|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
306th Meeting (AM)
ON INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIANS, SECRETARY-GENERAL HERALDS
ANNAPOLIS AS ‘NEW BEGINNING’ IN EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE TWO-STATE SOLUTION
Also Addressing Palestinian Rights Committee, General Assembly President Cites
Tough Choices; Says Reconciliation Is Compromise between Remembering, Forgetting
As the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was observed at Headquarters today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that Palestinians continued to suffer the indignities and violence of occupation and conflict, but a new beginning had been made in the efforts to achieve a two-State solution to the conflict when, two days ago, in Annapolis, Maryland, the parties pledged to launch negotiations on all core issues, without exception, to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, if possible, in 2008.
Addressing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Mr. Ban said that the United Nations had few higher priorities than seeing that conflict resolved.
The United States-led process launched at Annapolis must change the lives of Palestinians, and secure their independence and freedom, he said. It must end the occupation and create an independent and viable State of Palestine, at peace with itself and its neighbours, and it must also deliver on the vital interests of Israelis: a Palestinian State that was a true partner and not a source of terrorism, secure and recognized borders, and a permanent end to the conflict.
“We must abandon piecemeal approaches, and address all aspects of the conflict,” he said. Final status negotiations should begin in earnest, and address all the issues including Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, security and water. The broad outlines of solutions to those issues were clear. The international community should also help the Palestinian Authority to “rebuild, reform and perform”, while a wide range of donors should step forward with political and financial support at the upcoming Paris Conference and beyond.
General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim told the Committee that the outcome of the Annapolis conference presented a great opportunity for a permanent two-State solution, but required a resolute commitment to boldly follow words with deeds. The only way to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace was through continuous dialogue and compromise, and a resolute commitment to achieve a permanent solution. Israelis and Palestinians would have to be honest with their own people about the price of peace. That would require difficult choices and sacrifices from both sides. The stakes were high, but the alternatives were worse.
To achieve lasting peace, it was necessary to learn from the mistakes of the past and confront the causes of failure, he stated. True reconciliation required not only an end to hostilities, but also a change of attitude. Reconciliation was a fair compromise between remembering and forgetting.
Also commending the international conference in Annapolis to launch negotiations leading to an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Security Council President Marty M. Natalegawa of Indonesia said that the Council had consistently made efforts to create an environment conducive to progress for Palestinian statehood, consistent with the Road Map and relevant Security Council resolutions. It had also continued to support initiatives for the realization of two democratic States, Israel and Palestine.
The Council recognized the critical need to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in order to ensure security and stability in the Middle East and put in place a process to create an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State, as envisioned in the Road Map, the Arab Peace Initiative and the joint understanding announced in Annapolis, he said. Of critical importance now was the need to provide financial and political support for the Palestinian Authority.
In a message on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President of the Palestinian National Authority, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said that security for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples could only be reached through the achievement of just peace and through relations based on equality and mutual respect. The time had come to begin a new era without occupation or animosity, based on the logic of rights and not on the logic of force.
The Palestine Liberation Organization, as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, had endeavoured, on the basis of resolutions adopted by the Palestinian National Council and since the Declaration of Independence in 1988, to achieve a political settlement leading to peace, based on the recognized terms of reference, starting from United Nations resolutions, the Road Map, the Arab Peace Initiative, United States President George W. Bush’s vision and the agreements signed with the Israeli side. The historic conference in Annapolis had been a very important opportunity for launching serious peace negotiations within a set time frame, under the auspices of and with the participation of the international community.
Committee Chairman Paul Badji ( Senegal) read out the names of Heads of State and Government, ministers and other officials who had sent messages of support and solidarity to mark today’s Observance.
Statements in commemoration of the International Day were also made by: Hamidon Ali (Malaysia), in his capacity as Vice-Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz (Cuba), on behalf of Felipe Perez Roque, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, in his capacity as Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement; Leslie Christian (Ghana), on behalf of John Kufuor, President of Ghana, in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union; Munir Akram (Pakistan), on behalf of Inam-ul-Haque, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, in his capacity as Chairman of the thirty-fourth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers; Yahya A. Mahmassani, on behalf of Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; and Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations.
Chris Ferguson, Representative of the World Council of Churches to the United Nations, also spoke.
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met today to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
PAUL BADJI ( Senegal), Committee Chairman, said that those rights had been defined by the General Assembly as the right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty, and the return of Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homes and lands. That represented not only a political issue and an essential part of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also an enduring human story, both individual and collective. Their courageous journey was one of suffering, sacrifice and perseverance in the face of adversity, which found few parallels in modern history. The Palestinians, many of whom had been dispossessed, driven away and ignored for so long, nevertheless stood proud, hopeful and uncompromising in their insistence that their legitimate rights be respected, and that resonated deeply worldwide.
He said that this year’s observance was particularly meaningful because it was 30 years ago that the General Assembly called for the International Day of Solidarity to be observed annually, and it was 90 years ago that the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration encouraging the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. It was also 60 years ago today that the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II) partitioning the mandated Palestine, and 40 years ago that, following the 1967 war, that Palestinian land came under Israeli occupation. It was 20 years ago that the Palestinians as a people stood up to the occupation and the world learned a new word -- intifada.
Those and other fateful events had defined the destiny of the Palestinian people over the decades, he said. The Palestinians remained in limbo, dispersed, exiled, or internally displaced, stateless and suffering from occupation. Over the years, the occupation had been accompanied by increasingly disproportionate and arbitrary use of military force against civilians; the taking of Palestinian land for the construction of settlements; and, more recently, the separation wall, repeated acts of collective punishment and grave violations of international law.
The Committee had repeatedly condemned all attacks against civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis, including the Palestinian rocket attacks originating from the Gaza Strip, he went on. However, to force the 1.4 million Gazans to a life of deprivation was both illegal under international law and morally unacceptable. That situation had been further exacerbated by internal Palestinian tensions, culminating in an armed takeover of the Gaza Strip by Palestinian militias. The Committee urged the Palestinians to unite behind President Mahmoud Abbas, the elected leader of the Palestinian people, and to respect the legitimate institutions of the Palestinian Authority.
He added that the question of Palestine had frustrated the peacemaking efforts of the international community for a very long time. However, on the conceptual level, the progress in the past decades had been nothing short of remarkable, as the inalienable national right of the Palestinians to their own sovereign State had become part of the international consensus. Against that backdrop, the slow pace of practical progress on the road to Palestinian statehood looked all the more disheartening. Concerted and vigorous action was needed to close that gap between rhetoric and reality, on which the credibility of the international community hinged.
Despite all the setbacks, there were reasons for hope, he concluded. The Committee was encouraged by the latest diplomatic efforts aimed at relaunching the peace process. It was hopeful that the Annapolis conference would generate the much needed momentum and lead to effective permanent status negotiations, resulting in a two-State solution. It was important that the members of the Quartet ( Russian Federation, United States, European Union and United Nations) and their regional partners assist the parties by engaging in that crucial endeavour.
SRGJAN KERIM, President of the General Assembly, said that respect for the dignity of all nations and peoples was a principle at the heart of peaceful resolution of all conflicts. Peace and solidarity went hand in hand. Today, the international community had the opportunity to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority. He commended the Palestinian Rights Committee’s contribution to international efforts to bring peace, security and stability to the Middle East. Over the years, the conflict had produced great losses and immense human suffering on both sides. It also had wider security implications for the region, and to peaceful relations between nations worldwide.
The General Assembly’s call on the parties to resume direct peace negotiations had been realized, he said, praising President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert for their courage and willingness to engage in substantive result-oriented discussions, and for reaching a joint understanding in Annapolis. He also commended President Bush for bringing the parties together to launch a serious process of final status negotiations, and for his personal commitment to support the conclusion of a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine before the end of 2008.
The outcome of the Annapolis conference presented a great opportunity for a permanent two-State solution, he said. However, it required a resolute commitment to boldly follow words with deeds. The only way to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace was through continuous dialogue and compromise, and a resolute commitment to achieve a permanent solution. Both Israelis and Palestinians would have to be honest with their own people about the price of peace. That would require difficult choices and sacrifices from both sides. The stakes were high, but the alternatives were worse, and he called on all Member States to make every effort to support the process.
Continuing, he said that the most encouraging aspect of the meeting was that both sides had agreed to support an approach leading to a two-State solution, and had expressed their determination to end the violence and usher in a new era based on freedom, security, justice, dignity and mutual respect -– core United Nations principles. The General Assembly continued to stress the need for the parties, with the help of the international community, to fully and speedily address all remaining issues in the Gaza Strip. That included a durable arrangement for the border crossings, the airport, the construction of the seaport, the removal of rubble and the establishment of a permanent physical link between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The Assembly had also stressed the need to ensure full implementation by both parties of the Agreement on Movement and Access, as well as the Agreed Principles for the Rafah Crossing; the need for Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories it had occupied since 1967; and full resolution of the issue of Palestinian refugees, on the basis of resolution 194 of 1948. The Assembly had also expressed its concern over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank. More than half of Palestinian households lived below the poverty line; there were acute strains on social services and a shortage of drinking water; electricity was limited, and so were medicines. The Palestinian economy had slumped by nearly a quarter during the past year, and more than half of those under 25 had no jobs.
He also noted the Assembly’s commitment to ensure that peaceful resolution remained at the forefront of the international agenda. The Quartet had welcomed the commitment to launch peace negotiations leading to the establishment of the Palestinian State. The Quartet’s Representative, Tony Blair, had proposed concrete measures to strengthen Palestinian institutions and rehabilitate the economy. The Paris Conference in December was an important opportunity to fund those proposals and lay the foundation for a viable Palestinian State. He urged the international community to offer its full support, to help make those reforms a reality and help alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. He also appealed to both Israeli and Palestinian officials to redouble their efforts to immediately implement their respective obligations under the Road Map, and to create the necessary conditions for long-term peace based on mutual respect and recognition. The United Nations must play a significant role to support that process.
In conclusion, he said that to achieve lasting peace, it was necessary to learn from the mistakes of the past and confront the causes of failure. True reconciliation required not only an end to hostilities, but also a change of attitude. While some people believed that to make peace was to forget, he believed that to reconcile was a fair compromise between remembering and forgetting.
Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said that Palestinians continued to suffer the indignities and violence of occupation and conflict, but a new beginning had been made in efforts to achieve a two-State solution to the conflict. Two days ago in Annapolis, Maryland, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, meeting under the auspices of President George W. Bush, and before a wide cross-section of the international community that included Arab League members, had agreed to launch negotiations on all core issues without exception, in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues. They pledged to make every effort to do that in 2008.
Stressing the paramount importance of implementation, he said: “What we do tomorrow is more important than what we say today.” In Annapolis, the Secretary-General had pledged the Organization’s full support for the renewed effort, stressing that, for 60 years, it had provided the broad parameters for peace, first in the partition plan, and then in Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003). Today, the United Nations had few higher priorities than seeing the conflict resolved.
“We all know the reasons why,” he continued. The Palestinians had been deprived of their inalienable right to self-determination for 60 years. Palestinian society had been increasingly fragmented –- territorially, by settlements, land expropriation and the barrier in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; socially and economically, by closure; and politically, between Gaza and the West Bank. They had begun to fear that the dream of statehood might slip beyond their grasp. That growing sense of despair must be reversed.
The process launched at Annapolis must change the lives of Palestinians and secure their independence and freedom, he said. The process must end the occupation and create an independent and viable State of Palestine, at peace with itself and its neighbours. It also must deliver on the vital interests of Israelis: a Palestinian State that was a true partner and not a source of terrorism, secure and recognized borders, and a permanent end to the conflict. People could not close their eyes to the profound doubt and mistrust on either side about the will and capacity of the other to achieve those goals.
Despite diplomatic landmarks, conditions on the ground had become harder, and not easier, for most Palestinians, and for many Israelis too, he noted. Israel faced genuine security threats; Israeli civilians had died and been wounded in rocket attacks. Palestinian civilians had been killed and injured in Israeli military operations. The Gaza Strip had been almost entirely closed, with tight restrictions on supplies and movements of people, leading to a grave humanitarian situation. Settlements had expanded throughout the West Bank, and checkpoints and a barrier had been erected on occupied land. Unemployment and poverty were rising. The indignities, injustices, and fear on both sides made it difficult to build faith in the political process, but that was exactly what was needed.
“We must abandon piecemeal approaches, and address all aspects of the conflict,” he said. Final status negotiations should begin in earnest and address all the issues: Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, security and water. The broad outlines of solutions to those issues were clear. The international community should also help the Palestinian Authority to “rebuild, reform and perform”. He hoped a wide range of donors would step forward with political and financial support, at the upcoming Paris Conference and beyond. The situation on the ground must also improve, rapidly and visibly. Without implementing long-standing commitments under the Road Map and the Agreement on Movement and Access, the diplomatic process could not succeed. Progress required parallel actions and clear monitoring.
He said it was also necessary to reach out to the people of Gaza, who had suffered more than anyone else from conflict and poverty. Humanitarian aid was vital, and United Nations efforts needed the support of donors. But such aid was no substitute for a functioning economy. The time had come for concrete initiatives to ease the suffering. The unity of Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate Palestinian Authority would also have to be restored for a peace agreement to be sustainable.
The vision of an end of occupation, an end of conflict, and two States living side by side in peace was a vision of justice, security and peace, he said. It was still achievable, but it would only happen if all involved took responsibility for contributing what they could. “Now that the Palestinian leadership has embarked on a new quest with Israel to end the conflict and secure a better future for their children, let us show our solidarity with the Palestinian people –- and the Israeli people too –- by giving our unyielding support to their efforts, and not resting until the goal is achieved,” he said.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), as President of the Security Council, noted that this year’s observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People coincided with continuing challenges to the peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine, as well as new opportunities for progress towards peace in the Middle East. He called on all concerned parties to exercise restraint and refrain from any measure that could undermine peace in the region. The Security Council remained concerned by socio-economic and humanitarian conditions in Gaza, calling for continued emergency and humanitarian assistance to the people of that area, without obstruction.
He also cited constructive developments to bring peace to the region, including renewed dialogue between the Israeli Prime Minister and Palestinian President, supported by the establishment of Israeli and Palestinian teams to discuss core issues essential to progress towards their shared goal of a negotiated two-State solution. He further commended the recent international conference in Annapolis to launch negotiations leading to an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Council had consistently made efforts to create an environment conducive to progress for Palestinian statehood, consistent with the Road Map and relevant Security Council resolutions, and continued to support initiatives for the realization of two democratic States, Israel and Palestine. He also recognized the vital roles of the Quartet and the League of Arab States.
The Security Council recognized the critical need to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to ensure security and stability in the Middle East and put in place a process to create an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State, as envisioned in the Road Map, the Arab Peace Initiative and the joint understanding announced in Annapolis, he said. Of critical importance now was to provide financial and political support for the Palestinian Authority.
YASSER ABED RABBO, Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), read out a statement by Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, President of the Palestinian National Authority.
In his statement, Mr. Abbas said that the annual commemoration of the Day of Solidarity by the United Nations since 1977 was a testament to the importance and centrality of the question of Palestine, in relation to international peace and security. The commemoration underscored the need to bring an end to the long suffering of the Palestinian people, who paid a high price without having committed any crime. For decades, they had lived either as refugees deprived of their homeland or under occupation, enduring all kinds of practices of oppression and subjugation, including the confiscation of their land, mass arrests and other crimes, which occurred daily before the eyes of the entire world. Generation after generation had not known freedom or enjoyed a minimum of what other peoples were enjoying. The time had come to begin a new era without occupation or animosity, an era based on the logic of rights and not on the logic of force.
He said the PLO, the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, had endeavoured, on the basis of resolutions adopted by the Palestinian National Council and since the Declaration of Independence in 1988, to achieve a political settlement leading to peace, based on the recognized terms of reference, starting from United Nations resolutions, the Road Map, the Arab Peace Initiative, President Bush’s vision and the agreements signed with the Israeli side.
The historical conference in Annapolis two days ago had been a very important juncture and opportunity for launching serious peace negotiations within a set time frame, under the auspices of and with the participation of the international community, he said, including the members of the Quartet. It was aimed at bringing an end to the conflict and to achieving peace that would bring an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; provide for a just and agreed solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees on the basis of resolution 194 of 1948; and guarantee the establishment of an independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, living in peace and security with its neighbours, including Israel.
He said that peace could not be achieved by the construction of the apartheid wall, which had been condemned as illegal by The Hague Court. Nor could peace be achieved by expanding the settlements, the Judaization measures of Jerusalem, or by preventing Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims, from entering their city, even for the right to religious worship. Security could not be achieved by the siege imposed on the city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and by surrounding it with walls and settlements and transforming its holy places to isolated antiquities. Security could not be achieved by the siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip. Security could not be achieved by military attacks, raids and incursions into Palestinian cities and villages. It could not be achieved by confiscation of Palestinian lands and allowing extremist, fanatic settlers to attack Palestinian civilians, and to set fire to and uproot their crops. Security for both peoples could only be achieved through a just peace, and through relations based on equality and mutual respect.
“On this day, 29 November, which coincides with the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the partition resolution in 1947, and the fortieth anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, our people look forward with great hope to the future and are determined to uphold our rights, confident that the international community will not allow this opportunity today to be lost in order to solve the Arab Israeli conflict on all tracks, starting with the core and basis of this conflict, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” he said. The wide international participation in the Annapolis conference had been a manifestation of the extent of attention given by all the peoples of the world to peace in the region. He looked forward with great hope to commemorating the Solidarity Day next year, “God willing, in our free and independent State of Palestine, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital”, he added.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia), Vice-Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said that, after 40 years, the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued to deteriorate. West Bank inhabitants were subjected to severe restrictions of their right to freedom of movement, implemented through more than 500 checkpoints and other obstacles, while some 149 settlements there were inhabited by 480,000 settlers. West Bank land had also been taken by an elaborate network of bypass roads connecting those settlements with Israel. On 24 September, the Israeli army announced new land confiscation for a road east of Jerusalem, which would further cut that city off from the West Bank.
Moreover, he said, 80 per cent of the separation wall was being built in Occupied Territory and taking the best Palestinian agricultural land. The 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the wall’s construction had gone unheeded. Also, some 400 of the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel were children.
The situation in the Gaza Strip was even more dire, as the area had been cut off from the world since June, owing to closure of its crossings, he said. The Israeli army had carried out regular incursions into Gaza, and the area had been subjected to repeated air strikes in which innocent civilians were often killed. Moreover, the average number of seriously ill Palestinian patients from Gaza who had been allowed access to hospitals in Israel had fallen from 40 in July to less than five a day in September. Israel’s declaration of Gaza as “hostile territory” had caused further deterioration, with the refusal of Israeli banks to deal with banks in Gaza starting to cause cash shortages. Israel’s reduction of electricity and fuel supply to the Gaza Strip at the end of October violated international law and would likely endanger hospitals and water services, among other things.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba), on behalf of the Felipe Perez Roque, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, in his capacity as Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the question of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people held a permanent place in the Movement, which had raised its voice on the matter in sovereign international bodies. At the fourteenth summit of the Movement in Havana in 2006, the serious situation imposed on Palestine, including the question of East Jerusalem, had been considered. Palestinians continued to suffer brutal and prolonged occupation, and the Movement had maintained firm solidarity with the people in the face of illegal occupation of Arab territories by Israel, in massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.
He said that in the past 40 years, Israel had applied deliberate policies and practices to change the demographic composition and character of the Palestinian lands, particularly through illegal settlements. Yet, the establishment of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, was yet to be achieved. Since 2003, there had also been the illegal construction of the separation wall. The Movement had condemned that action, as well as other illegal measures taken by Israel, and called on it to immediately cease those activities. Those included actions that hindered the functioning of the Palestinian Authority. The Movement reaffirmed its aspiration to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace for all the people of the Middle East, and a Palestinian State based on borders prior to 1967, with East Jerusalem as the capital.
LESLIE CHRISTIAN (Ghana), on behalf of John Kufuor, President of Ghana, in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union, said that the commemoration had assumed heightened significance against the backdrop of the recent positive developments at the Annapolis conference, aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the Palestinian question. The Union, however, acknowledged that some agreements reached in the past were yet to be implemented. It called on all parties to continue to engage in viable dialogue in pursuit of a peaceful solution. All parties should commit to moving forward with the outcome of the Annapolis conference. Additionally, the Union reaffirmed its commitment to all efforts, including those emerging from the Annapolis conference, to find a comprehensive solution that guaranteed key rights to the Palestinian people, as well as the rights of all parties to live within internationally recognized and secure boundaries. The world community should fully support the Annapolis outcomes.
YAHYA A. MAHMASSANI, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, reading out a message from the Secretary-General of the League, Amre Moussa, stressed the Committee’s vital role. The International Day of Solidarity coincided with the ninetieth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which had paved the way for the expansionist Zionist policy, thereby creating a land without people and people without a land -– the source of the conflict that lasted to the current day. Such actions as seizures of land and the building of the separation wall, in flagrant violation of international legitimacy and the opinion of the International Court of Justice, had made it impossible for the Palestinian people to pursue a viable and sovereign life. Israel continued to annex Al-Quds Al-Sharif and change its demographic and historical characteristics, in an effort to create a new reality on the ground. That was one of the most important issues for millions of believers worldwide. It was a flagrant violation of relevant United Nations resolutions and hindered negotiations on the final status of Al-Quds Al-Sharif. All sacred Islamic places and Christian holy sites must be preserved.
He went on to describe the unprecedented economic and social crisis in the Gaza Strip, which had been declared hostile territory by Israel. That situation hindered the delivery of supplies, the provision of international humanitarian aid and the exercise of human rights there. Regarding the threats to cut water and electricity, the Special Representative for human rights in the Occupied Territory had said that economic sanctions could not be applied against a territory that was not an independent country. Military sanctions created danger for all civilians in the Occupied Territory. Extrajudicial assassinations and building of bypass roads to settlements violated international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Those daily practices had an impact on all aspects of life of the Palestinian people and had led to a “free fall” of the situation. The increase in tensions had led to an armed conflict between the Palestinian factions, which had caused more than 1.5 million Palestinians to suffer.
The Council of Arab States had reaffirmed the Arab commitment to the just and lasting peace in the Middle East, but a comprehensive peace required Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied territories, he said. The Council of Arab States felt that the statement by George Bush in July and his invitation to hold an international conference on the Middle East had been positive elements that could lead to positive results and the creation of an independent Palestinian State, the dismantlement of settlements, and the resolution of the issues of refugees and the status of Al-Quds Al-Sharif. The League of Arab States had adopted a resolution on 30 July, supporting the holding of the international conference. The Annapolis conference outcome was an opportunity for relaunching the peace process. If Israel did not understand that, then regional peace and security would be threatened.
Ultimately, the international community must put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative and agreed terms of reference, he urged. Unless that was done, there would be continued violence and extremism, which could spill over and threaten international peace and security. It was necessary to ensure respect for international legitimacy, to ensure tolerance, mutual respect, and dialogue in the region.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), on behalf of Inam-ul-Haque, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, in his capacity as Chairman of the thirty-fourth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, said that the United Nations had a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until that issue was resolved. The root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict was the Israeli occupation of Arab territories. The Organization of the Islamic Conference had a strong attachment to issue of Palestine and was deeply committed to its just and peaceful settlement. Its position, and the basis and principles for resolving the conflict, had been clearly spelled out in its communiqués, declarations and resolutions. The Conference called for the achievement of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace, based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as agreed principles calling for Israel’s complete withdrawal from all Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and all other Occupied Arab Territories. It also called for the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and sovereignty in their independent and viable State, on the basis of pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, and a just resolution to the plight of the Palestine refugees, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948.
He said it was encouraging that today’s observance had come in the wake of extensive regional and international engagement to resolve the long-standing Palestinian issue. That engagement had included the revival of the Arab Peace Initiative and the just-concluded peace conference in Annapolis. There was a broad willingness to move the peace process forward. The Islamic Conference welcomed the commitment to establishment of the Palestinian State, and the agreement to start final status negotiations to resolve core issues including borders, refugees, settlements and Jerusalem. It was important to build an environment of trust and confidence to support the peace process.
The immediate requirements to create the conditions for success also included rapid and tangible improvement of the situation on the ground in the Occupied Territory, ending the oppression and suffering of the Palestinian people, ceasing of military campaigns by Israel, and releasing of prisoners, he said. The international community should also provide enhanced humanitarian, economic and social support to the Palestinians, as well as support to the Palestinian Authority for building State institutions, including a security apparatus, for which he looked forward to a successful donors’ meeting in Paris. Together with the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, efforts should continue to revive Palestinian unity, as durable peace was impossible with a divided people.
CHRIS FERGUSON, representative of the World Council of Churches to the United Nations, delivering a message on behalf of the International Coordinating Network on Palestine, said that this year of painfully significant dates had been marked by great urgency in the face of the deepening suffering of the people in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and refugees in the region and throughout the world. This week, world attention had been drawn to Annapolis. The meeting there had heralded a reactivation of a peace process.
Referring to a letter from the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Sam Kobia, to the United States Secretary of State, Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, Mr. Ferguson suggested three criteria for success based on 60 years of international church advocacy for peace in the Middle East. Those criteria included good faith negotiations, recognition and involvement of the parties with legitimate interests at stake in settling the conflict, and scrupulous adherence to the international rule of law. The process launched in Annapolis must be genuinely multilateral, in order to advance the cause of peace.
Continuing, he said that, during negotiations, the parties’ behaviour in Israel and the Occupied Territory must be governed by the same body of international law. Early action on ending the isolation of Gaza and the collective punishment of its 1.5 million residents, stopping attacks on civilians on either side, releasing prisoners denied due process, freezing all settlement growth, ceasing land expropriation, stopping work on the separation barrier, opening negotiations about the occupied Golan Heights, and other well-known steps would also signal the level of good faith behind the Annapolis process. Negotiations based on good faith would require the United States administration to ensure that the final agreement preserved the indivisibility of justice for Palestinians and Israelis. Also critical was to respond to the reality that negotiations with similar intentions in the past had been counterproductive, owing to, among other factors, repeated failures to address core issues, and to see them through in good faith to an equitable resolution.
“And yet as we speak, the international community remains woefully inactive and complicitly silent in the face of the dramatically deteriorating situation in Gaza,” he said. Neither Palestinian internal conflicts nor rocket attacks justified denying food, fuel, economic livelihood, medical care, and freedom to travel and study, not to mention the threat to cut off electricity to 1.5 million innocent civilians. Some 80 per cent of people lived in poverty and 1.1 million survived on food handouts. That was an intentional and utterly illegal “starvation diet” designed to punish and pressure the population -– supposedly to end rocket activity, for which they were not responsible and which they could not control. The situation in Gaza was the further expression of the international community’s decision to boycott and isolate Palestinians from exercising their democratic rights. The blind eye turned to the civilians in Gaza made a mockery of all other United Nations pretensions to care for unarmed and defenceless civilians.
Peace must be built on rights for all and protection for all, he asserted. The international community had failed to stand with the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and worldwide in ending the brutal military occupation and ongoing dispossession, and bolstering security in the right to return. Critically, that failure also impeded the peace, justice, security and rights that the international community sought to uphold for Israelis. That failure was an obstacle to regional peace, and impacted on world insecurity and disorder. Any lasting solution for the Palestinian people was intertwined with peace and justice for Israel.
Although religion was not at the root of the conflict, it had become part of the problem, he said. Religious leaders and inter-religious cooperation, therefore, had to be part of the solution, so that Christians, Muslims and Jews would again understand each another and live together as neighbours. The International Coordinating Network on Palestine, meeting in Brussels in August, had launched a strong and resolute plan of action under the title “Sixty Years is Enough! End the Dispossession; Bring Refugees Home!” The call to action included a commitment to strengthen the global campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions, emphasizing that the campaign responded to a call from Palestinian civil society and was a non-violent effort against Israeli occupation, apartheid and oppression.
He noted that the World Council of Churches in June had convened an International Peace Conference of Churches in Amman, Jordan, at which it had expressed a renewed commitment to church advocacy for peace, aimed at ending the illegal occupation, and demonstrated its commitment to inter-religious action for peace and justice for all the peoples of the region. The meeting had launched the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum, dedicated to both peacemaking and peacebuilding. Churches around the world were increasingly looking to non-violent methods like morally responsible investment, which used economic measures to end the occupation. “We are committed to undertaking committed actions in solidarity, and to holding the international community accountable to the norms and standards of international law for all,” he said. Palestinian rights could no longer be “exceptions to the rule” of international law.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations, thanked the Committee and all the speakers for expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, and said that the strong turnout at the Observance was a strong demonstration of the commitment of the international community to remain connected to the Palestinian question until it was resolved. Such a resolution meant the end of the occupation of all Palestinian lands occupied by Israel since 1967. Palestinians would like to see an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict by the withdrawal of Israel from all the Arab land that it had occupied since 1967, in exchange for total normalization of relations between it and its neighbours.
He said that the Observance had special flavour because it came on the heels of the successful conference held in Annapolis. The role of the United Nations in the peace process required a massive amount of energy and support, so as to ensure the success of forthcoming negotiations to reach a peaceful treaty between Palestine and Israel, and to ensure that a Palestinian State was born in 2008. The Palestinians were determined to negotiate in good faith and to exploit the present historic moment to reach a peace treaty with Israel. They, however, needed the help of everyone, in order to ensure the success of that exercise. With such support, next year’s Observance, hopefully, would be celebrated both at the United Nations and at the future capital of an independent Palestinian State.
The speeches at the Observance had helped to give hope to the Palestinian people, he went on. In addition to the speeches, however, several other activities had also been planned, including a debate in the General Assembly, which would culminate in the adoption of a resolution to push the peace process forward, as well as a cultural event and a concert.
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