With prospects for a two-State solution slipping away, a return to meaningful negotiations was more vital than ever, Secretary-General António Guterres told the Palestinian Rights Committee today, as it opened its session for 2017, a year marking 50 years of occupation.
Delivering the Secretary-General’s statement on his behalf, Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti said that, although the Committee was instrumental in moving forward issues relating to the cause, the Palestinian people continued to be subjected to stifling closures and blockades. The Palestinian Authority’s recent announcement on municipal elections should present an opportunity to renew its democratic principles and institutions, she added. Recalling that Member States had adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development two years ago, pledging to leave no one behind, she urged both Palestinians and Israelis to be part of the process of achieving peace and prosperity for all.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, called for independence and for an established State with East Jerusalem as its capital, noting that 2017 marked a unique opportunity to move forward, with the world commemorating 50 years of occupation. Expressing gratitude for the Committee’s intensified activities, in collaboration with States, agencies and non-governmental organizations, he said 2017 should be the international year to end Israel’s occupation.
Reiterating the “principled position” of the Secretary-General, he said there could be no alternative to the two-State solution. “We cannot change the course on which we built upon and invested in so much,” he emphasized, reiterating his commitment to the Secretary-General’s approach and that of all States “still willing and honouring” the cause of a two-State solution. “We will not relent in our pursuit,” he stressed, adding that it was vital to respect the will of the United Nations to help save the two-State solution and realize peace in the Middle East.
Fodé Seck (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted that the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process had briefed the Security Council earlier, saying “there are significant challenges before us in searching for a just and sustainable solution.” Indeed, there were various risks that could lead to violent extremism and terrorism against both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, he warned.
He invited all parties to be “firm in their commitment” to the goal of building a sovereign, viable Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and living alongside Israel in peace and security. “We need to find the spirit of a shared resolution” that would accompany both parties in their negotiations, he said.
Outlining the Committee’s activities since its last meeting, he said they included attending a Security Council briefing on 23 December 2016, a Council open debate on the Middle East on 17 January, and the United Nations Round Table on “Building Bridges with the Palestinian Diaspora in Central America”, held in Managua, Nicaragua, on 4 February.
At the outset, the Committee unanimously re-elected Mr. Seck (Senegal) as Chair and the following Vice-Chairs: Mahmoud Saikal (Afghanistan), Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo (Cuba); Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia); Neville Melvin Gertze (Namibia); and María Rubiales de Chamorro (Nicaragua). Carmelo Inguanez (Malta) was elected Rapporteur.
Also today, the Committee approved its draft programme of work for the 2017 session (document A/AC.183/2017/L.2), which outlined such planned activities as a capacity-building seminar on South-South and triangular cooperation, organized in cooperation with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to be held in Beirut, Lebanon; the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem, organized with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan; and a high-level event of the United Nations and the Civil Society Forum to mark 50 years of occupation, to be held at Headquarters.
Nicaragua’s representative said his country had recently hosted a round table on the Palestinian diaspora in Central America, and expressed hope that the Managua Declaration issued at its conclusion would foster an end to Israel’s occupation.
Venezuela’s representative reaffirmed his country’s full commitment to the Palestinian cause, recalling that, during its tenure on the Security Council, Venezuela had promoted transparent discussion of the issue and fought against double standards. The Council had examined the humanitarian consequences of the Gaza blockade and investigated mechanisms for protecting Palestinians and stopping illegal settlements. “We must be clear in coming up with solutions based on the two-State proposal,” he emphasized.
Cuba’s representative stressed the need to redouble efforts for a just, comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would enable Palestinians to exercise their inalienable rights. She expressed particular concern over the announcements that 5,500 new settlement units would be built in the West Bank, and that a new law would retroactively legalize settlements that were in violation of international law. Cuba would continue, in the Human Rights Council and elsewhere, to promote the Palestinian cause, she said. She emphasized the importance of cooperation between the Committee and national, as well as regional efforts, including those of civil society, in order to help Palestinians exercise their rights in full. The work programme should offer a road map to that end, she added.
Taking to the floor once again, Mr. Mansour said it was important to stabilize funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which was vital in helping the Palestinian people’s sustainable development efforts.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ecuador, Malaysia and Turkey.