4824th Meeting (AM & PM)
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS AT TURNING POINT BETWEEN RECOMMITMENT,
DESCENT INTO MAJOR BLOODSHED, UN ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
Speakers Warn against Incalculable Consequences of Israel’s
Decision ‘In Principle’ to Remove Palestinian Authority President
Recent terror attacks and extrajudicial executions had brought the Middle East peace process to a standstill, and it was now at a turning point between recommitment by Israelis and Palestinians or further descent into major bloodshed, the United Nations senior envoy for the region told the Security Council today.
Terje Roed-Larsen, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefing the Council at the outset of an open meeting, said that implementation of the process -- known as the Road Map and initiated by the United Nations, European Union, Russian Federation and United States –- had never effectively begun, because the original steps had been too slow and incremental and neither Israelis nor Palestinians had addressed the core concerns -– terrorism and occupation. “Bold steps, related to settlements and security” and involving increased activity by the international community might now be necessary to “jump start” the process, he said.
The parties needed to recommit to the Road Map process, he stressed, because there was no alternative to its explicit goal: the end of the occupation that had started in 1967; the end of terrorism; and the establishment of the State of Palestine, living side by side with the State of Israel in peace and security. The lack of trust between the parties illustrated the need for continued, and perhaps increased, activity by the international community, which found itself at an extremely difficult juncture. Yet, the fact that peace was a long, hard and demanding process should not deter the parties or their partners.
“There is no alternative to pursuing this difficult and perilous path”, he said. If the Road Map was abandoned, “we would abandon the people of the region to further generations of violence, death and misery”.
Concerning Israel’s decision earlier this month to remove Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, he said Mr. Arafat was democratically elected and, as such, the legitimate leader of the Palestinians. He embodied Palestinian identity and national aspirations. “He is now far from irrelevant.”
Following the briefing, 47 speakers debated ways to reverse the recent surge of violence in the Middle East and return the parties to the peace process. Many voiced fundamental disagreement with the Israeli Cabinet’s decision, in principle, to expel Mr. Arafat from the occupied territories, cautioning that such action would radicalize Palestinian society, leading to upsurge in tension and violence. Seen by many around the table as a major political error with unpredictable consequences, they warned that such an action would be an extremely dangerous step of incalculable consequences.
The Permanent Observer for Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said that Israeli threats against the Palestinian people and its leadership had reached a new level with the decision to remove Yasser Arafat and request the Israeli army to draw up a plan for his expulsion. The international community must take decisive and swift action to prevent the occupying Power from carrying out such an “illegal and insane” act, aimed at achieving a “racist and dreadful” vision of the region. It was high time to admit that the essential problem was Israel’s position. It was time to stop inventing other reasons for the crisis, such as the internal Palestinian situation.
Similarly, the representative of the United Kingdom, in his national capacity, said that the small minority who were not interested in securing a peaceful settlement must not be allowed to dictate and block the political process, which must not be held hostage to terrorists. The parties must press forward with their commitments under the Road Map. Both now faced a stark choice -– to return to the intense suffering of the last three years or to resume implementation of their obligations under the Road Map. He urged them not to allow the “rejectionists” to succeed in destroying that process.
Expressing dismay at the bleak picture drawn by the Special Coordinator, the Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States said that Israel’s attempt to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the prism of terrorism was ridiculous and deceived no one. Israel had placed all kinds of obstacles before the Road Map. Ending the occupation was the only way out. The decision to expel President Arafat was illegal and immoral. The Council must take a clear position to end Israel’s flouting of international norms, resulting in the withdrawal of all occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan.
Israel’s representative said his Government had been willing to believe
10 years ago, with the signing of the Declaration of Principles on the White House Lawn, that Yasser Arafat had abandoned the path of terrorism and embarked on the road to true reconciliation and mutual recognition. It was now abundantly clear that the person with the standing to deliver a fair and genuine peace on the Palestinian side had done the most to bury its chances. There was hardly a diplomat in the room who would not admit privately that Mr. Arafat was a significant obstacle to the peace process. He had shunned every outstretched hand. The result had been “paid in the blood” of Israelis and Palestinians.
The United States representative said that everybody recognized the tragic pattern: whenever the slightest hope appeared, a terrorist act extinguished it. The Council must call for decisive action against terrorist acts. Any Council resolution on the Middle East that had his support must contain a robust condemnation of terrorism, including an explicit condemnation of the organizations involved. It must also call for dismantling of the infrastructure supporting such organizations. He would not support any resolution that evaded the explicit threat posed by Hamas and other such groups.
In addition to statements by all Council members, representatives of the following countries also spoke: Sudan; Egypt; Algeria; United Arab Emirates; Morocco; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Malaysia; India; Jordan; Australia; Italy, on behalf of the European Union; South Africa; Cuba; Argentina; Indonesia; Japan; Saudi Arabia; Brazil; Tunisia; Turkey; Norway; and Nepal.
The Palestinian Rights Committee Chairman, Papa Louis Fall, also spoke. The Permanent Observer for Palestine and the representative of Israel responded to statements at the end of the debate. Mr. Roed-Larsen made a closing statement.
The meeting began at 11:05 a.m. and was suspended at 1:38 p.m. It resumed at 3:10 p.m. and was adjourned at 5:25 p.m.
The Security Council this morning was scheduled to be briefed on the situation in the Middle East by the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, Terje Roed Larsen. An open meeting was expected to follow the briefing.
The meeting was requested in a letter to the President of the Council (document S/2003/880) by the Permanent Representative of the Sudan, in his capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group for the month of September and on behalf of the members of the League of Arab States. The document draws attention to continued Israeli escalation against the Palestinian people and their leadership, requesting the Council to take measures in that regard.
An annex contains the following draft resolution:
“The Security Council,
“Reaffirming its resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973, 1397 (2002) of 12 March 2002, 1402 (2002) of 30 March 2002, 1403 (2002) of 4 April 2002, 1405 (2002) of 19 April 2002 and 1435 (2002) of
24 September 2002,
“Reiterating its grave concern at the tragic and violent events that have taken place since September 2000 throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel and the recent dangerous deterioration of the situation, including the escalation in extrajudicial executions and suicide bombings,
“Reaffirming the illegality of the deportation of any Palestinian by Israel, the occupying Power, and affirming its opposition to any such deportation,
“Reiterating also the need for respect in all circumstances of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949,
“1.Reiterates its demands for the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction;
“2.Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, desist from any act of deportation and cease any threat to the safety of the elected President of the Palestinian Authority;
“3.Expresses its full support for the efforts of the Quartet and calls for increased efforts to ensure the implementation of the road map by the two sides;
“4.Decides to remain seized of the matter.”
TERJE ROED-LARSEN, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, said he was disappointed to report that, since the last briefing to the Council on 19 August, the Israeli-Palestinian process had stalled. The recent cycle of terror attacks and extrajudicial killings had broken the Palestinian ceasefire and brought the process to a standstill. A combination of violence and the too slow implementation of the Road Map peace plan had brought the region to a potential turning point.
He said the world was today confronted, once again, with the question of whether the parties would recommit to peace, or whether the long, debilitating conflict would grind on. He was concerned that, without a major change in the situation on the ground, a further deterioration, resulting in major bloodshed, seemed inevitable. Since 19 August, when the Council was last briefed, violence had increased and the fragile process that began with the presentation of the Road Map had been severely set back. Late last week, after two suicide bombings, Israel announced that its Security Cabinet had decided in principle to remove President Yasser Arafat “in a manner and at a time of its choosing”. Mr. Arafat had been democratically elected and, as such, is the legitimate leader of the Palestinians. He embodied Palestinian identity and national aspirations. “He is now far from irrelevant.”
Since the last briefing to the Council, 81 people had lost their lives to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict –- 38 Israelis and 43 Palestinians -- raising the death toll since September 2000 to 2,808 Palestinians and
During the current reporting period, Israel had been hit with three suicide bomb attacks, he went on. Those attacks had broken the ceasefire declared by Palestinian groups and brokered by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Egyptian negotiators. The deliberate targeting of civilians could not be justified to advance any cause. He called on the Palestinian Authority to bring to justice those who planned and carried out such attacks and to live up to its obligations regarding security under the Road Map.
He said that, both during and after the unilateral ceasefire, Israel continued to carry out extrajudicial killings, aimed at the leaders of Palestinian militant groups. The United Nations had repeatedly and strongly called on that Government to cease such attacks. Its basic, principled opposition to extrajudicial killings was compounded by the frequency with which such operations were carried out with disproportionate force in densely populated civilian areas, killing and injuring civilian bystanders in contravention of international humanitarian law. Israel had an obligation as the occupying Power to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians.
Unfortunately, he said, implementation of the Road Map never effectively began. He was afraid in hindsight that “we moved too slowly and with incremental steps at the initial stages of implementation”. What had been necessary were bold steps, which could have produced support on both sides. Neither side had seriously and actively addressed the core concerns of the other side. For Israelis, that concern was security and freedom from terrorist attacks. For Palestinians, the core concern was an assurance that the peace process would lead to the end of the occupation and the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian State. Thus, the two key issues in the peace process were terrorism and occupation.
The principle of parallelism, reciprocal steps by both parties in all fields, was a core concept of the Road Map, he said. The half-hearted implementation by both sides in the past four months had meant that parallelism had not been emphasized. As a result, a single but essential issue –- security of the Israelis from terrorism –- had become the sole focus of Road Map implementation. The ineffective way in which that issue had been addressed had contributed significantly to stalling the peace process. That single focus had allowed violent groups to set the pace and agenda for the process.
He stressed that the principle of parallelism must be reasserted to end both terrorism and occupation. In that way, control would be taken out of the hands of those who would use violence to prolong the conflict. Despite the recent setbacks, however, the international vehicle -– the Quartet (European Union, Russian Federation, United Nations and United States) -- needed to redouble its efforts. There was still the plan -– the Road Map. However, for the moment, there was no Palestinian Prime Minister with whom the Quartet and the Israelis could work.
The rapid appointment of a credible and fully empowered Palestinian Prime Minister was an essential first step to address the current dangerous situation, he said. That Prime Minister should focus on establishing law and order and ending terror and violence by disarming militant groups. He must express full commitment to a policy of non-violence and to the Road Map.
The Quartet and key regional partners could do much to help a new Prime Minister succeed and mobilize the necessary popular support, he continued. In doing so, the international community must address the central issues animating the conflict -- occupation and terrorism. It was clear that without significant Israeli concessions related particularly to settlements and the separation wall, neither the peace process nor any peace-minded Palestinian leader would be credible in the eyes of the Palestinian people. Without a credible Palestinian leader, it would be difficult for the Palestinian Authority to take the necessary steps of consolidating security forces, disarming militant groups and establishing law and order.
Turning to the role of the Quartet, he said that its members had agreed to meet later this month in New York to address all relevant issues. That meeting would be significant because of the critical situation in the region. The Quartet would review the implementation of the Road Map and attempt to devise ways of putting the process back on track. The Road Map contained provisions for the acceleration or slowing down of the process. Given the current situation, it might be appropriate to speed it. Bold steps related to settlements and security and involving increased activity from the international community might be necessary in order to improve the environment and assist in jump-starting a resumption of the process.
Regarding the humanitarian situation in the occupied territory, he said that he was again compelled to report a continued deterioration in the living conditions of the people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Currently, donors were providing over $1 billion per annum in the form of the budgetary and emergency support to the Palestinians. Should the present situation result in the Palestinian Authority being unable to function politically, a critical question was whether the donors would be willing to continue that level of support.
Much depended on the effectiveness of a new Palestinian Authority and especially on a Minister of Finance in whom donors had great confidence, because of his efforts to promote financial accountability and transparency. If political developments resulted in the suspension or dis-establishment of the Palestinian Authority, it might make it impossible to continue that work. That could mean that up to 120,000 civil servants would no longer be paid. In that face of declining donor assistance, Israel would be responsible for meeting the basic needs of civilian population.
He remained concerned by continued construction of the West Bank security fence, or separation wall, he said. While Israel had every right to set up security structures on its own territory, it was not, by any standard, acceptable to put up a wall on another people’s land. Despite the calls from all the members of the Quartet, the Government of Israel persisted in building that structure. That made the establishment of a viable Palestinian State more difficult, the hope of peace more distant and undermined any Palestinian Prime Minister’s efforts to muster popular support.
Turning to the situation along the Blue Line, he said that the situation had remained tense there. Therefore, he called again on the Governments of Lebanon and Israel to live up to their responsibilities, exercise restraint and refrain from all violations of the Blue Line in order to avoid deterioration of the situation on the ground.
In conclusion, he said that the parties needed to recommit to the Road Map process, because there was no alternative to its explicit goal: the end of the occupation that had started in 1967, the end of terrorism and the establishment of the State of Palestine, living side by side with the State of Israel in peace and security. The lack of trust between the parties and their inability to take the steps needed to implement the Road Map illustrated the need for continued, and possibly increased, activity by the international community to move the process along.
The international community found itself at an extremely difficult juncture in the quest for peace in the Middle East, he said. The fact that peace was a long, hard and demanding process should not deter the parties or their partners. “There is no alternative to pursuing the difficult and perilous path”, he said. If the Road Map was abandoned, “we would abandon the people of the region to further generations of violence, death and misery”.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that last week the threats of Israel against the Palestinian people and its leadership had reached a new level, with the decision “to remove Yasser Arafat” and request the Israeli army to draw up a plan for the expulsion of the elected President of the Palestinian Authority. The land and the people of Palestine were not the property of the occupying Power, and carrying out such an action or even the constant repetition of the threat would be considered an assault on the Palestinian national dignity. It would mean the end of the Palestinian Authority and signal the demise of any peace process between the two sides. In addition, international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, clearly prohibited such a war crime.
The international community must take decisive and swift action in order to prevent the occupying Power from carrying such an illegal and insane act, he stressed. The negative and hostile Israeli reaction to the press statement by the President of the Council last Friday, as well as to the positions of the whole international community, reaffirmed the need for a stronger step to be taken by the Council in response to the danger.
Ariel Sharon and his Government indeed represented a threat to the stability of the region, he continued. They rejected real peace and insisted on the use of force and a military solution. The vision of Mr. Sharon was clearly the imposition of a number of walled and separate “bantustans”, constricting the whole Palestinian people on less than half of the West Bank and slightly more than half of the Gaza strip, while Israel kept the rest of the Palestinian land and continued its colonization and gradual annexation. Added to all that was the rejection of dividing Jerusalem between the two sides and the rejection of any rights of Palestinian refugees.
Achieving such a racist and dreadful vision required breaking down the Palestinian national movement and the destruction of its leadership, he said. That was why a vicious campaign against Yasser Arafat was taking place. That was also why Israel had not given anything to the former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and a welcome had not been extended to the Prime Minister designate, Ahmed Qurei. The second thing was the undermining of international legitimacy and the disappearance of relevant United Nations resolutions, and even the deletion of the heritage of negotiations between the sides on a reasonable settlement from international consciousness.
He went on to recount recent events in the area, saying that in implementation of the Road Map, the Palestinian Government and the Palestinian leadership, with the assistance from Egypt and other countries, had been able to obtain a unilateral declaration by all Palestinian groups to cease all acts of violence. And, indeed, there had been a very high degree of compliance with that declaration.
The Israeli Government, however, had continued with its confiscation of land, settlement activities and construction of the separation wall, he said. It had not even exerted a serious effort to remove the so-called “unauthorized outposts”. It had also continued with the killing of Palestinians, including extrajudicial executions, attacks, destruction and arrests, despite repeated warnings by many parties, until its activities had led to the suicide bombing in West Jerusalem on 19 August. That had been followed by the extrajudicial execution by Israel of Ismail Abu Shanab and the demise of the declaration, or hudna.
Since then, the insane escalation had continued, he said. The occupying forces had committed at least eight extrajudicial executions, which undoubtedly constituted war crimes that should be condemned and stopped. What was shocking was that some, despite their detailed knowledge of those events and their presumed role as mediator, had accepted the logic of Mr. Sharon and his Government entirely and had been repeating the Israeli arguments and lies. All that must stop before it was too late. There must be a complete departure from violence and the logic of military solution. It was necessary to return to the negotiating table, and the Road Map must be revived and implemented in a real and honest way. It was high time to admit that the essential problem was the position of Israel, which insisted on colonization, rejected putting an end to the occupation of the Palestinian land, and failed to accept an independent sovereign State of Palestine.
Without changing such a situation, there was no peace process and there could be no implementation of the Road Map, he said. Such a change would open the road to the implementation by the Palestinian side of its obligations, including the cessation of all violence and provision of real security. It was time to face reality and stop running away from confronting Israeli positions, while hoping that the process would remain alive, even if in appearance only. It was time to stop inventing other reasons for the current crisis, such as the internal Palestinian situation or other issues, despite their importance.
The revival of the Road Map required new and serious implementation, he stressed. The Council could and should play an important role in that respect. It had to provide strong support for the Road Map and to officially order the two sides to comply with their responsibilities. It was also necessary, through the Quartet, and perhaps also with the help of the Security Council, to build the agreed-upon monitoring mechanism and have a real international presence –- maybe even international troops -– as the Secretary-General had proposed in the past and as France was currently proposing.
In conclusion, he affirmed the responsibility of the Council vis-à-vis the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation in the Middle East. Now the necessary measures must be taken to prevent the looming combustion of the situation and ensure that no harm would be inflicted on the Palestinian President. Such measures should be undertaken in compliance with international law and in respect for the national dignity of the Palestinian people and their democratic choices, as well as to preserve the option of peace.
DAN GILLERMAN (Israel) said that, when the Declaration of Principles was signed 10 years ago on the White House lawn, it was a time of hope for the people of the region and the world that the leadership on both sides was committed to a peaceful and negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At that time, despite well founded reservations, Israel was willing to believe that Yasser Arafat had abandoned the path of terrorism and embarked on the road to true reconciliation and mutual recognition. It was on that basis of that commitment that Mr. Arafat entered the Palestinian Authority territory to implement his obligations under signed agreements. Unfortunately, Mr. Arafat had lied.
He said it was abundantly clear that the person with the standing to deliver a fair and genuine peace on the Palestinian side had done the most to bury its chances. Among the litany of deliberately missed opportunities, the Palestinian leadership, under Mr. Arafat’s control, rejected at Camp David the opportunity for the establishment of a Palestinian State, side by side with Israel, in favour of the path of terrorism, as one of its masterminds. That path he had never really abandoned. Since September 2000, 869 Israeli citizens had been killed, and nearly 6,000 had been wounded in suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. There was hardly a single Israeli citizen today who had not been affected, directly or indirectly, by Palestinian terrorism.
Tragically, he said, Mr. Arafat’s rule had brought considerable pain and havoc to Palestinian society, as well. The brazen refusal of the Palestinian leadership to fulfil its obligations to dismantle terrorist organizations and join the global campaign against terrorism had exacted a heavy toll on Palestinian society. By allowing terrorists to set up shop in the heart of Palestinian civilian areas, in grave violation of international humanitarian law, Mr. Arafat had seriously endangered the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians. By stifling dissent, preventing the emergence of democratic institutions and violating the human rights of Palestinians, he had set back the development of a vibrant and responsible Palestinian society.
He said that the events of recent days had proven again that Mr. Arafat was determined to prevent any process of genuine reconciliation. There was hardly a diplomat in this room who would not admit privately that Mr. Arafat was a significant obstacle to the peace process. He had shunned every outstretched hand, while placating the international community with pathetic rhetoric, which had been belied almost daily by his actions. The result had been “paid in the blood” of Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Arafat was among a select group of “terrorist entrepreneurs”, which had brought airplane hijackings, massacres of Olympic athletes, the killing of children sleeping in their beds, and suicide terrorism to a region that yearned for peace and stability.
Further, Mr. Arafat was at the helm of those who had supported mega-terror attacks, in the style of the bombing of the Twin Towers, to bring the region to the brink of catastrophe, he said. Today, such immoral tactics, stamped with Mr. Arafat’s label of origin, had been callously and indiscriminately exported beyond the region. For how long would States be willing to tout Mr. Arafat as a legitimate leader committed to the welfare of his people and peaceful relations with his neighbours? he asked. The ruin that Mr. Arafat had left behind in Jordan, Lebanon, and in the West Bank testified that he had brought nothing but despair and devastation to his own people and to others in the region.
He said that courageous members of Palestinian society and responsible Palestinian and world leaders had themselves admitted that Mr. Arafat’s cruel, authoritarian and corrupt rule was designed to perpetuate his own power -– not to the benefit of his people. The decision of the Israeli cabinet last Thursday merely stated the obvious -– that Mr. Arafat was an obstacle to peace. When would the Security Council be “galvanized into action”? he asked. It would be a grave error if the Council were to come to the aid, not of the victims of terrorism, but of their sponsor and perpetrator. The Council’s focus should be directed, first and foremost, at terrorism and at its facilitators, and not at the response to terrorism.
The efforts of the Palestinian representative in this Chamber did not advance the interests of the Palestinian people, but of the personal interest and corrupt rule of Mr. Arafat, he said. High-minded rhetoric about the so-called legitimacy of Mr. Arafat’s leadership and the illegitimacy of Israel’s interference were meaningless and hypocritical in the face of the hundreds of dead and injured innocent civilians killed with the direct approval or acquiescence of Mr. Arafat, himself. Perpetuating that game of legitimizing Mr. Arafat fundamentally undermined efforts to allow an empowered Palestinian Prime Minister to work to implement the Road Map and reach a peaceful solution. A new Palestinian leadership that categorically abandoned the ways of Mr. Arafat would find in Israel a willing partner ready to make painful compromises.
IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said that the enormous hopes inspired by the Road Map seemed to be fading. Since the attack in Jerusalem last month and the many reprisals that followed, violence had gained the upper hand and the unilateral truce had been broken. The closure of territory had resumed, raids were intensifying, and other coercive measures had also been announced. The return of violence compromised implementation of the Road Map, which was the only option for peace. Today, efforts should be directed towards the second stage of the Road Map, which provided, on the basis of an assessment of the results of first phase, the holding of an in international conference and the setting up of a viable, independent Palestinian State.
Unfortunately, that was not the case, he said. More disturbing was that the achievements of that stage were now being challenged and threats of all manner weighed upon the Palestinian Authority and Mr. Arafat. He joined the international community in stating that those solutions were roads leading nowhere and might lastingly undermine the prospects for peace. He shared the hope expressed by
Mr. Roed-Larsen in the Quartet vehicle. He also appealed to the parties to make use of all peaceful means. The Council, without delay, should send them a clear signal urging the immediate resumption of a constructive dialogue, with a view to a definitive settlement.
WANG GUANGYA (China) said that since the last open briefing, the situation in the Middle East had taken a sharp turn for the worse, and that was a source of great concern to the international community. Continued violence in the area undermined the progress in the peace process. His delegation opposed continued violence, targeted killings and last week’s decision by Israel to expel President Arafat, who was a duly elected leader of the Palestinian people. He asked the Israeli side to exercise caution to prevent further deterioration of the situation.
Force could not bring real peace and security to the region, and there was a need for continued dialogue, he continued. Both sides needed to engage in political negotiations, renounce violence and the policy of targeted killings, and engage in the implementation of the Road Map. It was equally important for the international community to create favourable conditions for the implementation of the Road Map. He hoped that, with the assistance of the international community, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace would be achieved in the Middle East.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said the meeting today was being held against the unprecedented escalation of bloodthirsty Israeli acts. The commitment of such crimes against humanity, without any compunction, seriously undermined international efforts to revert to the road for peace. Syria had worked sincerely for implementation of a comprehensive and just peace. The current Israeli Government did not believe in peace and utilized every possible opportunity to destroy peace and undermine its pace. It deliberately disregarded all initiatives in that regard. That was a government of war, which destroyed and disregarded international law and the will of the international community.
He stressed that the continuation of such war crimes and the escalation of persecution against Palestinians, including children, as well as the destruction of property, was being conducted outside the framework of international law. The world media was witnessing those numerous destructive and illegitimate acts. The greatest crime was the expansion of the settlements. Indeed, Israel had not ceased to destroy property, confiscate land, close roads, and build encircling ones, in order to service the Israeli settlements and restrict the movement of Palestinians. Those and other measures, which paved the way for action by the extremist Jews, would only lead to a further escalation and further threaten the explosive situation.
It was ironic that Israel used, as a justification for its own actions, the notion that it was standing up to terrorism, at a time when it, itself, exercised terrorism in all its forms and falsely accused others of committing such acts. Unarmed Palestinians had only limited means with which to defend themselves. Now, on top of all of its violations, Israel had added a new one, namely, its intention to expel the Palestinian President, or even to assassinate him. That Israeli arrogance betrayed the real Israeli objectives, represented in the expulsion of Palestinians from their land and homes. That was in contravention of international law, which prohibited an occupying Power from committing such acts of expulsion. Moreover, persisting in that threat would totally expose Israel’s devious intentions and put an end to all efforts for peace.
STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) said that his delegation deeply regretted the resumption of violence in the Middle East. He regretted the practice of suicide bombings perpetrated by extremist Palestinian organizations and urged the Palestinian Authority to dismantle such organizations. For its part, Israel was called upon to give up its extrajudicial executions.
Continuing, he said that possible expulsion of Yasser Arafat from Palestinian territory would cause a political crisis of incalculable consequences and lead to a rise in violence. He regretted the resignation of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, which was a hard blow to the peace process. He hoped the new Prime Minister would enjoy the confidence of the Palestinian people, members of the Quartet and the international community. Towards that end, he should have sufficient authority to take measures against terrorist organizations.
He was convinced that the Road Map was not dead, he said. The two parties should resume their contacts, overcome their differences and press on the commitments they had assumed in the implementation of the Road Map, which should over time lead to an end in the spiral of violence and terror, including an end to all collective punishments and improvement in the lot of the Palestinian population. The Quartet and the parties committed to the peace process should redouble their efforts to influence the parties, which were called upon to raise to the expectations of the international community.
MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said that a new indefensible cycle of violence was emerging against the backdrop of continued violations of the human rights of the Palestinians by the occupation forces. He was deeply concerned at the situation in Palestine, particularly after the Israeli decision to remove from Palestine Chairman Arafat, the legitimately elected President of the Palestinian Authority. Any action to remove President Arafat would only complicate the peace efforts in the region, further contribute to the mistrust between the parties, and seriously undermine implementation of the Road Map. It would spur, and not stem, the rising tide of violence, afflicting innocent civilians the most.
He said that, while he condemned the terrorist acts against Israelis, the persistent violations of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people were intended to create new on-the-ground realities, before the start of negotiations on the final settlement. The Security Council and United Nations officials had urged an end to all such actions; yet, they had continued. That had contributed to the scepticism about the international community’s ability to be resolute in achieving the Road Map’s objectives. There must be a stronger international commitment to negotiate a settlement, and Palestinian dispossession must end.
Israelis must realize that peace could not be durable if it was imposed by the use of force or by liquidating duly elected leaders or interlocutors, he said. Peace could not come with one side dictating its terms. Israel must cease all hostile actions against the Palestinian people and their lawful Government. The present deteriorating situation in Palestine warranted the urgent attention of the international community. It, therefore, must act with determination to prevent the situation from descending further into chaos. Action must be taken now to break the cycle and bring the parties back to the track of negotiations, aimed at facilitating implementation of the Road Map.
ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said that, clearly, it was no coincidence that the new wave of terrorism and reprisals was happening at the same time a peace initiative had been presented in the shape of the Road Map. There was a wide gap between the purposes expressed by Palestinians and Israelis and their political will. An openly anti-peace stance of extremists on both sides was exacerbating the situation. The latest developments were demonstrating the lack of political commitment to find a way out of the current situation. For that reason, the Road Map had not taken off, and there was now a risk that the efforts to achieve peace would fail.
He deeply regretted that the Palestinian Authority had not shown the strength or determination to halt the terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. Indeed, the great majority of victims were innocent Israelis, including children, women and the elderly, many of whom were genuinely convinced that Israel and Palestine should live in peace together. Each drop of blood shed in the streets of Israel deepened the abyss. The Palestinian Authority and President Arafat should understand once and for all that everything they did to halt terrorism and overcome hatred would work for the benefit of their cause. The sooner terrorism was ended, the sooner the foundation would be created for the Palestinian State.
Israel did not gain anything by pursuing its policies of reprisal, and making life miserable for the Palestinian population by extrajudicial executions and the building of walls. Those actions were far removed from Israel’s security objectives, for they led to new suicide bombings. Fire could not be put out by fire. As a friend of Israel and its people, Mexico hoped that extrajudicial executions would end, that there would be no new reprisals against the Palestinian people, and that the construction of the wall and the establishment of new settlements would be halted. He hoped that measures to remove or confine President Arafat would not be taken. He should be respected as a legitimately elected leader of the Palestinian people.
The Road Map was not just yet another attempt to achieve peace, he said. In many respects, it was a final opportunity to achieve the goal of two independent nations living side by side with secure borders. While the Road Map did not contain a clear implementation system or time-bound benchmarks, that could be corrected. Still, it should not be aborted. It remained a viable solution to the conflict. The Council should consider adoption of new measures to increase confidence and reduce violence in the area. The Council had an obligation to take action. Peace could only be achieved through a prompt establishment of a Palestinian State, and that could not be done through the expulsion of Yasser Arafat.
GENNADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said that Israeli confrontation was taking on ever more dangerous contours. People were dying, and serious damage was being done to Palestinian territories, where, in fact, a humanitarian disaster had erupted. To take that situation as far as the elimination of Mr. Arafat would be a serious mistake, fraught with highly adverse implications for what was already a complex situation in the region. In a worst-case scenario, that step would erase the prospects for a peaceful settlement and lead to uncontrollable developments. At the same time, he condemned terrorism in all its forms and was convinced that it was impossible to achieve political goals through terrorist acts.
He stressed that actions by terrorists undermined efforts to establish peace in the region -- it created more bumps along the road to a political settlement. They not only wreaked destruction in innocent people, but they damaged the image of the Palestinian people. In order to break that vicious cycle of confrontation, all parties must refrain from steps that would do more to impede the chances of renewing the political process. He called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to act with extreme responsibility; it was unacceptable that extremists should dictate their will. All necessary steps must be taken to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control. The Road Map was unique and, perhaps today, the only opportunity out of the crisis.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said that the extreme gravity of the situation on the ground warranted a collective solution by the international community. Today’s situation was one of unleashed violence on both sides, and peace seemed further away. Wanton terrorist acts continued against Israeli civilians, who lived in daily anxiety. Palestinians also lived in anxiety, for targeted killings, house demolitions and other acts of collective reprisal. Israel also continued its building of the separation wall and the policy of settlements.
Israel’s decision in principle to remove Yasser Arafat was not only contrary to the rules of international law; it was also a grave political mistake. In a peace process, one could not choose one’s interlocutors. Instead, one made peace with one’s enemies. Terrorism could not be stopped purely on the basis of military and police security measures. Terrorists should not be allowed to dictate the calendar of events. The solution of the problem of terrorism could only be comprehensive. It was necessary to mobilize the Palestinian population for the cause of peace. That presupposed that Palestinian energies should not be polarized by power struggle. The Palestinian Authority should act in the spirit of unity, and the new Prime Minister must do his utmost to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorist acts. Such actions must be followed by institutional reforms and free elections.
For its part, Israel must demonstrate the benefits of the peace process to the Palestinian people. The Israeli army should withdraw from autonomous Palestinian territories and stop extrajudicial killings, which contradicted international law. Among other needed measures was the removal of road blocks and ending house demolitions and settlement activities. Such an approach was advocated by the Road Map, but had not been implemented.
France called for an international conference to bring the peace process back on track. It was also necessary to establish an effective monitoring mechanism. An international interposition force must be envisaged, but the parties must accept it. The gravity of the situation on the ground required extra courage and effort. A silent Council would be shirking its responsibilities. France was in favour of the initiative of the Group of Arab States and was prepared to work on its basis, with a view to a consensual adoption of a Security Council resolution on the matter.
CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) noted with deep concern that the Road Map had encountered serious setbacks. The actions of both parties had resulted in stagnation and senseless death. He condemned the demolition by Israel of housing and the construction of the separation wall, as well as the disproportionate use of force and selective, targeted assassinations by the Israeli Government. The Palestinian Authority had been remiss in failing to quell internal acts of violence and control terrorist groups. The recent decision, in principle, by the Israeli cabinet to expel Mr. Arafat was extremely grave and should be categorically rejected. President Arafat was a legitimately elected authority. It was up to the Palestinians, therefore, to make such a decision.
He said it was necessary to clearly condemn the terrorist acts by radical groups against the Israeli civilian population. The Israeli Government must also put an end to targeted killings against the Palestinians. It must halt construction of the wall, lift the measures that had brought about the deteriorating conditions of life for the Palestinians, and put an end to the settlements policy. He also appealed to the Israeli Government to carry out measures to strengthen the work of the Palestinian Prime Minister-designate and help him in his tasks, in order to contain the extremist elements. If the parties directly involved did not show a genuine political will to recreate a scenario that made peace possible, the Council should make every effort to bring the parties back to dialogue. The Quartet should take initiatives, leading to a restoration of the Road Map.
GUNTHER PLEUGER (Germany) said that his Government was deeply concerned over the latest developments in the Middle East, including the decision, in principle, by the Israeli Government to expel Yasser Arafat. Such a decision would not be helpful to the peace process. On the contrary, it added tension to the situation and made a solution more difficult. Both sides needed to show restraint. The remarks by a high-ranking Israeli official this weekend on the options of dealing with Yasser Arafat were also counterproductive, and he was glad to hear today that it was not the position of the Government of Israel.
A spiral of violence and counter-violence led to an intolerable loss of civilian lives, he continued. The deterioration of the situation also jeopardized the peace process, which was now at a critical phase. It was absolutely vital for all the parties engaged in the peace process to do their utmost to get the Road Map back on track, as there was no alternative to it. He called on the Palestinians and Israelis to commit to the Road Map both in word and in action.
A new, empowered Palestinian Government needed to be formed, he said, and a revitalization of the Palestinian security forces needed to be realized. It was necessary to dismantle all terrorist organizations. It was also important to remember that the Israeli Government was solely responsible for its actions, and there could be no military solution to the conflict –- only a peaceful one. Israel should revoke its decision to expel, in principle, the head of Palestinian Authority, withdraw its army from autonomous Palestinian areas, stop targeted killings and halt the building of settlements and the security wall. Both parties should exercise extreme restraint, working together in a constructive spirit to resume political dialogue.
In conclusion, he welcomed the meeting of the Quartet to take place in New York this month. He expected bold steps that would open an effective way to a lasting peace in the Middle East.
ISMAEL ABRAAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that the talks held at the end of July with President Bush and Palestinian and Israeli leaders had been seen as reflecting the commitment of the United States Government to peace in the region. The support expressed by the Quartet members for the Palestinian Government, headed by the former Prime Minister, and the recognition of the need for certain external conditions for achieving a breakthrough had assured the international community’s commitment to the peace process. The declaration of the Israeli Prime Minister that Israel was ready to make the necessary concessions to advance the peace process was also a fundamental reassurance that things could move forward.
He said that the far-reaching, enormous initiatives by the Palestinian Authority, as demanded by the international community and the Israeli authorities, especially the ceasefire that the Palestinian Prime Minster was able to put into effect as a prerequisite to starting implementation of the Road Map, had provided additional assurances. Finally, the regular meetings between Israelis and Palestinians had brought renewed hope for the creation of a climate conductive to the building of confidence between the parties. He regretted the fact that “we are back to the cycle of violence”. How had things failed so, and how could the peace process be revived and the bloodshed ended? he asked.
Presently, he said, Palestinians and Israelis were faced with dramatic choices. From the Israeli side, the choices had been made and, if implemented, they could lead to even greater damage to the whole peace process and to the Road Map. The intention of the Israeli authorities to kill or ban the Palestinian President followed the same logic as constructing the separation wall -– to harm Israeli-Palestinian relations. The assistance of the international community was needed, more than ever, in order to overcome the very difficult times ahead. Such assistance must also focus on helping the Palestinian Government to curb the destructive actions of armed groups.
He urged the international community to mobilize all efforts to ensure that Israeli plans concerning President Arafat did not go ahead. The Security Council must take a clear stand on that issue, and the United States, and other Quartet members, must make Israel understand that its intentions were an extremely dangerous step of incalculable consequences. The international community could not stand idle before the great tragedy that was unfolding in the Middle East, he said.
INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said that terrorist acts had no justification. No one could convince him that placing a bomb in a school bus could have a slightest justification. That was a barbarous and wanton act.
Turning to the possible deportation of the President of Palestinian Authority, he said that it would contribute nothing to the peace process. On the contrary, it would increase tensions in the region and create a highly dangerous scenario. Apart from the lack of legal basis, it would hardly constitute a correct step. The fragility of the peace process required that the Road Map should be implemented carefully.
The international community had always been present in the Middle East conflict, in part, financing the very survival of its actors, he said. While it was necessary to hold an international conference on the Middle East, it was not possible to wait for the right conditions for holding such an event. The international community must demand that the players act in a more committed fashion. Also, external observation on the ground continued to be necessary. The Road Map should include a specific design containing the main points that needed to be reached. It should be a design that responded to the requirements of the security of Israel and the viability of the future Palestinian State. The role of the United States and other members of the Quartet, especially the European Union, was essential.
ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said that the decision, in principle, of the Israeli Cabinet to expel Mr. Arafat had aggravated the crisis and jeopardized the prospects for peace. That was a major political error, with unpredictable consequences, which should not be tolerated. Given President Arafat’s democratic election by his people, and his historical standing in the struggle for Palestinian liberation, he remained a key player. He was the very symbol of the identity of the Palestinians and the architect of their course towards freedom and progress. The Israeli decision had no legal justification and was counterproductive. It only strengthened the disappointment of the Palestinians, leading to a programmed death of the Quartet’s Road Map and a weakening and eradication of Palestinian institutions. Such a situation would never serve Israel’s interests.
He said that, after a brief respite, the level of violence and political frustration had risen abruptly and despairingly. The logic of mutual defiance, characterized by an increase in suicide bombings and unjustified extrajudicial killings, had taken over. He regretted that the security and institutional reforms implemented by the Palestinian Authority had not been accompanied by Israeli respect for those commitments. Further occupation of the territories and the extrajudicial killings were also a flagrant violation of international law, and must be banned. Building the separation wall also violated international law and could, in no way, meet Israel’s security needs. At the same time, suicide acts must be discouraged, as those ratcheted up the tensions and further deepened the gap.
JOHN D. NEGROPONTE (United States) recalled that over the weekend the Secretary-General and other permanent members of the Security Council had reaffirmed their commitment to the Road Map outlined by the Quartet and urged the parties to implement their obligations. While all the parties had responsibilities under the Road Map, it was important to emphasize that terrorist acts by such known terrorist organizations as the Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades must stop. Those organizations had openly claimed credit for scores of terrorist bombings, including the suicide bombing in Jerusalem on
19 August and in Tel Aviv on 9 September.
Continuing, he said that everybody recognized the tragic pattern: whenever the slightest hope appeared, a terrorist act extinguished it. The Council must
call for decisive action against terrorist acts. Any Council resolution on the Middle East that his delegation would support must contain robust condemnation of terrorism, including explicit condemnation of the organizations involved. It must also call for dismantling of the infrastructure supporting such organizations. He would not support any resolution that evaded the explicit threat posed by Hamas and other such groups.
The next Palestinian Prime Minister must have real authority to act against terrorist organizations and the tools to do so, he said. He and his cabinet must demand an end to all acts of terrorism. Israel, too, must move forward and fulfil its obligations under the Road Map, which would provide an supporting environment for the Palestinians to act against the terrorist organizations that were intent on destroying the peace process. In that regard, he underscored that the United States did not support either elimination of Mr. Arafat or his forced exile. It had cautioned the Government of Israel against that.
In conclusion, he stressed the importance of the forthcoming meeting of the Quartet in New York and urged all members to rally to the support of the Road Map and condemn terrorism. That -– and not a new Security Council resolution -- would represent the constructive way forward at this critical juncture.
Council President EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), speaking in his national capacity, said his country unreservedly condemned the recent escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied Territories. He supported Israeli actions to prevent further terrorist acts and to protect the lives of its citizens, but the British Foreign Secretary had clearly voiced his fundamental disagreement with the cabinet’s decision, in principle, to expel Mr. Arafat from the occupied territories. That was wrong, in principle, but, further, the impact of such action would be overwhelmingly negative for the peace process. That would radicalize Palestinian society, leading to upsurge in tension and violence. The small minority who were not interested in securing a peaceful settlement must not be allowed to dictate and to block the political process, which must not be held hostage to terrorists.
He said that both parties now faced a stark choice -– to return to the intense suffering of the last three years or resume implementation of their obligations under the Road Map. He urged them not to allow the rejectionists to succeed in destroying that process. The Palestinian Authority urgently needed to form an effective and powerful government, under its new Prime Minister, and to restore its security forces, take visible action against terrorist groups, and take further necessary steps for reform of its institutions. Exercising those responsibilities was long overdue. British support would continue for a Palestinian government committed to making progress on those issues.
For its part, Israel should immediately end targeted killings, freeze all settlement activity, and begin withdrawal of its defence forces to the position held prior to 2000. It was vital that the international community unite in the cause of peace. The action of the Quartet to drive forward that process was more critical now than ever. It was up to it to supervise implementation of its Road Map and to act when either party fell behind in its commitments. He reiterated his Government’s willingness to contribute in whatever way it could.
When the meeting resumed in the afternoon, ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said that since the Road Map had been declared, Israel had attempted to abort it. In particular, that country had escalated its military campaign in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and continued to build a separating wall, despite the international rejection of such a step. Following its decision last Thursday to expel President Arafat from the Palestinian territory, the international community and the United Nations were bound to reject and condemn such a step. The Council, in particular, was facing a great challenge in that regard.
Being the guardian of international peace and legitimacy, he continued, the Council should compel Israel to reverse its efforts to destroy the peace process in the Middle East. All concerned should go back to the path of peace and implement their commitments under the Road Map. It was necessary to realize now that Israel was the only country that did not abide by the rules and persisted in realizing its declared intentions, despite international denunciation. It was not enough to condemn Israel’s actions –- it was time to put an end to them.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said all of the world’s capitals had condemned Israel’s continued contravention of all international norms, as well as its continued policy of aggression. Those who had made the decision to expel President Arafat from his homeland were making a huge mistake. Relations between the Israeli and Palestinian parties were at a critical juncture. Today, the Council was called upon to face that new Israeli threat. Expelling that democratically elected leader would be a clear attempt to sabotage peace. Good neighbourliness must be based on understanding rather than the resort to force. The current situation was decisive in the history of that long-lasting conflict. Israel must recognize fully the right of Palestinians to establish their own State, as well as the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security, within secure, recognized borders.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) expressed deep concern over the serious deterioration of the political and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. Ten years after the Oslo accord, the peace process was still deadlocked, despite the launching of the Road Map. Ten years to the day following Oslo, Israel had taken an unbelievable measure against President Arafat, who had been democratically elected by the Palestinian people. What was more serious was the admission that killing President Arafat was an option. If implemented, that decision would only serve to provide a final blow to the already floundering peace agreement.
Since September 2000, it had been clear that the ongoing policy of the occupying Power was to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State, he said. Israel did not seek a negotiated peace ensured by the international community. Moreover, it was intending to benefit from the technique of building physical walls that would only strengthen the wall of mistrust. Algeria stood side by side with the Palestinian people and condemned Israel’s decision vis-à-vis President Arafat. The Council must support all international appeals, adopt the draft resolution before it and allow international law to prevail.
ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that, in spite of massive efforts being made over the last few months by the countries of the region, the hostile campaign initiated by the Government of Israel against the Palestinian people and its leadership was aimed at aborting the Road Map, which obligated it to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories. Otherwise, how could one explain the reason behind the daily acts of violence undertaken by the Israeli Government, including blockade, killing and the arbitrary arrest of hundreds of innocent Palestinians?
The United Arab Emirates, he stressed, condemned all attempts made by Israel towards weakening the Palestinian people and sowing discord among their factions through the decision to deport their legitimately elected President, Yasser Arafat. Such provocation would only lead to the destruction of all efforts made to date towards achieving peace. He, therefore, requested that the members of the Quartet and the Security Council condemn the Israeli decision of deporting
Mr. Arafat, and take urgent measures towards obligating Israel to withdraw the decision without any conditions.
MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said that at a time when the international community was seeking more channels for dialogue, the Israeli authorities –- in flagrant disregard of international law -– had decided to expel the democratically elected President of the Palestinian Authority. That decision could only strike the final blow to the peace process and, in particular, to the efforts of the Quartet to find a fair and lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East. His Government was gravely concerned over the consequences of expelling President Arafat. The solution required a return of the parties to the negotiating table. That should take place without any preconditions.
Continuing, he said that his delegation condemned terrorism in all its manifestations, but it also insisted on the need to eliminate its causes. Morocco reiterated its preparedness to multiply efforts to restore the Road Map, which was supported by the international community on the whole. He hoped the international community, through the Security Council, would send a clear message to Israel to rescind its decision. It must not allow a vicious circle of violence to lead the parties away from peace and security in the Middle East. When confronted with a deteriorating situation in Palestine, the Council must shoulder its responsibility. The objective was clear: creation of a Palestinian State was the only way of guaranteeing security in the region. Eliminating a legitimate Palestinian interlocutor was not in the interest of peace.
TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR (Bahrain) said today’s meeting was taking place amid grave circumstances and the serious deterioration of the Palestinian situation, due to daily Israeli aggression. The decision to expel President Arafat would gravely impact all efforts deployed thus far towards achieving a comprehensive and just peace. If implemented, it would gravely harm regional stability and reverse the peace process. That would also represent yet further defiance by Israel of the international community. He was gravely concerned about the deteriorating situation in the occupied territories. Furthermore, the Israeli decision to construct a separation wall, under the pretext of realizing its own security, had, as its main objective, to further control more Palestinian territories. Continuing construction would gravely harm peace and further suffocate the Palestinian people.
YAHYA MAHMASSANI, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, said the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict was Israel’s occupation of the Arab territories and its pursuit of a policy that blocked all efforts to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East, despite the numerous calls by the international community. After some 50 years of war, when would Israel become convinced that violence would not solve the Middle East problem? he asked.
Israel’s attempt to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the prism of terrorism was a ridiculous attempt that deceived no one, he said. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative had painted a bleak picture. Israel had placed all kinds of obstacles in front of the Road Map. Ending the Israeli occupation was the only way to resolve the conflict. Israel had gone as far as adopting an official decision to expel President Arafat, the elected President of the Palestinian people. It was an illegal and immoral decision. Any attack on the President would be an attack on the people as a whole. How could the Council stand by in view of Israel’s defiance? He called on the Council to take a clear position to end Israel’s flouting of international norms and result in its withdrawal from all the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan.
PAPA LOUIS FALL, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, emphasized the importance of the debate initiated by the Arab Group today, drawing the Council’s attention to the explosive situation in the Middle East, which had resulted from the spiral of attacks and countermeasures in the area. The Committee firmly condemned any form of violence, whatever its justification. At the same time, the Council needed to send a strong signal to the occupying Power to make it understand that actions such as incursions into the Palestinian territory and building of the wall of separation must end.
Regarding the threat to banish President Arafat, he said that it had incalculable consequences, and it was important to call upon Israel to reverse its decision. The Council was at a crossroads, because a serious decision had been made and a personality of the Israeli Government had said that his country’s options included elimination of President Arafat. There was a short distance from such statement to an assassination attempt, which would have a terrible effect in the area. In conclusion, he called upon Israel to exercise restraint in its actions. The international community should advocate economic and diplomatic measures to resolve the situation. It was necessary to ensure that the Road Map was applied in good faith by all parties. Its vision needed to be implemented, so that extremists on both sides could no longer carry out their pernicious desires.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that the spiralling violence and bloodletting were, to say the least, most disturbing. The source of even greater dismay was the fact that the end to the impasse was nowhere in sight. The Road Map to peace appeared to lie in tatters. The latest in the series of misjudgements that had exacerbated the deteriorating situation was the decision by Israel to expel President Yasser Arafat. His Government had issued a statement strongly condemning that decision and urging its withdrawal. It had also demanded an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories.
The Council must act soon to prevent the escalation of horror and hatred, he said. The acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction must stop. The efforts of the Quartet must be relentlessly pursued, and confidence in the efficacy of the Road Map restored. Both sides must be persuaded to return to the negotiating table, and an appropriate climate must be created for that to happen. No compromise in Palestine could be as painful as the failure to reach one. Inflammatory statements could not and would not step the tide of anger and frustration. The values that were the proud heritage of the Muslim, the Jew and the Christian must be resurrected.
RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while the Movement had noted some encouraging developments in the peace process with the beginning of the Road Map’s implementation, it was deeply concerned over the recent turn of events. The Movement condemned acts of violence and deeply regretted the loss of innocent lives on both sides of the conflict. The Movement was committed to a peaceful settlement of the conflict and firmly supported the two-State solution. Peace in the Middle East could only be achieved through the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination, national independence and the exercise of sovereignty in their State, Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
He called on Israel to come to its senses and accept the two-State solution. Continued Israeli occupation and harsh military action could not be a viable solution. He called for the revival of the Road map and further efforts by the Quartet and the parties concerned. The Council had the responsibility to stop Israel’s continued policies and practices. The decision to expel President Arafat was yet again an example of Israel’s wilful attempts to intimidate the Palestinian people. The extent of Israel’s intentions, as reflected by Vice-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s statement that killing President Arafat would be an option, was shocking. Such a measure would be a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and would spark a greater cycle of violence. He urged the Council to take a definite position by adopting a resolution that sent a strong message against that decision.
V.K. NAMBIAR (India) said that Mr. Arafat’s expulsion would be indefensible in international law. That would be an affront to the Palestinian people, as well as to the international community, and must attract the severest condemnation worldwide. Apart from serving no constructive purpose, his removal would negate all efforts towards reconciliation and likely lead to an increased wave of anger and violence. Israel had remained oblivious to the limitations of its policy, which was based solely on a military approach. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories had reached crisis proportions. The closures and blockades should be lifted, to allow for unhindered access to humanitarian supplies and finances. At the same time, he strongly condemned all acts of terrorism and violence, and he reiterated the need for both sides to fulfil their obligations under the Road Map, so that the vision of two States could be realized.
RAMEZ Z. GOUSSOUS (Jordan) reviewed the situation in the Middle East, which was characterized by continued unacceptable actions of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, construction of the separating wall there, and Israel’s arbitrary measures, including extrajudicial killings. His delegation condemned the decision in principle to remove President Arafat, and insisted that the continuation of violence would not lead to peace. Peace could only be realized through the end of the Israeli occupation, on the basis of the land-for-peace principle, in compliance with relevant Council resolutions.
JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had taken a savage turn. In the two most recent terrible suicide bombings in which innocent lives were lost, three Australians had been among the injured. Australia was disheartened that the latest upsurge in violence had come at a time when the Quartet’s Road Map to a peaceful settlement had been showing some promise. No one expected the way forward to be easy, but there was a growing sense of the need to persevere, despite setbacks.
He said Australia was also concerned about the Israeli Cabinet’s decision in principle to remove Mr. Arafat and the subsequent statement by Mr. Olmert that expulsion was one option, liquidation another. Australia supported neither of those options. They would not advance the Road Map. All parties must cooperate to bring an end to terrorism. He welcomed the support in the Palestinian draft resolution for the Road Map, as it was the only available internationally endorsed path to a peaceful settlement. There was really no rational alternative. Central to the Road Map’s success would be credible guarantees for the security of the Israelis. Australia made no apology for its abiding commitment to Israel’s territorial integrity and its right to exist in peace and security. It had also called for a viable and independent Palestinian State and would be generous in its support for such a new State.
MARCELLO SPATAFORA (Italy), on behalf of the European Union, said that the Israeli decision to expel President Arafat was a serious mistake and added to the tension, thereby undermining any negotiated solution. At the same time, it condemned, in the strongest possible terms, terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens, the authors of which were “enemies of peace”. It was in that context that the Union had inserted the political branch of Hamas in its list of terrorist organizations.
He said there was no alternative to the normalization of Arab-Israeli relations than the speedy implementation by the two sides of the Quartet Road Map, which contained clear timelines for the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and security. The Union urged the Palestinian Authority to form a new government and reorganize its security forces under the control of the new Prime Minister.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said he was particularly alarmed to find the Palestinians and Israelis locked in a spiral of violence and counter-violence. He was especially concerned about the decision of the Israeli Cabinet to expel President Arafat. Advocating the removal, or even the killing, of the democratically elected President was “utterly unacceptable” and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. That Government’s decision to intensify settlement construction, persist in the closure of towns and extrajudicial killings of suspected militants directly contravened international law. Israelis and Palestinians could not hope to find a solution by vowing to kill each other.
Meanwhile, he said that the Council had been unable to enforce its resolutions on the Middle East and, as a result, its pronouncements went unheeded and were violated with impunity. That had added to the growing perception that it was unwilling to act. It risked becoming marginalized in dealing with the important question of the Middle East, unless it immediately adopted a resolution, under Chapter VII, calling for a complete cessation of violence and terror, and demanding that Israeli abide by its obligations under international law.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said that the most systematic violation of human rights in the world today continued in the Middle East. State terrorism by Israel continued, as well as the use of modern arms against a civilian population. The Palestinian Authority and its President remained under siege, and now there had been a decision to evict Mr. Arafat. There could be no lasting peace in the Middle East until the people of Palestine realized its dream of an independent State and Israel withdrew from the occupied territories. While reiterating condemnation of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, Cuba also rejected acts of retaliation by Israel, which amounted to State terrorism. The Council should act decisively and quickly. The General Assembly also needed to address the issue.
ARNOLDO LISTRE (Argentina) said the open debate provided an opportunity to express his serious concern, at a time when the peace process was undergoing a severe crisis. Terrorist acts, the building of new settlements, and the destruction of homes were undermining the path to peace. Argentina was familiar with terrorism on its territory and condemned such acts. Israel must respect the provisions of international law, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention. He joined others in expressing concern regarding the decision, in principle, to “remove” President Arafat, as it would be dangerous and counterproductive. He appealed to Israel not to implement the decision, but to file it away.
The path to peace was based on compromise, he said. It was on that premise that the Quartet had prepared the Road Map. Both sides must carry out simultaneous parallel political, economic and security stops. Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories and end any activity that eroded confidence between the parties, including the building of the separation wall. The Palestinian Authority must stop terrorist parties and must focus on restructuring. He hoped the next Palestinian Prime Minister had the authority to carry out that task. The parties could remain under path of mutual rejection, but that was the path of suffering. He supported the other option, of reaffirming commitments taken 10 years ago and returning to the path of compromise and mutual concessions. He appealed to the leaders of both sides to work together to achieve the vision of two democratic, viable States.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said there was no reason to expect peace or the success of the Road Map, if Israel had no faith in it. He urged that Government to bring to a halt its resettlement policy, extrajudicial killings, the construction of the separation wall, and its aggression towards President Arafat and the Palestinian people. He strongly objected to any attempts by Israel to deport or assassinate the elected Palestinian leader. Israel must also respect international humanitarian law to the fullest, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
He urged the Quartet and the Council to ensure that Israel and Palestine fully pursue the peace process and avoid violence and inflammatory statements and policies. Now was a critical turn on the road to peace. The correct turn was obvious: it was one in which Israel helped the international community to move forward by faithfully implementing existing resolutions. The Council had no option other than to ensure that there was no deviation from that turn.
KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that the Road Map was at a critical juncture. Peace in the Middle East was key to the peace and stability of the region as a whole, and the Road Map remained the only viable course. In order to salvage it from the current crisis, the ongoing vicious circle of violence and mistrust must be broken without delay. Thus, it was absolutely necessary for both the Israeli and Palestinian sides to restore calm immediately and resume the dialogue. The removal by force of Chairman Arafat would make matters worse. He strongly requested Israel not to go forward with that decision. At the same time, he recognized Israel’s concern over the security of its people. The Palestinian Authority must be resolute in the battle to stop the violence being perpetrated by the extremist factions.
FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said that the Government of Israel continued its aggressive behaviour, reneged on its commitments and pursued a policy to inflict the greatest destruction on the Palestinian territory. The Palestinian Authority had made every effort to implement the Road Map. The whole world condemned Israel’s decision to evict President Arafat and a serious deterioration in the situation on the ground. Israel’s latest decision was an affront to the efforts of the Quartet and the Road Map.
While joining the international community in condemning the decision, his Government called on the international community to move swiftly and decisively in the face of Israel’s illegitimate actions. Bias on the side of Israel and that country’s attempts to fashion the peace according to its own vision were the cause for the failure of the peace process so far. Such bias could lead to a total collapse of the peace efforts in the future. The international community and the Quartet must implement the Road Map and confront Israel, which was trying to torpedo the peace process.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) noted with deep concern the recent decision of the Israeli Security Cabinet to “remove” the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, from the Palestinian territories. He viewed with even greater alarm explicit statements regarding the assassination of President Arafat. Brazil recognized his legitimate authority as being democratically elected by the Palestinian people. At a time when tensions had peaked, the process could ill afford initiatives directed towards destabilization. He called on Israel to renounce the decision and urged Israelis and Palestinians to act with utmost restraint. Their return to the negotiating table was the only path conducive to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution for the conflict.
He welcomed the appointment of Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie. Brazil reiterated its full support for the Quartet in its goal to promote an end to terrorism and violence, an end to occupation and a permanent settlement of conflict based on resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002) and others. He called on both parties to comply with those resolutions, especially towards attaining a meaningful ceasefire and the Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah. Throughout the years, Brazil had consistently advocated a peaceful solution of the conflict. Peace could only be achieved with the creation of an independent Palestinian State, according to the legitimate aspirations of its people and a State of Israel existing within internationally recognized borders.
ALI HACHAMI (Tunisia) said the danger in the occupied territories was growing daily, as a result of provocative actions by the Israeli Government, most recently its decision to remove President Arafat. He reaffirmed the legitimacy of the Palestinian presidency and the Palestinian Authority. Any decision to the contrary would contradict efforts towards peace. He stressed the need for Israel to comply with its commitments under the Road Map and under international law. While the international community was rallying efforts to solve the peace process, the Israeli Government was destroying Palestinian cities and towns and conducting extrajudicial executions. Given the gravity of the situation and the threats to the region, he renewed his President’s call to protect the Palestinian citizens through the deployment of an international force.
ALTAY GENGIZER (Turkey) called upon the parties to act in a responsible manner. As his delegation had stressed on numerous occasions, the current critical juncture in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict required both sides to act with utmost restraint. Turkey was concerned over the decision by Israel to expel President Arafat. The international community had called on Israel to review that decision, and the issue could not be resolved without the support of the international community. Furthermore, the conflict had aspects pertaining to regional, as well as global, security, which, in fact, imposed heavy responsibilities not only on the parties, but also on the international community.
Turkey had denounced the terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, he said. The Palestinian Authority should take all necessary measures to halt the violence. On the other hand, the methods undertaken by Israel in its fight against terror apparently fuelled enmity and should be discontinued. The main premise of the Road Map was to convincingly provide the two parties with the objective of two States living side by side with recognized and secure borders. That objective could not be achieved unless both sides displayed a true determination to fulfil their respective responsibilities. Security was, indeed, of paramount importance, but it was not the only aspect of the problem. In fact, the process of strengthening security could not be decoupled from the political process itself. The improvements in the daily lives of Palestinians would positively affect the security situation on the ground.
JOHAN LUDVIK LOVALD (Norway) said the tragic events of the past few weeks had brought the Middle East peace process to a virtual standstill. Suicide bombings and targeted killings did not achieve the objectives of ending terrorism and occupation. Norway strongly condemned the use of violence as a means to end the political conflict in the Middle East. The Road Map was not dead. It had been endorsed by both Israel and the Palestinians and had broad international support. At the current critical juncture, all parties had to strengthen their efforts to revive the peace process and ensure the Road Map’s implementation.
The Palestinians must fight terrorism vigorously, he said. Security structures must be strengthened and reformed under a unified line of control. The Road Map’s focus on parallel implementation of measures by the parties must be revived. Israel must stop the targeted killings, the demolition of houses, and disproportionate use of force. For the Palestinian Authority to combat terrorism, Israel must assist in giving Palestinians hope for a political solution to conflict. Norway deplored last week’s decision to remove President Arafat in a manner and at a time to be decided, as it could only contribute negatively to the peace process and make it more difficult for the Palestinian Authority to combat terrorism. Norway would continue to support the Road Map.
MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that, once again, the Middle East had descended into a terrible cycle of violence. The Road Map was facing a highly uncertain future. The international community must continue its efforts at bringing peace and security to that region, but, first and foremost, the Palestinians and the Israelis, themselves, should demonstrate the necessary political will. No one could wish the other away. Therefore, both peoples had to find a way to live side by side. In that regard, the Road Map was the only way forward.
He called for an end to the violence and the resumption of sincere dialogue. The international community must not allow a handful of extremists on either side to spoil the chances for peace. The Palestinian Authority should do everything possible to control those extremist elements that were perpetrating attacks against innocent Israeli civilians, and it must empower the new Palestinian Prime Minister to engage seriously in negotiations with the Israeli Government, which must stop using undue force and withdraw from the occupied territories. Illegal settlements and the separation wall must be dismantled. He denounced the decision to remove Chairman Arafat and urged the Israel Government to withdraw it.
Responding to comments from the floor, Mr. ROED-LARSEN said that many members of the Council shared his deep concern over the deepening crisis in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was both heartening and encouraging to see so many speakers support the Road Map and insist on the need to speed up its implementation, going from “baby steps” to bolder measures. It was also interesting that both the Palestinian and Israeli representatives had still kept the Road Map as a reference point, although from different perspectives.
The two main concerns were territory and terrorism, he said. No Palestinian leader could put an end to terror without broad popular support for the necessary measures to be taken. Such support could only be achieved through “at least the beginning of an end to occupation”. That meant halting the settlement activities and stopping the construction of the wall. It was also difficult for the Israeli leaders to muster popular support for territorial concessions in the face of continued civilian deaths. One side could cede land and the other stop terror. That could bring the international community to the defined goals of the Road Map.
Taking the floor a second time, Mr. AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said Israel’s statement reflected Israel’s arrogance, thanks to the automatic protection of the United States. His statement included racial references and was full of falsehoods and misrepresentation of fact. He spoke on behalf of a Government whose Prime Minister was accused of war crimes. Some of its leaders had introduced terrorism to the region in the first place. It had committed many massacres, including downing a Libyan airliner, sinking the USS Liberty and the assassination of many leaders.
Moreover, he said, it had committed the worst crime in modern history, the transfer of more than 400,000 settlers to the territories. Israel’s other crimes included extrajudicial killings. Israel had not stopped at that. The representative of Israel had decided that the Security Council was being hypocritical. He had decided that the Permanent Observer for Palestine did not represent the Palestinian people, and wished to remove every official status from it.
In response, Mr. GILLERMAN (Israel) said he was very saddened at the pathetic remarks of the Palestinian representative. Unfortunately, he was unable to meet him at his level because the descent would be too abrupt. That speaker had proved, once again, that he represented the “dark past” of the Palestinians, rather than the bright future they truly deserved. To the claim that Arafat was a legitimate leader, he reminded the Palestinians that they had thought Saddam Hussein a legitimate leader, along with many others whom history had chosen to remove from the stage. He preferred not to respond to the resort to events that had occurred some six and seven years ago.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), speaking in his capacity as Council President, said the Council had managed to hear 47 interventions in a way that had preserved a sense of the importance of the subject and hopefully had done justice to what the Council was trying to do.
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