International Meeting on Jerusalem, in Concluding Session, Discusses How Global Community Can Promoting Just Settlement of Middle East Conflict

13 May 2014
GA/PAL/1298

International Meeting on Jerusalem, in Concluding Session, Discusses How Global Community Can Promoting Just Settlement of Middle East Conflict

13 May 2014
General Assembly
GA/PAL/1298
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

International Meeting on Jerusalem, in Concluding Session, Discusses How Global

Community Can Promoting Just Settlement of Middle East Conflict

 

ANKARA, 13 May — The International Meeting held a discussion this afternoon on the international community’s role in promoting a just solution, examining the question of Jerusalem in relation to permanent status negotiations, international approaches to that issue, and the role of the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, other international organizations and non-State actors.

In its closing session later in the afternoon, the Meeting heard addresses by the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, the Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations, and the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, President of the Palestinian Economic Council for Research and Development and Senior Adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas on negotiations with Israel, said that, under the 1947 United Nations partition plan, Jerusalem was considered to have the special status of corpus separatum.  With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the city had been divided into two parts, and in 1967, Israel had occupied it again.  Measuring only six square kilometres at the time, Israel had expanded Jerusalem’s boundaries over the years to 75 square kilometres.  It had also extended its laws and regulations to the city, and started to change the reality of Jerusalem in terms of demographic composition — aiming for as few Palestinians and as many settlers as possible — land confiscation and expropriation, and judaization of the city.

During the Camp David negotiations, no real agreement had been reached due to Israeli demands, he said.  When the peace talks had started in Madrid in 1991, there had been 190,000 Jewish settlers.  Today, that number was 631,000, including 268,000 settlers in the vicinity of Jerusalem.  That showed the colonization programme that was meant to create a de facto situation on the ground and complicate the question of Jerusalem, he said, noting that the international community had been very clear on those measures.  However, the formulation had failed to specify that the Jerusalem of the 1948 borders would be the capital of Palestine, which was important given that the city’s 1967 and post-1967 boundaries included areas that were not genuinely part of Jerusalem.  The United States formulation, therefore, had allowed for a deal that gave Palestinians artificial parts of Jerusalem but not the Old City, which included Al-Aqsa Mosque.

There would be no State of Palestine without Jerusalem as its capital, he said, emphasizing that Palestinians were not in a position to sacrifice their sovereignty over the city, just as they would not be able to relinquish their sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967.  It was to be hoped that East Jerusalem would not only remain a “song for Arab singers”, but become a reality as the capital of a Palestinian State.  The question of Jerusalem needed a “serious intervention”, he said, adding that Palestinians sought to break the status quo, while the Israelis wished to maintain it.  The status quo could be broken through reconciliation, by internationalizing the question of Palestine, or by making the occupation too costly, he said.

Desra Percaya ( Indonesia) said that his country did not have, and would not open, diplomatic relations with Israel until there was an independent State of Palestine.  As the occupying Power, Israel must act in accordance with international law, protecting civilians and refraining from changing the status of Jerusalem.  The question of Jerusalem could not be separated from the peace process, and in the long run, a lasting solution to that question would be part and parcel of a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian question.  There was full awareness of Israel’s systemic efforts for the permanent annexation of East Jerusalem, he said.

The United Nations Charter principle of self-determination was an important element with respect to Palestine, he said.  There had been numerous General Assembly and Security Council resolutions in that regard, but questions remained as to their effectiveness.  The reality was that, unfortunately they were not, because Israel continued to defy them without repercussions.  There was a need to increase efforts in multi-track diplomacy.  The issue was not one exclusively for Governments, but for everyone, including civil society organizations.  Both the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation had often worked independently on the issue, but there was a need to synergize, and to strengthen alliances with non-State actors.  Furthermore, it was important to establish the presence of the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jerusalem.

Mohamed Taj-Eddine El Houssaini, Professor of International Relations, University of Mohamed V, Rabat, said that in order to settle the question of Jerusalem, it was important, not to go backwards on what had been achieved, but to move forward instead, aware of the challenges.  How could the international community face down Israel’s intransigent position?  There were two scenarios, hope and despair.  Hope lay in international legitimacy, international law and the possibility of internationalizing the question of Jerusalem, he said, adding that continuing the status quo would lead to despair.  The hope scenario required reversion to the pre-1967 borders.  Noting that Israel had attempted during all the negotiations to postpone the question of Jerusalem until “the bitter end” since it opposed any division of the city, he said that changes in the position of the United States must also be noted, pointing out in that regard that its Congress had voted to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem.

Israel was the party benefitting from the corresponding delays, he said, citing the physical expulsion of Palestinian citizens, the confiscation of their identity, and their replacement with Jewish settlers.  There was need for a common body with a mandate to examine how United Nations resolutions could be implemented.  In January, more than 30 resolutions, some of which were immensely important, had been passed in Morocco, and financial support and political will would be were needed to put them into effect.  He emphasized the importance of Palestinian reconciliation, saying that continuing division would be “disastrous for the question of Jerusalem or the conflict in general”.

Mohammad Halaiqah, Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, Malta, declared:  “We are failing in our duty.”  Unfortunately, there was terrible silence from Arab and Muslim countries, with the obvious exceptions of countries like Turkey.  Jerusalem was a fundamental question, and for decades, the international community had engaged in various attempts to find ways to make it a city of peace for all.  Resolving the question of Jerusalem was “instrumental to the entire peace process”, he said, adding that the main question was that of sovereignty.  Any violent event in Jerusalem “has the potential to spill beyond the boundaries of Israel and Palestine”.  Jerusalem’s future should not be unilaterally decided by a party or an organization.

Güven Sak, Managing Director of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, Ankara, said ways must be found to support Palestinian entrepreneurship in Jerusalem.  While awaiting a political settlement, there was a need to take into account the many Palestinians who lived in East Jerusalem and whose lives were deteriorating.  There had been about 900,000  Jerusalem residents in 2013, of whom 39 per cent had been Palestinians.  East Jerusalemites were much poorer than West Jerusalemites, he said, adding that in order to fight poverty, good companies and good entrepreneurs were needed.  If it was not possible to remove constraints, then mechanisms must be found to offset them, he said.  Supporting high growth looked to be the most important policy for institutional change in any place, he said.  It was also important to focus on the creation of good jobs in East Jerusalem, and to focus on private sector-based economic activity.

Participants in the ensuing discussion included the Coordinator of Assistance to the Palestinian People at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the representative of the State of Palestine in Ankara.

In closing remarks Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah İşler of Turkey expressed his appreciation to the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for having helped in organizing the Meeting.  Jerusalem was special because it was a “capital of all mankind”, he said.  “ Jerusalem does not belong to one people or one religion.”  Citizens of the whole world, whatever their religion or culture, must consider Jerusalem a common human heritage, and Turkey would support any initiative by the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation along those lines, becoming a pioneer if necessary.  Turkey would pursue efforts to create a Jerusalem in which “all factions can live together in an atmosphere where peace and understanding will prevail, as in the past”.

Samir Bakr, Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed deep and sincere thanks to the Government and people of Turkey for hosting the Meeting.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations, expressed the appreciation and gratitude of the Palestinian people and leadership, also thanking other Governments, organizations and individuals who had made the Meeting a success, including the experts who had made presentations on Jerusalem.  “The international community and all our friends must step up to the plate” and end this occupation, including of East Jerusalem, he said.  The Palestinians were resisting as much as they could, including Jerusalem.  It was their duty and they would continue doing so.  Nobody could blame the Palestinian Authority for not having negotiated in good faith because the other side was “not interested in peace”.  How could it be when it was continuing its colonization programme? he asked.  Those who had recognized the State of Palestine had “invested in peace”.

Abdou Salam Diallo ( Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the latest information on the status of Jerusalem and the complications endured daily by the faithful, as well as Palestinian residents from all walks of life, had been heard during the Meeting.  The specific measures employed by the occupying Power had also been highlighted, as had the role of the international community in promoting a just solution.  Every Israeli action that led to the construction of new settlements represented a violation of international law, he said.  The international community as a whole was exasperated by Israel’s provocations, especially those relating to Al-Aqsa Mosque, which served no one and must stop.

Plenary 4

ALI RESUL USUL, Chair, Centre for Strategic Research, said the plenary would focus on the international community’s role in promoting a just solution.  The panellists would consider the question of Jerusalem in the permanent status negotiations, international approaches to resolving the question of Jerusalem, the role of the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other intergovernmental organizations, as well as that of non-State actors, including parliamentarians and members of civil society.

MOHAMMAD SHTAYYEH, President, Palestinian Economic Council for Research and Development and Senior Adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas on negotiations with Israel, Jerusalem, said that, under the 1947 United Nations partition plan, Jerusalem was considered to have the special status of corpus separatum.  With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the city had been divided into two parts and in 1967, Israel had occupied it again.  Jerusalem had only been six square kilometres at the time, but over the years, Israel had expanded the city boundaries to 75 square kilometres.  It had also extended its laws and regulations to the city, and had started to change the reality of Jerusalem in terms of demographic composition — with as few Palestinians and as many settlers as possible — land confiscation and expropriation, and judaization of the city.

Another landmark related to the Oslo Agreement, which had considered Jerusalem to be one of the final status issues, he said.  However, Israel had decided to create facts on the ground, and in 1993, it had imposed a total closure on the city.  That had meant that every single Palestinian was barred from entering Jerusalem, except those with permits, no more than a few hundred.  By 2002, Israel had started to construct the wall much higher and longer than the Berlin Wall.

During the Camp David negotiations, no real agreement was reached because of Israeli demands, he recalled.  When the peace talks started in Madrid in 1991, the number of Jewish settlers was 190,000.  Today, this number was 631,000 settlers, including 268,000 Jewish settlers in the vicinity of Jerusalem.  This showed the colonization programme that was meant to create a de facto situation on the ground and complicate the issue of Jerusalem.  The international community had been very clear on all these measures.

During the most recent peace talks, the head of the Israeli delegation had indicated its readiness to discuss Jerusalem, but another member had emphasized that the city was the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and that would not change.  Jerusalem was not just a question of borders, he said, adding that there was a need to discuss the holy sites, among other issues.  In the spirit of compromise the Palestinian delegation had proposed that Jerusalem be an open city, with West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and East Jerusalem as capital of the State of Palestine, but the Israelis had retorted that they were not at the table to discuss 1948 Jerusalem.  The mediators from the United States had stressed that the aim of the negotiations was a Palestinian State with its capital in Jerusalem, but that formulation had failed to specify that the Jerusalem of 1948 would be the capital of Palestine.  That was important since the city’s 1967 and post-1967 boundaries included areas that were not genuinely part of Jerusalem.  The United States formulation, therefore, allowed for a deal that gave Palestinians artificial parts of Jerusalem but not the Old City, which included Al-Aqsa Mosque.

There would be no State of Palestine without Jerusalem as its capital, he said, emphasizing that Palestinians were not in a position to sacrifice their sovereignty over Jerusalem, just as they would not be able to relinquish their sovereignty over territories occupied in 1967.  It was to be hoped that East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian State, would not remain only a “song for Arab singers”, but became a reality.  Palestinians sought to break the status quo, while the Israelis wished to maintain it, he said.  The status quo could either be broken through reconciliation, by internationalizing the question of Palestine, or by making Israel’s occupation too costly.

DESRA PERCAYA ( Indonesia) said that his country did not have, and would not open, diplomatic relations with Israel until there was an independent State of Palestine.  As the occupying Power, Israel must act in accordance with international law, protecting civilians and refraining from changing the status of Jerusalem.  The issue of Jerusalem could not be separated from the peace process and in the long run, a lasting solution for Jerusalem was part and parcel of a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian question, he said, adding that there was full awareness of Israel’s systematic efforts for the permanent annexation of East Jerusalem.

Looking at the principles of the United Nations Charter, there was an important element with respect to Palestine, which was self-determination, he said.  There had been numerous General Assembly resolutions and Security Council resolutions in that regard.  The Economic and Social Council had also discussed the issue of Palestine and Jerusalem, as well as the International Court of Justice, and the Human Rights Council, among others.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement also had an important role in this regard.  A lot had been done, but the question was whether this was effective.  The reality in the field showed that unfortunately it was not effective, with Israel continuing to defy resolutions, without repercussions.

Efforts in multi-track diplomacy had to be increased.  The issue was not only one for Governments, but for everyone, and so civil society organizations were to be included, he said.  Both the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation had often worked independently on the issue.  There was a need to synergize, as well as a need to strengthen alliances with non-State actors.  Women and youth were critical, in every country.  Furthermore, there was a need to establish the presence of the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jerusalem.  The creation of a strong narrative that would have appeal for many was very important, he said, adding that a narrative of revenge would not be so.  Awareness must be increased all over the world in order to shift the focus to activities that had a genuine impact on the ground.  It was important that the international community move beyond statements.  “We need to broaden our constituents and increase our critical mass of pro-Palestinians” with action in the field, he said.

MOHAMED TAJ-EDDINE EL HOUSSAINI, Professor of International Relations, University Mohamed V, Rabat, said it seemed that Israelis were attempting to move to a religious framework by all possible means.  In general, the Israeli strategy sought to accomplish a fait accompli.  In order to settle the question of Jerusalem, it was important not to go backwards on what had been achieved, but to move forward instead, aware of the challenges.  How could the international community face down Israel’s intransigent position?  There were two scenarios:  hope and despair; hope lay in international legitimacy and international law, and in the possibility of internationalizing the question of Jerusalem.  Continuing the status quo, on the other hand, would lead to despair.  The “hope scenario” called for reversion to the pre-1967 borders, he said.  Israel had attempted during all the negotiations to postpone the question of Jerusalem to the bitter end, as it opposed any division of the city.  Changes in the position of the United States must also be noted, he said, adding that it was important to realize that Congress had voted to transfer the embassy of the United States to Jerusalem.

Israel was the party benefitting from the delays, he said, citing the physical expulsion of Palestinian citizens, the confiscation of their identity, and their replacement with Jewish settlers.  There was need for a body mandated to examine how United Nations resolutions could be implemented.  In January more than 30 resolutions, some of them immensely important, had been passed in Morocco, he said, adding that financial support and political will would be needed if they were to go into effect.  Emphasizing the importance of reconciliation among Palestinians, he said that as long as they remained divided, the result would be “disastrous for the question of Jerusalem and the conflict in general”.

MOHAMMAD HALAIQAH, Vice-President, Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, Malta, declared:  “We are failing in our duty,” citing the “terrible silence” from the Arab and Muslim countries, with the obvious exception of Turkey.  Describing Jerusalem as a fundamental issue in the quest for lasting peace in the region, he said that for decades, the international community had engaged in various attempts to make it a city of peace for all.  The failure of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was “yet another challenge for us all”.  The role of non-traditional State actors, particularly parliamentarians, could pave the way for dialogue and a solution, he said, adding that the Parliamentary Assembly had visited the region — including Gaza, Jerusalem and Amman — often at the request of the United Nations.  Two high-level missions had visited Cairo and Moscow, and had discussed the two-State solution with high-level officials.  Resolving the question of Jerusalem was “instrumental to the entire peace process”, he said, emphasizing that sovereignty was the main question.  Israeli and Palestinian leaders had shown a willingness to work with the United States in addressing issues relating to the peace process, but unfortunately, the talks had recently been interrupted, and it was the Israelis who had allowed them to fail.  Warning that any violent event in Jerusalem “has the potential to spill beyond the boundaries of Israel and Palestine”, he said Jerusalem’s future should not be decided unilaterally by a single party or organization.

GUVEN SAK, Managing Director, Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, Ankara, said a way must be found to support Palestinian entrepreneurship in Jerusalem, although doing business in Palestine was not easy under the occupation.  Noting that there had been about 900,000 residents of Jerusalem in 2013, 39 per cent of them Palestinians, he said East Jerusalemites were much poorer than West Jerusalemites.  While only 12 per cent of tourists visiting Jerusalem stayed in East Jerusalem, 20 per cent stayed in West Jerusalem’s hotels, which had four times the number of rooms.  Cheap housing was also needed in East Jerusalem, where most Palestinian families lived in cramped conditions, but they could only build on 13 per cent of the land.  Those conditions must be improved.  When it came to strengthening companies in Palestine, it was important to find mechanisms for sharing risks with investors who could take hard business decisions, he said.  It was also important to focus on the creation of good jobs in East Jerusalem, which required good companies to flourish, he continued.  There was also a need to focus on private sector-based economic activity.  The occupation was definitely a major constraint for Palestinians in Jerusalem, as was location, and in order to offset those constraints, the Palestinian Government must be active in supporting economic activity and market-based risk-sharing mechanisms, he said, adding that “corporate social responsibility is a project for us all”.

Discussion

MAHMOUD ELKHAFIF, Coordinator, Assistance to the Palestinian People, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, said that while any economic activity was welcome in Palestine, experience proved that Israel used Palestinian willingness to develop to control.  Whatever the effort, it had to be ensured that no harm was done to the Palestinian cause.

The representative of the State of Palestine in Ankara said that some of the recommendations received during the course of the Meeting were extremely valuable, and expressed hope that they would be reflected in the outcome document and translated into Arabic.  On the visit by the Pope, he said it would be timely to include a recommendation on the historic nature of his visit.  The Pope should request that access to Jerusalem be made easier for both Christians and Muslims.

MOHAMMAD SHTAYYEH, President, Palestinian Economic Council for Research and Development and Senior Adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas on negotiations with Israel, Jerusalem, said there was need for both a public investment programme and a private sector one.  It must be mentioned that President Abbas had announced a special fund for Jerusalem for the Palestinian private sector, and it was hoped that it would not only give rise to ideas for job creation in Jerusalem, but also for creating a link between Jerusalem and the other Palestinian territories.

Closing Session

Mr. DIALLO ( Senegal), Committee Chairman, said that a spirit of cooperation had enlivened the quality of the Meeting’s discussions.

EMRULLAH ISLER, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, expressed appreciation to the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for their cooperation in organizing the Meeting.  Jerusalem was a “capital of all mankind”, but it could not be mentioned without talking about the suffering of Palestinians under the occupation.  They were continuing their fight against the historic injustice that had begun in 1948, but they had thus far been prevented from enjoying independent statehood.  He said that among the clearest examples of Turkish assistance had been his Government’s contribution to ensuring that the General Assembly accepted Palestine as a non-Member Observer State.  Turkey would continue to make every effort to guarantee the just position for Palestine as a member of the international community.  International partners, particularly Islamic States, must also maintain their support for Palestine in that area.

The Palestinian question could not be settled before the question of Jerusalem was settled, he said, expressing hope that peace and reconciliation would prevail, and that the city would become a centre and symbol of peace and international understanding.  “ Jerusalem does not belong to one people or one religion,” he emphasized.  The citizens of the whole world, whatever their religion or culture, must consider Jerusalem a common heritage of humankind as a whole.  Turkey would support any initiative by the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation along those lines, and would become a pioneer if necessary.  It would also pursue efforts to create a Jerusalem in which “all factions can live together in an atmosphere where peace and understanding will prevail, as in the past”.

SAMIR BAKR, Assistant Secretary-General, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed thanks to the Government and people of Turkey for hosting the Meeting, saying it bore witness to their joint efforts in support of Jerusalem.  The question of a Palestine that included East Jerusalem would stand as a priority in the Organization’s political negotiations and as “the key to peace and security in the region”.  He also paid special tribute to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for its untiring efforts for a just solution to the Palestinian question.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer, State of Palestine, expressed the appreciation and thanks of the Palestinian people and their leadership to the “friendly country of Turkey” for hosting the Meeting, and to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for their collaboration in organizing it.  He also thanked all the other Governments, organizations and individuals who had helped to make the Meeting a success, including the experts who had made presentations on Jerusalem.  The story of the Palestinians, their pain, struggles, frustration and anger had been correctly transmitted, as the “pain of our people under occupation.  The pain is so immense that it has to be told to further educate everyone about what the Palestinian people are going through and enduring”.  That message had been correctly conveyed, he said.  The occupation could no longer be tolerated.

“The world and the international community and all of our friends have to step up to the plate” and end this occupation, including of East Jerusalem, he continued.  The Palestinians were resisting as much as they could in every place, including Jerusalem.  It was their duty and they would continue doing so.  Their efforts would be intensified further, especially once the split in the two wings of their political system was brought to an end.  “National unity is a need and a must,” he said.  Nobody could blame the Palestinian Authority for not negotiating in good faith.  The other side was “not interested in peace”; how could it be, when it was continuing its colonization programme?  Those who had recognized the State of Palestine had “invested in peace”, he said, adding that if the occupation was made costly for Israel, then its leaders would negotiate in good faith to end it.

Mr. DIALLO ( Senegal), Committee Chairman, said the latest information on the status of Jerusalem and the complications endured daily by its faithful Palestinian residents had been heard during the Meeting.  The specific measures employed by the occupying Power had also been highlighted, as had the international community’s role in promoting a just solution.  A number of speakers had presented some constructive ideas on the way forward.  Describing the situation in Jerusalem as grave, he said every Israeli action that led to the construction of new settlements represented a violation of international law.  The international community as a whole was “exasperated” by Israel’s provocations, especially in respect of Al-Aqsa Mosque, he said, stressing that such provocations “serve no one” and must stop.

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