United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Concludes in Montevideo, Uruguay
United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Concludes in Montevideo, Uruguay
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support
of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Concludes in Montevideo, Uruguay
Participants Urge Resumption of Talks to Resolve Permanent Status
Issues, Laud Latin American Nations’ Recognition of State of Palestine
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, 30 March – The United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace closed today in Montevideo, Uruguay with an urgent call to the parties to resume serious negotiations to resolve permanent status issues within an agreed timeframe and to Israel to fully and immediately cease all settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
“The Organizers support the firm stance by the international community not to recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to occupied East Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties,” according to the final document issued at the closing session this afternoon.
Under the theme of “the urgency of realizing a two-State solution”, the two-day Meeting, convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, discussed broad global action to resolve the conflict based on the vision of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, with Latin American and Caribbean Governments and non-governmental actors having a role in that effort. It took place as a growing number of Latin American and Caribbean Nations were formally recognizing the State of Palestine, within pre-1967 borders.
In opening statements yesterday, and in plenary sessions yesterday and today, participants stressed the need to cease all unilateral action, particularly settlement construction, which could jeopardize peace talks aimed at achieving Palestinian statehood. They expressed alarm that the recent escalation of violence on the ground could undermine achievements thus far in Palestinian State-building, but saw hope for the two-State solution in the political transformation occurring in the Middle East.
Through today’s final document, participants noted the signing yesterday of a protocol establishing diplomatic relations between Uruguay and the State of Palestine, as well as Latin America’s crucial role in enlarging the international constituency in support of a two-State solution.
They called upon countries that had not yet done so to recognize the State of Palestine and to support the Palestinian Authority’s two-year institution-building plan, scheduled for completion in September, which would require significant global political, technical and financial assistance.
At the same time, they strongly condemned the killing and maiming of Palestinian civilians in Gaza by the Israeli army, as well as rocket fire from Gaza against civilian targets in southern Israel, stressing that the impasse in the political process exacerbated the desperation of the Palestinian people and provided fertile ground for extremism on both sides.
The wide-ranging document also stated that dramatic developments in the wider Middle East and North African region heightened the need to break the deadlock between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The solution to the conflict must be anchored in international law, as force and unilateral steps would not bring peace.
Before the closing session, the last two sessions of the Meeting were held. This morning, the second plenary heard from Walid Muaqqat, Ambassador of Palestine to Argentina; John Whitbeck, a Paris-based international lawyer; Carlos Lujan, Director of the Artigas Institute in Montevideo; Lourdes Cervantes Vásquez, Head of the Political Department of the Havana-based Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America; Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Managing Consultant of Stagno Ugarte Consultores y Asociados-Inteliaxis, and former Foreign Affairs Minister of Costa Rica; and Hanna Yousef Emile Safieh, General Secretary of the Brazil-based Palestinian Confederation of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The experts in that plenary discussed the support by Latin American and Caribbean countries for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. They recalled Latin America’s backing for General Assembly resolution 181 (1947) on the partition plan for Palestine and pointed to the fact that since December 2010, seven of the nine South American nations had formally recognized the State of Palestine, along 1967 borders, a move which gave the Palestinian strategy credibility, momentum and hope.
The third plenary, on the role of non-governmental actors in Latin America and the Caribbean in promoting a permanent settlement of the conflict, took place this afternoon. Speaking at that session were Paula Cecilia Merchán, a Member of the Argentine Parliament from Buenos Aires; Constanza Moreira, a Senator from Montevideo of the Uruguayan Senate; Arlene Elizabeth Clemesha, Professor of Arab Culture at the University of Sao Paulo and Director of International Relations at the Sao Paulo-based Institute for Arab Culture; Tilda Rabi, President of the Buenos Aires-based Federación de Entidades Argentino-Palestinas; and Edward Kaufman, Professor at the International School of the University of Haifa.
Those speakers discussed the role of the Palestinian Diaspora in bringing justice to the Palestinian people and making the two-State solution a reality, as well as in building bridges with Jewish community groups in the region to do so. Ms. Merchán expressed opposition to the free-trade agreement recently signed between the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and Israel, saying it would have harmful repercussions on the Palestinian population. Ms. Rabi agreed and called on Latin Americans to boycott all goods imported from Israel.
Finally, the closing session heard from José Luis Cancela, Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations; Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations; and Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) Vice Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
Emphasizing the collective responsibility of the global community to resolve the question of Palestine and the fact that already two thirds of the General Assembly had recognized the Palestinian State based on 1967 borders, Mr. Mansour called on the international community to advocate strongly in that body and the Security Council for the recognition of the State by September. “If the Israelis don’t want to negotiate a peace, we will do it with you,” he said.
Plenary II: Support by Latin American and Caribbean countries for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine
OUMAR DAOU, Vice-Chairman and Rapporteur of the Meeting, opened the Meeting by saying that on Tuesday, Uruguay and Palestine had signed a Protocol establishing diplomatic ties. He expressed appreciation to the Uruguayan Government for that important step and expressed pride that the signing coincided with the holding of the United Nations Meeting.
Mr. MUAQQAT, Ambassador of Palestine to Argentina, said since their arrival in Latin America and the Caribbean, Palestine immigrants had enriched Latin American societies. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had given a voice to Palestinians worldwide, including in Latin America. Beginning in the 1970s, several Latin American countries established diplomatic ties with PLO, which began opening representative offices throughout the region, as had the League of Arab States.
By 1993, PLO had set up diplomatic offices in eight Latin American countries, spurred by the Oslo Peace Agreement signed that year, he said. By 2001, many of those offices had been upgraded to special delegations. In 2006, Palestinian diplomacy persuaded the Governments of Costa Rica and El Salvador to withdraw their Israeli embassies from Jerusalem. In 2008, Costa Rica established diplomatic relations and, soon after, recognized the State of Palestine. In 2009, the Dominican Republic had done the same. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had visited Latin America in 2009, followed by visits from many senior Palestinian leaders, who had shed light on the real state of affairs. He had asked Latin American leaders to support the creation of a Palestinian State on legal, moral and ethical grounds.
On 3 December 2010, Brazil had recognized the State of Palestine based on 1967 borders, he said. The same month, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Guyana, Peru and Paraguay also had recognized the State, as did Suriname on 1 February 2011, and Uruguay on 15 March. All declarations of recognition clearly and unequivocally referred to international law, United Nations resolutions, the borders that existed on 4 June 1967, and the right of return of all Palestinian refugees. That trend showed the importance that Latin America gave to the creation of a Palestinian State living in peace and security with its neighbours.
“This is telling the international community that Palestine exists and that its rights are in full force and that they must be respected. To recognize the Palestinian State is a non-violent reaction of the international community to the expansion and construction of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land which jeopardized the two-State solution,” he said.
The Arab Peace Initiative, adopted in 2002, was the most balanced effort thus far to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said. The Quartet’s declarations were clear about the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in that they called for negotiations to lead to an agreement between the parties within 24 months and result in the creation of a Palestinian State. Latin America had followed those developments with interest. In recognizing the State of Palestine, it had tried to respect international law and the integrity of a future State of Palestine. He expressed hope that Palestine would become a United Nations Member State by September 2011.
Mr. WHITBECK, a Paris-based international lawyer, said it was important to recognize the distinction between the existence of a State and the diplomatic recognition of a State by other States. Diplomatic recognition was fundamentally a political issue, since no State could be compelled to recognize another or be prevented from doing so. Palestine, currently recognized by 112 other States, clearly qualified as a State under the criteria set forth in the 1933 Montevideo Convention. So did Kosovo and the Western Sahara. Israel, however, did not qualify as a State under the Convention’s criteria since it had consciously chosen never to define its territory and borders, knowing that doing so would necessarily place limits on them.
While Israel had formally annexed East Jerusalem and an arc of surrounding territory — which was not recognized by any other State — it had for 44 years refrained from asserting sovereignty over any other part of the West Bank or Gaza, an act which would raise awkward questions about the rights, or lack thereof, of those that lived there, he said. Since November 1988, when Palestinian Statehood was proclaimed, the only State asserting sovereignty over those parts of Palestine conquered by Israel in 1967 had been Palestine itself. Therefore, its sovereignty claim was literally and legally uncontested, even if it was not yet universally recognized.
Some 100 States had promptly recognized the State of Palestine when it had declared independence in 1988, he said. But then, and for several years afterward, it had been legally challenging to make the argument that Palestine met the customary international law criterion for “effective control over the State’s territory and population”. By agreeing to “autonomy” or “self-Government”, the Palestinians had consigned the State of Palestine to a “dark closet”. On the bright side, the Oslo peace process had given rise to the Palestinian Authority, which began building institutions for a future Palestinian State. It would be highly desirable to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian parties, before September 2011, the target date for creating a State of Palestine.
“Under both the criteria of the Montevideo Convention and the more restrictive criteria of recent customary international law, the State of Palestine exists — now. Its existence does not require Israeli consent or American recognition. It is a reality which must no longer be ignored,” he said.
Many long-time Palestinian friends had concluded in recent years that a two-State solution was no longer conceivable and that the Palestinians should opt instead for non-violent resistance, he said But the recent strategic decision of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to break free from the so-called “peace process”, which had been manipulated to perpetuate the “process” and prevent peace, relying instead on the United Nations, international law and support from people worldwide, had changed that calculation.
Seven of the nine South American nations that had formally recognized the State of Palestine since December, had explicitly done so along the 1967 borders, he said. If Palestine were to become a United Nations Member State, the end of the occupation and peace with some measure of justice would become a question of “when”, and not “whether”.
The Holy Land was rumoured to have been the site of miraculous resurrections, he said. “The current Palestinian strategy offers the last, best hope of making the two-State solution a reality,” he said, adding that “decent people everywhere should do everything in their power over the next six months to make this last-chance strategy succeed.” A huge debt of gratitude would be owed to South America, which had given the strategy credibility, momentum and hope.
Mr. LUJAN, Director of the Artigas Institute ( Diplomatic Academy) in Montevideo, said that while States would continue to be the main international political players, they would co-exist with other economic and political structures that were emerging as strong players on the world political stage. The State of Palestine would be weakened if it comprised a set of territories that were not strongly interwoven economically. The wide-scale recognition by certain Governments of States, regardless of how they fit into the criteria established by the Montevideo Convention, was important politically. The Convention established a series of elements that created a road map for future work. It was important to bear in mind the consequences for Palestine and other countries in the Middle East.
All peoples should have the right to self-determination and a choice of Government, he said. That process often was marred by challenges concerning human rights and the principle of non-intervention. Negotiations must be part of a cumulative process that built confidence and trust and led to cooperation among the different players. Also Uruguay, and not just super-Powers, had something to say about international law and international values. The decisions by Latin American countries in the last few months to recognize the State of Palestine were a step in the right direction, he said, expressing hope that that would lead to a two-State solution.
Ms. CERVANTES, Head of the Political Department of the Havana-based Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, said it was important to recall the goals and principles of the United Nations, particularly in the light of the mockery that some countries had made of them. To end the growing Palestinian tragedy, it was necessary to strictly apply international law and to respect multilateralism. Israel had categorically violated United Nations resolutions that called for a final settlement of the Palestinian question. The only resolution it had abided by was the one that created the State of Israel. The Security Council must break its silence and fulfil its responsibility in the region, instead of continuing to protect Israel.
She stressed the urgency of a two-State solution. But for that to become a reality, Israel must fully comply with its responsibility under international law, including honouring the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the separation wall, as well as the right of the Palestinians to establish East Jerusalem as the capital of their future State. Palestinians suffered increasing hardships caused by the growth of Israeli settlements, eviction of Palestinians from their homes, human rights abuses, and the collapse of the Palestinian economy.
During its sixty-fifth session, the General Assembly had adopted 10 resolutions and its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) had adopted four on the question of Palestine, she said. That illustrated the international community’s recognition of the need to resolve the Palestinian question justly and swiftly. Israel had attempted to demonize the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people. But the fight for Palestinian rights could not and should not be abandoned. Several Latin American and Caribbean countries, particularly Cuba, had become more active in that cause, showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. Their recent recognition of the State of Palestine would advance the goal of making Palestine a full United Nations Member State. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not just a border conflict or a subregional one; “it is a conflict clearly in the axis of North-South confrontation,” she said, calling it a symbol of colonialism.
Several Latin American countries were involved in a process that challenged the hegemony of Power centres in the North, she said. There was a strong link between the Palestinians and the people of the Americas, which wanted the same emancipation and social justice for the Palestinians as they wished for themselves. In the last decade, Latin American countries had tried to position themselves strategically, both politically and economically, to advance the Palestinian cause.
Mr. STAGNO, Managing Consultant of Stagno Ugarte Consultores y Asociados-Inteliaxis, and Former Foreign Affairs Minister of Costa Rica, said that in 1947, Costa Rica had supported General Assembly resolution 181 on the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine. Since then, there had been tragedy after tragedy, including wars, intifadas and murders that had seriously affected the rights of Israelis and Palestinians. Peace remained elusive, while double standards and foreign intervention reigned. More than 122 States had become Members of the United Nations, including many with territories and populations well below that of the Palestinians and unprepared to govern themselves.
After several decades of accepting mandates and patiently supporting the Quartet road map, Costa Rica decided on 5 February 2008 to officially recognize the State of Palestine based on resolution 181 (1947) and the fact that Palestine fulfilled the basic criteria of a State according to the Montevideo Convention. “It was time to put an end to the cruel irony of denying the existence of one of the few democratic Arab States,” he said.
But Costa Rica was also motivated by the belief that it could make a difference, he said. In the Quartet, the United States and the Russian Federation were trying to find common ground, while the European Union had hardly defined a common position. The United Nations did not know whether to follow the General Assembly’s resolutions or the ones of the Security Council based on vetoes and silence. As the Security Council was no longer fulfilling the Charter and the Quartet was ineffectual, Costa Rica had decided to act unilaterally.
While the case for Palestine was much more just, many Western States had decided instead to recognize the State of Kosovo, even without the Security Council’s approval, he noted. Yet, those same States were still determined to impose obstacles for the Palestinians. Two weeks before recognizing Kosovo, Costa Rica had recognized the State of Palestine based on the responsibility to protect. Since then, many Latin American countries had followed suit. Eighteen months after Costa Rica’s move, he and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias had met with their Israeli counterparts in Israel, but had never discussed Costa Rica’s recognition of Palestine.
“We are in a graveyard of lost opportunity in a region full of history,” he lamented. But the winds of freedom and dignity were blowing in North Africa and the Middle East. Now was the time to fulfil the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Mr. SAFIEH, General Secretary of the Brazil-based Palestinian Confederation of Latin America and the Caribbean, said the Arab world suffered from stagnation for several decades and a crisis of regimes. It had become a negligible quantity in the contemporary international power hierarchy. Foreign countries found no political interest or advantage in befriending the Arab world, nor did they run the risk of antagonizing it. But the “Arab spring” of democratic reform now sweeping the region could only benefit the Palestinian problem, because legitimately elected Arab Governments that were held to account would be more supportive of Palestinian aspirations.
The peace process had become a farce because it had endured instead of evolved into a peace, he said. The major flaw was that too much was left to local belligerent parties to sort things out in direct negotiations, as if there were no international law or United Nations resolutions to serve as terms of reference. The diplomatic deadlock was not due to Arab countries’ rejection of Israel’s existence, but to Israel’s rejection of the Arabs, owing to its territorial expansionist appetite. What was lacking today was political will to implement the peace process. “The parties have negotiated ad nauseum and now we should seek peace without further negotiations,” he said.
“In international relations, in matters of war and peace, the international will should prevail over a national whim,” he said. The Palestinians had fully respected their commitments. The international community must respond in kind. The Quartet, however, had not succeeded, he said, calling for new States to be added to the Quartet or for bringing the issue back to the Security Council or General Assembly in order for them to dictate what should be done by the local parties.
Latin American and Caribbean countries had played a crucial role in approving General Assembly resolution 181 (1947). A considerable number of Palestinian refugees had settled in Latin America since then and had become a dynamic social, economic and political force throughout the region. Today, more than 500,000 Latin Americans were of Palestinian heritage. Latin American countries, particularly new economic powerhouses like Brazil, had emerged as strong international players, particularly concerning the question of Palestine. The Quartet should be opened to membership from emerging countries like Brazil, India, China, Turkey and South Africa. The Security Council must also be reformed.
During the ensuing discussion, a participant asked Mr. Whitbeck to comment on Israel’s violation of United Nations resolutions and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion. Another asked about the feasibility of creating one State for both Israelis and Palestinians.
In response, Mr. WHITBECK regretted that Israel had not implemented United Nations resolutions. The reality was that all United States’ politicians were wary of criticizing Israel. The Palestinian leadership should publicly ask the Israeli Government why it was not implementing United Nations resolutions on the question of Palestine and why it did not want to accept the existence of the State of Palestine. In doing so, the Palestinians could pressure Israel to ask the United States not to veto Palestine’s request for admission to the United Nations as a full Member State.
Mr. SAFIEH said there was no legitimate explanation for the lack of a resolution to the question of Palestine. The international community was accepting the terms set by Israel and working to appease it. But as the international community had created the problem, it must solve it. He reiterated the need for the Quartet to be opened to new members and for the Security Council to be reformed.
Plenary III: The role of non-governmental actors in Latin America and the Caribbean in promoting a permanent settlement of the conflict
Ms. MERCHÁN, a Member of the Argentine Parliament from Buenos Aires, said she was part of the Group of Friendship with Palestine. Argentines, who had experienced the pain of human rights abuses and mass disappearances during the 1970s, identified with Palestinian hardship and the Palestinian peoples’ just fight for self-determination and a State of their own. The ongoing injustices and violations against the Palestinians, among them creation of the Israeli settlements and separation wall, the demolition of Palestinian homes, and human rights abuses, should be denounced. The search for justice should guide the international community’s actions.
Last year, MERCOSUR discussed a free-trade agreement with Israel, she said. When the treaty reached the Argentine Parliament, a motion had been put forward to stall its approval. Society at large believed the agreement would harm the Palestinians. Last week, however, the accord had been approved, with eight Argentine parliamentarians opposing it. While pleased that many Latin American countries had recognized the State of Palestine, she lamented that they had also signed the free-trade agreement, which had serious consequences for the human rights of the Palestinian people.
Ms. MOREIRA, a Senator from Montevideo of the Uruguayan Senate, said that Uruguay’s formal recognition of the State of Palestine showed its commitment to the Palestinian people and reinforced their bonds of friendship. The Uruguayan Government believed that that recognition was a prerequisite for peace and for advancing the peace process. The Ecuadorian Government, based on the same premise, had recognized the State of Palestine in December 2010, as had the Argentine Government, followed by the Uruguayan Government this year. The Brazilian Government went beyond recognition, adding that the State should be geographically cohesive and economically viable. Sandwiched between two larger, powerful States, Uruguay understood that Palestine was likely to gain independence at a late date and to fight for rights and basic freedoms that others had long forgotten.
While elsewhere people were fighting for the right to water, housing and education, the Palestinian people were fighting, not only for those rights, but also for such basic civil and political rights as the right to property and the ability to move freely, she said. Uruguay, which had formerly been referred to as a Diaspora nation, understood very well the Palestinian’s right of return. In addressing that right, it was important to register the number of Palestinian homes destroyed and property lost, and to openly support the self-determination of the Palestinian people. “We must persuade the world that the fight has not ended,” she said, calling for an end to the occupation, to Israeli settlements and discrimination.
Ms. CLEMESHA, Professor of Arab Culture at the University of Sao Paulo and Director of International Relations at the Sao Paulo-based Institute for Arab Culture, said media had a script, which was a shared cultural view that was rooted in literature and history. Once ingrained in society, it was difficult to change that script. It was important to consistently analyse the way the media treated Palestinians, which tended to be discriminatory. For example, the press had only begun to use the word “occupation” to describe the status of the Palestinians. The press treated the conflict as if it involved two equal parts fighting over some land, while the Palestinian’s entire struggle for self-determination was ignored.
Moreover, there was a tendency to blame the victim — the Palestinians — for not wanting peace, and for the political division between Hamas and Fatah, while ignoring the West’s boycott of the Palestinian elections that had brought Hamas to power, she said. The Palestinians were blamed for all violence, and the media gave more coverage to violence caused by the Palestinians than to violence caused by the Israelis, portraying Israeli violence as a response to Palestinian attacks. But during Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza, the media had treated the subject in a more realistic way because of the grave, egregious nature of the attacks, she said. The media’s coverage of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla was also more balanced.
Ms. RABI, President of the Buenos Aires-based Federación de Entidades Argentino-Palestinas, discussed the fate of the Palestinian Diaspora in Argentina. Israel was turning the Palestinians into martyrs and people fighting a holy war they had not asked for. The question of Palestine was just as important for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territory as for the Palestinian Diaspora. More than being a question, it was a political and humanitarian cause. In February 1990, a United Nations Meeting on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people had been held for the first time in Argentina. Her organization had worked with the Federation of Jewish Entities in Argentina to recognize and promote the establishment of PLO representation in 1983.
But Argentina’s established Jewish business and political community had aggressively boycotted those efforts, she said. Nevertheless, the two organizations continued their advocacy. Hers had attempted to establish ties with Zionist organizations in Argentina, but it was disappointed by the response. While Argentina had opposed the tragic Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza in 2009, the Zionists in Argentina sided more with Israel than with the values of their own democracy. Zionists should at least engage in constructive self-criticism.
Israel, which had just signed a free-trade agreement with MERCOSUR, would continue to act with impunity, she said. Latin America should boycott Israeli products. The Palestinian Diaspora in Argentina should boycott all cultural, academic and other relations with Israel. All must express solidarity with the Palestinians. Israel must comply with every United Nations resolution on the question of Palestine, immediately withdraw from all Palestinian territory and remove its separation wall. The international community must no longer remain silent. That silence was equivalent to complicity and it must stop.
Mr. KAUFMAN, Professor of the International School at the University of Haifa, said he was confident that the Palestinian State would be created. He questioned whether diasporas were more a part of the problem than the solution as they tended to hold extreme positions because of their great love of their homelands. For example, the Jewish lobby in the United States had pressured United States President Barack Obama to veto a recent Security Council resolution on the question of Palestine. Similarly, an Arab pacifist recently attempting to build an Islamic centre near the fallen World Trade Center in New York had met strong resistance. The interaction between the Jewish community in the United States and the Jewish Diaspora in Israel had created a shared responsibility. It was easier for a member of a diaspora to be highly passionate and extremist than someone living and breathing a conflict on a daily basis.
To change that situation, there must be a more balanced civil society, he said. For every 10 non-governmental organizations advocating for one cause, there must be one non-governmental organization advocating for a bridge to link to them. It was necessary to work together to build bridges to encourage people to embrace more moderate views. The Arab and Jewish communities must mobilize to live together in peace. The more Israelis participated in issues of concern to Arab communities, the greater the chance for peace. Additionally, each side would do well to publicly address the suffering of the other.
In the ensuing discussion, a participant questioned the criticism by some panelists of MERCOSUR’s free-trade agreement with Israel. Another asked them to elaborate on what specific Israeli borders were recognized when MERCOSUR had signed a free-trade agreement with that nation. That was important to determine the status of goods from the Occupied Palestinian Territory under the agreement.
In response, Ms. MERCHÁN said a free-trade agreement and a strategic alliance with Israel did not benefit MERCOSUR, particularly as Israel was violating the rights of Palestinians by encroaching upon Palestinian territory and building its separation wall.
Mr. CANCELA, Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations, highlighted important issues and key factors that linked Latin America and Palestine. He was proud of Latin America’s role in 1947, when General Assembly resolution 181 had been adopted, and of its contribution to promote a two-State solution. He was also proud of the 1933 Montevideo Convention and its contribution to international law and to finding a peaceful, lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During the Meeting, he noted, speakers had reaffirmed the importance of Latin America’s contribution in 1947 and of the Convention. They had made references to the need to promote democracy, freedom, dignity and tolerance in the Middle East and had made Latin Americans think about their own processes and sacred values, and how they shared them with Arabs.
As tolerance became increasingly important to build peace among nations and peoples, the international community must consistently promote full respect of all values, including for the Palestinians, he said. “We are not asking for the others less than what we ask for ourselves.” As the host country, Uruguay had aimed to offer a framework for a frank, constructive discussion on how Latin America and the rest of the international community could contribute positively to advancing the peace process. Many ideas had been presented during the Meeting towards that end. It was important to follow them up as they complemented the Fayyad State-building plan. He hoped that all stakeholders would contribute to the prompt resumption of the peace process so that the State of Palestine was fully recognized by September.
Mr. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine, thanked all participants and organizers of the Conference, as well as the host country for their efforts. The Meeting had been held in Latin America, where democratic winds had swept more than 20 years ago. The recognition by all Latin American countries, except Colombia, of the State of Palestine had resulted from a collective effort of political parties, trade unions, women’s groups, students and many others that desire justice for the Palestinians. It was the end result of people understanding the value of justice. In their struggle for justice and democracy, Latin Americans had opened the door for good things.
“In Arab countries, we are on the eve of what you started more than 20 years ago,” he said, stressing that the Palestinians expected bigger things from the Arab world, where the forces of free political parties, elections, and a fairer distribution of wealth were unfolding. The question of Palestine was the core question in the region, and the process of finding a solution to it was most transparent to everyone.
In 1947, the international community had taken upon itself to be involved in the question of Palestine, he said. Today, many claimed it was an issue to be dealt with exclusively between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but it remained an international concern. Already, 112 countries had recognized the State of Palestine. He called on the rest to do the same as an investment in peace in order to create a Palestinian State by September 2011.
All walks of Palestinian society were working to end the occupation, he said. Before the recent civilian uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, Palestinians had embarked on the first intifada. “We were able to do it then, and we are able to do it now,” he said. Remarkably, Palestinians had been able to rise above the hardship they suffered, owing to Israeli settlements, the separation wall, the Gaza blockade, endless human rights abuses and myriad other injustices. They were ahead of schedule on the two-year Palestinian State-building plan, slated for completion in September. Now a way must be found to end the tragic division between Fatah and Hamas.
The Palestinians were ready and willing to return to the negotiating table, he said. However, “we are not going to wait until the Israelis make up their own minds and say they are ready to reach peace with us,” he said. “We don’t need permission to exercise our national and sovereign right to independence.” Palestinians would never accept that they had to negotiate their independence with Israelis. Rather, they would negotiate issues concerning borders, security, settlements, refugees, water and the status of Jerusalem.
He expressed hope that by the summer, 130 to 140 countries would have recognized the State of Palestine. “If the Israelis don’t want to negotiate a peace, we will do it with you,” he said, noting that two thirds of United Nations Member States had already recognized the State of Palestine based on 1967 borders and the need for a two-State solution. The real work, however, was starting now, he said, calling on those Member States to push forward in the Security Council and the General Assembly for the creation of Palestine.
Mr. TANIN ( Afghanistan), Vice Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said it was important that open, candid dialogue continued between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Such interaction built trust between the two sides and helped lay the foundation for two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. As the target date for completing the Palestinian Authority’s two-year State-building programme was fast approaching, the Latin American region’s strong support was an important contribution.
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