Status Quo ‘Unsustainable and Unacceptable’, Secretary-General Tells Palestinian Rights Committee, Urging Parties to Advance Middle East Peace Process

5 February 2013
GA/PAL/1253

Status Quo ‘Unsustainable and Unacceptable’, Secretary-General Tells Palestinian Rights Committee, Urging Parties to Advance Middle East Peace Process

5 February 2013
General Assembly
GA/PAL/1253
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on the Inalienable Rights

of the Palestinian People

348th Meeting (AM)

Status Quo ‘Unsustainable and Unacceptable’, Secretary-General Tells Palestinian

Rights Committee, Urging Parties to Advance Middle East Peace Process

 

Chair Hails ‘Historic’ Decision to Enhance Palestine’s United Nations Status

While the General Assembly’s recent decision to enhance the status of Palestine at the United Nations had “resonated deeply” within the Organization, international re-engagement would be meaningless without serious commitments by the parties concerned to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“We cannot afford another year without tangible results,” the Secretary-General declared as he opened the 2013 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable rights of the Palestinian People.  Recalling that the Assembly’s adoption of resolution 67/19 in November 2012 had accorded Palestine the status of a non-Member observer State, he said that moment had underscored the urgency of achieving the two-State solution, and to that end, “there is no substitute for negotiations".

The talks must result in an agreement to end the conflict and the occupation, he stressed, and the creation of two states, Israel and Palestine, each of which must uphold commitments to ensure respect for human rights and equal civil rights for all their citizens.  Yet, while the United Nations and the wider international community were ready to renew collective engagement towards those goals, he said that their efforts would be meaningless if the parties themselves did not seriously endeavour to advance peace on the ground.

“The status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable,” Secretary-General Ban continued, urging both parties to live up to their commitments to a negotiated solution, consistent with relevant Security Council resolutions, and to resolve the core issues of territory, security, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and water.  While he looked forward to engaging with the new Government of Israel in the common pursuit of peace, the dramatic increase in settlement activity and the “deeply disappointing” announcement of new construction in the “E1” area must cease immediately, he said, declaring them “major obstacles” to the two-State solution.

Another essential step towards a durable peace was intra-Palestinian reconciliation within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) commitments, he continued.  “The peace process and reconciliation are not incompatible; efforts must be made on both fronts,” he said, expressing appreciation for the Egyptian Government’s facilitation.  “But for real progress to be made, Hamas must make clear where it stands on the central issues at stake,” he added.  Pledging to do “everything in my power” to achieve the common goal of peace, he expressed his belief that the Committee, through its activities, could make a unique contribution.

In remarks following his re-election as Committee Chairman, Abdou Salam Diallo ( Senegal) hailed the Assembly’s “historic” decision and expressed his expectations for a re-launch of peace negotiations.  Nevertheless, he spotlighted crucial challenges, particularly Israel’s illegal settlement policy.  Noting the primary responsibility of the diplomatic Middle East Quartet in dealing with the Israel-Palestine crisis, he urged the group to redouble its efforts.  “The Committee is more than ever resolved to make necessary efforts for a peaceful solution,” he said.

Also taking the floor was Feda Abdelhady-Nasser of the Observer Mission of Palestine, who said her delegation looked forward to the Secretary-General’s follow-up report on implementation of the Assembly’s decision.  She urged him to continue to use his good offices to help “make a difference”, both on the ground and in the broader effort to re-launch the stalled peace process, leading to a two-State solution.

She also called attention to the dire situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Israel’s ongoing arrests, the plight of hunger strikers and a raft of continuing illegal activities, especially Israel’s construction of settlements.  It was high time to make every effort to end Israel’s cruel, years-long blockade of the Gaza Strip, where already grave humanitarian conditions were worsening by the day, she said.

As the Committee turned to procedural matters, the Chairman introduced the Committee’s draft programme of work for 2013 (document A/AC.183/2013/CRP.1), which members approved later in the meeting.  Among other things, it outlines priority issues for the year, including the promotion of an action-oriented and thorough analysis of its legal, political, diplomatic, and economic implications for the parties, and for the international community, particularly the United Nations.

“Obviously the work of our Committee this year cannot be business as usual,” the Chairman continued, emphasizing that the Assembly’s decision had created “a new reality”.  But much more work would have to be done in analysing the effects of that decision and thus adjusting the Committee’s work.  In that regard, he proposed expanding the Bureau by electing three “members-at-large”, one from the Group of African States, another from the Group of Asian States and the third from the Group of Latin America and Caribbean States.  Action to that end would be taken in due course, he added.

As for the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, to be held on 27 and 28 February at the Rome Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), he announced that its theme would be “Assistance to the Palestinians — challenges and opportunities in the new reality of a State under occupation”.  The Seminar would, among other things, review the impact of the Israeli occupation on the socio-economic and humanitarian situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  It would also address the role of the international donor community in mobilizing and coordinating assistance in light of recent political developments.

At the opening of the meeting, the representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic nominated Abdou Salam Diallo (Senegal) for election as Committee Chair, and Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) and Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez (Cuba) as Vice-Chairs.  Christopher Grima ( Malta) was nominated for election as the Rapporteur.  The representative of Cyprus seconded those nominees, who were subsequently elected by acclamation.

Also making statements today were representatives of Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Egypt and Ecuador.

The Committee will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.

Background

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to begin its work for the year, including the adoption of its agenda, the election of officers, and consideration of its draft programme of work for 2013.  The Committee also heard a briefing on the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, to be held at the Rome headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 27 and 28 February.

Opening Remarks

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, opened the meeting by recalling that in November 2012, the General Assembly had voted to accord Palestine the status of a non-Member observer State.  That event had resonated deeply with the United Nations, and had underscored the urgent need for a two-State solution.  “There is no substitute for negotiations to this end,” he said, stressing that they must result in an agreement that would end the conflict and the occupation.

The agreement must result in two States living in peace, security and mutual recognition of each other’s legitimate rights, including self-determination, he continued.  Each must uphold commitments to ensure equal civil rights for all its citizens and to respect human rights and human dignity.  “Jerusalem must emerge through negotiations as the future capital of two States,” he emphasized.  As provided in the Road Map, there should be an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue,” he said, underscoring:  “This is the essence of our vision of the two-State solution.”

He said that the international community, including Arab partners, was ready to renew its collective re-engagement towards those goals, but that would be meaningless if the parties themselves did not make serious commitments to advance the peace process.  Israel had held elections on 22 January and the United Nations looked forward to engaging the next Israeli Government in the common pursuit of peace.  “This is no time to be idle,” he said, expressing dismay over the dramatic increase in Israel’s settlement-construction activity.  He also expressed deep disappointment at the announcement of new construction plans in the “E1” area, and urged the Government to heed international calls to rescind those plans.

“Settlement activity is a major obstacle to the two-State solution and must cease immediately,” he declared.  “I repeat that all settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and cannot prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations.”  A two-State solution would require the economic and financial viability of the Palestinian Government, he pointed out, emphasizing that Israel’s full, timely and predictable transfer of Palestinian tax and customs revenues, in accordance with the Paris Protocol’s provisions, was essential.  He said he was relieved in that connection by the Government’s recent decision to transfer revenues withheld in December, and thanked the European Union and Arab partners of the United Nations for their contributions, reiterating his call on donor countries to continue to fulfil their pledges and further increase their support.

The Secretary-General continued:  “Preserving stability in Gaza and making a significant difference in the lives of its civilian population continues to be our priority.”  Reiterating his call for immediate steps towards lifting the closure of Gaza, in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), he noted that following the violence of November 2012, Israel had recently allowed a limited amount of construction materials into the enclave.  That and the extension of fishing access to six nautical miles illustrated Israel’s commitment to sustaining the fragile ceasefire agreement.

However, more work must be done to improve the situation in Gaza while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, he stressed.  That meant continuing to thwart militant attacks from Gaza and stopping the smuggling of weapons into the area.  The fragile ceasefire provided an opportunity to address the underlying contributors to instability in Gaza, outlined in Council resolution 1860 (2009), and to implement that text in full, including its provisions relating to intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

“Palestinian reconciliation within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) commitments is an essential step for achieving the two-State solution and durable peace,” he emphasized.  “The peace process and reconciliation are not incompatible; efforts must be made on both fronts,” he said, expressing appreciation to the Government of Egypt for its facilitation efforts.  “But for real progress to be made, Hamas must make clear where it stands on the central issues at stake,” the Secretary-General added.

“The status quo is unsustainable, and unacceptable,” he reiterated, declaring that both parties must live up to their commitments to a negotiated two-State solution, consistent with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).  They must resolve all core issues — territory, security, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and water.  “We cannot afford another year without tangible results,” he emphasized, pledging to do everything in his power to achieve the common goal of a two-State solution.  The Committee could make a unique contribution through its activities, he said.

Statements

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal), upon his election as Chairman, said he recognized the crucial importance of the Committee’s work and praised the tireless commitment shown by the United Nations.  He also congratulated the Vice-Chairs on their election and expressed his appreciation for the work of the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights, before going on to recognize the commitment of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “whose support has never been lacking”.

Recalling the 29 November adoption of the General Assembly resolution granting Palestine non-Member observer State status, he described it as “a historic event” and went on to express his expectations for the re-launch of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.  He said the Palestinian membership of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in October 2011 was another milestone.

However, the challenges ahead included ending Israel’s settlement policy, an obstacle to a peaceful two-State solution, the Chairman said, urging that country’s Government to refrain from unilateral measures.  Noting that the Middle East Quartet bore primary responsibility in dealing with the Israel-Palestine crisis, he asked the group to redouble its efforts.  “The Committee is more than ever resolved to make necessary efforts for a peaceful solution,” he added.

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, recalled the Assembly’s decision to change her delegation’s status at the United Nations, saying that move reflected the international community’s strong support of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.  Hopefully, that peaceful multilateral effort would be a major step towards ensuring that the Palestinians fully joined the community of nations.  Looking forward to the Secretary-General’s follow-up report on implementation of the resolution, she urged him to continue to use his good offices to help “make a difference”, both on the ground and in the broader effort to re-ignite the stalled peace process leading to a two-State solution.

She went on to call attention to the dire situation on the ground, including Israel’s ongoing arrests of Palestinian people, the plight of Palestinian hunger strikers, and a raft of continuing illegal Israeli activities, especially its construction of settlements throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Further, it was high time to make every effort to bring an end to Israel’s cruel, years-long blockade of the Gaza Strip, where already grave humanitarian conditions were worsening by the day.  She also called for special attention to the plight of Palestinian refugees in Syria, and urged further support to help the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as it sought to alleviate their suffering.

Procedural Matters

Mr. DIALLO introduced the Committee’s draft programme of work for 2013, which contained a summary of the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly during its sixty-seventh session, including texts containing the mandates of the Committee, the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Department of Public Information.

The draft also reviews developments since the submission of the Committee’s report, in which it recalls the November Gaza crisis and welcomes the resolution upgrading Palestine’s status at the United Nations.  It condemns Israeli punitive measures and calls on donors to meet their obligations, in addition to calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners, a strong international push in 2013 to resume negotiations on the basis of United Nations resolutions, and good-faith implementation of the Cairo reconciliation agreements.

Chairman Diallo said the draft outlined the priority issues for 2013, including the promotion of an action-oriented and thorough analysis of its legal, political, diplomatic and economic implications for the parties and for the international community, particularly the United Nations.  International events this year included:  the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, to be held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome on 27 and 28 February, under the theme “Assistance to the Palestinians — challenges and opportunities in the new reality of a State under occupation”.  Civil society consultations would follow.

He said those events would be followed by the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine in the African region, tentatively slated for April; the United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, to be held provisionally in May-June, and followed by a civil society event; a United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine in July; and a United Nations Meeting of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

“Evidently, the work of our Committee this year cannot be business as usual,” the Chairman said, adding, “we have a new reality with the State of Palestine being recognized by the General Assembly as a non-Member observer State”.  But much more work would have to be done in analysing the effects of that decision and thus adjusting the Committee’s work, he said, proposing in that regard the expansion of the Bureau by electing three more members-at-large to the Bureau, one from Africa, another from Asia and the third from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Before the Committee’s adoption of its draft programme of work, the representative of Turkey proposed an amendment to paragraph 9, which highlights the support of Committee members concerning the General Assembly resolution of 29 November 2012 according Palestine non-Member observer State status.

In the ensuing discussion on the programme of work, speakers urged the Committee to focus particularly on the impact of Israel’s withholding of tax revenues and on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 67/19.  The urgent need to hold a Conference of Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention was also discussed, as was the need carefully to consider the ramifications of Israel’s recent decision to withdraw from participation in the work of the Human Rights Council, especially since that body had been set to consider the country’s human rights record under the universal periodic review.

The Committee then adopted its draft programme of work by consensus, as amended.

The representative of Ecuador said his Government would offer to host the next international seminar on the rights of the Palestinian people that would be held in the Latin American and Caribbean region, in 2014.

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