Mideast situation/Situation in the OPT – SecGen annual report – addendum (excerpts)





September 1969



SUPPLEMENT No. 1A (A/7601/Add.1)


New York, 1969


I. General

II. Disarmament

III. Outer space and the sea-bed

IV. The Middle East and Cyprus .

V. Economic and social development

VI. Human rights

VII. Apartheid

VIII. Decolonization

IX. Other questions

X. Concluding observations


I. General

1. During the past twelve months, the deterioration of the international situation, which I noted in the introduction to the annual report last year, has continued. In the Middle East, the year has been marked by rising tension, and the level of conflict in the area has never been higher since June 1967. So far as the tragic situation in Nigeria is concerned, while the most recent developments have given rise to a feeling of hope, the tremendous suffering of the civilian population and the loss of life and property have evoked universal concern. In regard to Viet-Nam I can, however, see signs of some improvement. It is true that the Paris talks have not produced any conclusive results so far, but the very fact that all the parties involved in the conflict are engaged in these discussions is a most important step in the right direction. The situation in Cyprus has improved steadily in terms of a return to normal conditions of civilian life and the leaders of the two communities pare continuing their talks. Basic issues, however, still await solution.


IV. The Middle East and Cyprus

62. During the past six months there has been a marked deterioration of the situation in the Middle East. This period has seen the highest level of armed conflict in the area since the June 1967 war. Although the extent of such violence has been greater in the Suez Canal sector, in the sense of the frequency of exchanges of heavy fire by both sides, there have been various kinds of recurrent breaches of the cease-fire in all sectors of the Middle East conflict. War actually is being waged throughout the area, short only of battles between large bodies of troops. Patrol and guerrilla activity have become common, as have raids and counter-raids by land and at times by air or sea, bombardments of suspected centres of guerrilla activity and explosive charges on roads and in civilian structures. This is a pattern of activity which recently, in part at least, has extended to the Israel-Lebanon sector—an area that had been relatively quiet. In the Suez Canal sector, in particular, the increased use of armed force has taken place despite the cease-fire called for by the Security Council, repeated warnings by the Secretary-General and the ceaseless efforts of United Nations military observers to maintain the cease-fire. Indeed, I have twice in recent months taken the unusual step of submitting special reports to the Security Council (on 21 April and 5 July 1969) warning the Council of the almost complete breakdown of its cease-fire in the Suez Canal sector and the virtual resumption of war there, despite the unceasing and valiant efforts of the United Nations military observers, who are exposed to great danger, to maintain the cease-fire.

63. There can be no doubt that this constant resort to force is to a considerable extent connected with the present impasse in the search for a peaceful settlement and the absence of an early prospect for the implementation of Security Council resolution 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967. The hopes for such a settlement, which were widely prevalent after the unanimous adoption by the Security Council of this resolution, have thus far been unfulfilled in spite of nearly two years of effort by the United Nations and other parties.

64. This continuing situation is, first of all, a disaster for the Middle Eastern countries directly involved. It is a grim reflection of the state of affairs in the Middle East that, despite all the activities of Governments, of the United Nations and of various individuals, the prospect of even a first step towards a peaceful settlement now still seems remote, and the emotional climate for progress towards peace is no more favourable than ever.

65. This situation also creates, to a considerable extent, a crisis of effectiveness for the United Nations and for its Members. Developments in the Middle East particularly since June 1967, have posed acutely the, challenging problem of how States Members of the United Nations can fulfil the obligation to ensure that decisions of the Security Council and the General Assembly will be respected and given due effect. In the ultimate sense, this can be achieved only by the sovereign Members themselves.

66. For twenty-two years, the Middle East has presented the United Nations with its greatest opportunity as well as its sternest challenge. It is noteworthy that, within the United Nations at least, all the parties to the conflict have stated on numerous occasions that they seek peace. The Security Council's unanimous resolution of 22 November 1967 provided a possible basis upon which this desire for peace could have begun to be realized, although it soon became all too clear that widely divergent interpretations of its meaning and practical applications prevailed among the parties who had accepted it.

67. Ambassador Gunnar Jarring, my Special Representative in the Middle East, is universally respected and trusted and he has made, and continues to make, persistent efforts to achieve at least a first step towards a settlement. However, experience has painfully demonstrated that in these efforts Ambassador Jarring has found himself acting largely on his own with little or no effective support from other sources in the sense of helpful guidance and backing on the resolution of specific issues. I do not accept the narrow interpretation of the role of Ambassador Jarring, as my Special Representative in the Middle East, as being exclusively or the primarily to bring the parties together around a common negotiating table. There can be no question this would be highly desirable, if it could be done. On the other hand, it cannot be said positively at this, juncture that it can be done. If, however, it cannot be done immediately, it is not to be concluded that the nothing else for Ambassador Jarring to do. There is more than one procedural route to peace. Ambassador Jarring has also the function of seeking to bring the positions of the parties together by such means and efforts as he may find possible. In my view, the parties have the duty to co-operate with him in this respect and to provide him with all information concerning their positions and demands necessary for the conduct of fruitful discussions, exchanges and negotiations.

68. In addition to the efforts of the Security Council and of Ambassador Jarring, in recent months four permanent members of the Security Council, on the initiative of their Governments, have engaged in consultation in an attempt to strengthen Ambassador Jarring’s hand in his quest for a solution to the problem. This is a development which should have been greeted universally as an encouraging and auspicious step.

69. Despite all these efforts, the rising tide of violence in the Middle East creates still further bitterness and hatred and widens the gulf between Arab and Jew. The severe damage by fire on 21 August to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, whatever may have been its origin, has also served to increase bitterness and tension in the area. Deep emotions, as well as vital interests, are factors to be reckoned with in dealing with the Middle East problem. In some other conflict situations, however, where such emotions and interests have been heavily involved, the international community has been able to assist in restoring quiet and moving along the road to peaceful settlement when the parties to the conflict have been willing to co-operate with it in some degree towards this end. A will to attain peace by the parties themselves is the decisive factor. In the Middle East, regrettably international assistance in finding a settlement has thus far not met with an adequate response of this kind. Instead, violent exchanges the building up of armaments of all kinds, propaganda and a constant exchange of recriminations prevail.

70. In a situation as grave as this, attempts to assign blame or responsibility to this or that party or the exchange of recriminations for past actions or present policies can only be counter-productive. If a way out of the existing impasse and this deeply ominous state of affairs is to be found, the crux of the problem must be attacked. It is, certainly, the right of every State to exercise control over its own territory, free from alien occupation. Every State is equally entitled to enjoy the right to exist within recognized boundaries which are secure from attack or threat of attack. But, before it is ride to have fruitful discussions on this and related problems, it is indispensable to have some idea of the location of the future boundaries. This relates most directly to the question of the termination of occupation and how these boundaries are to be made secure It seems to me that the only hope of breaking out of the present impasse must lie in a determined effort to overcome these basic obstacles.

71. What is now at stake is the future of the whole Middle East area and everyone in it. This sombre fact alone should discourage any tendency towards either too much bargaining over substance or bickering over procedure. The issues, admittedly, are extremely vital to the parties. But, given the alternative, can any issue be more vital than peace? It is no exaggeration to say that failing some early, progress toward a settlement, there is a very real danger that this great and historic region the cradle of civilization and of three world religions, Will recede steadily into a new dark age of violence disruption and destruction. The words of my predecessor, in the context of another international crisis, are relevant to the present Middle East situation. On 24 October 160, Dag Hammarskjold said, “no matter how deep the shadows may be, how sharp the conflicts, how tense the mistrust reflected in what is said and done in our world of today as reflected in this Hall and in this hourse, we are not permitted to forget that we have too much in common, too great a sharing of interests and too much that we might lose together, for ourselves and for succeeding generations, ever to weaken in our efforts to surmount the difficulties and not to turn the simple human values, which are our common heritage, into the firm foundation on which we may unite our strength and live together in peace”. It seems clear enough to me that no one of the parties to the Middle East conflict, no matter what temporary military or other superiority it may enjoy at any given time, can hope in the long run to emerge as the victor from the struggle now under way.

72. Moreover, the Middle East Conflict is now being extended far beyond the are itself in some ways that are irresponsible and indefensible. NO political end, however worthy it may seem to its proponents, can justify means such as the hijacking of commercial passenger aircraft or terrorism against civilians. This trend, if unchecked, could introduce the conditions of the jungle in considerable and important areas of human activity. All Governments have an overriding, long-term, common interest in protecting and preserving the framework of peaceful international communications and the simple rules of responsible behaviour on which human society is necessarily based. Only sovereign Governments can take the indispensable measures to this end.

73. There are many innocent and helpless victims of the situation in the Middle East. I feel impelled to mention in particular one very large group for which the United Nations has specific responsibility and concerning which it has taken firm decisions in principle—the Palestine refugees and the persons displaced by the 1967 hostilities. The reports of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and some of my own recent communications to Member States give a comprehensive view of the task which faces the Agency and of its critically meager resources in dealing with this huge task. Until there is some new and more hopeful turn of events in the Middle East, it is essential that the General Assembly take urgent and effective action to reinforce the Agency and to give it the resources needed to provide for even the minimum requirements of the refugees and the persons displaced by the 1967 war. It bears emphasis and reiteration that the problem of the Palestine refugees, which has persisted now for a score of years, should be regarded as one of the most pressing and urgent of all international problems demanding solution.

74. I share the widely-held concern for the plight of another, smaller group of helpless persons. Although I have no direct means of knowing exactly the conditions of life of the small Jewish minorities in certain Arab States, it is clear that, in some cases at least, these minorities would be better off elsewhere and that the countries in which they now live would also be better off, given the prevailing circumstances, if the departure of those who would wish to leave could be sanctioned and arranged, since their continued presence is a source of both internal and international tension. I hope very much, therefore, that it may soon be possible to find sensible ways of solving this largely humanitarian problem. The approach to the situation can be based only on humanitarian considerations and the lessening of tension in the area, since these Jewish people, being citizens of the countries in which they live, are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Governments of those countries.

75. For all these reasons, therefore, the continuation of the struggle in the Middle East is a prospect which all of the Members of the United Nations should contemplate with the utmost concern and for which the United Nations itself inescapably bears a heavy responsibility. It is imperative and urgent that some way be found to reverse the present trend towards catastrophe.


(Signed) U THANT


15 September 1969.


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