Direct Talks Signal Time to End Suffering, Say Speakers as Committee Holds Special Event Marking International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People

25 November 2013
GA/PAL/1281

Direct Talks Signal Time to End Suffering, Say Speakers as Committee Holds Special Event Marking International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People

25 November 2013
General Assembly
GA/PAL/1281
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on the Inalienable Rights

 of the Palestinian People

356th Meeting (AM)

Direct Talks Signal Time to End Suffering, Say Speakers as Committee Holds Special

Event Marking International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People

 

Meeting in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, speakers said today that with new direct negotiations under way, the time had come to end the suffering of the Palestinians and create an independent State for them.

Speaking for the Secretary General, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the annual Day of Solidarity was an opportunity to reflect on the situation of the Palestinian people and the international community’s responsibility towards Israeli-Palestinian peace.  Today’s special event was held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

While welcoming Israel’s release of prisoners as part of the agreement to resume talks, he said that its settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with the announcement of plans to build thousands of new housing units, could not be reconciled with the goal of a two-State solution and risked causing a collapse of the negotiations.

It was time for the international community to work together to translate the solidarity expressed today into achieving peace and justice, he continued.  “We cannot afford to lose the current moment of opportunity,” he added.  “We should all recall that when we talk about this situation, in the end it is all about human beings who are affected and put in the centre.  That goes for Palestinians and Israelis.”

Abdou Salam Diallo ( Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said it was time to end the persecution of Palestinian children and to enable them to breathe the fresh air of freedom instead of teargas.  Their parents should be able to fulfil their needs without having to wonder whether their homes would still be standing tomorrow.  It was time for Gaza’s inhabitants to join their peers in the West Bank, to lift the unjust blockade, and for Palestinians to enjoy freedom of religion and the ability to visit holy sites.

Filippo Grandi, outgoing Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), emphasized the urgent need for a just solution to the plight of the refugees as well as redress of the original injustice.  It was to be hoped that the current direct talks between Palestine and Israel would lead to a positive outcome.  Meanwhile, UNRWA’s own situation was close to desperate, and required urgent financial support, including for its core programmes, lest it find it impossible to pay the salaries of 30,000 staff members in December, he warned.

Mohammed Assaf, Youth Ambassador for UNRWA, provided concrete evidence of the Agency’s vital role for in supporting 5 million refugees in the occupied territories and elsewhere, based on his own experience and that of his peers.  Describing the challenging environment in which the children of Gaza grew up, he said Gazans did not have real social or economic rights, including a decent standard of living, adequate housing, clean water, safety or dignity.  UNRWA was there every day defending the right of Palestinians to those basic human needs, he said, appealing to the Agency’s supporters to ensure that it could maintain its services.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, delivered a statement on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  He said it was high time the international community found the political will to act decisively for the realization of the inalienable rights of his people, including the right to independence in their own State of Palestine, based on the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

He said the regrettable reality that countless resolutions on the issue remained unimplemented confirmed the “widespread conviction that there is indeed a double standard when it comes to United Nations resolutions regarding Israel [that allow] Israel to continue behaving as though it is a State above the law”.  He called upon the international community to compel Israel to comply with its legal obligations, and to cease its violations of international law, as well as its aggressive and illegal policies and practices.  The State of Palestine continued to act with utmost responsibility in serving its people and upholding its legal obligations and commitments, he noted.  It had been ready for decades to reach a solution to the conflict and remained committed to a two-State solution and renewed good-faith negotiations on an independent State of Palestine.

Mr. Diallo ( Senegal), Committee Chair, said in closing remarks that greetings from Heads of State and Government, Foreign Ministers, Governments and organizations would be published in a special bulletin to be issued by the Division for Palestinian Rights.

Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, observer for the State of Palestine, expressed gratitude to all who had participated in the meeting for their expressions of solidarity and support for the Palestinian people, saying she looked forward to the forthcoming proclamation of a year of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

General Assembly President John Ashe ( Antigua and Barbuda) and Security Council President Liu Jieyi ( China) also addressed the meeting, as did Palitha T.B. Kohona ( Sri Lanka), Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Illegal Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

Also speaking today were Mohammad Khazaee (Iran), who read a message from President Hassan Rouhani, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement; Kadra Hassan (Djibouti), who reading a message from Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chair of the thirty-ninth session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC); Tekeda Alemu (Ethiopia), who read a message from Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, Chairperson of the African Union; and Ahmed Fathalla, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, who read a message from Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby.

David Wildman, Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Racial Justice, United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries, spoke on behalf of civil society organizations.

Statements

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal), Palestinian Rights Committee Chairman, said this year was an opportunity to renew fraternal solidarity with the Palestinian people, examine developments and consider future ones.  The Day would allow a fruitful exchange concerning measures that could be adopted by the international community, the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Quartet, the Secretariat and United Nations bodies in the field, as well as civil society.

It was time, he said, to end the persecution of Palestinian children and enable them to breathe the fresh air of freedom instead of tear gas.  Their parents should be able to fulfil their needs without having to wonder whether their homes would be standing tomorrow.  It was time for Gaza’s inhabitants to see their peers in the West Bank and for the unjust blockade to be lifted, and it was time for Palestinians to enjoy freedom of religion and be able to travel to the holy sites. 

Today marked a commitment to work together for the achievement in the near future of Palestine’s full statehood and full membership in the United Nations.  He urged all to work together towards what might be the last chance to secure the coexistence of two States.  Time was short.  He welcomed concrete steps by the European Union to tighten regulations, especially in relation to products coming from Jewish settlements, and added that its example should be followed.  Similarly, aid and assistance to the Palestinian Government should continue to help them shoulder their obligations.  The international community must help the United Nations in its work to aid Palestinian refugees.  Additionally, Palestinians should be encouraged to unite for lasting peace.

He said that, in an attempt to more respond effectively to the growing workload, the Committee’s office had acquired new members and the working group charged with coordinating with civil society had resumed its activities. He urged delegations to support the resolution to proclaim 2014 the international year of solidarity with the Palestinian people.  Success would depend on mobilization of Governments, civil society and the international system.  The Committee would continue its efforts towards a just and lasting peace based on two States.

JOHN ASHE, General Assembly President, noting that this year’s observation was taking place amid a new round of negotiations, expressed hope that the talks would resolve all six final status issues.  The General Assembly’s decision last year to admit Palestine as a non-Member observer State had been fruitful, he said, adding that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had spoken as a Head of State during the Assembly annual general debate.  Among other developments, an agreement had been signed between the State of Palestine and the United Nations.  Another positive result had been the release of more than 104 Palestinian prisoners, who had been held for more than 24 years.

Also encouraging, he said, had been the support of Arab States for the peace process, and he called on all Governments to desist from any actions that were contrary to international law or which would render the two-State solution impossible, specifically settlements and annexation.  Peace could not be meaningful or durable without taking into account the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  The General Assembly remained committed to a two-State solution with Israel and Palestine living in peace side-by-side within the pre-1967 borders.  The International Day of Solidarity reminded Member States of their collective responsibility for the resolution of the situation.  He called on all Governments and stakeholders to make 2014 the year of achieving peace in Palestine.

Deputy Secretary-General JAN ELIASSON, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, said that the annual Day of Solidarity was an opportunity to reflect on the situation of the Palestinian people and the international community’s responsibilities towards Israeli-Palestinian peace.  He appreciated the international community’s focus and attention on the question of Palestine and called on it to support Israel and Palestine in their ambitious endeavour to fulfil a two-State objective and bring an end to conflict.  All parties must act in a way that did not undermine peaceful negotiations, he added.

With that, he expressed alarm at the increasingly dangerous situation on the ground, noting an escalation of violence and incitement.  Although he welcomed Israel’s release of prisoners as part of the agreement to renew talks, its settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained of very grave concern.  Announcements of thousands of new housing units could not be reconciled with the goal of a two-State solution and risked the collapse of negotiations. Settlements were in violation of international law and obstacles to peace and their construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must cease.  He called attention to Palestinians who continued to be displaced, underscoring their right to a fair planning and zoning regime.

He called on donors to help sustain UNRWA’s vital and indispensable work, and he urged Palestinians to overcome their divisions without delay. The goal remained clear — an end to the occupation that started in 1967 and the creation of a sovereign, independent, and viable State of Palestine based on 1967 borders, living side-by-side in peace with Israel.  Jerusalem was to emerge from negotiations as the capital of two States, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all.  He urged Palestinian and Israeli leaders to take decisions that would usher in a political solution to the longstanding conflict. 

“We cannot afford to lose the current moment of opportunity,” he said, urging the international community to work together to translate the solidarity expressed today for achieving peace and justice.

On a personal human note, he said that during the African-Arab Summit in Kuwait, he had met with the Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine Riyad Al-Malki, who had told him about his son who had grown up in the West Bank and had left to study abroad in the United Kingdom.  He had sent an e-mail to his father, expressing great joy and relief at not having to identify himself or meet any roadblocks.  He felt like a free young man.  “We should all recall,” said Mr. Eliasson, “that when we talk about this situation, in the end it is all about human beings who are affected and put in the centre.  That goes for Palestinians and Israelis”.

LIU JIEYI (China), speaking in his capacity as Security Council president, said that the Council had always sought a peaceful settlement to the question of Palestine based on the principle of land for peace, the Road Map and the two-State solution.  The parties must stay on course for a comprehensive solution, and the principle of land for peace should be firmly upheld with the international community’s support.  Noting that the State of Palestine last year had become a non-Member observer State of the United Nations, he said that the Palestinian question had remained high on the Council’s agenda.  The Council had backed all efforts to resume direct talks and had received regular briefings on the matter.

He welcomed the resumption of direct talks last July and expressed hope for concrete progress.  However, the Council remained concerned at continued settlement activity, and felt that no actions should be taken in contravention of international law.  Thus, no country would recognize the settlements.  He also stressed the need for full implementation of Council resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009) and called for a full lifting of the Gaza blockade.

Expressing appreciation for UNRWA’s work, he underscored the importance of developing the Palestinian economy and urged international support to that end.  He also praised the Quartet’s efforts and expressed support for the convening of any international meeting that would keep the rights of the Palestinian people in view. In closing, he called for the peaceful co-existence of Palestine and Israel.

FILIPPO GRANDI, Commissioner General of UNRWA, noted that the United Nations Organization was responsible for assisting 5 million Palestinian refugees.  It was important to continue to express solidarity with Palestinians, and although solidarity was not a tangible value, it transcended political and financial support.  Further, solidarity was crucial because it allowed Palestinians to feel that they were not alone.  UNWRA was sadly familiar with that loneliness, having worked with refugees whose 65-year exile had not yet found a just solution. Solidarity with them was especially important now, including with more than half a million at risk in Syria, where assisting them was difficult and where a political solution must also take them into account. 

He said that a just solution to the plight of the Palestinian refugees and redress of original injustice were urgently needed.  He hoped that situation would be addressed positively in the current direct talks between Palestine and Israel.  Meanwhile, UNRWA’s situation was close to desperate and required urgent financial support, including for its core programmes, lest it be impossible to pay the salaries of 30,000 staff members in December.  He urged immediate support for UNRWA, whose critical work provided, not only relief for refugees in dire need, but also opportunities, such as education, for young refugees.  

MOHAMMED ASSAF, youth Ambassador for UNRWA and winner of Arab Idol, said he was speaking for Palestinian youth in the occupied territory from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Diaspora.  As Gaza was his home, he said he could attest to the reliance of the 5 million Palestinian refugees on the Agency, which supported the neediest and worked to improve the situation in the 58 refugee camps across the region.  It also provided health care, operating 130 health centres, which received 10 million visits a year, and education, with nearly half a million “kids” attending the 700 UNRWA schools region-wide.  UNRWA also supported young refugees through vocational training, scholarships, promoting health and rights, and helped them to start new businesses and projects.

Describing the challenging environment in which the children of Gaza grew up, he said that Gazans did not have real social or economic rights, including a decent standard of living, adequate housing, clean water, safety and dignity.  UNRWA was there every day defending Palestinians’ right to those basic human needs, which was all the more important in light of their deteriorating circumstances.  He appealed to UNRWA’s supporters to ensure that the Agency, which faced a financial gap of over $30 million this year, could maintain its services.  “Please support UNRWA, just as it has supported me and so many other Palestine refugees by giving us the strength to work for a better future”, he said.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said that despite all the challenges, hardships and setbacks, the Palestinian people still had faith that a just peace could be achieved in their region.  He appealed to the international community to stand firmly for peace, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the right to self-determination.  It was “high time” to find the political will to act decisively for the realization of the inalienable rights of his people, including to independence in their State of Palestine, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said.

While expressing appreciation to the United Nations and Secretary-General for their work in promoting the realization of the Palestinian people’s rights and ensuring the achievement of a just and lasting peace, he regretted the lack of implementation of the countless resolutions that had been adopted, which shad compounded the conflict over many decades and inflicted grave hardships on the Palestinian people.  “This regrettable reality confirms the widespread conviction that there is indeed a double standard when it comes to United Nations resolutions regarding Israel, which are not implemented, allowing Israel to continue behaving as though it was a State above the law,” he said.

Stressing that Israel’s forcible occupation of his land and people must end, he reiterated once again urgent calls to the international community to compel Israel to comply with its legal obligations and to cease its violations of international law and aggressive and illegal policies and practices.  The State of Palestine continued to act with utmost responsibility to serve its people and uphold its legal obligations and commitments.  It had stood ready for decades to reach a solution to the conflict and remained committed to the two-State solution and renewed negotiations in good faith for an independent State of Palestine.

PALITHA T.B. KOHONA (Sri Lanka) speaking both as Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories and in his national capacity, said that, despite all efforts, the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had not improved much over the past year.  During the Committee’s annual visit to the Middle East, it had noted the same disturbing practices as in previous years.  Israel had continued its policies, contrary to international law, of transferring its population to the territories occupied since 1967.  Routine housing demolitions and forced displacements in the West Bank continued as did the separation wall’s construction.  Also notable was the lack of effort by Israeli authorities to prevent violence by Israeli settlers as well as the prolonged collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza.

He highlighted the illegal nature of activities of companies registered in other countries, which profited from and exploited Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Territory, of the view that those multinational companies and non-governmental organizations helped to perpetuate the occupation.  He called on Israel to end discriminatory water distribution practices and the issuance of drilling licenses for oil and gas exploration in the occupied Syrian Golan.  Given the continuing unsatisfactory conditions in the occupied territories, he was concerned at a possible new round of violence.  Proclaiming 2014 the international year of solidarity with the Palestinian people would be welcome.

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran), reading a message from President Hassan Rouhani, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said today was a reminder that the question of Palestine remained the oldest unresolved issue at the United Nations.  The Movement had maintained a firm solidarity with the Palestinian people and its just cause.  It had rejected Israel’s illegal occupation of all of Arab territories, and condemned the massive, flagrant and systematic violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law committed by the occupying Power.  The Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip had forced 1.7 million Palestinian civilians into poverty and isolation and had continued to impact every human right and disrupt every aspect of life.  Israel’s recent “provocative declarations” confirmed its refusal to cease settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 

He urged the international community, in particular, the Security Council, to take urgent action and practical measures, to compel the Occupying Power to cease completely its illegal and destructive settlement campaign and to abide by its international law obligations.  Deeply concerned at the lack of progress, he said the Middle East peace process must ensure an end to the occupation of the Palestinian Territory and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, the exercise by the Palestinian people of the right to self-determination in an independent, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, and a just solution for the plight of the refugees based on General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948.

KADRA HASSAN (Djibouti), reading out a message from MAHMOUD ALI YOUSSOUF, Minister of Foreign Affairs of his country and Chairman of the Thirty-ninth Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that despite international recognition of the State of Palestine in the General Assembly, Israel had intensified its violations against the Palestinian people.  Among those was aggression against holy sites and the isolation of East Jerusalem from its Palestinian surroundings, which expanded the conflict into a dangerous religious dimension.  Reaffirming support for the Palestinian position, she called on the international community to pressure Israel to stop the actions of extremist settlers.

She also condemned the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including torture and administrative detentions, and said that the ongoing blockade of Gaza constituted collective punishment and was a blatant violation of international humanitarian law with grave humanitarian consequences.  She called on the international community, in particular, the Security Council, to take the necessary concrete action for an immediate and permanent cessation of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.  Permanent peace was a sine qua non if both peoples focused their energies and resources on developing their societies in peace, harmony and coexistence.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), reading out a message from the country’s Prime Minister and Chairperson of the African Union, HAILEMARIAM DESSALEGN, said that today was another important opportunity to reaffirm unwavering support and commitment to the people of Palestine in their long-unfulfilled quest for self-determination.  He was hopeful that direct talks between the two parties would be pursued seriously to address all issues surrounding the two-State solution.  Towards that goal, Israeli expansion, housing demolitions, and border closures, among other things, must end without further delay.  Until those practices were halted and their negative impact effectively addressed in peace talks, progress was difficult to imagine.  The African Union had always supported the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination and establishment of an independent State.  However, the international community had failed those people.  He called in particular on the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Quartet to take all necessary measures to maintain security, peace and stability and to act in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their quest to establish their State.

AHMED FATHALLA, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, reading a message from the League’s Secretary-General, Nabil Elaraby, expressed hope for a positive outcome to the United States-led diplomatic initiative, leading to the establishment an independent sovereign State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Yet, despite the international consensus regarding that solution, Israel continued its settlement policy “aimed at swallowing up the land of Palestine”, while its Government protected settlers and covered up their actions. It also persisted in its unilateral actions aimed at Judaizing East Jerusalem.

He said it was the responsibility of the United Nations system to protect the Palestinian people and support their legitimate right to self-determination. Israel’s new condition that it be recognized as a Jewish State showed a lack of political will to enter into negotiations in earnest on all core issues.  Such recognition would amount to a denial of the presence of the Palestinians residing in Palestinian Territory since 1948.  Additionally, the unjust blockade of Gaza and Israel’s racist practices were reminiscent of South Africa’s policy of apartheid and had an adverse impact on the lives of over 1.5 million Palestinians. With the recognition of Palestine as an Observer State, Israel’s illegal actions in the Occupied Territory were deemed to be without legal standing.  It was high time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.

DAVID WILDMAN, Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Racial Justice with the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries, speaking on behalf of civil society organizations active on the Palestinian question, challenged all to examine how the international community’s complicity had supported, intensified and even profited from Israel’s occupation and systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people. 

He noted the recent adoption by the United Nations of the Arms Trade treaty and said that some arms dealers had identified the Occupied Territory as a laboratory where new weapons could be tested.  Still, millions of hardworking people in civil society through their pension funds were investing in companies that sustained the occupation, such as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola. 

Churches, trade unions and other civil society organizations were taking actions to end complicity and apartheid practices, he said, inviting Member States to join in solidarity through actions that ended individual complicity in the ongoing colonization and human rights violations against the Palestinian people.  Through collective efforts, such as boycotts, divestments and sanctions, actions could speak louder than words in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

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