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GA/12292
2 December 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 34th & 35th Meetings (AM & PM)

General Assembly Adopts Seven Resolutions, Including Texts on Middle East, Citing Illegality of Annexing Occupied Palestinian Territory

The General Assembly today adopted seven resolutions, including five on the question of Palestine and the Middle East, one of which cited the illegality of annexing any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and two on the importance of fostering a culture of peace.

Through the terms of the resolution “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/75/L.34) — adopted by a recorded vote of 145 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Madagascar, Malawi, Palau, Rwanda, South Africa) — the Assembly called for the full respect for international law.  It also called for the promotion of human security, the de-escalation of the situation, the exercise of restraint and the establishment of a stable environment conducive to the pursuit of peace.

By further terms, the Assembly called on all Member States not to recognize any changes to the pre‑1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.  As such, agreements with Israel must not imply recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.

The Assembly adopted the resolution “The Syrian Golan” (document A/75/L.29), by a recorded vote of a recorded vote of 88 in favor to 9 against (United States, United Kingdom, Palau, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Canada, Australia, Brazil), with62 abstentions.  By its terms, it declared that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void and demanded that Israel withdraw from the territory.

Also by recorded vote, the Assembly today adopted three resolutions regarding the Organization’s support to the Palestinian people.  By the terms of a resolution on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/75/L.32), the Assembly requested the Committee to continue focusing its activities throughout 2021 and 2022 on efforts and initiatives to end the Israeli occupation and organize activities in this regard.

By the terms of the resolution “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/75/L.33), the Assembly requested the Division to continue to monitor developments relevant to the question of Palestine.  The Assembly also adopted a third such resolution, titled “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Global Communications of the Secretariat” (document A/75/L.35).  By its terms, the Assembly requested the Department to expand its collection of audiovisual material on the question of Palestine as well as to periodically update the public exhibit displayed in the General Assembly Building.

As the floor opened for debate, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that without action, accountability and consequences, Israel will continue to trample international law.  Appeasing occupation will not work, nor will the attempt to break the will of the Palestinians.  Those who believe Israel has suspended annexation plans are ignoring reality, he said, pointing to rapidly expanding settlements, plans to construct more installations and evictions of Palestinian families that continue even during the pandemic.  The vast scope and scale of these actions are corroborated by United Nations entities and international organizations, he noted.

Israel’s representative said that, since 2000, General Assembly resolutions centre only on accusations against his delegation.  While Israel recently signed peace accords with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, this current session’s draft resolutions make no reference to them, and worse, claim that peace between Israel and other States in the Arab world is contingent upon first making peace with the Palestinian people.  The Abraham Accords signed by Israel and three parties have “shattered that paradigm”, he pointed out.

Agreeing, the representative of the United Arab Emirates stressed the need for initiatives that create a conducive environment for a two-State solution.  She said the United Arab Emirates has, by signing a peace treaty with Israel, achieved a freeze on the annexation of Palestinian land.  Moreover, her delegation will not deviate from its support for a Palestinian State based on 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The United States delegate said Washington, D.C., is continuing to take steps to rebuild trust in the region, including through its forward-looking peace initiative.  However, the draft resolutions under consideration recycle tired rhetoric that do nothing to advance peace.

During the debate, many speakers voiced their support for the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), with many calling on Member States to increase support as it faces financial constraints that have curtailed services, including vaccinations.

Turkey’s representative said the Agency is indispensable for providing vital health, relief and emergency assistance to millions.  In this context, Cuba’s representative denounced the United States withdrawal of financial support for UNRWA.  He also expressed opposition to the “deal of the century” drawn up by Washington, D.C., and its decision to recognize the occupied Syrian Golan as Israeli territory.

In other matters, the Assembly concluded its consideration of its agenda item on the culture of peace, adopting two texts.  Acting without a vote, it adopted the resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/75/L.28).  It then adopted the resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/75/L.36/Rev.1), by recorded vote of 90 in favour to none against, with 52 abstentions.

The Assembly also decided to postpone the final day of its main session to Monday, 21 December, and agreed to extend the work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to the same date.

Also speaking today were representatives of Namibia, Afghanistan, Libya, Jordan, Malaysia, India, Kuwait, China, Egypt, Norway, Qatar, Morocco, Maldives, Japan, Tunisia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, South Africa, Pakistan and Syria.

The representatives of Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 3 December, for a special session in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Question of Palestine

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, said that the question of Palestine first came before the Assembly in 1947, with the world body repeatedly affirming since then the Palestinian people’s right to live like everyone else.  “Yet, nothing has changed; there is an ongoing attempt to deny the historical and legal rights of the Palestinian people,” he said, pointing to the ongoing illegal occupation, unlawful settlement activities and annexation, excessive use of force against civilians, attempts to change the status of Jerusalem and Gaza still under blockade.  Palestinians cannot enjoy the most basic freedoms and they are under constant pressure to accept the status quo, he said, adding that:  “It is time to stand for justice; it is time to respect the historical and legal rights of Palestine’s people.”

Calling for negotiations to resume, he said the United Nations must continue to focus on resolving the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, collectively uphold international law, and realize the vision of two States living side by side, in peace and security, within recognized borders on the basis of pre‑1967 lines.  This will require unity, courage and resilience, he said, also expressing deep concern by the financial shortfall faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and urging donors to provide it with sufficient and predictable funding for its core activities and emergency appeals.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), Vice Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the following draft resolutions:  “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/75/L.32), “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/75/L.33), “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/75/L.34) and “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Global Communications of the Secretariat” (document A/75/L.35).  Noting that the drafts are technical rollovers of those previously adopted by the Assembly, with no substantive changes, he said it is regrettable that the question of Palestine remains the longest unsolved issue on its agenda, as the United Nations marks its seventy‑fifth anniversary.  The occupation is expanding, posing a challenge to regional and international stability and peace, while the COVID‑19 pandemic is worsening an already dire situation, with women, children and residents of Gaza hardest hit.  “We are at a watershed moment demanding urgent and consistent international mobilization and action to save the two‑State solution,” he said, emphasizing that, going forward, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will continue to engage and involve Palestinians and Israelis in these critical times.

ADELA RAZ (Afghanistan), Rapporteur for the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced its report, covering activities from September 2018 to August 2019 and addressing such issues as capacity‑building and the mobilization of the diplomatic community.  It is time now to address the long overdue question of Palestinian rights, she said, urging the Assembly and Security Council to consider all relevant resolutions and the practical means to implement them, including sanctions on States and private entities violating them.  International and regional entities, including the European Union, League of Arab States and Organization of Islamic Cooperation, must also take on a more active role in mitigating the conflict.

Unilateral decisions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move national embassies there are null and void, she said, adding that the historic status quo of religious sites in the city must be respected.  Calling on Israel to recognize its responsibility to protect civilians, she underlined the need for an international protection mechanism for Palestinians, adding that settlements violate international law.  States and private entities must not contribute to these violations.  Citing the need for a shift from a humanitarian to human rights approach, she called for ending the 13‑year‑long Gaza blockade.  The Committee must also turn its attention to the dire situation of Palestinians in midst of the pandemic, she said, adding that partners involved in the Middle East process and UNRWA should coordinate efforts, with Member States working collectively and individually to fund that entity.

RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said the Palestinian people have been left without a remedy for injustice, enduring decades of exile and oppression since 1948.  Expressing gratitude for the international community’s support for their self‑determination, he appealed for urgent action to back that up, as “statements are not enough”.  United Nations resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention must be implemented.  Without action, accountability and consequences, Israel will continue to trample international law.  History shows this is how all forms of colonialism and apartheid were defeated.  Appeasing occupation will not work, nor will the attempt to break the will of the Palestinians, who will never accept anything less than legitimate rights and freedom.

Despite the two‑State solution being drafted by the international community and accepted by the Palestinian people 32 years ago, he said only one State, Israel, has never accepted it, undermining it at every turn.  Those who believe Israel has suspended annexation plans are ignoring reality, he said, pointing to rapidly expanding settlements, plans to construct more installations and evictions of Palestinian families that continue even during the pandemic.  The vast scope and scale of these actions are corroborated by United Nations entities and international organizations, with some 5,000 Palestinians held captive in Israeli jails, including more than 100 children.  The Gaza blockade remains the worst element, tantamount to a crime against humanity targeting 2 million people.  The occupation is illegal, immoral and an affront to rules‑based order, requiring political will to take concrete action to halt it, he said, expressing support for President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for an international peace conference in 2021.  He called for recognition by States which have not done so of the State of Palestine, based on pre‑1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Israeli Government entities, corporations and individuals aiding and abetting the occupation must be held to account, and the international community must ban settlement‑produced items, as this is where accountability begins, he said, also rejecting claims that the Committee is biased against Israel.

ALTAHER ALMUNTASER (Libya), noting the United Nations inability to resolve the issue of the inhumane actions taking place against the Palestinian people, said their right to self-determination must be observed.  While resolution 2334 (2016) calls for an end to the Israeli occupation and an end to violence, Israel has scorned this and other resolutions, expanding settlements and making impossible the objective of creating a Palestinian State.  Citing a range of Israeli violations, from seized property to the Gaza blockade, he said international efforts must be exerted to help, including assisting Palestinian authorities to curb the spread of COVID‑19 amid obstacles Israel has erected.  The United Nations must implement resolutions and put pressure on Israel to establish security, he said, expressing support for an independent Palestinian State, with refugees able to return to their homes.

SUDQI ATALLAH ABD ALKADETR AL OMOUSH (Jordan) said the pandemic has shown the need for combined joint action. Highlighting the Committee’s work in keeping the world aware of the Palestinian people’s plight, he said the Israeli occupation must end to enable the creation of a Palestinian State.  Israeli violations of existing resolutions must also stop.  A two‑state solution is the only means to end the conflict and achieve the Palestinian people’s goal to live in peace.  For its part, Jordan coordinates with its Palestinian counterparts to bolster solidarity.  However, UNRWA faces an extreme crisis made worse by COVID‑19 and needs assistance.  Recalling that General Assembly resolution A/RES/194, adopted in 1948, guarantees the rights of refugees to return home, he said people have the right to live in peace and stability.  If not, despair will prevail and the conflict will continue to threaten world peace.

SYED HASRIN TENGKO HUSSIN (Malaysia) said the question of Palestine remains unresolved and the issue continues to be the source of instability in the region and poses a dangerous threat to international peace and security.  It must be resolved based on the established and internationally agreed parameters, in line with relevant resolutions, international law and the United Nations Charter.  He called on Member States to urgently contribute to UNWRA so it can meet the needs of 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, particularly in the context of the pandemic.  Israel must take the “essential steps” for a peaceful solution to the conflict, including implementing Security Council resolution 2334 (2016).

TIRUMURTI TIRUNELVELLI SRINIVASAMURTI (India), noting recent developments that are hampering the resumption of stalled peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, urged both parties to re‑engage to advance the goal of a two‑State solution.  “Even as peace as being pursued on the political track, the people of Palestine must not be forgotten,” he said.  Highlighting that India provides scholarships and trainings to more than 200,000 Palestinians every year, he said the India‑Palestine Development Partnership covers various sectors of the economy, including construction of schools and technology parks.  India has also quadrupled its support of UNRWA, having pledged $10 million over the coming three years to provide the Agency with more consistent and sustainable support.

TATAL ALFASSAM (Kuwait), highlighting major shifts and changes the pandemic is causing in the region, said Palestinians are dealing with both COVID‑19 and ongoing occupation.  Indeed, the occupying Power is taking advantage of the situation to speed up its construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian territory in clear breach of international law.  Moreover, Israeli settlers have violently targeted Palestinians without being held accountable for their actions.  Kuwait renews its support for the Palestinian people’s rights and for all efforts to allow the Palestinian people to fulfil their legitimate political rights.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said the Palestinian cause has always been a foreign policy priority.  Going forward, the United Arab Emirates will not deviate from its support for a Palestinian State based on 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Stressing the need for initiatives that create a conducive environment for a two‑State solution, she said the United Arab Emirates has, by signing a peace treaty with Israel, achieved a freeze on the annexation of Palestinian land.  She affirmed the need to halt illegal practices in Palestinian territories, including settlement activities and the violation of holy sites.  She went on to voice extreme concern over the humanitarian situation, especially in light of the pandemic, and reiterated the United Arab Emirates’ commitment to support the Palestinian people, including through United Nations agencies.

ZHANG JUN (China) said that with the Palestinian question dragging on, the international community must make greater efforts, with the two‑State solution as the bottom line, adding that:  “There is no going against the tide of history.”  Both sides must remain committed to peace talks and seek an early solution while refraining from actions the might fuel tensions.  The question of Palestine should not be marginalized, but rather put atop the international agenda, and countries holding sway over the two sides should act with objectivity and fairness.  He expressed support for President Abbas’s call for a global peace conference, adding that the international community should help the Palestinians achieve socioeconomic development while also supporting UNRWA.

GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) said that for decades, the General Assembly discussed the question of Palestine, but has produced no useful solutions.  The yearly debates are completely detached from reality, with Member States repeating the same Palestinian talking points and voting on the same resolutions, ignoring events on the ground and being far more interested in appeasing Palestinians than solving the problem.  Recalling the Camp David Summit of July 2000, involving United States President William J. Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel and Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat, he said the far‑reaching concessions were rejected and met with the bloody second intifada.  The Palestinians subsequently funded terror cells, he said, dispatching them into communities in Israel.  These acts were at the very core of conflict, but the United Nations resolution at the time made no reference to it.

Instead, subsequent resolutions centre only on accusations against Israel, he said.  While Israel recently signed peace accords with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, this current session’s draft resolution makes no reference to them, and worse, claims that peace between Israel and other States in the Arab world is contingent upon first making peace with the Palestinian people.  The Palestinian people have held the Arab world’s interests hostage for years, he said, but the Abraham Accords signed by Israel and three parties have “shattered that paradigm”.  However, the United Nations continues to vote on biased resolutions while, unsurprisingly, the Palestinians attack the Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, calling them back‑stabbers.  The United Nations has long accepted the Palestinian claim of its desire for a State alongside Israel, rather than at its expense, despite Arab terrorism having started long before 1967 or even 1948.  President Abbas ignored former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s generous 2008 peace offer and has rejected further invitations to negotiate.  A draft based on a Palestinian narrative only fans the flames of conflict, he said, with the United Nations thereby making a solution more elusive with futile debates, redundant resolutions and hollow words that do nothing.

MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) said COVID‑19 has worsened an already challenging situation amid Israeli policies that have triggered a deterioration of conditions in the occupied territories, hindering a settlement of the Palestinian question and benefitting extremist currents that spread terror and diminish the chance of peace.  No peace is possible without a lasting and just settlement, he said, welcoming the Committee’s efforts to raise public awareness and noting Egypt’s continued efforts to support the Palestinian people.  There can be no annexation of territories by force, he said, emphasizing that the Palestinian people have a right to self‑determination.  Expressing support for these draft resolutions, he called on Member States to support them and looked forward to a just and lasting settlement and an end to the suffering.

MONA JUUL (Norway) said only a negotiated two‑State solution can lead to a durable peace.  Welcoming the recent resumption of cooperation between the parties, she called on them to renew dialogue on fiscal issues.  Ready to support all efforts towards a constructive dialogue, she welcomed the normalization process between Israel, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.  Raising several concerns, she said the pandemic has aggravated conditions, with an alarming increase in cases in the Gaza Strip, at a time when Israel has announced plans for settlement expansions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  Similarly, continuing house demolitions constitute a significant impediment to the two‑State solution and should be halted, she said, calling on Israel to mark its current suspension of annexation plans as permanent.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), voicing strong support for the Palestinian people’s right to their land and condemning the occupation, said the systematic expansion of illegal settlements, disproportionate use of force against civilians, threats of annexation and the Gaza blockade seriously undermine the prospect of a two‑State solution.  Steps towards the unlawful annexation of Jerusalem threaten the legal status of the city, its demographic composition and multicultural character.  Pointing to the latest report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), he said the cumulative cost of the blockade and military operations amounts to $16.7 billion.  In this context, UNRWA is indispensable for providing vital health, relief and emergency assistance to millions, but has had to curtail services, including vaccinations, due to funding shortages, he said, underlining the international community’s collective and moral duty to step up support to the Agency.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) voiced support for the Assembly’s adoption of annual resolutions on the question of Palestine and the Middle East that underscore international law, United Nations principles, human rights and the maintenance of peace and security.  However, she remained concerned about ongoing Israeli occupation, settlement and annexation activities, attempts to alter the status of Jerusalem, the siege of Gaza, the pillage of Palestinian natural resources and the deteriorating economic situation in the occupied territories.  For its part, Qatar provides humanitarian and financial support for the Palestinians, including $150 million in response to the pandemic and an increased contribution to UNRWA.

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) called on the Security Council to fulfil its responsibility and call for the immediate end to the occupation and to Israel’s aggressive policies and colonizing practices.  The United States is plunging this body into disrepute, he said, rejecting its unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to establish its diplomatic representation there, disrespecting the city’s historical status.  Denouncing the United States’ withdrawal of financial support for UNRWA, he expressed opposition to the “deal of the century” drawn up by the current administration and the decision to recognize the occupied Syrian Golan as Israeli territory, constituting a serious and blatant violation of the United Nations Charter, international law and relevant Security Council resolutions.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), noting that his delegation chairs the committee on Jerusalem at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the city is crucial to the Middle East.  As such, a solution must be based on the possibility for the Palestinian people to live in peace and security alongside Israel.  However, illegal annexations are exacerbating tensions in the region, and the pandemic is worsening conditions, with Palestinians suffering daily violations of their rights and settlement activities contravening international law.  Jerusalem must be united and its historical and religious status unchanged, as the city is at the heart of all solutions and must be safeguarded as the heritage of humankind that is open to all religions.  Pledging a renewed commitment to UNWRA, he urged the resumption of Israeli‑Palestinian negotiations to find a solution to all problems.

IBRAHIM ZUHUREE (Maldives) said the Israeli occupation has deprived Palestinians from exercising their human rights to freedom and peace.  Raising concerns over deteriorating humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions, he underscored the vital role of UNRWA, the only lifeline for millions of refugees.  Meanwhile, Israel continues to strip away the dignity of the Palestinian people through arbitrary arrests, discrimination and administrative detention, with its annexation plan being “a blatant demonstration of its disregard towards the wishes of the international community for peace,” he said, condemning Israel’s violation of international law and reiterating his delegation’s support for a two‑State solution.

OSUGA TAKESHI (Japan), expressing renewed support for the Palestinian people’s long‑held aspirations to found a State, said Tokyo remains committed to a two‑State solution.  As the situation can only be resolved through negotiations, he urged both sides to strive for trust and refrain from unilateral acts.  Recalling the worsening situation on the ground over the last four years and Israel’s settlement activities, he raised concerns about violence against civilians.  Determined to support the economic development required to build a future independent self‑reliant Palestinian State, he pointed to the Jericho Agro‑Industrial Park, a flagship initiative aimed at creating jobs.  Expressing concern over the spread of COVID‑19 in Gaza, he said Japan has provided $30 million in voluntary contributions to UNRWA, including $1.5 million specifically towards combatting the virus and $4 million for food assistance.

NASREDDINE NAOUALI (Tunisia) said a just, lasting and holistic peace in the Middle East involves Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied territories, including the Syrian Golan.  Recalling the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, he called on the international community to shoulder its responsibility.  The occupying Power is continuing its expansionist colonial policies without any accountability.  As such, Tunisia seeks to expedite the implementation of peace as a strategic choice in line with legitimate international resolutions.  Moreover, Palestinian civilians must be protected, especially considering the economic and humanitarian consequences of the pandemic.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain), expressing his delegation’s support for the Palestinian people and their right to establish a State, said peace represents a strategic option to push forward this process and create stability in the Middle East.  As such, Bahrain has expressed support for peace with Israel to achieve Palestinian aspirations in terms of regaining their legitimate rights.  The Middle East faces unprecedented challenges that require cooperation, he observed, underscoring the importance of coexistence, tolerance and acceptance.  As such, he called on the international community to intensify efforts to enhance good neighbourliness and the building of relations based on common interests between States in the region.

MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh) regretted to note the international community’s repeated and still unheeded appeals to improve conditions for the Palestinian people.  The Israeli occupation has jeopardized the lives of millions of Palestinians for five decades, yet a solution remains elusive, while the COVID‑19 pandemic has become a crisis within a crisis, pushing the economy of the Palestinian territories to the verge of a meltdown.  The UNRWA funding crisis and the decline in donor aid must be reversed, he said, also calling on the international community to maintain pressure on Israel to end the occupation.

XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) expressed support for all efforts to achieve a viable Palestinian State, including the convening of an international conference to resolve final status issues.  Voicing concern at ongoing occupation and settlement activities, he called on the Government of Israel to immediately halt the demolition of Palestinian structures, especially in light of a pandemic that has compounded humanitarian and economic difficulties.  He also appealed to the international community to support UNRWA efforts to provide much‑needed assistance to Palestinian refugees.

SAAD AHMAD WARRAICH (Pakistan) said that since partition 73 years ago, the story of the Palestinian people has been a tale of broken promises, sowing seeds of endless discord in the Middle East.  The pandemic has exacerbated an already dire situation.  The Palestinian issue is not a question of victor or vanquished, but of the principles of the United Nations Charter.  The fundamental structure of the two‑State solution is being dismantled before the international community’s eyes, with many doubting if peace can be achieved at all, as illegal expansion of settlements into the occupied territory threatens to become an annexation.  Meanwhile, UNRWA faces financial constraints in serving more than 5 million refugees.  This core issue of the Middle East has contributed most to the anger and frustration of the people of the Arab and Muslim world, and its resolution is crucial to the peace and security of region, he said, calling for a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State.

Situation in the Middle East

AHMED ABDELAZIZ AHMED ELGHARIB (Egypt) introduced the draft resolution “The Syrian Golan” (document A/75/L.29), which would have the Assembly once more demand that Israel withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.  He explained that this annual text contains the same language as the 2019 resolution, with technical updates.  The Middle East is facing a downward spiral, with new crises joining protracted ones, and this trend cannot be broken in the absence of respect for international law.  That means ending the occupation of all Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan, he said, urging the international community to take a stand against the lack of adherence to the United Nations Charter.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that the Assembly’s annual resolutions on the Syrian Golan bring it in line with Security Council resolution 497 (1981).  Any measures that Israel takes to impose its laws, sovereignty and administration on the occupied Golan are illegal, null and void.  Recalling that the current United States administration considers occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he said that its subsequent recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan is akin to its donating parts of Florida, California or Massachusetts to Israel.  It is shameful that a century after the British crime of the Balfour Declaration, the United States is perpetrating the same crime, rather than encouraging the path of a just and comprehensive Middle East peace.  He described as provocative the recent visit by the Secretary of State of the United States to Israel’s settlements, just as the current United States administration is about to end.  Syria will never forfeit its right to regain its occupied lands, he said, demanding that the United Nations act immediately to ensure the implementation of its resolutions.

MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) echoed concerns about settlement activities, saying that they must cease as they run counter to international law, hinder peace and weaken prospects for a two‑State solution while also provoking an unsustainable status quo.  She added that Palestinian leaders must seriously address Israel’s security concerns, and that the final status of Jerusalem should be determined by the parties during bilateral negotiations.  Turning to the Syrian Golan, she expressed support for negotiations aimed at ending the occupation as soon as possible.

Action

The Assembly then took action on the four draft resolutions on the question of Palestine.

The representative of Israel, in an explanation of position, said that not only do these resolutions fail to promote peace, but every single one is a distraction to peace, reinforcing a false narrative of the conflict while convincing Palestinians that there is no need to negotiate because the United Nations will fight for their outrageous demands to be met.  Why should Israelis trust the United Nations when a majority of Member States renew the mandate of bodies whose sole purpose is to promote anti‑Israel bias, he wondered.  Funding propaganda against a Member State is not only outrageous and shameful, but a misuse of United Nations resources that should be used to save lives.  The peace agreements that Israel has signed with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan prove that peace in the Middle East can only be achieved through direct negotiations and that United Nations intervention is unnecessary.

The representative of the United States said her country continues to take steps to rebuild trust in the region, including through its forward-looking peace initiative.  However, despite such positive steps, the United States is disappointed, though not surprised, that the Assembly is taking up unbalanced resolutions that are unfair to Israel.  Such a one‑sided approach can only undermine trust, she said, adding that the draft resolutions recycle tired rhetoric that do nothing to advance peace.  It is troubling to see the United Nations being used so often to treat one Member State, Israel, unequally, while nothing is said about terrorist attacks.  The United States is committed to a comprehensive peace agreement, but resolutions like those today distract from the goal shared by all Member States.

The Assembly adopted the resolution “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/75/L.32) by a recorded vote of 91 in favour to 17 against, with 54 abstentions.

Through its provisions, the Assembly requested the Committee to continue focusing activities throughout 2021 and 2022 on efforts and initiatives to end the Israeli occupation.

The Assembly then adopted the resolution “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/75/L.33) by a recorded vote of 82 in favour to 25 against, with 53 abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly requested the Division to continue to monitor developments relevant to the question of Palestine and invited all Governments and organizations to extend their cooperation to the Division in the performance of its tasks.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/75/L.34) by a recorded vote of 145 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Madagascar, Malawi, Palau, Rwanda, South Africa).

By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly called for the full respect for international law, and for the promotion of human security, the de‑escalation of the situation, the exercise of restraint and the establishment of a stable environment conducive to the pursuit of peace.  It also called on all Member States not to recognize any changes to the pre‑1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.  As such, agreements with Israel must not imply recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Global Communications of the Secretariat” (document A/75/L.35) by a recorded vote of 142 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 11 abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly requested the Department to expand its collection of audiovisual material on the question of Palestine, as well as to periodically update the public exhibit displayed in the General Assembly Building.

The representative of Hungary, aligning with the European Union and speaking in her national capacity, expressed support for a two‑State solution and negotiations between the two sides.  She likewise expressed hope that dialogue can be renewed in good faith.  Hungary is willing to lend its support to any resolution that is balanced and fair and beneficial for all.  Resolutions without balance are detrimental to the peace process.

The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said he views all resolutions referring to any Palestinian Government as referring to Palestine authorities.  Any reference to Palestine cannot be recognized as the State of Palestine.

The Assembly then turned its attention to the draft resolution “The Syrian Golan” (document A/75/L.29), adopting it by a recorded vote of 88 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United Kingdom, United States), with 62 abstentions.

The representative of Argentina, in an explanation of position, said she voted in favour of the resolution due to the illegality of acquiring territory by force — an action that is prohibited by the Charter of the United Nations.  She stressed the importance of resuming negotiations to end the occupation of the Golan Heights and to resolve the situation in line with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

The representative of Moldova took the floor to note a technical error in the voting, in which her country’s position was not properly registered as a vote of abstention.

The representative of Iran, welcoming the adoption of the resolution, praised Member States for their strong support of the State of Palestine’s cause and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  After more than 70 years, Israel’s regime continues to violate the fundamental rights of those living under its occupation.  In the Gaza Strip — the world’s largest open‑air prison — the collective punishment inflicted on the population, including women and children, constitutes a war crime under international law.  He urged the international community to ensure that the Palestinian people can exercise their inalienable right to self‑determination.  Referencing the recent assassination of several top Iranian scientists — including that of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which “bears serious indications of Israeli responsibility” — he said that these actions represent attempts to jeopardize national and regional peace and that Iran reserves the right to take all necessary measures to defend its people and secure its interests.

An observer for the State of Palestine, in explanation of position, said the near‑universal endorsement of the resolutions demonstrates the broad support for the issues they address.  Central to all is the goal of finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Palestine that will bring an end to Israel’s occupation and establish an independent and sovereign State of Palestine.  She went on to reject remarks by Israel that attack and insult the General Assembly and all the States that voted in favour of the resolutions.  The texts are not based on “so‑called Palestinian talking points” but actually reflect international consensus, which Israel seeks to destroy.  Israel refuses to abide by international law and United Nations resolutions, she said, calling for accountability in that regard.

Follow‑up to Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace

The Assembly then resumed its consideration of the culture of peace that it began on 1 December.

AAHDE LAHMIRI (Morocco) said the Secretary‑General’s call for a global ceasefire has helped States struggling to address the COVID‑19 health‑care crisis.  A culture of peace is based on mutual understanding and cooperative dialogue in line with international law.  For its part, Morocco fosters intercultural and interreligious dialogue, she said, citing visits from prominent leaders of all religions, including the Pope.  She went on to express appreciation for the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which promotes a culture of peace and tolerance, underscoring the need to combat hate speech and Islamophobia, and to preserve religious sites.  Further, religious leaders have an important role to play in debunking misinformation around COVID‑19, she said.

Mr. AMBA (Pakistan), introducing the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/75/L.36/Rev.1), urged all countries to fight Islamophobia.  He explained that the text aims to promote respect for religious and cultural diversity, thus facilitating peace and harmony within society, notably through solid and sustainable relations between various social groups.  The draft responds to the concerns of most countries, he added.

ASHISH SHARMA (India), noting that his country has sheltered the persecuted and allowed them to thrive for millennia, said that:  “While it is indeed true that we need to firmly condemn anti‑Semitism, Islamophobia and anti‑Christian acts, which India firmly condemns, this august body fails to acknowledge the rise of hatred and violence against Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism; as long as such selectivity exists, the world can never truly foster a culture of peace.”  In November, Pakistan violated an earlier resolution on the culture of peace by arbitrarily transferring the management of a Sikh shrine, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, to a non‑Sikh body, he said, calling on Islamabad to change its current culture of hatred against religions in India and to stop supporting cross‑border terrorism.  “Until then we will only be mute witness to Pakistan driving away their minorities by threat, coercion, conversion and killing,” he said.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said the growing number of resolutions the Assembly has adopted on the “culture of peace” attests to its primacy.  Intercultural and interreligious dialogue has diverse forms and continues to play an important role in advancing sustainable development, promoting cultural diversity and tackling the root causes of violence and conflict.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that all cultures and civilizations can contribute to and enable its goals.  A culture of peace is equally important in addressing conflicts and post‑conflict situations, especially those aggravated by long‑standing policies aimed at sowing dissension and inculcating hatred on religious and racial grounds, creating mono‑ethnic societies.  It is critical that the United Nations continue mobilizing the world against enmity of all kinds, including through implementation of commitments in the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech.

Ms. JUAREZ (Guatemala) said the COVID‑19 crisis has laid bare the interdependence of countries and underscored the need for cooperation to tackle shared challenges.  Guatemala actively works towards a range of goals, she said, adding:  “The 2030 Agenda is our plan to create societies”, focusing on inclusion, combating stigmatization and protecting the most vulnerable.  Highlighting a draft resolution Guatemala and Morocco had presented to the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) on the “Global Code of Ethics for Tourism” (document A/C.2/75/L.20), she said ethical tourism will promote peace, development and human rights as indivisible values.

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), commending measures taken by Member States and the United Nations system, reaffirmed the importance of implementing the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.  Doing so will benefit humanity, particularly the future generations, she said, underscoring the importance of generating comprehensive United Nations country‑level responses.  Recognizing the relevance of the peacebuilding work, she offered examples of national efforts, including supporting young people.  Equally important are efforts aimed at minimizing risk factors and violence and promoting citizen participation.  Drawing attention to the pandemic, she raised concerns about its devastating impact on health, the worsening of existing inequalities and vulnerabilities and a rise in violence.

AHMED ABDELAZIZ AHMED ELGHARIB (Egypt) said the events unravelling in many parts of the world are a clear manifestation of unprecedented challenges that required the international community’s combined efforts and attention.  Voicing concern over the resurgence in xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination, he underlined the importance of democracy and the rule of law while cautioning against the radicalization of extremist movements.  Promoting peace and dialogue is essential to discredit violent ideologies.  Underscoring that some societies remain plagued by violence, extremism and terrorism, he said any attempt to eradicate such phenomena must tackle the root causes, including foreign occupation.

Mr. ELHOMOSANY (Saudi Arabia), quoting a verse from the Koran that reflects the doctrine of tolerance in Islam, said the culture of peace encompasses all the principles that the United Nations Charter is built upon.  Reviewing a range of Riyadh’s initiatives, he appealed for global peace to be promoted through integrated policies and preventative measures, including through education and the media, as doing so would contribute to the resolution and prevention of conflict.

AHLEM SARA CHARIKHI (Algeria) said the concept of the culture of peace entails a shift in perception, from peace as an end in itself to it being an ongoing process.  Given the pandemic, reaffirming a commitment to international cooperation, understanding, solidarity and dialogue is needed now more than ever before.  The COVID‑19 crisis has underscored the urgent need to bridge divides and ensure peaceful coexistence for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, emphasizing the link between peace and development.

Prior to taking action, several representatives explained their delegations’ position.

Mr. SHARMA (India) said “L.36/Rev.1” refers to a bilateral issue involving a situation that has deteriorated.  In November, Pakistan transferred authority over the corridor to the Sikh shrine Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib to a non‑Sikh body, and India protested the decision, expressing grave concern over targeting the rights of Sikhs.  This places Pakistan in clear violation of the draft, he said, noting that operative paragraph 10 should have been deleted, as it was used by one State seeking to deceive the international community.  United Nations resolutions must not be used to settle bilateral scores, he said, and his delegation would have to abstain or disassociate itself from the draft.

PEDRO MEIRELLES REIS SOTERO DE MENEZES (Brazil) said freedom of expression is key to any form of dialogue, and any notion to curtail or amend it is extremely troubling.  He condemned all violence connected to the expression of opinions, voicing disappointment that redundant language in preambular paragraph 23 was retained, which weakened the overall balance of the resolution.

The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said members support freedom of religion and intercultural dialogue and cooperation for peace.  But, the bloc has major concerns with the substance of the draft, which duplicates and distorts provisions of two other resolutions recently adopted by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).  The European Union is also unhappy with the process handled by facilitators regarding the draft, which was too rushed and failed to accommodate members’ concerns.  As such, it will abstain.

The representative of Poland, associating with the European Union, regretted that concerns remained unaddressed.  Freedom of religion belongs to the individual, whether this freedom is practiced alone or with others.  Poland is a staunch supporter of freedom of religion and belief, and in these dangerous times of the pandemic, the global community must work together, she said, explaining that Poland could not support “L.36/Rev.1”.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/75/L.28).

By its terms, the Assembly invited Member States to continue emphasizing and expanding their promotion of a culture of peace at national, regional and international levels.  It also called for investment in early child education that promotes a culture of peace and further encouraged Member States and other specified entities to consider instituting mechanisms to involve youth in the promotion of such a culture and to develop respect for human dignity, pluralism and diversity to discourage their participation in acts of terrorism and violent extremism.  The Assembly also reiterated its request to its President to consider convening a high-level forum on or around 13 September devoted to the implementation of the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.

By a recorded vote of 90 in favour to none against, with 52 abstentions, the Assembly adopted the resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/75/L.36/Rev.1).

In doing so, the Assembly recognized the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in promoting social cohesion and inclusion, peace and development and called on Member States to consider such dialogue as an important tool in efforts aimed at achieving peace, social stability and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Also by its terms, the Assembly called on Member States and other relevant actors to promote inclusion and unity in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic and to combat racism, xenophobia, hate speech, violence, discrimination and stigmatization.  The Assembly underlined the importance of moderation as a societal value to counter violent extremism while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and encouraged Member States to consider initiatives that identify areas for practical action to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation in all sectors and levels of society.

The representative of the United States, explaining his delegation’s position on “L.28”, said Washington, D.C., supports encouraging a culture of peace by addressing the root causes of conflict, rejecting violence and by promoting justice, democracy and human rights.  Recalling the United States withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2018, he said his delegation had joined consensus, but reiterates concerns mentioned in its statement of 18 November delivered to the Assembly regarding the 2030 Agenda.  On his delegation’s abstention on “L.36/Rev.1”, he said recent years have seen a growing departure from previous approaches, such as the Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process, that are widely supported and offer a road map to combating religious intolerance while protecting religious freedom.  He expressed concern regarding operative paragraph 13, which suggests that protections for the freedoms of expression and religion are “at odds with one another”.  The United States advocates for legal regimes to deal with intolerance and hate crimes rather than restricting expression.

The representative of Argentina said his delegation voted in favour of “L.36/Rev.1” because dialogue between religions and cultures is crucial for a culture of peace.  Religious freedom refers to a broad range of beliefs that encompasses not only institutionalized religions.  Recalling that the Special Rapporteur indicated that international human rights law compels States to adopt a moderate approach in promoting freedom of expression and belief, he expressed concern that the resolution places unnecessary and counterproductive emphasis on restrictions on those rights.

The representative of Azerbaijan expressed regret that, for the first time since 2004, “L.36/Rev.1” was not adopted by consensus.

The representative of Ukraine said his delegation does not support the reference in “L.36/Rev.1” to the World Conference of Heads of States, Parliamentarians and Representatives of the World Religions on Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue for the Benefit of Peace and Mankind, to be held in May 2022 in the Russian Federation.  Such events constitute Moscow’s attempts to “whitewash” its aggressive policies and repressive practices carried out in occupied areas, including temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.  In this region, the Russian Federation is persecuting many religious groups, including Greek and Roman Catholics, and is detaining Muslims on trumped-up charges of association with Islamic organizations.

The representative of Armenia said Yerevan preserves a rich cultural heritage, including the oldest Christian churches and monasteries, and the world’s largest Yazidi temple.  He wished to dissociate himself from the reference in “L.36/Rev.1”, in preambular paragraph 36, to the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, organized biennially by Azerbaijan, which hosts such events as “an instrument of propaganda” to distract attention from the dire human rights situation there, including its destruction of Armenian culture and heritage.  “It is erroneous to think dialogue is possible against this backdrop,” he said.

The representative of Mexico said her delegation had voted in favour of “L.36/Rev.1” as a sign of the constructive spirit and tolerance with which it participated in related consultations.  She expressed surprise at the abrupt way in which the consultations were suspended and the premature way in which the draft resolution was presented.  These delicate issues are worthy of careful reflection, she said, calling for transparency, inclusion and international cooperation.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, noting that his delegation had voted in favour of “L.36/Rev.1”, expressed concern about the inability to reach consensus.  The right to freedom and opinions of expression is one of the fundamental human rights and should not be compromised.

Right of Reply

The representative of Pakistan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said it is beyond India’s capacity to comprehend gestures of peace and religious harmony.  While Pakistan is opening its doors to Sikhs, one only has to see what is happening around Delhi to see how India treats its minorities, including Muslims and Sikhs.  India should take steps to protect minorities and their places of worship.

The representative of Azerbaijan said his counterpart from Armenia had lectured others on principles and values Yerevan disregards and opposes.  The purposes of Armenia’s remarks were to camouflage its own racist policies and hate crimes.  One would hope that instead of sowing dissension and challenging global initiatives, the Armenian authorities would accept new realities and realize the richness of diversity and mutual understanding.

The representative of Armenia rejected the narrative put forward by his counterpart from Azerbaijan, which could be seen as “textbook hate speech”.  Azerbaijan has erased every trace of Armenian culture in territories under its control, including the barbaric destruction of the Armenian cemetery and its khachkar monuments in the Nakchivan exclave in 1998, and also rejected all international requests to send a fact-finding mission to investigate that crime.  Citing aggression involving foreign terrorist fighters in Nagorno-Karabakh, he said Azerbaijan will never “whitewash” its treatment of the Armenian people.

Programme of Work

Acting on a proposal from its President, the Assembly then agreed, in view of the work before it, to postpone the final day of its main session to Monday, 21 December.  It also agreed to extend the work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to that same date.

For information media. Not an official record.