UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL MEETING IN SUPPORT OF MIDDLE EAST PEACE OPENS IN KYIV

GA/PAL/915
13 May 2003

UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL MEETING IN SUPPORT OF MIDDLE EAST PEACE OPENS IN KYIV

13/05/2003
Press Release
GA/PAL/915


UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL MEETING IN SUPPORT

OF MIDDLE EAST PEACE OPENS IN KYIV


(Received from a UN Information Officer.)


KYIV, 13 May –- There could be no military solution to the Middle East conflict, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Anatoliy Zlenko, told the opening session of the United Nations International Meeting in Support of Middle East Peace in Kyiv this morning. 


Confrontation must give way to negotiations and compromise, he said, and he called on Israeli and Palestinian authorities to implement the Road Map without delay.  He noted that the approach of the plan largely agreed with Ukrainian proposals for a peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict that were put forth by Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma last year.  The Foreign Minister also read a statement on behalf of the President who met with the Committee delegation yesterday.


Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the responsibility to bring the peace process to a successful conclusion rested primarily with the parties themselves, but the international community, including the United Nations, stood ready to help.


In a statement read out by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Türk, the Secretary-General said implementation of the Road Map would not be easy as it required painful decisions and determination and sustained activity on both sides.


The United Nations remained committed to the tasks at hand, and the support of the international community remained crucial if the obstacles were to be surmounted and the desired results achieved.


The Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Papa Louis Fall (Senegal), said that with the presentation of the Road Map, peace had been given another chance.  The parties could not afford to squander this opportunity.


The Palestinian people needed to feel the dividends of peace and to feel secure, the Minister for Tourism of the Palestinian Authority, Mitri Abu Aita, said.  The Palestinian leadership had gone all the way to accommodate Israeli fears and concerns and looked for reciprocity from the Israeli leadership.  Israel should give priority to sustainable peace over short-lived gains of internal constituency matters.


The Chairman expressed regret that due to the restrictions imposed by the occupying Power, Palestinian non-governmental organizations representative Haidar Abdel Shafie and Chief of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Gaza Strip had been refused permission to leave the Territory to attend the meeting.


Statements were made by the representatives of China, Malaysia, Brazil, Iran, Namibia, Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.


The representatives of the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.


The general theme of the two-day Kyiv meeting, convened under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, is “Promoting a comprehensive dialogue on the political, security and economic factors critical for resolving the current crisis and resuming the peace process”.  During the course of the meeting, expert panellists will assess the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, discuss the prospects for resuming the political process, and exchange views on modalities for a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Invited to the meeting are eminent personalities, including high-level officials of the host Government and the Palestinian Authority, internationally renowned experts, including Israelis and Palestinians, representatives of United Nations Members and observers, parliamentarians representative of the United Nations system, and other international organizations, as well as the media.  The meeting will be followed on Thursday, 15 May, by a Public Forum in Support of Middle East Peace to be held at Institute of International Relations in Kyiv. During that meeting, the representatives of civil society will have an opportunity to discuss in greater detail its role regarding the question of Palestine.


This afternoon, in plenary I, participants will hear presentations by experts on “The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem”.  Panellists will explore the issues of the human cost of the violence; the expansion of settlements and unilateral separation; the impact of the conflict on the Palestinian Authority; the destruction of the Palestinian economy; and the deepening of the humanitarian crisis.


Opening Statements


ANATOLIY ZLENKO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, read out a message from the President of Ukraine, LEONID KUCHMA, stating that today’s meeting was being held against the backdrop of a worsening situation in the Middle East.  Citing the Road Map elaborated by the Quartet, he said prospects to settle the Middle East conflict had become stronger.  The United Nations’ role, which continued to bear responsibility for the final settlement of the question of Palestine, was extremely important.  The starting point for the peace negotiations was United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338(1973), and 1397 (2002), as well as the principle of land for peace.  Ukraine would continue to support the international efforts to establish peace in the Middle East and regarded today’s meeting as a manifestation of the country’s resolve to continue its contribution to international peacekeeping efforts.


Speaking in his capacity as Foreign Minister, Mr. Zlenko said there could not be any military solution to the conflict.  Violence and confrontation must give way to negotiations and compromise.  He welcomed the Road Map and called on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to start implementing the plan without delay.  He noted that the approach of the plan largely agreed with Ukrainian proposals for a peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict that were put forth by the President last year.


He welcomed Palestinian statements on the acceptance of the Road Map and said the Palestinian Authority must do everything in its power to combat terrorism.  At the same time, he condemned acts of excessive and indiscriminate use of force against Palestinian civilians and called on Israel to stop them immediately.  Israel had to speed up the withdrawal from the Palestinian territory occupied since September 2000, freeze all settlement activities and lift restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services.  The international community must support the resumption of the Middle East peace process.  The role of the United Nations was critical as the principal guarantor of the international legitimacy of the question of Palestine.  The Security Council should play a leading role in directing and coordinating international efforts to those ends. Ukraine would continue to contribute to the efforts to relaunch the political process in the framework of the Road Map.


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in a statement read out by his representative, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs DANILO TÜRK, said the Road Map by the Quartet -– comprised of the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations -– set out a three- phase plan for reaching a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The plan, part of a larger effort to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region, was drawn up to assist the parties in realizing the vision of Israel and Palestine living side by side within secure and recognized borders.  It was contingent on parallel and reciprocal steps by the parties in the security, humanitarian, institution-building and political areas, monitored and facilitated by the United Nations.


The responsibility to bring this process to a successful conclusion rested primarily with the parties themselves, he said.  They were expected to resume negotiations in order to work out the details of the final settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002).  Implementation of the Road Map would not be easy as it required painful decisions and determination and sustained activity on both sides.  Stating that the United Nations remained committed to the tasks at hand, he called attention to the work of the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Development Programme  (UNDP) and others.  The support of the international community remained crucial if the obstacles were to be surmounted and the desired results achieved. 


(For full text, see Press Release SG/SM/8699-GA/PAL/914 issued 13 May.)


PAPA LOUIS FALL (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said Security Council resolution 1397 (2002) was an important milestone on the chaotic road to peace as, for the first time, it clearly referred to a state of Palestine living in peace, side by side with Israel and offered the Palestinian people a clear political horizon.  He welcomed the Road Map put forth by the Quartet of international mediators, which, he said, raised the hopes and expectation for a tangible change on the ground and the resumption of a peace dialogue between the two parties.  He hoped the two parties would accept the plan work closely together and continue to cooperate with members of the Quartet as they implemented it.  The Committee would support this effort to bring peace to the region.


“With the presentation of the Road Map, peace has now been given another chance.  The parties cannot afford to squander this opportunity”, he said.  The international community must not lose sight of the twofold issue:  the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, remained at the heart of the question of Palestine, and Israel must not flout its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the relevant United Nations resolutions.  The United Nations should continue to maintain its permanent responsibility for all the aspects of the question of Palestine until it was resolved in conformity with relevant United Nations resolutions.


He expressed satisfaction with the personal engagement of the Secretary-General and his effort on behalf of the Palestinians.  He encouraged the Secretary-General to pursue his initiatives in the conviction that the Security Council would fulfil its own particular role in bringing about and hastening the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.


MITRI ABU AITA, Minister of Tourism, Palestinian Authority, said that since the outbreak of the intifada on 28 September 2000, more than 2,000 Palestinians had been killed and more than 37,000 had been injured.  More than 650 Israelis were also killed.  Describing life under the Israeli occupation, he said that recently the Israeli Government had launched its “new-old” policy of unilateral segregation between the occupied territories and Israel.  Every day the Israeli Army demolished houses, uprooted trees and confiscated land to provide more land and spaces of the construction of the “Segregation Wall”.  Such actions provoked the Palestinians and showed no commitment to the proposed Road Map and the peace process.


He said the Palestinian drive towards peace was based on the principles of legality and justice.  Both people were destined to live together and needed to recognize each other’s right to full sovereignty in the areas under their internationally recognized jurisdiction.  A sustainable peace should be based on justice and equality and a just peace provided the best security.  The goal should be a comprehensive peace rather than non-belligerency arrangements.  Economic development was an essential ingredient for peace-building.  And, economic development needed an enabling environment.  Fences were detrimental to economic development.  A sovereign Palestinian state next to the State of Israel was inevitable, and it must be viable and have enough resources.  Both sides should recognize each other’s security concerns. 


The Palestinian people needed to feel the dividends of peace and to feel secure, he said.  They were determined to enter the twenty-first century as a free people.  There was now a window of opportunity for reconciliation.  The Palestinian leadership had gone all the way to accommodate Israeli fears and concerns and looked for reciprocity from the Israeli leadership.  Israel should give priority to sustainable peace over short-lived gains of internal constituency matters.


The representative of China said the Israeli–Palestinian conflict had resulted in heavy human losses and economic damage.  His Government was alarmed by the situation and was against Israel’s policy towards Palestinians.  He appealed to Israel to withdraw its troops immediately.  He called on Israel and Palestine to abandon the method of using violence against violence.  China had provided humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians from the beginning and continued to help.  There could be a just solution to the conflict, but it could take place only when Israel withdrew.  If violence was answered by violence, it would not bring security and peace to both people.  The only correct way to lasting peace was a political solution through dialogue, negotiation and pragmatism.  There must be immediate measures to end the violence.  He hoped Israel would resume negotiations on the basis of United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace.  He welcomed and supported the Road Map, as well as the United Nations role, in the search for peace in the Middle East


The representative of Malaysia said that as long as Israeli occupation of Palestinian land continued, it would remain the root cause of much of the violence in the Middle East.  The international community could not allow that issue to remain unresolved indefinitely.  The Palestinian Authority, the legitimate government of Palestine, could not be sidelined from any negotiations if a lasting solution was to be found.  Such a solution could not be arbitrarily imposed.  He looked forward to the early implementation of the Road Map, but was dismayed that it had been met with further violence against the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupying forces.  The international community must send a clear and unambiguous message to Israel that is was not permissible for it to continue with its military operations against the Palestinian people.  The continuation of such policies did not bode well for the peace efforts.


The representative of Brazil said the escalation of violence imposed enormous suffering to the most vulnerable groups and strapped the Palestinians of their most fundamental rights to normal decent life.  He strongly condemned any kind of extremism such as the terrorist activities in which many innocent Israeli civilians lost their lives. He favoured the creation of an independent, democratic and economically viable Palestinian state, taking into consideration the right of Palestinians to self-determination and respect for the existence of Israel within safe and internationally recognized borders.  He welcomed the formal launching of the Road Map as an important step and hoped that implementation of the plan would start with no further delay.


The representative of Iran said that the Palestinian people, having lost faith in unjust and ineffective solutions, had no alternative but to stand against the aggression and occupation and resort to stones to defend themselves.  Intifada embodied the legitimate response against inhuman and racist policies and should not be construed as a temporary eruption of sentiment or protest.  Israel’s State terrorism gave the Palestinians the right to utilize the resources available to them to resist aggression and repression.  Legitimate resistance should be strengthened and efforts designed to derail that rightful means of defence should be distrusted.  The solution to the Middle East crisis required withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories, establishment of a buffer zone with United Nations peacekeeping forces, a democratic referendum with the participation of all original Palestinians, and the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state.


The representative of Namibia said the meeting was taking place at a critical time, and it was incumbent on the participants to ensure that results of the meeting helped in the resumption of the peace process.  Since the beginning of the current intifada, thousands of Palestinians had been killed and injured and the economy was on the brink of collapse.  Nevertheless, efforts to reach a settlement had been pushed to the back burner.  Now that the Iraq war was over, he would like to see greater attention and focus on the situation of Palestine.  While the Road Map was not perfect, it pointed the way to an independent and viable Palestinians state.  The appointment of the Prime Minster and the confirmation of the new cabinet were first steps in the implementation of the Road Map by Palestine.  It was incumbent on the United States to ensure that Israel accepted the Road Map and began to implement it.  He wanted to see a genuine and even-handed approach by all.  He reminded the Security Council of its unique role and called on it to ensure its resolutions with regard to Palestine.  The Council should also immediately express its strong support for the Road Map.


The representative of the League of Arab States said the meetings sponsored by the Committee played a vital role in clarifying the issues relating to the question of Palestine.  The Israeli Government had taken advantage of the tense international atmosphere to escalate its actions against the Palestinian people, claiming that Iraq had presented a threat to the Israeli people.  Iraq had posed no threat to Israel.  Israel had always attempted to label the Palestinian struggle as violence and terrorism.  It was essential to draw a line between terrorism and the legitimate national struggle of the Palestinian people guaranteed by international law.  He called on the Committee to hold a round table in cooperation with the League of Arab States on the right of the Palestinian people to legitimate struggle.  The international community had stood silent and unable to provide protection for the Palestinians, and Israel was left to continue its unjust treatment of the Palestinian people.  Although Israel continued to reject the Arab peace initiative, he reaffirmed the Arab commitment to peace as a strategic option.


The representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference said Israel continued to blockade the entire Palestinian territory.  Its actions included targeting humanitarian relief, medical crews and international journalists, and its continued aggression had brought about the deterioration of the Palestinian economy.  That was taking place while the Palestinian leadership was taking measures to form democratic institutions and when the international community was trying to implement the Road Map.  Israel was now attempting to change sections of the Road Map in a way that would render it useless. He called on the international community to institute the necessary oversight mechanisms to force Israel to stop its aggressions and measures against the Palestinian people and land.  Israel must stop all settlements in the Palestinian lands, release all political prisoners and release Palestinian funds.  The international community must assume its responsibility and pressure Israel to enter negotiations.


The representative of Egypt said a real opportunity for peace had arisen in the form of the Road Map.  The Palestinian people had started to implement the Road Map, and she hoped that the Israeli Government would reciprocate.  Egypt had spared no effort to help restart the peace process.  It had also helped to overcome the obstacles facing the new Prime Minister.  In that spirit, it had invited different Palestinian factions to a dialogue in Cairo.  Success of the Road Map depended on the installation of an international monitoring system.


The representative of Tunisia expressed his Government’s appreciation for the efforts of the Ukrainian Government for hosting the meeting and to the Committee for convening the meeting.  It drew attention to the Middle East region which continued to experience a grave evolution of events and now a period that could be characterized as historic.  It necessitated close cooperation of all the parties to take into account the new realities.  Clarity and wisdom were needed to end the long conflict, which should lead to a global and just comprehensive solution to guarantee the freedom of the occupied territories and peaceful coexistence for all the people of the region.  That needed the implementation of resolution 1397 (2002) which called for Israel and Palestine to live side by side within secure and recognized borders.  The recent Road Map required the common efforts of the international community.  Israel must respect the provisions of humanitarian law.  The international community must organize to provide urgent assistance to the Palestinian people.


The representative of Turkey said her Government continued to follow the ongoing violence with increasing concern.  Bringing violence to an end must be a first priority.  The adoption of the Arab peace plan was a meaningful contribution for the search for peace and the normalization of relations.  Turkey supported President Bush’s statement in which he underlined the concept of two States living side by side.  The appointment of the Palestinian Prime Minister and the presentation of the Quartet’s Road Map increased hopes for a just and durable peace.  Her Government had always remained in contact with the parties and had assumed a moderating role.  Turkey’s efforts in that regard would continue.


* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.