamed of what had occurred there.  But, reality had made clear the opposite of those allegations.  It had become clear that Israel had a lot to hide and much to be ashamed of.

When the Secretary-General had chosen the members of the Jenin fact-finding team, who were well know for their experience and knowledge, Israel had shown its true face, following its well known method to circumvent resolutions of international legality, he said.  It had sent a delegation to discuss the composition of the team, as if the accused has the right to appoint its judges, and also the team's mandate.  The Council should have made more effort to support the Secretary-General and stand by him in bearing the pressures put upon him.

The gravest crisis facing the Council, he said, was its authority as the highest national body responsible for peace and security in the world.  The Council must not allow Israel to enjoy impunity after crimes it had committed against the innocent refugees and civilians.  It must bear full responsibility for rebuilding Palestinian infrastructure it had destroyed.

ROBERTA LAJOUS (Mexico) said that peacekeeping and international security were fundamental aims of the United Nations and, therefore, international humanitarian law must be respected.  All States had agreed to respect decisions along those lines in the spirit of the United Nations Charter.  However, non-implementation of Council resolutions on the Middle East had not only undermined efforts for a just and lasting resolution of the situation, but also jeopardized the Council’s credibility.

She recalled that resolution 1405 (2002), including its operative paragraph 2, contained moderate wording, under the legal supposition that all parties concerned would comply in good faith.  However, that had not happened, despite the efforts of the Secretary-General.  She reiterated that the international community could not forget what had happened in Jenin over the last few weeks.  The Council could not abdicate its legal and moral obligations to clarify the facts.

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said there could be no military solution to the situation in the occupied territories.  Dialogue and negotiation was the only way to a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement.  The United States and the United Kingdom had negotiated with Israel and the Palestinian Authority an initiative that would allow President Arafat to resume his work inside and outside the occupied territories.  British and American supervisory wardens were now overseeing the detention of six Palestinians in a Palestinian Authority facility in Jericho.  The Israeli Government had, as agreed, withdrawn from around President Arafat’s compound and from Ramallah.

Those were steps forward, but were not enough, he said.  Both sides must now move to a meaningful ceasefire and resume security cooperation.  Israel must withdraw from Palestinian controlled areas and implement all relevant Council resolutions.  President Arafat must make good use of his freedom to exercise political leadership of the Palestinian Authority and do all in his power to stop the violence.  Both sides needed to demonstrate that they were committed to peace, and lead their people down that path.

The United Kingdom was deeply disappointed that the Secretary-General’s fact-finding team had been unable to deploy to the Jenin refugee camp to determine what had occurred there during the Israeli military operation.  Israeli Government spokesmen had said that the operation by the Israeli Army was necessary. If that was true, Israel had nothing to hide.  He deplored Israel’s failure to cooperate with the United Nations in allowing the deployment of the fact-finding team.  The United Kingdom supported the Secretary-General’s decision to disband the team, given the circumstances.  However, he believed they would have produced an accurate, balanced and credible report.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) praised the lifting of the siege on the Headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and President Arafat as proof that diplomacy, not violence, was the way to resolve the conflict.  Norway also urged the parties to seek a non-violent solution to the current standoff at the Church of the Nativity.

He said establishment of the fact-finding mission for Jenin had been endorsed in a unanimous resolution adopted by the Council, and he regretted the continuing unwillingness of the Israeli Government to cooperate with that mission.  As a result, the Secretary-General had been forced to disband the team.  While understanding that decision, he believed that it would still be in the interest of both sides, as well as the wider international community, to ensure that accurate information was made available on what happened in the Jenin refugee camp. 

Concerning ongoing efforts to ensure peace in the region, he said that Norway supported the three-pronged approach -- parallel initiatives that addressed political, security and economic issues -- that had received wide international support.  He was pleased to note that a meeting of international donors in Norway last week had produced concrete commitments towards rebuilding Palestinian society.  He also supported the efforts of the United States and the Quartet, in that regard.

The immediate challenge now, he continued, was to rebuild the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, including its security apparatus.  He expected President Arafat to exercise real leadership and do his utmost to prevent further acts of terrorism.  Mr. Arafat should also carry out his responsibilities as the elected leader of the Palestinian people.  At the same time, Norway expected Israel to halt all military operations against the Palestinian leadership.  He urged Israel to withdraw fully from all reoccupied Palestinian areas.  He also supported the United States initiative to convene an international peace conference on the Middle East as a substantial contribution towards the aim of two States living side by side in peace.

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) expressed deep regret that it had proved impossible to dispatch the fact-finding team, owing to Israel’s decision to go back on its commitment to accept it following its endorsement by the Council.  The Council and the Secretary-General must be respected and France condemned Israel’s serious error in failing to do so.  Resolutions were not optional, he stressed.

He said the accounts provided by humanitarian and human rights organizations, as well as the media, were very serious, particularly in the absence of accurate and impartial reports.  He was glad that the situation in Ramallah had been resolved and that Mr. Arafat had regained his freedom of movement.  Now his personal safety and security must be fully ensured.

There must be a complete and definitive withdrawal of Israeli forces and an assurance that there would be no further raids by the army.  More generally, he was still concerned by the precarious and dangerous humanitarian and human rights situation on the ground.  In particular, the UNRWA needed help and the Israeli authorities must immediately take steps to improve the humanitarian and economic situation in the occupied territories.  Freedom of movement and access for humanitarian organizations were essential, he added.

Emphasizing the need for the international community, the Quartet and leaders of the Arab world to find the road back to negotiating a just and lasting solution, he said the Palestinians must be helped to rebuild the basis for establishing a viable State on which the rule of law could be founded.  It was an illusion to think a solution could be found without Mr. Arafat, who was the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.  The road to peace went through mutual respect, as both the Israelis and Palestinians knew well.

Council President KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore), speaking in his national capacity, said he welcomed ongoing efforts to resolve the situation in the Middle East. Israel's decision to lift restrictions on freedom and movement in the Palestinian Authority and grant humanitarian access to the Jenin refugee camp was good news.  The announcement by the Quartet that an international peace conference would be convened in early summer was also welcome.  In addition, the Council was encouraged by the Secretary-General's briefing that day, and had responded positively to idea of deploying a multinational force in the Palestinian Authority.

Initially, the Council had been encouraged by the Secretary-General's initiative to develop accurate information through a fact-finding team to Jenin and had supported it.  It was in Israel’s interests to have a full and public clarification of events that had occurred there.  He believed Council credibility had been damaged by Israel's non-compliance with Council resolutions.

Spain, on behalf of the European Union, had stressed that Council resolutions must be implemented fully and immediately, and deplored that yet another had not been implemented.  Some had commented that the Council had not reacted to recent developments, but it had not been quiet.  There had been intense activity over the last 48 hours to forge a response from the Council to the Secretary-General's letter on disbanding the Jenin fact-finding team.  It had undergone comprehensive and exhausting discussions on possible responses the Council could make.  Draft resolutions were suggested and efforts were made to bring the Council together to act in unified fashion.

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For information media. Not an official record.