Letter dated 28 May 1996 from the Chargé d'affaires a.i.
of the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations
addressed to the Secretary-General
The 95th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union was held at Istanbul from 15 to 20 April 1996, at the invitation of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. The Conference brought together 609 Members of Parliament from 118 countries and the representatives of 24 observer delegations.
As the host country of the 95th Conferences of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, I have the honour to transmit to you herewith the results of the Conference.
I should be grateful if you would have the text of the present letter and its annex circulated as a document of the General Assembly, under items 29, 33, 41, 54, 58, 76, 97, 98, 103, 106, 107, 113 and 154 of the preliminary list.*
(Signed) Tuluy TANÇ
Chargé d'affaires a.i.
* The annex is being circulated in the languages of submission only.
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON MIDDLE EAST QUESTIONS
Approved by the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 158th session
(Istanbul, 20 April 1996)
Preliminary views of the Committee
The members of the Committee had before them a communication from the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council concerning the decisions reached by the "Peace-Makers Summit" which had taken place in Sharm El-Sheikh (Egypt) in March 1996. They also had a letter of 28 March 1996 addressed to the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council by the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, dealing with the establishment of that Council and with the situation in Palestine.
They found both documents interesting and informative; they praised the holding of the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit and paid tribute to King Hussein of Jordan and President Moubarak of Egypt for their continuing and untiring efforts to fight terrorism and bring about peace and stability in the Middle East.
The President invited the representatives of the Arab countries and those of Israel, who appeared separately before the Committee, to state their views as to whether progress in the peace process in the Middle East had been achieved since the Committee last met in Bucharest in October 1995 and, if not, what were the obstacles encountered.
Views of the representatives of the Arab countries
and those of Israel
The representative of the Palestine National Council who had followed the work of the Committee since its establishment in 1987 stated for the record that he believed that the Committee had contributed to the peace process and that it should continue its work until peace is definitely achieved.
He cited, as positive developments, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied territories and the recent elections in Palestine which had been witnessed by over 1,000 foreign observers and considered to have been held under excellent conditions. While he deplored the brutal assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and the suicide attacks which took place in Israel, he considered that a number of repressive Israeli measures against the people of Gaza and the West Bank were irreconcilable with the peace process and could not but be helpful to extremists. He hoped that the decisions adopted by the IPU bodies would counter the actions of those who would sabotage the peace process, so that extremists would not be rewarded and innocent people would not be made to suffer.
The two recently elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council – from Gaza and Jerusalem areas – stressed that over 80 per cent of the people of Palestine participated in free and fair elections. Thus, they were establishing a democratic society devoted to peace and aspiring to becoming a nation with full rights. They looked forward to the implementation of the second phase of the peace process, dealing with Jerusalem, refugees and sovereignty.
They expressed particular disappointment about recent Israeli actions, as a feeling of essential partnership should have been growing between Palestine and Israel in carrying out the peace process. Both parties had high expectations, Israel of security and Palestine of prosperity. Palestinians were disappointed and frustrated, therefore, by Israel's over-reacting which, among other consequences, could discredit the recently elected Palestinian parliamentarians who were committed to co-operating with Israel in the peace process.
The representative of Jordan emphasized that whatever happened in the West Bank area affected Jordan, and that unless the Palestinian issue was settled, there would be no lasting peace in the Middle East. He wondered whether recent Israeli actions were as related to the country's security as they were to the forthcoming election in that country. He also felt that institution-building in Palestine was in fact proceeding better than usually believed, but that recent events had contributed to slowing down the Palestinian economy as Israel was holding it hostage by preventing its people from working in Israel and by controlling its trade and its utilities (energy and water).
For his part, the Israeli representative, while pleased to be able to appear before the Committee, felt compelled to report that there had been numerous obstacles on the road to peace in the last few months. Those, he said, were the acts of terrorism against the Israeli people carried out by the Hamas and Hezbollah groups for which Syria -which was absent from the Sharm El-Sheikh Peace-Makers Summit -and Iran were largely responsible.
He mentioned in particular the shelling of villages in the northern part of his country. While agreeing that some could consider that Israeli's reaction in response to acts directed against his country was excessive, the representative of Israel believed that it was understandable as the first duty of any democratic government was to ensure the security of its people.
Referring to the forthcoming elections in his country, the representative of Israel assured the Committee that whatever political party prevailed, the government would pursue the peace process which had started, as there was no alternative to peace and stability in the Middle East. In that connection, he mentioned Israel's efforts in providing and securing from various sources assistance for the development of Palestine, which would contribute to the well-being of its people and therefore to security in the region.
Findings of the Committee
The members of the Committee strongly deplored the recent exchange of violence across the Israel/Lebanon border, and, in particular the attack against civilians in South Lebanon, as well as the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and the suicide attacks in Israel. They felt, however, that fundamentally and despite appearances and the recent deplorable acts of violence, there was a measure of progress in the peace process in the Middle East. The recent successful elections in Palestine resulting in the existence of democratically elected parliamentarians and of developing economic and social institutions were hopeful signs and gave Palestine a new legitimacy.
They understood Israel's concern for the security of its people but felt that it was overreacting, thus not only causing harm to innocent people but also leading to poverty and misery that bred extremism. The vicious circle thus created inevitably slowed down the peace process by creating conditions which opposed it.
Though comforted by the Israeli representative's assurances that whatever the results of the elections soon to be held in his country, its government would be committed to pursuing the peace process. Committee members felt strongly that a way had to be found to halt the present cycle of violence. They were also comforted by expressions of partnership between Palestine and Israel on the road to peace and felt that, had practical considerations not prevented it, the representatives of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine might well have met together with the Committee at its present sitting.
The Committee very much regretted that once again, the delegations of Syria and Lebanon had declined to meet with it so as to put forward their views and learn those of the members of the Committee.
In conclusion, the Committee appealed for an end to extremism, terrorism and violence in the Middle East, whatever their source. It also called for support to Palestine in its development efforts, and to that effect, that all possible barriers should be lifted. It called on all neighbouring States to join Egypt and Jordan in pursuing the peace process and stressed that there was an urgent need to continue implementing the peace agreements between Palestine and Israel, relaunch negotiations between Israel, Syria and Lebanon and put an immediate halt to military action on the Lebanese border.
The Committee thanked all those who appeared before it and stated that it always stood ready to play a role in that process.