Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the
Monday, 1 December 1997, 10.30 a.m.
Chairman: Mr. Ka. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Senegal)
International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
The Chairman (interpretation from French): Today the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People is holding a solemn meeting to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 32/40 B of 2 December 1977.
It is my pleasure and honour to welcome Mr. Hennadiy Y. Udovenko, President of the General Assembly; Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations; Mr. Fernando Berrocal Soto, President of the Security Council; Mr. Herman Leonard de Silva, Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization and representative of Palestine; and Mr. Alvaro de Soto, Assistant Secretary-General, Department of Political Affairs. I wish also to welcome representatives of Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, as well as members of the press and all those who have accepted the Committees invitation to participate in this solemn meeting.
I would now like to invite everyone present to rise and observe a minute of silence in memory of all those who have given their lives for the cause of the Palestinian people and the return of peace in the region.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): Please allow me at this point to make a statement on behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
We have gathered here today for the annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This year the observance has special meaning as we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, by which the General Assembly decided to divide Palestine into two States, one Arab and one Jewish, with a special international status for the city of Jerusalem.
Half a century later the Arab State of Palestine still has not been established. Of the estimated 7 million Palestinians living today, about half are still refugees, more than 1 million of whom live in camps, under tents, and many others have chosen to reside in neighbouring countries. Furthermore, many of the Palestinians scattered around the world are no longer considered refugees and cannot return to their own country.
Another sad date in the history of the Palestinian people was observed in June of this year: the thirtieth anniversary of the Six Day War, which resulted in the occupation by the Israeli forces of all the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.
Although since 1993 the launching of the peace process has made it possible for Israeli troops to withdraw from parts of the West Bank and Gaza, the land area that is now actually under Palestinian administration is only a small part of the territory occupied in 1967. This area is divided into several non-contiguous zones that are subject to periodic military closures and where the free movement of persons and goods gives rise to daily harassment and provocations by the occupation troops. The remainder of the territory in which the Palestinian people live is still under partial or total occupation and is at the mercy of the actions the occupying forces decide to take, such as land confiscation, the expansion of existing settlements and the building of new ones, the destruction of homes, searches, closures, collective punishments, and so on. Arab East Jerusalem remains under occupation and separated from the West Bank of the River Jordan, and it has seen its demographic composition totally altered by the measures to Judaize the city.
Is it acceptable that, 50 years after the adoption of the resolution partitioning Palestine and on the threshold of the next millennium, the international community continues to tolerate this situation of dispossession and this refusal to recognize the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people? The commemoration of the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People must be more than a ritual. It must be an opportunity for us to reflect on the past and on the sufferings and hardships of the Palestinian people and for assessing what needs to be done to put an end to the pain of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Does not your presence here today bear witness that the United Nations Member States are not indifferent to these realities and to the question of Palestine?
In spite of the efforts made over several decades, not only by the United Nations but also by the many non-governmental organizations represented here, the situation in Palestine remains worrisome because of the impasse in the negotiations between the parties. The overwhelming majority by which the General Assembly two weeks ago, during its tenth emergency special session adopted a resolution outlining concrete measures to be taken gives hope that the international community is truly determined to find a just solution to the Palestinian crisis. The members of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People were disappointed to hear the representative of the Israeli Government describe that General Assembly session as a masquerade and to realize that he had obviously not understood why the building of settlements and other actions taken by his country are of such serious concern to the international community.
Since 1967 the international community has continued to object to the building of settlements and to all other actions of the occupying Power to alter the legal status, physical character and demographic composition of the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. The establishment of settlements, the confiscation of land and the appropriation of natural resources are clearly incompatible with the principle of land for peace, because these actions are aimed at placing under permanent Israeli authority vast amounts of the resources of the Palestinian territory.
The Security Council has adopted numerous resolutions stating that such actions are in violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention and declaring them null and void. The General Assembly and other United Nations organs, as well as several intergovernmental bodies the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement have taken the same position on the question as the Security Council.
We thus appeal urgently to the Israeli Government not to isolate itself but to pay heed to the voice of reason and the voice of the international community, as well as that of its own people and that of the Palestinian people.
Recent events have clearly demonstrated that the peace process is increasingly fragile, deadlocked and even in jeopardy. For instance, the transition period provided for in the Declaration of Principles has lasted almost four years now and negotiations are stalled in almost every area. It is absolutely crucial that the situation not be allowed to stagnate further. In particular, the sponsors of the accords should be urged to undertake new initiatives and, above all, confidence-building measures to save and revitalize the peace process.
Today more than ever before, the Palestinian people needs the support and solidarity of the international community in this difficult transitional phase. That is why the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People is firmly committed to stepping up its efforts to find a just and peaceful solution to the question. It will continue to seek to mobilize the international community at all levels, together with its faithful friends, the non-governmental organizations. The Committee also invites all present to contribute to the establishment of lasting peace and understanding among all the people of the region.
I now have the pleasure of calling upon the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Mr. Hennadiy Udovenko.
Mr. Udovenko (Ukraine), President of the General Assembly: Today the international community, in accordance with the decision adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 32/40 B of 2 December 1977, is observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This occasion gives us an opportunity to express support for the Palestinian people as it strives to exercise its inalienable rights.
The decisions reached at the Madrid peace Conference and the Oslo Agreement were welcomed by the international community, as they advanced the achievement of the goal of establishing peace in the region, which might have seemed unattainable. The historic steps of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in 1993, as we may recall, raised our hopes for a new era of peace, stability and prosperity for the peoples of the region. That new atmosphere provided the parties with good opportunities to overcome their differences through negotiations with respect to their mutual interests and concerns in order to establish a common foundation for peace.
Since then, we have witnessed some promising developments in the region. Regrettably, the recent deterioration of the situation has jeopardized the existing fragile balance and stability. There is a real danger that unreasonable unilateral decisions may lead to a deep crisis of confidence, which could result in a further erosion of the peace process. The consequent mistrust among the parties could destroy the very delicate structure of peace in the Middle East, which was so assiduously built up in recent years.
As the recent tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly demonstrated, the overwhelming majority of the United Nations Member States are convinced that progress in promoting confidence can and should be achieved on the basis of the agreements reached at the Madrid peace Conference and in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978). The full implementation of the Israeli-Palestinian agreements that have already been signed in particular, the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip of 28 September 1995 should serve as a guarantee for further progress.
It is obvious that there is no alternative to the process of Israeli-Palestinian political negotiations based on the principles of mutual respect and confidence, adequate understanding by both sides of their respective interests, and their willingness to come to a reasonable compromise. Overcoming mistrust and suspicion, the cessation of provocative acts, the implementation in good faith of previously reached agreements and the early resumption of the peace talks aimed at a just and lasting solution of the problem of Palestine should therefore become imperatives at the current stage of Arab-Israeli relations. Additional measures should be taken to achieve normalization in these relations, the key element of which should be real progress on the Israeli-Lebanese and Israeli-Syrian tracks.
The international community should undertake all possible measures within the framework of the existing negotiation mechanism to contribute to the fullest extent possible to the aforementioned process. In this connection, the United Nations must play a more effective role, both as a guarantor of international legitimacy and as an important instrument in the mobilization and provision of international assistance.
The activities of agencies of the United Nations system aimed at providing assistance to the Palestinian people and support for the establishment of coordinating mechanisms to ensure the effective disbursement of donor funds also have a great significance. The promotion of stability in the region should assist the gradual integration of Palestinian autonomy into the economy of the Middle East region as a whole, which is an essential element of the integral peace efforts.
As the President of the General Assembly at it fifty-second session, I would like to reiterate the Assembly's position that the United Nations has a special responsibility regarding the question of Palestine until it is resolved in a satisfactory manner in accordance with international law and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly.
Peace must first be given a chance to take root if it is to flourish later, but it cannot be meaningful and durable unless the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are fully taken into account. This is a key to the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I now have the honour and pleasure of calling on His Excellency the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan.
The Secretary-General: The annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is an occasion to remember, to reflect and to renew our commitment.
Since the General Assembly decided on 29 November 1947 to partition Palestine, each of my predecessors has been deeply involved in the search for an equitable and peaceful settlement of this issue. They have also mobilized the resources of the entire United Nations family to provide humanitarian and development assistance. I pledge to continue these efforts.
This commemorative event provides an opportunity to remind the international community that the question of Palestine, which lies at the centre of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, remains unresolved despite the many efforts made over the years and the undeniable achievements of the peace process which began at Madrid in 1991.
With the signing of the historic Declaration of Principles on 13 September 1993 and subsequent agreements, which we refer to as the Oslo process, Israelis and Palestinians embarked on the road to mutual reconciliation and a negotiated peace. We must commend their courage.
It was also reassuring that earlier this year, after a lengthy delay, the Protocol concerning the Redeployment in Hebron was signed. It is now of utmost importance to prevent those achievements from dissipating and to build on them to fulfil the hopes of all the peoples of the region for a future of peace.
Regrettably, developments since then have sparked concern that the peace process is in jeopardy, compelling me to voice dismay at horrifying acts of violence against innocent victims. At the same time, I have appealed to the parties not to let themselves be swayed by these tragic incidents, but rather to intensify their efforts to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of a speedy return to the peace process.
I have called on the parties to take measures, in a spirit of partnership, to restore mutual confidence. I have called on them to resume negotiations in earnest towards implementation of the agreements already reached and towards a final settlement.
I am encouraged that the parties were able to resume their talks in Washington recently. I sincerely hope that, with the help and involvement of the sponsors of the peace process, they will be able to make progress on the outstanding issues. I hope that it will also become possible to resume talks on the other tracks of the Middle East peace process.
As public-opinion surveys and mass demonstrations have made absolutely clear, the vast majority of Palestinians and Israelis want a just peace that would enable them to live normally, side by side. It is essential to create the political and economic conditions that will enable this hope to become reality.
Recent events, as well as deliberations in the Security Council and the General Assembly, including its tenth emergency special session, have highlighted the fundamental importance of respect for the provisions of international law and of full implementation of the agreements already reached. Also apparent is the urgent need to make tangible progress towards a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). The promotion of social and economic development and of cooperative relationships throughout the region is essential for the creation of an environment favourable to a lasting peace.
The United Nations continues to attach the utmost importance to improving the living conditions in the Palestinian territories as an essential accompaniment to the peace negotiations. In this regard, I have been seriously concerned at the steady economic decline in the West Bank and in Gaza, particularly in the light of prolonged closures and other punitive measures. We now need real progress in the fields of employment, health, education and development.
Enormous challenges remain. The deteriorating conditions on the ground have set back some of our efforts. I believe that the international community can, and must, go further.
In this context, the serious financial situation faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East must be addressed. This is essential for ensuring that the quality and level of services for Palestinian refugees can be maintained as an essential contribution to the stability of the region.
Today I wish to take this opportunity to renew the firm commitment of the United Nations system in support of the peace process. I should like to extend my thanks to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for organizing this observance.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I would like to thank Mr. Kofi Annan, both for his encouraging words and for all his efforts to promote a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine. But I would also like particularly to thank the Secretary-General for his constant support for the work of the Committee.
I would like to allow the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Udovenko, to leave for a few minutes because he has to meet a Head of State. He will be with us again very shortly.
I now have the pleasure of calling on Mr. Fernando Berrocal Soto, President of the Security Council.
Mr. Berrocal Soto (Costa Rica), President of the Security Council (interpretation from Spanish): First of all, allow me to thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for the kind invitation it has extended to me, in my capacity as President of the Security Council for the month of December, to participate in this special meeting held to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
As President of the Security Council, I am pleased to be able to participate in this annual event in which the international community voices its solidarity with and support for the Palestinian people, as well as its unwavering commitment to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations.
The observance of this Day symbolizes solidarity with a people fighting for the exercise of its legitimate rights and is a reflection of the importance attached to the task of bringing about the long-awaited fulfilment of the resolution of the question of Palestine, which has been on the agenda of the United Nations since 1947.
The international community has been trying for 50 years to cut the Gordian knot of the question of Palestine. The Security Council fully recognizes that a solution to this problem is a key element of the efforts made to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the conflict between Arabs and Israelis within the framework of the Oslo accords. As everyone here knows, the Security Councils involvement with various aspects of the question of Palestine and its commitment to achieving a settlement in the Middle East goes back many years. In this context, it is appropriate to note that the peace process is founded on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).
The members of the Council have followed closely the peace process and the development of the situation in the region. Regrettably, the promising progress made at the beginning of the year with the conclusion of the Protocol concerning the Redeployment in Hebron and the Note for the Record degenerated into a stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The greater part of the year was lost due to the disruptive actions that led to the discontinuation of the negotiations between the parties.
As we are aware, the parties resumed talks in Washington and in the region in October thanks to the mediation and assistance of the two sponsors of the peace process. The task of narrowing the differences separating the two sides is, however, demanding and laborious. However, the Security Council is hopeful that the parties will be in a position to restore the trust and mutual confidence vital to moving ahead in accordance with the agreements already reached.
Permit me to state clearly that the members of the Security Council are fully aware of the obstacles impeding the steady progress of the peace negotiations. That is why it calls upon the Israelis and the Palestinians to proceed with perseverance, flexibility and mutual understanding in their quest for reconciliation. The Council appreciates the constructive contribution of the international community to the overall efforts aimed at helping the parties to overcome the difficulties of the current phase.
As the Palestinian people are going through a difficult period of transition, they need a great deal of assistance in many aspects of their day-to-day life. In this regard, the Council warmly welcomes and would like further to encourage the multifaceted assistance extended to the Palestinian people by the international donor community. We also appreciate the continued assistance provided by the organizations, agencies and programmes of the United Nations system.
In conclusion, allow me to assure the Committee, on behalf of all members of the Security Council, that, guided by its responsibilities under the Charter, the Council will remain committed to the goal of attaining a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East for the benefit of all parties concerned, including the Palestinian people. This is particularly crucial today, as much has yet to be done in order to bring peace, stability and prosperity to the Middle East region.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I give the floor to His Excellency Mr Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine, who will read out a message from His Excellency Mr. Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority.
Mr. Al-Kidwa (Palestine) (interpretation from Arabic): I have the honour to read out the statement of His Excellency President Yasser Arafat, President of the State of Palestine, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President of the Palestinian National Authority, on the occasion of the annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People 29 November 1997 and addressed to this important and solemn meeting.
The message was signed by Yasser Arafat, President of the State of Palestine, Executive Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, President of the Palestinian National Authority, Gaza, 29 November 1997.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I thank the Permanent Observer of Palestine, and ask him to convey the Committees sincere thanks to His Excellency Mr. Yasser Arafat, Executive Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian National Authority, for his inspiring message. I assure President Yasser Arafat and, through him, the Palestinian people of the firm determination of the Committee to continue and intensify its efforts within the framework of its mandate to contribute to the promotion of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine in order to enable the Palestinian people to exercise as soon as possible its inalienable national rights.
I shall now suspend the meeting to allow some of our invited guests to leave the Chamber. On behalf of the Committee, I should like once again to thank His Excellency the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency the Secretary-General, His Excellency the President of the Security Council and the representative of Palestine for having participated in the first part of our meeting.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I call now on His Excellency Mr. Herman Leonard de Silva, Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, to make a statement on behalf of the Special Committee.
Mr. De Silva (Sri Lanka), Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories: On behalf of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, and on my own account, I have the honour to convey to members this message on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
The signing at Washington, D.C., on 28 September 1995 of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip the so-called Oslo II agreement and the elections to the Palestine National Council and to the chairmanship of the Palestinian Authority on 21 January 1996 were historic events within the framework of the peace process in the Middle East. These were followed by the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the West Bank cities of Jenin, Tulkarem, Nablus, Qalqilya, Bethlehem and Ramallah, but not Hebron, that began in October 1995.
As was the case with the previous Washington and Cairo agreements of 1993 and 1994, the signing of the Oslo II accord engendered great expectations and hope among the population of the occupied territories and the international community that a new era of peace, security and hope for the people of the Middle East would be ushered in, enabling them to live in harmony, dignity and mutual respect. Unfortunately, the recent policies implemented by the recently elected Israeli Government and the developments leading to an unprecedented escalation of violence that have taken place in the occupied territories over the past few weeks have all but dashed the hopes of both the Palestinians and the international community regarding the continuation of the peace process.
The Government of Israel has continued to withhold its cooperation from the Special Committee, thereby persistently denying it access to the occupied territories covered by its mandate. This situation has not altered since the creation of the Special Committee in 1968.
In keeping with past practice, and given the constraints cited above, the Special Committee has nevertheless tried to depict the situation of human rights in the occupied territories in a faithful and comprehensive manner. Its findings are contained in the Special Committees twenty-eighth report to the General Assembly.
In carrying out its mandate, the Special Committee has tried to assess whether the signing of the Oslo II agreement had any positive effects on the enjoyment of human rights by Palestinians and other Arabs in the occupied territories. On the basis of information it has received, the Committee has concluded that the human rights situation in the occupied territories has not improved, deteriorating even further deteriorated in numerous aspects, and remains a matter of very serious concern.
Among the principal causes of the deterioration of the human rights situation in the occupied territories has been the virtually hermetic closure since 25 February 1996 imposed in the wake of suicide bomb attacks in Israel, which amounts to collective punishment of the population. The closure has had disastrous consequences on the economy of the occupied territories and has led to a significant decline in economic and social conditions for the inhabitants.
For the first time, a total internal closure of the West Bank was implemented, locking its inhabitants inside. The closure has had particularly disastrous consequences for the health of the inhabitants of the occupied territories, and more than 10 persons have died as a result of not having access to well-equipped health institutions. It has also had serious negative effects on freedom of education and worship.
The Special Committee continued to pay particular attention to the situation of some 3,500 Palestinian prisoners in detention facilities within Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. No new releases of prisoners, whose conditions of detention are reported to have deteriorated further, have taken place since January 1996. Since the imposition of the closure, Palestinian detainees have been cut off from their families and, in numerous cases, also from their lawyers.
The Special Committee is deeply concerned by the recent decision of the Israeli High Court of Justice to the use by the general security service of increased physical pressure, such as violent shaking, which may cause lethal brain haemorrhage or even death during interrogation of detainees and amounts to torture. It is particularly disquieting that interrogators enjoy immunity if the detainee dies.
The Special Committee has noted an increase in the number of house demolitions in East Jerusalem. There a community-centre building in the old part of the town was demolished on 27 August 1996. In addition, the new policy of restrictions regarding eligibility for residential status in Jerusalem has made the situation of its Arab population even more precarious.
The most disquieting new policy of the recently elected Israeli Government, and the one that poses the biggest threat to the peace process, is the decision to lift the freeze on the construction of settlements. It has been reported that the sum allocated for settlements in the Israeli Governments budget will be doubled in 1997. Tensions generated by the expansion of settlements and unabated construction of tunnels and bypass roads are further aggravated by the settlers behaviour, which has even involved the killing of Palestinian children. Israeli law enforcement regarding settlers who commit offences has continued to be lenient.
The Special Committee has continued to monitor closely the situation in the occupied Syrian Arab Golan and is concerned about the most recent news concerning the construction of 900 new housing units there. The Special Committee chose to recall the position taken by the General Assembly and the Security Council that the annexation by Israel of the occupied Syrian Arab Golan is illegal, and therefore null and void, and hopes that the negotiations concerning the Golan within the Middle East process will be resumed in the near future.
The subject which of course causes the utmost concern and anxiety to the members of the Special Committee, however, is the unprecedented escalation of violence between the Israelis and Palestinians since the beginning of the peace process; this was caused by the opening by the Israeli authorities of the so-called Western Wall tunnel beneath the Temple Mount in the immediate vicinity of Islam's third holiest shrine. The excessive force used by the Israeli army to quell the protest demonstrations against the opening of the tunnel included the use of live ammunition fired from automatic weapons and from helicopter gunships and the involvement of snipers. A total of 60 Palestinians, including 10 children, and at least 15 Israelis were killed as a result of the clashes, and more than 1,000 persons were reported injured.
The Special Committee is of the opinion that it is vital that a dialogue between the parties be maintained and that the peace process continue. Deteriorating living conditions and the stalemate in the peace process could contribute to producing an environment conducive to further unrest. Both parties should respect the spirit and letter of the Oslo accords and ensure renewed commitment to the peace process through an immediate resumption of the peace talks. The frustration and despair of the Palestinians has further eroded their trust in the peace process. People feel bitterness and pain owing to the hunger and poverty which has ensued, and they fear Israeli excesses. The current lack of momentum in the peace process, which appears to have reached a stalemate, can only further erode peoples trust that tangible progress can be achieved in the peace talks. Only a just peace can bring lasting peace to the region. All parties concerned must work together to safeguard the peace effort and develop confidence-building measures in order to maintain the momentum of the peace process.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I thank Mr. Herman Leonard de Silva for his statement and for the work done by his Committee.
I now call on Mr. Andelfo García, Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d'affaires of Colombia, who will read a message from His Excellency the President of Colombia in his capacity as Chairman of the Eleventh Conference of Heads of State or Government of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.
Mr. García (Colombia) (interpretation from Spanish): I have the honour to read out the following message from the President of the Republic of Colombia, Mr. Ernesto Samper Pizano, in his capacity as Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement on the occasion of the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I thank Mr. Andelfo García and request him to convey to His Excellency the President of Colombia the sincere thanks of the Committee for his important statement and message of support.
It is now my pleasure to give the floor to Mr. Makarim Wibisono, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Indonesia, who will read out a message from His Excellency Mr. Ali Alatas, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia and Chairman of the twenty-fourth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers.
Mr. Wibisono (Indonesia): I have the honour to read out a message from Mr. Ali Alatas, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, in his capacity as Chairman of the twenty-fourth session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I thank Ambassador Mr. Makarim Wibisono and request him to be kind enough to convey to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia the sincere thanks of the Committee for his message.
It is now my pleasure to give the floor to Mr. Machivenyika Tobias Mapuranga, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zimbabwe, who will read out a message from His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, in his capacity as Chairman of the Organization of African Unity.
Mr. Mapuranga (Zimbabwe): I have the honour to read out to this gathering the message of Mr. Robert Gabriel Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and current Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on the occasion of the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People:
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I thank Mr. Machivenyika Tobias Mapuranga, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and I would ask him to convey to His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe, the current Chairman of the Organization of African Unity, the respects and sincere thanks of the Committee for his message.
I would now like to give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Said Kamal, Under-Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the League of Arab States, who will read out a message from Mr. Ahmed Esmat Abdul-Maguid, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.
Mr. Kamal (League of Arab States) (interpretation from Arabic): I am pleased to address the Committee today on behalf of Mr. Ahmed Esmat Abdul-Maguid, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, who sends his greetings and appreciation to the Committee and to the States and organizations represented here for all the meritorious efforts they have made on the question of Palestine and just causes around the world. It is a great honour for me to participate on his behalf in this solemn United Nations meeting to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
The League of Arab States took the initiative of supporting the peace process even before the Madrid Conference in October 1991. Its Council, in September of that year, adopted a resolution welcoming the efforts aimed at establishing a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East and supporting the Arab countries directly concerned with the negotiations.
After the Oslo agreement was signed in September 1993, the League of Arab States, during its session that same September, regarded that agreement as a first important measure towards the realization of the principle of land for peace and decided that this should be complemented by urgent steps on all tracks. On the basis of the Arabs belief that peace is a strategic option, the League of Arab States continued to support the peace process. Real progress would have been achieved in this process, as was hoped, if not for the Israeli policies of the Likud Party, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.
After the declaration by Mr. Netanyahu of his election campaign programme, it became crystal clear that he was not enthusiastic about the peace process and that he opposed all the bases on which it was launched. It was believed in the beginning that these were mere election campaign positions which would later change in consonance with the Arab and international orientation towards the establishment of a comprehensive and just peace. However, the Netanyahu Administrations policies, since it came to power, remain the same. In fact, the intransigence of these policies increases day after day. This is represented by the evasion of commitments made to the Palestinian Liberation Organization by the Labour Government, prevarication in negotiations and, in fact, attempts to undermine them, as is being done on the Palestinian track, or to freeze them, as in the case of the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. There are also the continuation of the settlement policy, the confiscation of land, the imposition of economic blockades and the communal punishment meted out to the Palestinian people.
It is no secret that the present Administration of Israel applies a policy that is destructive to the peace process, thus flouting the rights of the Arab and the Palestinian peoples, as called for by the United Nations, and also flouting all principles of international legitimacy stipulating the right of peoples, including the Palestinian people, to self-determination and sovereignty over their resources.
Confronting the present Israeli policy calls for joining the efforts of the international community, through the United Nations, and special efforts of the sponsors of the peace process, the European Union and China in order to stop these Israeli policies and restore the peace process to its proper track so that a just and comprehensive peace can be achieved in the Middle East.
In view of this situation, as the Committee may recall, the Council of the League of Arab States adopted a resolution last September in consonance with the resolution of the last Arab Summit, which called, inter alia, for the cessation of the measures for normalization with Israel within the framework of the peace process until Israel implemented the agreements reached with the Arab parties on all tracks and until it complied with the Madrid frame of reference.
At the same time, the Council of the League welcomed the position of the United States of America, which crystallized during the last visit by Mrs. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State of the United States, to the area. The Council decided, by consensus, to cooperate with the policy of the United States and to build on that positive policy, which confirms the principle of land for peace and the commitment to refrain from unilateral actions that could undermine the negotiations on the permanent status.
As we understand it, the position of the United States is based on the following. First, the United States Administration has recognized that there is a lack of trust between the parties, though the Administration has not decided how to restore that trust. Secondly, Secretary Albright is honest and committed and has the ability to deal with the American Congress. Thirdly, the time element is important in bridging the gap between the parties concerned in the peace process so that a major breakthrough can be achieved, because movement is slow at present. Fourthly, the United States does not accept in fact, it rejects the replacement of one track by another. Fifthly, the impression in the United States is that the gap between the Israeli Administration and the Israeli people is widening every day. In particular, there is a sense in the United States and internationally that Prime Minister Netanyahu makes promises that he does not keep. Finally, the United States will conduct a strategic dialogue with the parties concerned in the area on all questions in the entire area, in order to include more than the Israeli Palestinian track.
At the international level, we are waiting for the results of moves and contacts undertaken by the United States of America and the efforts of the European Union and the Russian Federation, which we hope will put an end to the deadlock in the peace process which has been caused by the Israeli policy. There is an ever increasing fear of the possible failure of these efforts and of the possible success of the Israeli Prime Minister in finishing off the peace process and embroiling the area in a state of no war and no peace. In our view, this would be a serious situation, which we hope would not last for too long before dissipating in the face of international enthusiasm for peace and Arab hopes for that peace.
It is a serious situation, as it would provide an atmosphere conducive to both individual and collective violence, not only against Israel, but possibly extending to the interests of many others including all the symbols of peace. Behind this clear message to the international community and the Israeli community is the Arab interest in peace, so that all may work with all seriousness and wisdom to avoid this option. The Israeli Government alone bears the responsibility for undermining the peace process, which would compromise the interests of all peoples of the area, first and foremost the Israeli people. Nevertheless, I hope that the efforts of this Committee to achieve peace will succeed.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I thank Mr. Said Kamal and ask that he be kind enough to convey to the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States the sincere thanks of the Committee for his message, and especially for his determination to make the Brussels conference in support of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people a real success.
I now call on Mr. Don Betz, Chairman of the International Coordinating Committee for Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine.
Mr. Betz (International Coordinating Committee for Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine): As Chairman of the International Coordinating Committee for Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine (ICCP), I am indeed honoured to be here on this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. I am privileged to represent the thousands of men and women around the globe who network with one another via a multiplicity of international organizations on the question of Palestine. We are known as non-governmental organizations.
This year, 1997, has been memorable for the series of important anniversaries in the continuing story of the question of Palestine. Indeed, some of those have been noted here today. But 1997 is also significant for the non-governmental organizations involved in the search for a just peace in the Middle East, for it is the fifteenth year of active collaboration between the United Nations and the network of non-governmental organizations on Palestine. Since 1983 there have been 15 annual international meetings, held either in Geneva or at the United Nations Centre in Vienna, and a greater number of regional symposiums of non-governmental organizations. The initial meeting of non-governmental organizations in 1983 was a parallel activity to the historic International Conference on the Question of Palestine, where 137 Member States gathered together in Geneva. At that same time, 104 non-governmental organizations, including 10 organizations from the State of Israel, were curious enough to attend. I have had the opportunity to participate in every one of those annual meetings and to chronicle the evolving relationship between the United Nations and the emerging network of non-governmental organizations on this issue.
The worlds attention to the status of the Palestinian people has waxed and waned over the past half century since the partition of Palestine. But one constant has been the focused attention on Palestine by non-governmental organizations. Since 1984 the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights have made United Nations-non-governmental organization relations an integral part of their programme of work in several ways, including cooperation with the ICCP and regional non-governmental-organization coordinating bodies. For this, we are truly grateful. For 15 years non-governmental organizations in the network have accepted the full implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions as their common platform. True to their adopted course, non-governmental organizations are persistent in reminding the United Nations and its Member States of their collective responsibility to fulfil United Nations resolutions on Palestine, including General Assembly resolution 181 (II).
As the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, we must help tell the story of the last 50 years as seen and experienced through the eyes and hearts of the Palestinian people. In this fiftieth year it must be told more effectively and more passionately than ever before. Actions must be coordinated and well publicized. We must target wider audiences in many countries. Most people alive today were born after 1947 and have no historical context in which to make an accurate assessment of the significance and truthfulness of the avalanche of expertly prepared programming to which they are exposed. We must work collectively to offer the public, particularly in the United States and Europe, another version of the history they presume to know so well.
From the smallest non-governmental organization with a few dedicated members diligently working in a single community to the massive international non-governmental organizations with affiliates in dozens of countries, non-governmental organizations are finding fresh and creative ways to communicate the story of the Palestinian people. As non-governmental organizations, we urge closer cooperation between us and the United Nations to produce, disseminate and present updated videos and literature that present the question of Palestine to the first-time viewer or reader. During the coming months, every person with access to a television set, a radio, a newspaper, a magazine or a computer should encounter the story of Palestine and the Palestinian people. Any hope or confidence we can expect to have in alteration of the status quo must be connected to our enduring and effective involvement in what we do every day and every week.
As non-governmental organizations, we have a broad range of talents and resources which we can utilize. We represent the scope and richness of cultures, tradition, historical experience and commitment to human rights and development. Taken together and acting in coordination, non-governmental organizations world wide are acknowledged as an emerging force in the changing landscape of international politics. Networks of non-governmental organizations are enhanced by access to new technologies and connect people to one another across national borders and wide oceans. Over the past 15 years we have focused considerable energy and public attention on the obstacles to the realization of a genuine peace in the Middle East. Each person or individual organization is an essential part of the broader, popular, global movement supporting the Palestinians and their fundamental rights as persons and as a people.
In 1982 the United Nations and the non-governmental organizations actively supporting the rights of the Palestinians initiated their historic cooperation. It was done to achieve a common objective, a just and lasting peace in the Middle East with Palestinian self-determination at its core and with action firmly rooted in United Nations resolutions.
We must remind our Governments and friends and ourselves that this intractable situation known on the United Nations agenda for decades as Question of Palestine has always been about control and freedom, about security and self-determination, about independence and creating facts on the ground. The issues directly relate to power, control, freedom and justice. The non-governmental organizations have articulated the issues and the sources of conflict for a variety of constituencies, both governmental and non-governmental, for many years.
The non-governmental-organization facility for communication has been one of our enduring and effective assets. We have always believed that an informed international public would not accept the premise of injustice that has been part of the question of Palestine. Rather, we look to our organizations and others, in concert with selected Governments, to motivate people in their countries to work for peace with justice. Our relationship with the United Nations is significant to the extent that our combined efforts and energies help foster desired change.
We can state with confidence that non-governmental organizations have worked many years on this issue because of their unshakeable belief in justice and their sense of identity with the Palestinian people. We are linked by human bonds of empathy. The extended closings of the West Bank and Gaza with the resulting disastrous economic consequences, the progressive isolation of Palestinians from access to Jerusalem, the establishment and expansion of settlements, the denial of access to refugees and the endless incarceration of prisoners, among other issues, have indelibly marked our hearts and stirred our collective sense of determination to persist in this work.
As non-governmental organizations, our commitment means that we never stop articulating the story of Palestine, never stop reminding our fellow citizens, our Governments and ourselves that this work is not over until peace with justice, rooted in self-determination, prevails in Palestine and throughout the region. We must be focused on the outcome the fullest expression of political, economic and social independence for the Palestinian people in order to assess the efficacy and the relevance of our words, our deeds, our programmes and our solemn meetings.
Non-governmental organizations demonstrate in a practical and human way the powerful, indivisible bonds that connect people to the hopes and realities of others. All calls for the realization of human rights and creative cooperation may mean little if they are not rooted in deep appreciation of the value of each person and in clear recognition of each persons right to be a participant in shaping the future. Non-governmental organizations, whether focused on human rights or on development, know this, and this clarity of purpose is one reason why non-governmental organizations constitute a dynamic and serious force in international affairs.
It is said that hope can be exceptionally fragile or amazingly durable. It depends on the perception of living those aspirations in some reasonable time. Those in Palestine who live, hope and work for self-determination and unfettered independence draw on their sense of unity and possibility as a nation. We, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations, must be part of the active support system for these people.
And we, as non-governmental organizations, as unique members of the international community, fully embrace our responsibilities and vow never to be idle or dispassionate or silent.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I thank Mr. Don Betz for his statement and for the valuable contribution that non-governmental organizations, under his dynamic and inventive leadership, have always made to the work of the Committee.
I now have the honour to announce that the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People has received messages of support and solidarity from many Heads of State or Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Governments and organizations. The texts of the messages will be published in a special bulletin of the Division for Palestinian Rights, but I would like to read out the list of names of those who have sent them.
We have received messages from the following Heads of State: His Excellency Mr. Nelson Mandela, President of the Republic of South Africa; His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam; His Excellency Mr. Soeharto, President of the Republic of Indonesia; His Excellency Mr. Nouhak Phoumsavanh, President of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic; and His Excellency Mr. Abdou Diouf, President of the Republic of Senegal.
I would like to note the presence here of Mr. Jacques Baudin, Minister of Justice of Senegal, who has brought his countrys message from Dakar this morning. I thank him for joining us.
We have also received messages from the following Heads of State: His Excellency Mr. Duc Luong, President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam; Her Excellency Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka; His Excellency Mr. Glafcos Clerides, President of the Republic of Cyprus; His Excellency Mr. Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt; His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates; His Majesty King Hussein Ibn Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; His Excellency Mr. Liamine Zeroual, President of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Algeria; His Excellency Mr. Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation; His Excellency Le Général de Brigade Lansana Conte, President of the Republic of Guinea; His Excellency Mr. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of the Republic of Tunisia; His Excellency Lieutenant-General Omer Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir, President of the Republic of the Sudan; His Excellency Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan; His Excellency Mr. Sam Nujoma, President of the Republic of Namibia; His Majesty King Fahd Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; His Excellency Mr. Seyed Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran; and His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar.
We have also received messages from the following Heads of Government: His Excellency Mr. Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; His Excellency Mr. Chuan Leekpai, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand; His Excellency Mr. Li Peng, Premier of the State Council of the Peoples Republic of China; His Excellency Dr. Alfred Sant, Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta; His Excellency Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral, Prime Minister of the Republic of India; Her Excellency Ms. Sheikh Hasina; Prime Minister of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh; His Excellency Mr. Mesut Yilmaz, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey; His Excellency Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius.
The following Ministers of Foreign Affairs have sent messages: His Excellency Mr. Farouk Al-Shara', Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic; His Excellency Professor S. Jayakumar, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore; His Excellency Mr. Luiz Felipe Palmeira Lampreia, Minister of External Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil; His Excellency Mr. Keizo Obuchi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan; His Excellency Mr. Hennadiy Udovenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine; and His Excellency Mr. Chong Ha Yoo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea.
The Governments of Argentina, Uruguay, Malaysia and Guyana have also sent messages.
We have also received messages from representatives of the following intergovernmental organizations: His Excellency Mr. Jacques Poos, President of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, and His Excellency Mr. Azzedine Larakí, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
From specialized agencies, we have received a message from Mr. Federico Mayor, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
We have received messages from the following non-governmental organizations: the Israeli Cultural Association of Córdoba; the Association for Analysis of Society and Political Education; Association of Women of the Mediterranean Region; African Committee of the World Peace Council; the Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue; the Latin American and the Caribbean Confederation of YMCAs; the Palestinian Network in Sweden; and the Indo-Palestinian Solidarity Organization.
On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People as a whole, I should like to express our sincere appreciation to the Heads of State or Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Governments and organizations I have just mentioned, as well as to all participants for their unceasing efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine and for the steadfast support they have always given to the objectives and activities of the Committee.
The statements we have heard and the messages of solidarity we have received today demonstrate once again the determination of the international community to progress towards the establishment of peace in the Middle East through the attainment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with United Nations resolutions and international law. I can assure everyone here that all the members of the Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people will spare no effort to achieve these objectives.
I now have the pleasure and honour of calling on His Excellency Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Mr. Kaddoumi (Palestine Liberation Organization) (interpretation from Arabic): At the closing of this solemn meeting to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, it gives me great pleasure to express my thanks and appreciation to all the Heads of State or Government, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and all the friends who kindly sent messages of solidarity to this Committee, reiterating their support for the rights of the Palestinian people. We would also like to express our thanks to the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council for their attendance and their statements of solidarity.
This broad international participation shows clearly that the United Nations supports the Palestinian people in their relentless struggle to restore their inalienable rights, return to their home and establish their own independent State.
We deeply appreciate the continued efforts made by Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, as well as the efforts made by the members of the Committee both in supporting the Palestinian question and in attracting more friends to this just cause and to the struggle of the Palestinian people to establish a lasting and just peace.
We would like to thank Mr. Herman Leonard de Silva for his report on the Israeli practices in the Arab territories.
We are fully confident that all these noteworthy international efforts will not be in vain and that, indeed, they will lead to the establishment of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East region. They will inevitably help the Palestinian people to recover its inalienable national rights and its right to self-determination.
The Chairman (interpretation from French): I wish to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made this meeting possible, in particular the members of the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Office of Conference Services, the Department of Public Information and the security officers and everyone else who works behind the scenes.
I want to remind everyone that the exhibit arranged by the office of the Permanent Observer of Palestine, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, will be opened today at 6 p.m. in the public lobby of the General Assembly building, and that the ceremony will be followed by a reception to which all are cordially invited.
The meeting rose at 1.10 p.m.
This record contains the original texts of speeches delivered in English and interpretations of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to original speeches only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned, within one week of the date of publication, to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Section, room C-178.
Corrections will be issued in a corrigendum.
Document Type: Document, Meeting record, Multimedia, Verbatim Record
Document Sources: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), General Assembly
Subject: Inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, Palestine question, Solidarity day
Publication Date: 01/12/1997