SECURITY COUNCIL URGED TO CONDEMN EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS FOLLOWING ISRAEL’S ASSASSINATION OF HAMAS LEADER

19 April 2004
SC/8063

SECURITY COUNCIL URGED TO CONDEMN EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS FOLLOWING ISRAEL’S ASSASSINATION OF HAMAS LEADER

19/04/2004
Press ReleaseSC/8063

Security Council                                           

4945th Meeting (PM)                                         

Security Council urged to condemn extrajudicial executions

following israel’s assassination of hamas leader

Keep Focus on Palestinian Terrorism,

Not Acts of Self-Defence, Says Israel’s Representative

As the Security Council met this afternoon, less than a month after it failed to condemn the killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, it was once again called on to condemn extrajudicial executions by Israel, the most recent of which was Saturday’s assassination of Yassin’s successor, Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi.

Urging the Council to take “bold and courageous action”, the Observer for Palestine said that last month’s failure of the Council to condemn the extrajudicial execution of Sheikh Yassin, due to the veto by the United States, had further emboldened Israel to continue carrying out such illegal actions with impunity.  Without concern for reproach and punishment or for the consequences of its actions, Israel continued to behave as a State that was above the law.

He said that any parallels drawn between Israel’s actions against the Palestinians and the war against global terrorism was inappropriate and completely erroneous.  Israel’s constant attempts to draw such parallels and to exploit the international fight against terrorism must be rejected.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s announced unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was an attempt to confer legitimacy on some of Israel’s illegal settlements, to negate the rights of Palestine refugees and to dilute international opposition to the catastrophic expansionist separation wall.  The proposal fell far short of any real withdrawal, keeping control of international borders, airspace and water in the hands of the occupier and maintaining the so-called “right” to military attacks against Gaza.

Israel’s representative said it was regrettable that the Council had been compelled to convene again, not to condemn the murder of innocent civilians by organizations such as Hamas, but to denounce the demise of a key architect of those massacres.  Just hours before the targeted counter-terrorist operation against Mr. Rantisi, “a trader in death”, the organization which he had headed had claimed responsibility, together with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, for yet another suicide attack at the Erez Crossing, killing a guard and injuring others.

Those acts of terror should be the focus of the Council’s specific attention, not the acts of self-defence necessary to prevent them, he said.  Mr. Rantisi had been a radical terrorist leader who had joyfully and publicly celebrated the murder of innocent men, women and children, called for the destruction of Israel by force of arms, and believed that violence was the “only option”.  If the Palestinian leadership had been a genuine partner in peace, defensive actions would not have been necessary.  If there was anything “extrajudicial”, it was the total refusal of the Palestinian leadership over the years to act against terrorism.

As the struggle against terrorism continued, he said, Prime Minister Sharon had launched a bold and unprecedented initiative to bring new hope and opportunity to the peace process.  The disengagement plan, while not required by the Road Map, was an opportunity to restart the Road Map process to which Israel remained committed.  While in the absence of a peace partner Israel had been compelled to propose the unprecedented initiative itself, it hoped to implement it in a coordinated fashion that would ensure stability and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, provide a sound humanitarian infrastructure and rekindle the peace process.

The majority of the speakers who addressed the meeting, held at the request of the Arab Group and the League of Arab States, strongly condemned the most recent extrajudicial execution, saying that the Council’s failure to act last month had sent the wrong message to Israel, which had essentially been given the green light to continue its illegal policies.

It was not too late, said Algeria’s representative, for the Council to reassert its authority, to put an end to Israel’s policy of escalation, provocation and defiance, and to reaffirm once and for all that a genuine, just and lasting peace could only be achieved through the implementation of the Quartet’s Road Map.

Many speakers agreed that, while Israel had the right to defend itself and protect its citizens, it must act in accordance with international law.  The fight against terrorism, Spain’s representative stressed, must take place in an environment of international legality.  The appeal for vengeance following Mr. Rantisi’s killing forecast an increase in violence.

The reactions to Israel’s disengagement plan were mixed, with some speakers warning that such unilateral actions might prejudge the final status negotiations, while others felt it would be a significant step forward.  Council President Gunter Pleuger (Germany), speaking in his national capacity, welcomed any Israeli withdrawal from settlements as long as it took place in the context of implementation of the Road Map.  Only a negotiated settlement on Gaza would receive the necessary international support for the maintenance of security and the rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Calling an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza a rare opportunity for progress, the representative of the United States said it was noteworthy that the initiative was being put forward by Prime Minister Sharon, a principal architect of the Israeli settlement policy.

Israel’s planned disengagement from Gaza, the representative of the United Kingdom added, gave the international community an opportunity to help the Palestinian Authority with the measures it needed to get to the point where the concept of a viable PalestinianState became a real possibility.  It was not prejudging the final status negotiations or pushing the Road Map to the side.  Instead, it was a way back to the Road Map, which remained the correct route to a just and lasting solution.

Also making statements today were the representatives of Benin, Angola, Brazil, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Philippines, China, Chile, Romania, France, Egypt, Syria, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Yemen, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, India, Malaysia, Libya, Sudan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, Japan, Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, Mauritania and Norway.

In addition, the Observer for the League of Arab States and the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also addressed the Council.

The meeting, which began at 3:15 p.m., adjourned at 6:35 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Before the Council was a letter dated 19 April from the Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2004/303), in which he requests, in his capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group for the month of April, and on behalf of the States members of the League of Arab States, the holding of an immediate meeting of the Council to consider Israel’s grave violations of international humanitarian law, the most recent of which is the extrajudicial execution of Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi in Gaza, and the escalation of its military attacks against the Palestinian people and their leadership, and to take the necessary measures in that regard.

Statements

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said the Council was meeting again after less than one month, because Israel continued its reign of terror against Palestinian people.  Israel had not ceased its campaign of death and destruction in the occupied Palestinian territory.  It continued to carry out the extrajudicial executions of Palestinian leaders and to kill, wound and maim defenceless Palestinian civilians, including women and children, in grave breach of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Two days ago on 17 April, he said, less than four weeks after the extrajudicial execution of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza, the Israeli occupying forces had committed yet another extrajudicial execution by killing Abdel Aziz  al-Rantisi, a political leader of Hamas.  The occupying forces had fired missiles at the vehicle in which he was riding, killing Dr. Rantisi, as well as two other Palestinian men who had been with him.  That was the second time that the occupying forces had targeted Dr. Rantisi for assassination, the first being in June 2003.

He said that latest in a long series of war crimes committed by the occupying Power had been carried out in fulfilment of the repeated threats of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and other Israeli Government and military officials to continue targeting Palestinian leaders for assassination in flagrant violation of international law and in complete and total disregard for the condemnation, pleas and demands by the international community for the cessation of such an illegal and barbaric policy.  Indeed, following the attack on Saturday, Mr. Sharon and other high-ranking Israeli officials had publicly boasted and congratulated themselves on the success of the operation and proceeded to declare more threats against Palestinian leaders.

Without a doubt, he said, the recent failure of the Council to condemn the extrajudicial execution of Sheikh Yassin and to take urgent measures to address the deterioration of the situation, due to the veto of one of the Council’s permanent members, had further emboldened the Israeli Government to continue carrying out such illegal actions with impunity.  Without concern for reproach and punishment or for the consequences of its actions, Israel continued to behave as a State that was above the law.  Unable to uphold its duties for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Council had allowed Israel to continue acting beyond the parameters of international law, permitting it to use the most oppressive measures and practices to impose more death and destruction and loss on the Palestinian people under its occupation.

Parallel to, and in conjunction with, its illegal actions against the Palestinian people, he said, the Israeli Government had intensified its attempts to carry through unilateral actions intended to further entrench the illegitimate measures already taken by Israel on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories.  The meeting last week of Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush and their exchange of letters and assurances had taken those attempts to impose a unilateral “disengagement” one step further.  The content of those letters violated relevant provisions on international law and violated the rights of the Palestinian people.

He said it was an attempt to confer legitimacy on some of Israel’s illegal settlements, to negate the rights of the Palestine refugees and to dilute international opposition to the catastrophic expansionist Wall.  The content was also in complete departure from the Road Map, and as such made the work of the Quartet extremely difficult, if not impossible, to carry out.  Even with regard to Gaza, the proposal fell far short of any real withdrawal, keeping control of international borders, airspace and water in the hands of the occupier and maintaining the so-called “right” to military attacks against Gaza.

Any parallels drawn between Israel’s actions against the Palestinians and the war being waged against global terrorism was inappropriate and completely erroneous, he said.  Israel’s constant attempts to draw such parallels and to exploit the international fight against terrorism must be rejected.

The time was long overdue for the international community to take urgent measures to address the ongoing tragedy.  The Council must take the lead in that regard.  The Council must take bold and courageous actions to ensure compliance with its resolutions, adherence to international law, and to bring an end to the cycle of violence and bloodshed that had prevented the two peoples and the entire region from realizing genuine peace, freedom and security for so many decades.

DAN GILLERMAN (Israel) noted that the people of Israel commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day today.  It was with regret that the Council had been compelled to convene again on the Day, not to condemn the murder of innocent civilians by organizations such as Hamas, but to denounce the demise of a key architect of those massacres.  Just hours before the targeted counter-terrorist operation against Mr. Rantisi, the organization which he had headed had claimed responsibility, together with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, for yet another suicide attack at the Erez Crossing.  The attack had killed a guard at the crossing and injured others.  In recent days, there had also been repeated Qassam rocket fire at civilian communities in Israel.  Those acts of terror should be the focus of the Council’s specific attention, not the acts of self-defence necessary to prevent them.

Were the current Palestinian leadership a genuine partner in peace, defensive actions would not have been necessary, he said.  The Palestinian obligation to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, arrest terrorists, confiscate illegal weapons and stop incitement was as obvious and fundamental a legal imperative as it was a moral one.  Under the Road Map, Council resolutions, signed agreements and international law, the Palestinian Authority was required to arrest murderers like Mr. Rantisi, not give them protection and safe haven.  It there was something “extrajudicial”, it was the total refusal of the Palestinian leadership for years to act against terrorism.

He said Mr. Rantisi had been a radical terrorist leader who had joyfully and publicly celebrated the murder of innocent men, women and children and called for the destruction of Israel by force of arms.  He had believed that violence was the “only option”.  He had developed alliances with terrorist groups around the world, supported by regimes in Syria and Iran, and had been committed to fostering terrorism in Iraq and throughout the Western world.  Mr. Rantisi had been a trader in death, a doctor of death, and no one should be surprised that he had paid the price.  In the absence of any cooperation from the Palestinian Authority, and any viable means of arrest, Israel was sometimes left with no choice but to target those who planned and executed the murder of innocent civilians.

Israel was engaged in armed conflict against terrorism on an unparalleled scale, he said.  It was not good enough to affirm in theory Israel’s right to defend itself in the conflict, but then in practice seek to deny it the right to specifically target those illegal combatants directly responsible.  Israel did so in a manner that was both necessary and proportionate, and when there was no other realistic option of detention or prevention.  In those circumstances, such actions were wholly consistent with international law.

The targeting of Mr. Rantisi had not merely been a necessary defensive act to prevent ongoing and planned attacks against civilians, but a part of the global struggle against terrorism, he said.  In line with Council resolutions 1368, 1373, 1377 and others, that action made clear that those who harboured terrorists must be held accountable.  The Palestinian leadership could not brazenly violate international law by supporting terrorists and then seek to deny Israel the right to protect itself against them, guaranteed under that same law.

The entire world knew that Hamas was a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel and of the hopes of peace by the deliberate massacre of innocent civilians, he said.  The entire world, including the Arab world, knew that Hamas was the enemy of peace and stability in the region.  The death of Mr. Rantisi was no doubt a relief for many innocent Palestinians whose lives he had endangered by the strategy of terrorism and the rejection of peace he had championed.  The text presented to the Council was yet another example of misrepresentation and double standards, focusing yet again on the response to terrorism rather than the terrorism itself.  It grossly distorted reality and sought to bully the Council to score political points.

As the struggle against terrorism continued, he said, Prime Minister Sharon had launched a bold and unprecedented initiative to bring new hope and opportunity to the peace process.  The disengagement plan, when approved, would lead to the evacuation of settlements and military installations in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.  The move was not required by the Road Map, but was an opportunity to restart the Road Map process to which Israel remained committed.  Prime Minister Sharon’s bold initiative deserved the international community’s support and that of the Council.  While in the absence of a peace partner Israel had been compelled to propose the unprecedented initiative itself, it hoped to implement it in a coordinated fashion that would ensure stability and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, provide a sound humanitarian infrastructure and rekindle the peace process.

The initiative was wholly consistent with Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), could facilitate the two-State solution in the context of the Road Map and was consistent with previous peace proposals, he said.  Israel remained committed to a negotiated solution to permanent status issues that would guarantee peace, security and stability for both peoples, as well as secure borders.  No permanent peace agreement could be imposed; it must be negotiated between the parties.

He said the initiative was a moment of opportunity, a chance for the Palestinian side to prove finally that it was capable of a new and responsible leadership that fought terrorism and preferred the welfare of its people.  The initiative was the evacuation of settlements, something the Palestinian side had long called for.  The Palestinian leadership must make a choice and the international community should encourage it to make the right one.  Israel was ready to be a partner for peace with such a leadership.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that three weeks ago he had warned the Council that its failure to act would send the wrong message to Israel, which would abusively take it as a licence to kill.  In fact, immediately after the vetoing of the draft resolution that would have condemned the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and called for the cessation of all acts of violence, including acts of terrorism, the representative of Israel, in addition to insulting the Council, had made it clear that his country would continue to “take out the Palestinian leaders”.

Again, Israel had struck and killed, remaining defiant in spite of almost unanimous condemnation, he continued.  Its Prime Minister, after praising the army for Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi’s assassination, had vowed yesterday to “hit the terror organizations and their leaders”.  And again, the Council found itself confronted with yet another Israeli provocation and challenge to its authority and credibility.  Was it going, this time, to assume its responsibilities and condemn the killing in a clear and unequivocal fashion, calling for respect for international law?  Was it going to come, at last, to the conclusion that civilian population in the Palestinian territory was in great danger and needed to be protected by an international force, to be urgently dispatched?

He said that, this time, the Council had to make the right decision and call upon Israel to cease its policy of targeted assassinations and abide by international law.  If no action was taken and Israel got away with its horrendous crimes again, the situation in the Palestinian territory might deteriorate very rapidly and go out of control.  Israel could not keep violating international law with total impunity and must be stopped before the peace process was put to death.  It was not too late for the Council to reassert its authority, to put an end to Israel’s policy of escalation, provocation and defiance, and to reaffirm once and for all that a genuine, just and lasting peace could only be achieved through the implementation of the Road Map.  He hoped this time the Council would live up to its responsibilities and to the expectations of those who had kept faith in it.

JEAN-FRANCIS REGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said the critical situation in the Middle East, in particular on the Palestinian front, had continued to deteriorate in the past few months.  His delegation had exhorted all parties to show restraint and commitment to the Road Map.  The execution of Mr. Rantisi had taken place less than a month after the killing of Sheikh Yassin.  Those executions were a new challenge to international legality.  The continuation of such killings, targeting Palestinian leaders, did serious damage to the efforts of the international community to restore peace.

Renewing his urgent appeal to all parties to return to the path of dialogue to implement the shared vision of two States living side by side in peace, he also urgently demanded that the Quartet make use of its influence with the parties to end the cycle of violence in the Middle East.  The partial disengagement would not be a positive step in the right direction.

JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola), expressing regret at the prevailing situation, said any signal of hope was immediately destroyed by terror, by policies of collective punishment and by revenge.  Angola wished to see both sides enjoying peace and conviviality.  Unfortunately, all efforts remained engulfed in deadlock, causing despair and frustration for the entire international community.

The Angolan delegation was totally opposed to extrajudicial killings, and had expressed regret at recent events in GazaCity, he said.  It was necessary to break the cycle of violence.  An investment in peace would be more rewarding than the actions the world had witnessed.  Terrorism and occupation fed conflict and closed windows of opportunity for peace.  Angola called on both sides to end terror and occupation, and to avoid steps that could escalate violence.  For its part, the international community must persevere in efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table.  Both sides must take risks for peace, not unilateral action.

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said the extrajudicial killing of Mr. Rantisi and other Palestinians last Saturday should be condemned by the Council as it ran counter to international law.  It damaged the prospects for peace in the Middle East and undermined international efforts, including those of the Council, to bring the parties to the negotiating table.  He called on all sides to use restraint at such a critical stage.

ANA MARIA MENENDEZ (Spain) expressed concern about the recent extrajudicial killing, following the killing of Sheikh Yassin, which was part of an attempt in recent months to do away with the Palestinian leaders.  Such killings did not contribute to creating a climate of peace and obstructed the implementation of the Road Map.  Indiscriminate violence could not promote coexistence.  The fight against terrorism must take place in an environment of international legality.  The appeal for vengeance following Mr. Rantisi’s killing forecast an increase in violence.

She condemned all terrorist actions that took innocent lives, made the peace process difficult and damaged the Palestinian cause.  The present circumstances must be brought to an end.  Appealing to both sides for restraint, she said the only solution was the coexistence of two States in the framework of global peace, as set forth in the Road Map and supported by the Council in resolution 1515 (2003).  The Road Map set the priorities for both parties.  Regarding the announced unilateral withdrawal, she said it must have the support of the international community for a peaceful and orderly transition. 

GENNADY GATILOV (Russian Federation) said serious concern was being expressed in Moscow about the possible consequences of the recent event in Gaza.  Russia had repeatedly declared its rejection of targeted eliminations.  While not casting doubt on Israel’s right to self-defence, that right must be implemented within the framework of international law.  During the course of upcoming contacts with parties to the Quartet, there would be discussions of specific modalities for linking the Israeli plan with the Road Map.

He stressed that the modalities for a solution to such sensitive issues, including the fate of refugees and East Jerusalem, must be determined through agreement between the two sides.  The legal basis for a settlement had been defined in Council resolutions 242, 338, 1398 and 1515, which demanded compliance with the principle of the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force.  The world organization had a responsibility for the implementation of the Road Map.  The key to success was in joint actions.  The Russian Federation favoured a speedy meeting of the Quartet, at which time it would be possible to discuss issues related to the Israeli proposal and the Road Map.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) condemned Israel’s most recent extrajudicial execution, saying that despite international condemnation of a similar killing of Sheikh Yassin a few weeks ago, Israel had refused to heed the wishes of the international community that it stop acting in defiance of international law.  The extrajudicial killings were clear violations of international law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention.  No interpretation of the principle of self-defence could justify such extrajudicial killing.  Peace and the rule of law could not be established by those acting outside the law.  Israel’s actions had greatly damaged international endeavours to break the cycle of violence and put the peace process back on track.

The international community supported a two-State solution and that vision could only be achieved through the implementation of Council resolutions and the Quartet’s Road Map.  It must not be forgotten that the root cause of all the violence in Palestine was foreign occupation by Israel.  If an initiative for greater stability in the region was to be taken, it must address that cause and end the occupation.

JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) noted that on Saturday the terrorist organization Hamas had claimed responsibility for a suicide attack at the Erez Crossing.  A second bombing attack had been foiled.  Both had been designed to perpetuate conflict and prevent progress towards the steps outlined in the Road Map.  The attacks had occurred before the leader of Hamas had been killed.  The United States had urged Israel to consider the consequences of its actions and had stressed the need to exercise restraint.

An Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would be a significant step forward, presenting a rare opportunity for progress, he said.  It was noteworthy that the initiative was being put forward by Prime Minister Sharon, a principal architect of the Israeli settlement policy.  That was an important development that should be commended.  Israelis and Palestinians had important obligations under the Road Map, including Israel’s commitment to take actions in the West Bank and to improve the humanitarian situation by easing restrictions on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.  Palestinians must stop acts of violence and incitement against Israel, and their leadership must take institutional reform.  The United States had no intention of prejudicing the outcome of permanent status negotiations.

ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) condemned the targeted killings as unlawful and counterproductive.  While Israel had the right to defend itself and protect its citizens, it must act in accordance with international law.  The United Kingdom had repeatedly condemned terrorist acts against Israeli citizens and condemned the attack on Saturday.  Terrorism inflicted huge suffering and loss and tried to undermine the true Palestinian cause.  The Palestinians must take immediate and effective action to stop terrorist acts emanating from the Palestinian territories, and both parties must exercise restraint and stop escalating violence. 

Israel’s planned disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank gave the international community an opportunity to help the Palestinian Authority with the measures it needed to get to the point where the concept of a viable PalestinianState became a real possibility, he said.  It was not prejudging the final status negotiations or pushing the Road Map to the side.  Instead, it was a way back to the Road Map, which remained the correct route to a just and lasting solution.  The focus should be on getting the Road Map back on track.  A comprehensive settlement was the only way either side would find peace and security.

LAURO L. BAJA, JR. (Philippines) called on all sides to exercise restraint and to refrain from events that would cause an escalation of violence.  The new equation for peace in the Middle East, notwithstanding its noble intentions, was not a product of negotiation by the parties on the ground.  He urged the restart of the Middle East process as set out under the Road Map and endorsed by Council resolution 1515 (2003).

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said his delegation expressed deep shock over the assassination, saying he was gravely worried about the prospects of tension between Israel and Palestine.  Israel must stop such assassination operations immediately. 

Noting that the question of the Middle East was complicated, he said the only way to peace lay in a comprehensive settlement under Council resolutions.  Tit-for-tat violence would not contribute to a solution of the issue, but lead only to more violence and conflict.  The international community must take practical measures to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to peace talks at an early date.

CHRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) condemned the killing, saying that extrajudicial executions were reprehensible, a violation of international law and an obstruction to the peace process, which was based on the Road Map.  That applied to all acts of violence and terrorism.  The central question today involved the announcement of the Israeli Prime Minister’s plan to proceed with withdrawal from Gaza and possibly some parts of the West Bank.  The sense of that proposal was not clear enough.  The last monthly report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Middle East stated that for a successful withdraw of Israel, the following aspects must be included:  compliance with the Road Map, cooperation with the Palestinians; withdrawal must be total and complete; and it must be a first step to end the occupation in accordance with Council resolutions.

The withdrawal, he continued, must be consistent with those parameters.  Chile’s position was based on strict compliance with the norms of international law and implementation of Council resolutions, particularly 242, 338, 1397 and 1515.  Chile viewed the immediate future with scepticism.  Regarding extrajudicial executions, who would decide where the limits would be?  How long would that practice be resorted to?  The Quartet must renew its efforts to keep the Road Map alive and to ensure that the announced withdrawal would be within that framework.

MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania), aligning himself with the European Union, expressed concern over the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East following the targeted killing of Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi.  The Government of Israel had to examine very carefully the consequences of that act, because such operations did not provide more security.  Rather, they fuelled tension and hatred that in turn generated even more violence.  Romania recognized the right of Israel to self-defence, but extrajudicial killings were contrary to international law and totally unacceptable.

In the present complicated and volatile situation, both parties must do their utmost to refrain from acts that could escalate violence and compromise any chance to revive the prospects for peace, he said.  Fighting terrorism effectively, dismantling its infrastructure, and ending incitement to violence remained top priorities.

Expressing concern over the gravity of the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, he said that due to the confrontations and security restrictions, Israel must refrain from actions that embittered the daily life of the inhabitants there, increased their economic hardship or induced a sense of humiliation or despair.  A just, comprehensive and lasting peace could be achieved only through negotiations, as envisaged in the Road Map and in accordance with relevant Council resolution.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) condemned the 17 April attack, saying that the practice of extrajudicial killings violated fundamental principles of the rule of law.  The disproportionate use of force in populated areas endangered efforts to obtain a ceasefire of Palestinian movements, and could only lead to the radicalization of the Palestinian people and undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue.

France recognized Israel’s right to self-defence and had condemned attacks against Israeli civilians, he said.  However, the fight against terrorism must be conducted with strict respect for the rule of law.  Violence was not a solution.  Only a negotiated agreement based on the principles of international law could allow the Israeli and Palestinian people to live side by side.  Nothing lasting would be done without negotiation between the parties.  Only a just and negotiated solution based on Council resolutions would provide the security to which all Israelis had a right.  Peace must involve all the parties to the conflict, including Syria and Lebanon.

He noted that the withdrawal from Gaza could be positive, as the withdrawal from Palestinian territories had been repeatedly urged.  Hopefully, such a withdrawal would form a stage of the implementation of the Road Map, which was part of the context for the creation of a PalestinianState.  The Road Map had been achieved as a result of international consensus, and France was ready to contribute to making the withdrawal a success.  The Security Council also had particular responsibility and could not remain silent.  France hailed the efforts of Egypt and Jordan and counted on the next Arab Summit to make a substantive effort to launch the peace process. 

Speaking in his national capacity, Council President GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) associated himself with the European Union saying he was concerned about the possibility of a further new spiral of violence and urged both sides to break the cycle of terror and violence.  Calling on both sides to resume negotiation, he said that his country, recognizing Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence, had never accepted extrajudicial killings, which were contrary to international law.  The continuation of the practice endangered the successful implementation of any disengagement plan in Gaza or elsewhere.

Urging the Palestinians to resume talks on a ceasefire embracing all parties and group, he said he expected the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate its determination in the fight against extremist violence and to confront individuals and groups conducting and planning terrorist attacks.  He welcomed any Israeli withdrawal from settlements as long as it took place in the context of implementation of the Road Map.  Only a negotiated settlement on Gaza would receive the necessary international support for the maintenance of security and the rehabilitation and reconstruction.  It was worth noting, in addition, that final status issues in general were a matter for negotiation and agreement between the parties themselves.  They must not be prejudged.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) condemned and deplored the extrajudicial killings of Palestinians by the Israeli army, which contravened all humanitarian considerations and norms of international law.  The Israeli Government had not helped or contributed to the settlement of the Palestinian dispute.  With its irresponsible acts, it had deepened the lack of trust in its policies and prompted more violence.  The international community had worked to reach an agreed basis for the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian question, but every time the potential for a breakthrough was on the horizon, Israel took measures to abort the general situation and any possibility for movement.

The demand for a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders was the main requirement of that settlement, he continued.  Achieving a just settlement for Palestinian refugees was another important question that must be tackled in negotiations between the two parties.  The Road Map was the internationally agreed machinery to achieve a settlement without selectivity or deviation and without undermining its principles.  Any Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories must be coordinated with the Palestinians. 

A viable PalestinianState must be established on the land occupied before 1967 and based on resolutions 242, 338 and other United Nations resolutions, the principle of land for peace and other agreements.  The implementation of the Road Map required the rejection of violence, the lifting of the blockade and ending the suffering of the Palestinian people, as well as the dismantling of barriers.  Egypt called on the Council to reject and condemn all extrajudicial killings and once again declare the terms of reference agreed upon to secure the right to live in peace for the people of Israel and Palestine. 

YAHYA MAHMASSANI, Observer for the League of Arab States, said Israel was continuing its policy of killing Palestinians with impunity, the most recent such act being the execution of Mr. Rantisi, another act of State terrorism by Israel.  Condemning that heinous crime, he said, Israel’s actions, including the building of a separation wall, threatened peace and security and were undermining the peace process.

The crux of the conflict was the occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories, he said.  The occupation was at the heart of the Arab-Israeli problem.  The use of force was only worsening the situation in the region.  The Council must force Israel to cease its policy of extrajudicial killings.  Israel must return to the negotiating table.

PAUL BADJI, Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the targeted assassinations of Palestinians, be they leaders or members of Palestinian organizations, had been condemned on many occasions by the international community.  The Committee had firmly condemned all extrajudicial executions, and it was with that same energy that it condemned the most recent execution.  The Israeli Government, in disregard of international opinion, was continuing its vicious policy.  Like all acts of that type, such executions were a clear violation of international law and did not respond to the aspirations of Palestinians or Israelis.

Israel had once again poisoned an already volatile situation by assassinating the leader of Hamas, he said.  The Committee once again demanded that Israel end the untold suffering of the Palestinian people and called for the dismantling of the wall of separation, as well as an immediate end to the siege on the Palestinian Authority and its President.  The Committee urged both parties to refrain from any action that might aggravate the situation and invited the Quartet to apply all its influence on the parties to implement the Road Map, the only viable option to ensure the security of both parties.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) condemned the assassination, saying that when the Council met a month ago, all speakers, including some of Israel’s friends, had also condemned the extrajudicial killing of Sheikh Yassin.  Some had believed that the Israeli Government would hesitate before committing another such crime.  The assassination just perpetrated showed that the Israeli leaders did not heed international humanitarian law, nor respect the international community’s will.  Israel did not hesitate to use its senseless terrorist force for the realization of its purposes.

He said Israel was the party that had brought terror to the region and that pursued terror with the sole purpose of distracting attention from its actions, including the building of settlements and the racist separation wall.  Israel’s promotion of its actions as the right to self-defence was nothing more than a promotion of its policy of killing and annexation.  Israel’s new attempts regarding the right of return represented a grave violation of Council resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian question. 

The time had come for the Council to adopt decisive resolutions that would end Israeli war crimes, including it’s defiance of international humanitarian law, he said.  Was not the Council duty-bound to enforce its resolutions?  Israel -- indebted to the United Nations for its creation -- did not respect the United Nations or its resolutions.  Comprehensive and just peace could not be settled without the right of return.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, condemned both the assassination and the suicide bombing at the Eretz crossing.  The European Union reaffirmed that the Road Map represented the only route to a two-State solution agreed between the parties and resulting in a viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent PalestinianState existing side by side and in peace with an Israel living within recognized and secure borders.

He said the Union would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties.  The refugee question and the manner in which the right of return might be realized was also a final status issue, as set out in the Road Map.  In that context, final status issues were a matter for negotiation and agreement between the parties and must not be prejudged.

The European Union welcomed the prospect of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, but such withdrawal should be properly orchestrated with the international community in order to ensure an orderly situation in Gaza, he said.  The Union was ready to support the Palestinian Authority in taking responsibility for law and order.  The Union urged an end to violence and terrorism, as well as the resumption of a ceasefire embracing all parties and groups.  A just, lasting and comprehensive peace must meet the legitimate aspirations of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and must include Lebanon and Syria.  He called on all States in the region to exert every effort to promote peace and to combat terrorism.

ABDULLAH ALSAIDI (Yemen) said that the heads of Likud were heavily involved in undermining the prospects for peace at a time when the world’s gaze was fixed on Iraq.  The assassination of al-Rantisi was part of a framework of extrajudicial executions carried out by Israel, taking place at a time when calls were made to Palestinian factions to exercise restraint.  Israeli practices in the Palestinian territories were illegal, including those perpetrated in East Jerusalem.  Those acts had been condemned by many in the international community, including the Secretary-General.  The policy of assassinations by Israel in a frenzied manner dovetailed with its organized campaign to withdraw from Gaza.  Israel must be made to respect and implement its duty, in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.

He also emphasized the importance of commitment by all the parties to comply with the Road Map without resorting to unilateral actions, which might endanger the peace process and lead to further instability in the region.  In order to put an end to extrajudicial killings, it was clear that the Council must consider seriously the possibility of allowing the International Criminal Court to play a role in the current situation.  Therefore, the Council must adopt a firm stand and should have done so on the killing of Sheikh Yassin.  The heads of Likud were flouting the will of the international community.  He hoped the Council, this time, would adopt a resolution on the situation.

MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said the Council was meeting once again to debate the grave situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.  The Israeli forces had perpetrated a cowardly act of aggression, which Morocco formally condemned.  The international community could not fail to condemn the most recent violation, which could jeopardize the prospects for a negotiated peace.  The policy could further aggravate the situation and cause a new cycle of violence.

He urged the international community to shoulder its responsibilities and make every effort to stem the worsening of the situation.  It was up to the Council to take a clear stand by condemning the Israeli policy of occupying territories and suppressing those who spoke up against such actions.  The strengthening of peace remained the only way of achieving a just and comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, on the basis of relevant council resolutions.  Morocco was committed to the Arab peace initiative, which made the principle of land for peace the one and only foundation for a normalization of the situation.

ABOULAZIZ NASSER R. AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that, for the second time in less than a month, the Council was meeting to discuss the latest episode in a series of illegal practices by Israel.  The assassination by Israel of the leader of Hamas 26 days after the assassination of the spiritual leader of Hamas not only reflected the Israeli policy of State terror, but also reflected the irresponsible and dangerous approach by Israel aimed at obstructing prospects for peace.

He condemned the assassination and threats to further assassinate Palestinians, which constituted not only a violation of international law, but a war crime that could have been averted had the Council undertaken its responsibility a month ago.  The failure of the Council to adopt a decisive position sent the wrong message to the Sharon Government.  Once again, he appealed to the international community, especially the Council, to interfere urgently and adopt binding measures to protect the Palestinian people and its leadership and bring Israel into compliance with Council resolutions.  He also called on the Council not to be duped by distortions by Israel to justify its actions under the cover of self-defence.

V.K. NAMBIAR (India) said that the targeted killing of Mr. Rantisi was unjustified and unacceptable, and could not be condoned under any circumstances.  Such action, following closely after the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, could only lead to a further deterioration of the situation in the region and escalation of the cycle of violence and counter-violence.  India was consistently opposed to all acts of terrorism, including cross-border terrorism.  There could be no justification for terrorism in any form and from any source.

“The need of the hour” in West Asia was moderation and restraint, he continued, so as to enable peace negotiations to restart at the earliest.  The violence must be halted, and both Israelis and Palestinians should work towards a viable negotiating process aimed at a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement based on the Road Map outlined by the Quartet.  It provided the only existing way forward for the attainment of the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized boundaries, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002)and 1515 (2003).

RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) said the latest Israeli action, the brutal murder of Mr. Rantisi, would only serve to inflame emotions on the ground.  As expected, Palestinians were vowing to take revenge.  His country unequivocally condemned extrajudicial executions and reiterated its grave concern over the current developments and continuing deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.  His Government reaffirmed its support for the efforts of the Quartet and firmly believed that confidence-building played a crucial part in the implementation of the Road Map.  He urged the leaders, as well as the Secretary-General, to ensure that Israel abided by the Middle East peace plan.

His country believed that Israel’s continued resort to acts of State terrorism was a clear violation of international law, he said.  Israel must be held responsible and accountable for the cycle of violence.  The international community must not allow Israel to repeatedly act with impunity, in complete disregard of international law and public opinion.  He called on the Council to reiterate its demand for the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, military attack, provocation, incitement and destruction.  The Council should also reiterate its full endorsement of the Road Map.

AHMED A. OWN (Libya) said the Zionists had committed another crime since the murder of Sheik Yassin.  In killing Mr. Rantisi and a number of his associates, they committed an extrajudicial killing when the later were only defending their legitimate right to protect their land and holy places.  Supported by the United States administration, the Zionists were conducting State terrorism.  He called on the international community to condemn the barbaric, inhuman, criminal act and urged the Council to provide the necessary protection to the children of the defenceless Palestinian people, a people targeted by modern aircraft equipped with the most sophisticated United States technology. 

The international community had remained silent for more than five decades, he said.  If it continued to flout the legitimate right of the Palestinian people, the Road Map that called for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the creation of a PalestinianState would be a source of frustration for Palestinians and would only fuel violence in the entire region.  Support for unilateral measures aimed at retaining the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, preventing the right of return, and the building of a separation wall would prepare the way for further acts of violence. 

If Israel was honest in its desire for peace, it must withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories and restore the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, he said.  The continuation of a unilateral peace would not lead to peace, but to violence and instability.  The international community, in general, and the Council, in particular, must exert pressure on Israel to cease its practices and withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories.

OMER BASHIR MOHAMED MANIS (Sudan) said that in the wake of every heinous crime, the Council was unable to take a decision on the side of what was right, whether it was the separation fence, the exiling of the Palestinian President or State terrorism on the part of Israel.  The Sudan condemned the unprecedented organized State terrorism used by Israel.

Now before the Council was a colonizing State that violated all norms of international law and crossed all the lines, he said.  The Council could put an end to the episodes of State terror or give Israel another green light to commit further heinous crimes.  The world’s people were looking to the Council, which only talked of the Road Map and the Quartet and other political machinery.  It was necessary to address the killing machinery first. 

TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR (Bahrain) said the convening of today’s meeting had come as a response by the Arab Group to the assassination of the leader of the resistance, Dr. Rantisi.  Bahrain condemned extrajudicial killings, which confirmed Israel’s failure to respect resolutions of international legitimacy and represented State terror.  Assassinations were aimed at killing any effort to revive the Middle East peace process. 

He appealed to the international community and the Quartet to put an end to the crimes perpetrated by Israel.  Bahrain stood by the Palestinian people in their struggle for the recognition of their inalienable rights.  The fact that Israel continued to commit such crimes would lead to further instability, as well as the death of any hope for the realization of peace and security.

Ms. AL-MULLA (Kuwait) said Israel’s policy had prompted her to wonder about the results of the international community’s efforts to fight global terrorism, in light of the State terrorism practised by Israel.  The Council was meeting today to discuss one more extrajudicial execution.  Kuwait condemned that assassination, which was an act of terrorism committed by Israel, as well as terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  Israel’s crime was part of its illegal practices, which were contrary to international law and attempted to torpedo all efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the region.

She called on the Council to act soundly to put an end to Israel’s arrogance and its policy of disregarding international agreements, as well as to protect the Palestinian people.  That the Council had been unable to adopt a position after the assassination of Sheikh Yassin had only encouraged Israel to continue its illegal practices, thwarting efforts for peace and fuelling the cycle of violence.  The Council must encourage all parties to comply with Council resolutions, the Road Map and the principle of land for peace.  That was the only way to build peace. 

FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said that, because the Council had not condemned the killing last month of Sheik Yassin, Israel had assassinated Dr. Rantisi.  The Council had been unable to condemn Israeli terrorism and to adopt a position that reflected the interest of peoples.  Where was justice in looking at assassination as the law of the jungle? he asked.  How could one explain the passivity of the Council before Israel’s arrogance?  How long would Israel remain above the law?

Saudi Arabia condemned the policy of assassinations, which would only lead to more violence, with disastrous consequences.  He called on the international community to provide protection for the Palestinians.  The Council must move immediately to stop Israel, make it implement international law and resume negotiations in accordance with the Road Map.

BONGIWE QWABE (South Africa) expressing outrage and condemnation of the assassination of Mr. Rantisi, said that extrajudicial assassination stood in direct contravention of international law and relevant United Nations conventions and served to further fuel the cycle of violence and counter-violence in the Middle East.  He called once again on the Council to intervene in the Middle East.  Otherwise, the Council might be seen to be sending a disturbing message -- a toleration of extrajudicial killings and other violent actions.

He said Prime Minister Sharon’s recently announced unilateral disengagement plan would also weaken any possibility of a negotiated settlement of the conflict, because it would fundamentally compromise the inherent rights of the Palestinian people.  The withdrawal from Gaza, welcome as it might be, could not be linked to issues such as the right of return and the status of settlements in the West Bank.  His Government condemned suicide bombings, extrajudicial executions, collective punishment and all other forms of violence in the Middle East.

SAMI KRONFOL (Lebanon) said that the extrajudicial assassination by Israel two days ago of the freedom fighter Mr. Rantisi in Gaza was another episode in a series of assassinations perpetrated by Israel against Palestinian leaders.  Those assassinations, in addition to other Israeli practices, such as collective punishment and the demolition of homes, were a series of war crimes by the Israeli Government carried out so that it could continue to subjugate a whole people.  That flood of crimes was terrorism perpetrated by the Israeli military machine.  As for the resistance of the Palestinians to that terrorism, it was legitimate and one of the rights of a long-enslaved people.  The fact that some Israeli leaders spoke of the continued pursuit of such crimes made the Council duty bound to act.

While Israel killed Palestinians, it set conditions for a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, he said.  It was simply pursuing further actions to annul adopted resolutions and international agreements.  Israel’s so-called abandoning of the occupation of Gaza would be a reason for it to demolish the houses of the people of Gaza with them inside, kill Palestinian leaders and obstruct any chances for peace.  What was strange was that some, who were entrusted with peace in the Middle East, would accept such a trick by Israel.  The withdrawal would take hostage the work of the Quartet, kill other peace efforts and prevent the return to the negotiating table.  The world was watching to see if the Council would act in the face of Israel’s actions.

ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said the Council was holding its meeting in light of the dangerous circumstances in the occupied Palestinian territories.  The international community had condemned the assassination of Sheik Yassin a few weeks ago.  Tunisia had condemned the assassination of Mr. Rantisi, as targeting Palestinian leaders would only lead to the escalation of the cycle of violence.

Tunisia followed with great concern the serious developments in the occupied Palestinian territories, due to the continuation of the occupying Power’s policy of extrajudicial killings.  He called on the international community to provide protection for the Palestinian people and underscored his full conviction that resuming peace negotiations was the only way to bring about a permanent peace in the Middle East.

BISHER AL-KWASAWNEH (Jordan) expressed his Government’s strongest condemnation of the assassination of Mr. Rantisi, which had taken place under the direct supervision of the highest authority in the Israeli Government.  That crime reminded all of the brutal nature of Israel’s policy of extrajudicial executions and would only bring about an escalation of violence.  It posed, furthermore, a direct threat to the security and stability of the entire Middle East region.

He called upon Israel to fully desist from inflammatory policies and actions and to work with good faith towards restoring calm and stability in the occupied Palestinian territories.  He called on the Council to provide adequate protection to the Palestinian population under occupation in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He called on all parties and on the United Nations through its different organs to work towards reviving the Middle East peace process on the basis of Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 425 (1978), 1397 (2002), 1435 (2002) and 1515 (2003), the Arab peace initiative and the Road Map.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said the killing of Mr. Rantisi was a thoughtless and unjustifiable act, which gravely impaired the realization of peace.  Japan condemned the assassination and urged the Israeli Government to exercise maximum self-restraint in order to prevent further deterioration of the situation.  The efforts for peace by both the Israeli and Palestinian sides based on the Road Map were virtually suspended.

He said it was important that the Palestinian side make the maximum efforts in the crackdown of the extremists and produce a tangible result.  It was also important that the Israeli withdrawal of settlements in the Gaza Strip be implemented in line with the Road Map.  Japan strongly hoped that the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority would immediately take initiatives to resume dialogue.

ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba), condemning the most recent selective assassination by Israel in which Mr. Rantisi and others lost their lives, said Israel’s State terrorism remained unchecked.  It was only part of Israel’s other illegal activities, including the demolition of homes and collective punishment.  President Arafat still remained confined and was likely to be one of the possible victims of future extrajudicial executions.  The crisis in the Palestinian territories had worsened as the figure of deaths and injured grew, the vast majority of them civilians.  Israel must respect international humanitarian law.

Reaffirming his full support for the cause of the Palestinian people and his solidarity with their resistance, he condemned suicide bombings against innocent civilians.  Violence and the use of force could not resolve the conflict, which could have been resolved long ago if the Council had acted as it should.  Half the times the United States had exercised its veto had been in connection with the Middle East.  Of those times, 28 were related to Palestine.  To make progress, the United States should suspend financial support and military supplies to Israel, which were used to attack civilians.  The extrajudicial executions destroyed any hope for achieving peace, which could not be achieved without an end to the occupation or until the Palestinians exercised their right to self-determination and until all Arab land was returned to pre-1967 borders.

REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) expressed shock at the assassination, which had come less than a month after Israel’s murder of Sheikh Yassin, his predecessor.  Indonesia unreservedly condemned Israel’s reckless disregard for human life, and for the views and sensitivities of the international community.  The assassination confirmed Israel’s loss of interest in and commitment to the peace process, and it was difficult to see how the killing would enhance Israel’s security or promote peace.

Calling on Israel to return to negotiations with the Palestinians and not to put its faith in guns or artificial walls of separation and security, he called on the international community to put the necessary pressure on Israel to return to the negotiating table, and to prevent the country from repeating the pattern of extrajudicial executions.  It was only in the faithful implementation of the Road Map that a just and comprehensive settlement of the crisis could be realized.

M. DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) said that, once more, another atrocious crime by the Israeli regime had prompted the Council to hold another emergency public meeting.  By committing the latest assassination, Israel had registered on its record yet another serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which amounted to another war crime.  The continued criminal acts, coupled with the recent announcement plans to annex part of the occupied territory –- which was akin to “killing” the Road Map -– indicated that the Israeli regime had always sought to preclude any just and viable peace in the region, thereby restoring the basic rights of the Palestinians.

He said the Israelis were fully aware that each crime they committed would mark the onset of a new cycle of violence.  At a time when the international community needed to pull together to effectively combat global terrorism, the Israeli occupation and the criminal acts to sustain it, including extrajudicial killings, undermined the rule of law and cooperation among nations, which were sine qua none in fighting terrorism.  There was no doubt that what Israel had done was a “bonanza for the terrorists”, unfortunately enabling global terrorism to grow further.  Israeli acts were rendering the situation in the region even more tense and explosive.

The assassinations of Sheikh Yassin and Mr. Rantisi could plunge the region into another round of violence, he said.  Those deliberate acts were aimed at defeating any attempt to bring peace to the region.  It was very sad that the Council had yet to reach an agreement on the way to prevent Israel from committing its numerous crimes.  It was even more unfortunate that a single delegation had continued to prevent that body from pronouncing itself on such an important issue relating to international peace and security in one of the most important and sensitive regions.  Council members should recognize the need for decisive action in the face of the new tension in the region and avoid the further paralysis and erosion of its authority.

MAHFOUDH OULD DEDDACH (Mauritania) stressed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to establish an independent State.  Any agreement must be based on negotiations with the elected leadership of the Palestinian people.  Mauritania demanded an end to the occupation and the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of the Israeli Defence Forces from all the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as a just settlement for Palestinian refugees.  The Council must take all necessary action so as not to destroy the principle of land for peace.

Calling on the Council and the Quartet to preserve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, he strongly condemned extrajudicial assassinations against the Palestinian leadership, as well as any attempt to make the settlements legitimate and reject the right of return.  The Council must take up its responsibilities in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

JOHAN LØVALD (Norway) said that Israel’s right to defend itself against terror did not justify the action carried out in Gaza last Saturday.  The use of extrajudicial killings was not only contrary to international law, but also counter-productive.  The vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence must be broken.  All parties must refrain from further acts of aggression.

Norway would welcome a withdrawal of all settlers and the Israeli Defence Force from the Gaza Strip, he said.  If implemented in an appropriate manner and consistent with the Road Map, the withdrawal plan announced by Prime Minister Sharon could be an important step forward.  Final status issues could only be resolved through negotiations between the parties concerned.  Unilateral steps could in no manner prejudge their outcome, nor did unilateral measures modify Israel’s responsibilities under Council resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

Provided certain conditions were met, the international community would support a withdrawal from Gaza and other occupied territories, he said.  It would be vital to ensure that the Palestinian Authority was fully capable of taking on the responsibility of governing the territories from which Israel withdrew.  The international community must do its share to ensure that the necessary capabilities were created.  However, Israel must also contribute to ensuring a smooth transition, including through the necessary coordination with the Palestinian Authority.  Only a negotiated two-State solution based on relevant Council resolutions would ensure lasting peace and stability in the Middle East.

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For information media. Not an official record.