The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was commemorated today at the Palais des Nations, with speakers expressing the hope that the recent positive events, namely the withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip and certain areas of the West Bank, would be a signal of a renewal of the peace process which should inaugurate a new era and a total withdrawal from the occupied territories.
Sergei Ordzhonikidze, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, read out the message of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Secretary-General said a solution to the question of Palestine remained elusive; Palestinians had yet to see the beginnings of the establishment of their own State, and Israelis as well were yet to feel secure in their own State. Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians’ success in ensuring calm during that period had raised hopes for a renewal of the political process; however, the ensuing upsurge in violence had seriously undermined the fledgling coordination between the parties, bringing back feelings of frustration and disappointment.
The Secretary-General urged everyone to work hard to help the Palestinian people exercise their inalienable rights and realise their aspiration to live in peace and prosperity in a sovereign and independent State of Palestine.
Other speakers also highlighted the need of the international community, together with Israel and Palestine, to find a just solution, which was to realise the ideal of two States living side-by-side within safe and recognised borders. The role that was played in this by the United Nations system was raised by several speakers who said that it had, since its establishment, shouldered its responsibility with regards to this cause, with the aim of achieving a just and comprehensive solution in all aspects. The Israeli authorities were called upon to show restraint and take measures in accordance with the obligations of the Road Map that would contribute towards improving the human rights situation of the Palestinian people, as well as to improving the situation for the innocent populations on both sides of the conflict.
Contributing statements were representatives of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Permanent Observer of Palestine.
Messages of solidarity were sent from the President of Turkey, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and the President of Sri Lanka. A statement was also received from the United Kingdom on behalf of the European Union.
SERGEI ORDZHONIKIDZE, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, read out a message from United Nations Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Secretary-General noted that a solution to the question of Palestine remained elusive. Palestinians had yet to see the beginnings of the establishment of their own State, and Israelis as well were yet to feel secure in their own State. Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians’ success in ensuring calm during that period had raised hopes for a renewal of the political process. However, the ensuing upsurge in violence had seriously undermined the fledgling coordination between the parties, bringing back feelings of frustration and disappointment. After the agreement two weeks ago, a new opportunity had emerged. The Palestinian and Israeli leaderships should work with each other, with Quartet Special Envoy James Wolfensohn, and with the Quartet to ensure that the agreement was implemented in full and on time.
The Secretary-General said both Palestinians and Israelis would soon go to the polls, in elections which would have an important bearing on the future of the peace process. The electoral season should not be allowed to prevent the parties from the essential work of building mutual trust and following through with the implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings. If disengagement was to be a springboard to progress on broader issues, it was vital that parties gave new impetus to meeting their obligations under the Road Map. Palestinians needed to be assured that the future viability of a Palestinian State would not be eroded by settlement expansion and barrier construction; and Israelis needed to be assured that their security would not be compromised by failure to act decisively against terror.
The Secretary-General reiterated the recent call of the Quartet for renewed action in parallel by both parties to meet their obligations under the Road Map. He said performance of Road Map obligations was the way to move forward towards the shared goal of a sovereign, contiguous and democratic Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel. He said he remained firmly committed to efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestinian, based on Security Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace. Everyone should work hard to help the Palestinian people exercise their inalienable rights and realise their aspiration to live in peace and prosperity in a sovereign and independent State of Palestine.
OUSMANE CAMARA, Permanent Representative of Senegal, reading out a statement by PAUL BADJI, Chairperson of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the Day of Solidarity reminded all that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could only find a definitive solution when the Palestinian people could exercise the inalienable rights defined by the General Assembly in 1974 and which were the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to independence and national sovereignty, and the right of the Palestinians to regain the homes and goods from which they had been removed. The occupation of the Palestinian land and the attitude of the occupying power, made ever more difficult the efforts made by the international community and Israel and Palestine to find a just solution, which was to realise the ideal of two States living side-by-side within safe and recognised borders.
There had been encouraging events this year, but these had been contradicted by illegal practices by the occupying power, and by a growth in violence, caused by the hellish cycle of murderous attacks and blind revenge. The strong will which animated all to find a solution to the question of Palestine, the strong engagement of the Quartet, other Governments, the United Nations organizations, international institutions, inter-governmental bodies and organizations and associations of civil society, as well as the commitment to the cause by private persons, should help create the vast consensus without which it would be impossible to install a general, fair and durable peace in the Middle East.
PRASAD KARIYAWASAM, Permanent Representative of 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, said despite some positive developments in the aftermath of the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of February 2005 and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, testimonies by witnesses to the Special Committee amply reflected the dire human rights situation in the occupied territories. "Ethnic cleansing" and "rampant expulsions" were the words used by several Palestinian witnesses to describe their miserable situation. Once again, the Special Committee had not been allowed by Israel to visit the occupied territories and assess, at first hand, the human rights situation in Palestine, and the Special Committee was of the view that Israel, after all these years of denying access, should revisit the reasons behind such a refusal.
The construction of the separation wall was violating every single right of the Palestinians, not only in respect of freedom of movement, but also the rights related to adequate housing, food, social life, education and health. It was affecting the very national identity of the Palestinians, and their legitimate claims to territories, which not long ago were contiguous lands. Women and children were still paying a heavy toll due to persistent harsh daily conditions affecting the Palestinians as a whole. The Special Committee observed with dismay the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied territories, and the Syrian occupied Golan. The Committee saw it as crucial that Israel took measures to restore trust across communities on the basis that the two-States solution of independent States of Israel and Palestine existing side by side would soon be a tangible reality, and, as a consequence, the just aspirations of all communities would be met. The Special Committee called upon Israeli authorities to show restraint and take measures in accordance with the obligations of the Road Map that would contribute towards improving the human rights situation of the Palestinian people.
SAAD ALFARARGI, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, reading out a statement by AMR MOUSSA, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said the role of the United Nations system in supporting the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people in regional and international fora could not be underestimated, and should continue until the Palestinian people had their own independent State and recovered all their rights. This International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People this year took place following the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip and certain areas in the West Bank, and although this was a positive step, it should inaugurate a new era, which would include a total withdrawal from the occupied territories. The construction of new settlements, the separation wall and the Judaism of Jerusalem were not encouraging. The execution of Palestinian leaders and the over-flights of innocent civilian areas by Israeli fighters and other practices had lessened hopes and encouraged fears.
Israel behaved as though it had not withdrawn from Gaza, and continued to delay the necessary decisions, as was illustrated by the problems of border crossings, which had only been resolved following intensive efforts by the Palestinian and Egyptian authorities. In reality, Israel should respect the timetable established at the time of the Road Map. It was urgently necessary to establish serious follow-up and monitoring to ensure the settlement of the issue on a permanent and clear basis. The Palestinian people continued to suffer practices that violated the most fundamental and basic human rights, in clear violation of human rights by Israel. Despite all, the Palestinian Authority had been making serious efforts to reform in every area. It was now for Israel to evacuate the occupied territories, which would allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, and a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees.
BABACAR BA, Permanent Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, reading out the message of the Chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the International Day of Solidarity came this year at a time when the Palestinian issue had witnessed significant developments involving the withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip, and the evacuation of the settlers from that area as well as from a number of settlements in the northern part of the occupied West Bank. This withdrawal had been welcomed by the OIC, which had also called for other steps to follow to lead to confidence building and to set the stage for a new peace process founded on the resolutions of the international legitimacy and the Road Map and leading to ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories, so as to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable national rights, notably their right to freedom and to the establishment of their own independent State with East Jerusalem as the capital. This would lay the proper groundwork for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
The world, which had recently had new hopes for the resumption of the peace process following the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, needed today to exert every effort to put an end to the Israeli practices and measures against the Palestinian people, and to force Israel to honour agreements, abide by the resolutions of international legitimacy, and free the way for the Palestinian elections. The OIC wished to express once again its support for the efforts of the Quartet to ensure the implementation of the Road Map, the discontinuation of the Israeli aggression and occupation, and the forward progress towards the establishment of the independent Palestinian State. The success of any peace plan hinged upon the existence of a fixed time schedule and a binding mechanism for the implementation of its provisions, through a control and supervision system which embodied the international community’s will. The international community was called upon to reiterate and renew its solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to step up its efforts to put an end to the Israeli aggression and ensure the return of the peace process to the standards and principles on the basis of which it was initiated.
DATO HSU KING BEE, Permanent Representative of Malaysia, reading out a message from ABDULLAH AHMAD BADAWI, the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the world continued to witness violence, death and suffering inflicted upon the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying power. The harsh policies and practices as well as the disproportionate and excessive use of force by Israel against the Palestinian people, the destruction of Palestinian homes and property and restriction of the freedom of movement of people in the occupied Palestinian territory were firmly condemned. Israel was urged to reverse the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and socio-economic conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory. There should be greater commitment and sincerity in the movement towards peace. The Palestinian leadership should seize the opportunity to build upon the advances made thus far, and work to secure more progress in finding solutions to the question of Palestine.
There was an urgent need for the international community, in particular the Quartet, to work towards ensuring the early and full implementation of the Road Map, with earnestness and sincerity. It was imperative that renewed efforts by the Quartet to salvage the Road Map be further strengthened in order to ensure its early and full implementation. Concrete steps towards peace were important in order to give the Palestinian people hope for the future, lest they succumb to despair and despondency, with all the negative ramifications. The international community could not deny that any further deterioration of the situation would be detrimental to the cause of peace in the whole region, and should lend its support to mend the situation, imbued in mistrust and antipathy. The international community had a collective role to play in finding a solution to the Palestinian question.
KHADIJA RACHIDA MASRI, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said there was no doubt that the efforts of the United Nations system contributed ultimately to the growing consciousness of the international community on the vital necessity to encourage all initiatives likely to favourise a global and durable end to the painful issue of Palestine. The African Union was profoundly concerned by the unending Israeli attacks against civilian populations, as well as by the systematic destruction of goods and infrastructure. It was greatly regrettable that the good will of the Palestinian Authority stumbled against the refusal by the Israeli powers which undertook acts of aggression and blind repression against the Palestinian people. The deliberate refusal to bring an end to the building of the separation wall and the non-respect of the ruling of the International Criminal Court were further notorious proof of the absence of will, at the top levels of the Israeli authority, to cooperate to reach the ultimate goal of a global and durable peace for the region.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority should do all that was in their power, each in their own sphere, to break the vicious circle of violence against innocent populations, whoever they be, and to scrupulously uphold the commitments made in the context of the different agreements which they had signed, with the support of the international community. The international community should commit itself further to finding an appropriate solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question, and give the necessary political and financial help to encourage the resumption of the negotiation process, with the ultimate aim of a fair and durable peace. No effort should be neglected to uphold the efforts for peace and development for the common good of the Israeli and Palestinian populations, and to ensure that peace and security at last hold sway in the region.
JULIETTE SAYEGH, General Arab Women Federation, speaking on behalf of the non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the International Day of Solidarity had been declared in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to establish their independent state within the remaining 22 per cent of the Palestinian territory. The need to show solidarity with the Palestinians had never been greater. The Palestinian territory within the Green Line was presently being heavily colonised by Israeli settlements and infrastructure, with land seizures and the construction of the apartheid wall being in high gear – Israel violating its own obligation on the level of the Road Map.
When this process was complete, the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to have their own nation, as laid out in numerous United Nations resolutions, would be lost forever. It was hoped that the international community would wake up and use its leverage to have its resolutions respected. The organizations representing the NGO Working Group were committed to supporting peace with justice for all people in the Middle East, and would dispense all their means in support of this aim.
MOHAMMAD ABU-KOASH, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said annually on this day, the Palestinian people received a message from the world, reaffirming to them that they were not alone in their struggle to achieve their legitimate rights, which were guaranteed by international legitimacy, and were supported by all who represented the conscience of the world, believed in such lofty principles and rights and defended them, and insisted on ending the suffering and historic injustice that had befallen the Palestinian people. The Palestinian cause had gone through many difficulties and significant changes since 1977 when the International Day had been designated by the General Assembly. Since then, the peace process was launched at the Madrid Conference, which led to the signing of the Declaration of Principles for the interim period, and revived the hopes of the Palestinian people and the peoples of the region for the establishment of peace and stability.
However, the peace process, despite the humble achievements that were made at the start, had suffered repeated setbacks as a result of the Israeli occupation and its measures, as Israel refused to implement the resolutions of international law and the Road Map, under various pretexts and excuses, and continued to deprive the Palestinian people from their legitimate rights. Palestine had chosen peace and negotiations as the path to reaching a just and comprehensive peace, and achieving its legitimate objectives of freedom, independence and self-determination in accordance with international law and as defined in the Road Map. The United Nations had played a central role in the life of the Palestinian people, and since its establishment had shouldered its responsibility with regards to this cause until it achieved a just and comprehensive solution in all aspects. On this day, the whole world stood against injustice and occupation, and it was proof that the conscience of the world was alive and that its eyes saw the tragedy of the people of Palestine, as well as their right to freedom, independence, and an independent State.
For use of the information media; not an official record