SECRETARY-GENERAL, MARKING INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN PEOPLE, SAYS PROGRESS MUST BE MADE TOWARDS STATEHOOD IN 2009

24 November 2008
GA/PAL/1102

SECRETARY-GENERAL, MARKING INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN PEOPLE, SAYS PROGRESS MUST BE MADE TOWARDS STATEHOOD IN 2009

24 November 2008
General Assembly
GA/PAL/1102
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on the Inalienable Rights

 of the Palestinian People

314th Meeting (AM)

SECRETARY-GENERAL, MARKING INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN

PEOPLE, SAYS PROGRESS MUST BE MADE TOWARDS STATEHOOD IN 2009

General Assembly President Says Lack of Palestinian State ‘Single Greatest

Failure’ in United Nations History; Urges Breakthrough in Political Deadlock

After 60 years of having been deprived their basic rights, the Palestinian people deserved to make progress towards statehood in the coming year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was observed at Headquarters today.

Addressing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Mr. Ban said that “2009 must be the year that these preparations bear fruit”, referring to the negotiations that had been carried on between Israelis and Palestinians since the Annapolis talks one year ago.

He reiterated that the only way to address the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and the fears of Israelis was a peace agreement that resulted in the end of occupation, the end of conflict and the creation of a State of Palestine living side by side in peace with the State of Israel.  Asking the international community to remain engaged in the Middle East peace process, he said he would urge the new United States Administration to make the peace process an urgent priority.

General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto recalled that, 61 years ago, the Assembly had adopted resolution 181, which called for the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State.  “Shamefully, there is still no Palestinian State to celebrate,” he said, calling that fact “the single greatest failure in the history of the United Nations”.  He pressed Israel to allow humanitarian and other supplies to enter the Gaza Strip without delay and urged the international community to raise its voice against collective punishment there and to “defuse the political deadlock that cynically perpetuates this hatred, isolation and abuse”.

Speaking on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki expressed his appreciation to all attendees of the observation, saying that their support strengthened his deep conviction in the justness of the Palestinian cause.  Palestinians continued to endure great and unbearable suffering, through the occupation, he stressed, and were deprived rights related to life, protection of property, livelihood and to movement free of humiliation and deprivation.

Despite the ruthlessness of the occupation, he said, Palestinians were determined, without hesitation, to continue with negotiations as the only path for resolving the conflict and for achieving an end that guaranteed freedom and sovereignty for one party and recognition for the other.  The lack of progress in those negotiations, he maintained, was due to the determination of Israel to impose a solution that did not guarantee the return of land, the rights of refugees and the possibility of establishing a contiguous and viable State.

Expressing hopes that the initiatives of the past year would advance in the coming year, Jorge Ballestero of Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of Security Council President Jorge Urbina, said the international community was witnessing a series of constructive efforts, but the situation on the ground remained of serious concern.  To make progress, the parties must avoid actions that undermined confidence and could prejudice the outcome of negotiations.  Highlighting the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to reform the security sector, and the cooperation between the two sides in that regard, he expressed hope that such cooperation would extend to major Palestinian population centres.

Statements observing the International Day were also made by Ileana Núñez Mordoche of Cuba, on behalf of her Minister for Foreign Affairs, Felipe Pérez Roque, and the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries; Francis Butagira of Uganda, on behalf of his Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Thirty-Fifth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, Sam Kutesa; Augustine Mahiga of the United Republic of Tanzania, on behalf of his President and Chairman of the African Union, Jakaya Kikwete; and Yahya Mahmassani, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab Sates, on behalf of Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of that organization.

H.M.G.S. Palihakkara of Sri Lanka, Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, also made a statement of solidarity, as did Edwin Makue, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, who spoke on behalf of civil society organizations active on the question of Palestine.

Committee Chairman Paul Badji of Senegal made opening and closing presentations and 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.

In closing the commemoration, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations, also speaking on behalf of President Abbas, expressed gratitude for the messages of solidarity and thanked the Committee and the Division of Palestinian Rights for its efforts on behalf of the Palestinian people and for organizing today’s event.  He hoped that with such massive international support, the birth of the Palestinian State would soon become a reality.

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will meet again at a time and place to be announced.

Background

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met today to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Opening Statements

In his opening remarks, PAUL BADJI ( Senegal), Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee, said that, each year, members of the international community came together on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People to voice their “unrelenting support” for the aspirations of the Palestinian people, including the rights to self-determination, to sovereignty and to the return of Palestine refugees.  The realization of those rights represented an important element of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said 60 long years had elapsed since hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees had been compelled to leave their homes.  Today, more than 4.6 million refugees were registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The situation of some 1 million refugees, currently living in the Gaza Strip, was of particular concern.  Although the principal organs of the United Nations had adopted innumerable resolutions relating to the question of Palestine, most of them had yet to be implemented.

Describing the situation in Gaza, which was on the brink of a major humanitarian disaster, and the West Bank, where 630 checkpoints and the separation wall impeded the free movement of Palestinians, he said the Committee urged the international community to maintain the momentum begun at the Annapolis meeting.  He stressed that a prerequisite for progress should be appreciable change in the situation on the ground, with, at a minimum, the opening of all Gaza crossings and an immediate end to all settlement activity and the demolition of Palestinian homes.  The international community should take more determined steps to protect the Palestinian people, to ensure respect for international law in the whole region, and to uphold the relevant United Nations resolutions.  The road to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace settlement should also take into account the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN, President of the General Assembly, said that, 61 years ago, the Assembly had adopted resolution 181, which called for the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State.  The State of Israel, founded a year later, now celebrated 60 years of its existence.  “Shamefully, there is still no Palestinian State to celebrate.”  The failure to create such a State, as promised, was “the single greatest failure in the history of the United Nations”.  It was a bitter irony that next month marked the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Recalling the situations in Gaza and the West Bank, he urged the international community to raise its voice against collective punishment and he called on Israel, the occupying Power, to allow humanitarian and other supplies to enter the Gaza Strip, without delay.  In the West Bank, the existence of more than 600 checkpoints could not be overlooked.  The resumption of house demolitions during the cold months and the unabated settlement expansion must be denounced.  The unprecedented rise in violent attacks by settlers must also end.

The untenable situation highlighted the urgent need for the resumption of a genuine peace process, he said.  “What we need is a renewed sense of solidarity to inspire political will, courage and a broader perspective of the conflict,” he said, stressing that the revival of the Arab Peace Initiative should be included in that perspective.  The United Nations had an ongoing responsibility to resolve the question of Palestine.  “Let us be sure that this does not become a permanent responsibility,” he said, urging the international community to “defuse the political deadlock that cynically perpetuates this hatred, isolation and abuse”.

BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, said that, after 60 years of having been deprived of their inalienable rights, Palestinians must make progress towards statehood in the coming year.

He said “2009 must be the year that these preparations bear fruit”, referring to the negotiations that had been carried on between Israelis and Palestinians since the Annapolis talks one year ago.  He reiterated that the only way to address the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and the fears of Israelis was a peace agreement that resulted in the end of occupation, the end of conflict and the creation of a State of Palestine living side by side in peace with the State of Israel.

He called strongly on Israel to adhere to its commitments under the Road Map peace structure, to cease settlement activity, remove outposts and open Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem.  He also called for immediate measures to ease the “near blanket” closure of Gaza, while unreservedly condemning rocket fire.  He reiterated his profound concern at the “ever deepening” Palestinian divide, calling on Hamas and all Palestinian factions to work urgently to reunify Gaza and the West Bank, in a way that allowed the peace process to move forward.

Urging the international community to maintain its political engagement and donor support, he said he would also be urging the new Administration of the United States to be actively engaged in the peace process from the outset, as a matter of utmost priority.

JORGE BALLESTERO (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of Security Council President Jorge Urbina, said the international community was witnessing a series of constructive efforts and initiatives undertaken by relevant actors in the region and beyond, which the Council strongly hoped would advance the process towards achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  While some progress had been made in the year since the Annapolis Conference with the resumption of direct, bilateral negotiations, the situation on the ground remained a serious concern.  To make progress, the parties must avoid actions that undermined confidence and could prejudice the outcomes of negotiations.

Highlighting the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to reform the security sector, and the cooperation between the two sides in that regard, particularly in Jenin and the recent deployment of Palestinian security services in Hebron, he expressed hope that such cooperation would extend to major Palestinian population centres.  He underlined the importance of the 2007 Paris Conference in mobilizing donors and investors to provide support for the Palestinian people.  Also important were the Bethlehem and Berlin conferences of 2008.

Turning to the seriousness of the humanitarian situation affecting the Palestinian people in Gaza, he said the Council remained profoundly concerned by the rapid decline of socio-economic conditions.  It continued to support all steps taken to provide emergency and humanitarian assistance and called for their implementation without obstruction.  He recognized Egypt’s efforts in facilitating an understanding among the parties, which had resulted in a reduction of violence on the ground and the period of calm that had begun in June.  Both parties needed to exercise utmost restraint and refrain from any measures that could destabilize the fragile situation, including attacks on Palestinian and Israeli territory.  He welcomed the briefing by the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to the Quartet in November and noted the Quartet’s statement earlier this month on the possibility of holding an international meeting in Moscow in 2009, as an important step towards reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in the near future.

RIYAD MALKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs for the Palestinian Authority, speaking on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, expressed his appreciation to all attendees, saying that their support strengthened his deep conviction in the justness of the Palestinian cause.  Palestinians continued to endure great and unbearable suffering, through the occupation, and were deprived of rights related to life, protection of property, livelihood and movement free of humiliation and deprivation.

Despite the ruthlessness of the occupation, he said, Palestinians were determined, without hesitation, to continue with negotiations as the only path for resolving the conflict and for achieving an end that guaranteed freedom and sovereignty for one party and recognition for the other.  He remained committed to the Arab Peace Initiative to achieve those goals, but did not see from the other side a clear response.  Palestinians had fulfilled their obligations under the Annapolis process.  The lack of progress was due to Israel’s determination to impose a solution that did not guarantee the return of land, the rights of refugees and the possibility of establishing a contiguous and viable State.

A just and lasting solution, which would end the violence in the area once and for all, should not be a partial solution, as such a solution would only create a fertile environment for even deadlier conflict, which would spread throughout the region, he said.

Presentations

H.M.G.S. PALIHAKKARA (Sri Lanka), 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 while peacemaking was the most ubiquitous theme for United Nations discourse, the elusive nature of peace was no more apparent than in the Middle East conflict, where the agreed goal of a two-State solution remained unfulfilled.  The Annapolis Conference had given new impetus to direct negotiations, but the goals appeared unreachable within the set time frames.  Still, some optimism could be derived from the fact that vital dialogue was ongoing.  Hopefully, negative developments would not overtake it.

He said the Special Committee remained deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The Palestinian economy was shrinking, while the number of Israeli settlements and settlers was increasing.  The effects on the population were worrisome, as the Palestinian people’s basic economic and social rights were curtailed and the risk of creating a dependent society grew.  While optimism had increased after June’s ceasefire, no significant improvement in the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip had resulted.  Rocket attacks had started again, as had Israeli incursions inside the Strip.  As always, the civilian population was paying a higher price.  The key question was whether the political process would lead to tangible results, namely the Palestinian people’s enjoyment of their human rights.  The protection of those rights was an essential element of a sustainable and successful peace process, and respect for those rights could not be put on hold.

Several additional statements were made in commemoration of the International Day.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.