Second Committee Approves Text Relating to Permanent Palestinian Sovereignty over Resources in Occupied Territories, Oil Slick on Lebanese Shores

17 November 2011
GA/EF/3327

Second Committee Approves Text Relating to Permanent Palestinian Sovereignty over Resources in Occupied Territories, Oil Slick on Lebanese Shores

17 November 2011
General Assembly
GA/EF/3327
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

35th Meeting (PM)

Second Committee Approves Text Relating to Permanent Palestinian Sovereignty

over Resources in Occupied Territories, Oil Slick on Lebanese Shores

 

Members also Pass Six Other Draft Resolutions, One Draft Decision

The General Assembly would demand that Israel stop exploiting, damaging, depleting, and endangering the natural resources in occupied Arab lands, according to the terms of one of seven draft resolutions approved today by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial).

By other terms of that text, titled “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources”, the Assembly would recognize the right of the Palestinian and other Arab peoples to claim restitution for such illegal actions.

Further by the draft, the Assembly would call upon Israel to cease all actions that harmed the environment in all the territories under its occupation, as well as the destruction of infrastructure, including water pipelines and sewage networks.  The Committee approved the text by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Panama, Saint Lucia, Vanuatu).

The representative of Israel described the draft resolution as politicized and biased, saying that its adoption was part of a wider effort to institutionalize an anti-Israel narrative within the United Nations.  Such matters did not fall within the Committee’s mandate, she said, adding that the text overlooked the progress made by her country and the Palestinian Authority.  Israel was ready to address common challenges related to climate change, desertification, land degradation and others so as to meet the growing needs of the region, she said, stressing that if other delegations truly cared about sustainable development, they would engage in constructive dialogue with her country.

The Observer for Palestine said the text reaffirmed Palestinians’ right over their own natural resources.  It called upon Israel to stop violating international resolutions and to cease its exploitation and theft of Palestinian land, water, and other natural resources.  The draft’s approval renewed international pressure on Israel to abide by international law and United Nations resolutions, and to end the occupation, he said, adding that it also gave faith to the Palestinian people that they had a sovereign right over their natural resources.

Syria’s representative said the Israeli occupation continued to deny Palestinians decent living conditions.  A great majority of the international community, by voting for the draft resolution, had expressed their disapproval of the Israeli Government’s failure to uphold its commitments under international law, he said, adding that although it continued to claim that such texts were a distraction, the Committee should continue to address the negative effects that the Israel’s exploitation of natural resources had on Arab populations.

Australia’s representative, recalling that his delegation had in previous sessions opposed the text but had abstained this year, expressed strong support for Palestine’s sovereignty, saying his country would provide $300 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority over the next five years.  However, Australia had not voted in favour of the text because it failed to recognize Israel’s legitimate security needs.

The Committee also approved — by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, United States) with 3 abstentions (Cameroon, Colombia, Panama) — a draft resolution titled “Oil slick on Lebanese shores”.

By its terms, the Assembly would reiterate, for the sixth consecutive year, its deep concern over the Israeli Air Force’s destruction of oil storage tanks near Lebanon’s El-Jiyeh electric power plant due to its adverse implications for sustainable development in that country.  By other terms, the Assembly would request that Israel assume responsibility for paying prompt and adequate compensation to Lebanon and Syria, whose shores had also been partially polluted.  The compensation should pay for the cost of restoring the marine environment and repairing environmental damage.

Prior to that action, Israel’s representative said the text failed to put the 2006 war into context, ignoring the fact that the Hizbullah terrorist organization had been the agitator, having launched rockets across international borders.  The Committee was wasting its time, she said, expressing disappointment with the “politically motivated resolution”.  It was ironic that as more time passed and the effects of the oil slick diminished, the text had become longer and more radical, she said, noting, however, that it failed to mention the destruction that Hizbullah rockets had caused in Israel, including damage to endangered fauna and flora caused by forest fires.

Following the vote, Lebanon’s representative said it was unfortunate that Israel was not held accountable for its violations of international laws and United Nations resolutions.  The mandate of the Committee covered sustainable development, and Israel was wrong to say that the oil slick was not within its remit, he said.  Israel had wasted the Committee’s time by failing to take responsibility for the damage it had caused.

Syria’s representative said Israel believed it was above the law, describing that country as the aggressor in the 2006 conflict.  It must take responsibility for the environmental disaster it had caused, he said, pointing out that a number of countries within the United Nations system enabled and encouraged Israel to disregard its responsibility, which had allowed it to ignore the draft resolution for years.

The Committee then approved, without a vote, two draft resolutions titled, respectively “International cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan”, and “Follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States”.

It also approved, again without a vote, two draft resolutions — on South-South cooperation and a United Nations Day on South-South Cooperation, respectively — as well as a draft decision on the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund on South-South Cooperation.

The Committee went on to approved, also without a vote, a draft resolution on operational activities for development of the United Nations system.

Earlier, the Committee heard the introduction of two draft resolutions, the first “Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries”, and the second on sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America.

Also speaking today were representatives of Argentina (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Comoros, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Venezuela and Yemen.

The Committee will meet again on Tuesday, 22 November, to take action on outstanding draft resolutions.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to take action on draft resolutions relating to the following agenda items:  sustainable development, specifically the follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; operational activities for development, including South-South cooperation; and permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.  It was also expected to hear the introduction of draft resolutions on macroeconomic policy questions pertaining to international trade and development.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

The representative of Argentina introduced, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, a draft resolution titled “Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries” (document A/C.2/66/L.50).

As the Committee turned to sustainable development, the representative of Hondurasintroduced a draft on sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America (document A/C.2/66/L.37).

Action on Draft Resolutions

As the Committee took up the text “Oil slick on Lebanese shores” (document A/C.2/66/L.25/Rev.1), the representative of Comoros requested clarification on which delegation had requested a recorded vote.

ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), Committee Chair, replied that Israel had requested the recorded vote.

The representative of Israel expressed disappointment with the politically motivated resolution, which was designed to institutionalize an anti-Israel narrative within the United Nations and to advance the political agenda of certain parties.  The Committee had wasted its time with this “cynical distraction”, instead of focusing on the many pressing issues of economic and social development.  Recalling that it had been five years since the oil slick had occurred, she said it was ironic that as more time passed and its effects diminished, the text had become longer and more radical, while failing to provide the relevant context of the 2006 conflict.

The text also made no mention of the Hizbullah terrorist organization that had started the conflict by launching an attack across international borders, she continued, asking why it also neglected to mention the major environmental destruction that the war had caused in Israel.  Many types of endangered fauna and flora had been burned in the forest fires caused by Hizbullah rockets, she noted, adding that the draft resolution also ignored the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which described a “drastically different” situation.  Such oversights unveiled the real motive behind the draft resolution, she said, adding that her delegation would vote against it and urging others to do the same.

The representative of Syria noted that every year Israel accused the Second Committee of being biased and political in its work.  The environmental disaster had been caused by the 2006 war in which Israel had been the aggressor, yet it failed to fulfil its responsibilities.  Israel had ignored the text because a number of States encouraged it to disregard its responsibilities, he said.

As the Committee proceeded to a recorded vote, the representative of the Czech Republic called for it to be repeated due to technical problems with the voting machines.

The Committee Secretary said the problem would be fixed but the Committee could move on to action on other draft resolutions that did not require a vote.

The Committee then took up the text on “International cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan” (document A/C.2/66/L.35), approving it without a vote.

Prior to action on the text, the representative of Kazakhstan expressed hope that it would be approved and thanked its supporters and co-sponsors.

Taking up the draft resolution on “Follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” (document A/C.2/66/L.51), the Committee approved it without a vote, withdrawing the text contained in document A/C.2/66/L.26.

In a statement before that action, the representative of Venezuela made a general statement reiterating his country’s reservations with regard to the law of the sea and asking that the Committee note his reservations.

As the Committee took up the draft resolution on South-South cooperation (document A/C.2/66/L.46), the representative of Yemen spoke as facilitator of the text, saying that a consensus had been reached on all three draft South-South cooperation texts, but a footnote to one paragraph had been missed and hopefully would be included.

The Committee then approved the text without a vote, as orally corrected, withdrawing the text contained in document A/C.2/66/L.2.

The Committee then approved, again without a vote, a draft decision on the “Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation” (document A/C.2/66/L.47), withdrawing document A/C.2/66/L.3.

Acting again without vote, the Committee approved a draft decision on a “United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation” (document A/C.2/66/L.48), withdrawing the text contained in document A/C.2/66/L.4.

Returning to the draft on the “Oil slick on Lebanese shores” (document A/C.2/66/L.25/Rev.1), the Committee heard the Secretariat’s explanation of the technical problem affecting the voting machinery, before approving the text by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, United States), with 3 abstentions (Colombia, Congo, Panama).

The representative of Lebanon made a general statement, praising countries that had voted in favour of the text and citing the effects of the oil slick on the Lebanese coast.  The Second Committee’s mandate dealt with sustainable development, he emphasized, contrary to Israel’s allegation that it was not mandated to deal with the issue.  It was Israel that had been responsible for wasting the Committee’s time by failing to assume responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to Lebanon, as requested by United Nations resolutions, he said.  Israel’s violations of international law had not resulted in any sanctions and accountability was absent, he noted.  He quoted criticism of the Israeli Government by newspapers and academics in that country.

The Committee then took up the draft on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian and other Arab populations in occupied lands over their natural resources (document A/C.2/66/L.22).

Speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Israel said the Committee continued to waste its time on the “unfortunate ritual”of discussing a “politicized and biased resolution”, instead of addressing major global challenges.  The text undermined the Committee’s credibility as an impartial and professional body, and was part of a wider effort to “institutionalize an anti-Israel narrative within the United Nations”.  Such matters did not fall within the Committee’s mandate, she said, adding that the text overlooked the progress made by her country and the Palestinian Authority. 

Israel worked to preserve and protect the natural environment but the text overlooked agreements reached and coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, she said, adding that if other delegates truly cared about sustainable development, they would engage in sincere and constructive dialogue.  She called for direct negotiations, saying that her country remained ready to share its knowledge and experience to face common challenges relating to climate change, desertification, land degradation and others so as to meet the growing needs of people in the region.

The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Panama, Saint Lucia, Vanuatu).

The representative of Australia expressed strong support for Palestine’s sovereignty, saying his country was taking practical steps, including donating $300 million over the next five years.  Australia had changed its negative vote to an abstention, instead of supporting the text, because it did not recognize Israel’s legitimate security needs.  Australia was committed to the peace process and to a negotiated two-State solution, he said, urging the two sides to return to direct talks as a matter of urgency.

The representative of Syria’s said Israel continued to accuse the Committee of being politicized despite the subject falling within its mandate.  Israeli practices were in violation of the principles of international law and United Nations resolutions, he said, adding that its occupation continued to deprive Palestinians of decent living standards.  The text added to many others expressing the anger of the great majority of the international community against the Israeli Government’s practices and its failure to uphold its commitments under international law, he said.  The draft’s adoption sent a clear message that Israel should stop violations of international law, and the Committee should continue to highlight its illegitimate exploitation of Arab resources and its negative effects on the population.

Making a general statement, the Observer for Palestine said the draft reaffirmed the Palestinian right to sovereignty over their natural resources, which were its path to growth and development.  It once again reminded Israel, the occupying Power, of the international community’s position, which rejected the occupation of Palestinian territory.  It called upon Israel to cease violations of international resolutions and norms, its heinous exploitation and theft of land and water, and its destruction of agriculture and the environment.  He thanked Egypt for submitting the text and thanked and saluted the States that had voted in its favour.  Passing the draft resolution renewed the international demand that Israel align with international law and resolutions and end its occupation, he said, adding that it also reaffirmed Palestinians’ right to sovereignty over their own natural resources.

The representative of Argentina, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, commented on the 17 November deadline for consultations imposed by the Bureau, saying that with more time for deliberations, there would be better progress in negotiating draft resolutions.  He requested flexibility on the deadline to allow facilitators to obtain meeting rooms in which to hold discussions.

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