Advancing the peace process – Challenges facing the parties
Qawra, Malta – 3 and 4 June 2008

1. The United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine was convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in Qawra, Malta, on 3 and 4 June 2008.  The Meeting was held in accordance with General Assembly resolutions 62/80 and 62/81 of 10 December 2007.  

2. The objective of the Meeting was to foster greater support by the international community for the creation of a climate conducive to the advancement of the permanent status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.  Participants in the Meeting discussed the impact of the settlement construction on the current political process and the need for the parties to meet Road Map commitments.  They also examined the effects of the construction of the wall in the Occupied West Bank, and the importance of finding a solution to the question of Jerusalem.

3. The participants concurred that the political momentum provided at the Annapolis Conference must not be lost, and that all efforts towards the goal of achieving a final status agreement by the end of 2008 should be supported.  For this, the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must be sustained by producing tangible results on the ground.  Most importantly, obligations under Phase I of the Road Map must be implemented by the parties without delay.  In this regard, the participants expressed serious concern over Israel’s ongoing settlement activity, with the Government continuing to issue thousands of tenders for new housing units in settlements in the West Bank.  The participants also reiterated that the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, was illegal under international law and called on Israel to immediately cease settlement activity, including construction related to “natural growth” and dismantle settlement outposts.  Of particular concern was the expansion and consolidation of large settlement blocks in and around East Jerusalem, especially in the so-called “E-1” area.  It was observed that the presence of settlements in that area had resulted in severing Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, cutting the West Bank into two parts and prejudging the outcome of the final status negotiations.  

4. The participants welcomed steps taken by the Palestinian Authority to reform its security forces and their deployment in Nablus and Jenin in conformity with their obligations under the Road Map.  Participants called for the restoration of the situation in the Gaza Strip to that, which existed prior to the events of June 2007 to allow for regaining the unity of the Palestinian people as an essential condition for achieving a viable resolution of the question of Palestine.  The participants noted that all efforts to achieve a ceasefire should be supported and lead to an immediate cessation of violence.  Violence by either side was damaging to the current political dialogue. Negotiations should not be held hostage to the agenda of extremists.  At the same time, President Abbas should be given all possible support to continue his quest for a viable two-State solution.  The participants deplored the loss of many civilian lives, on both sides but overwhelmingly Palestinian, as a result of routine military operations or targeted assassinations carried out during Israeli incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  They reminded that Israel, the occupying Power, was obliged under the Fourth Geneva Convention to protect the Palestinian civilian population under its occupation and to act within the ambit of international law.  

5. The participants were updated on the various aspects of the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its effects on Palestinian communities.  The participants recalled the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, which clearly stated that the construction of the wall was illegal under international law and insisted on its removal.  Furthermore, they called for the removal of the many barriers and checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the restoration of the situation before September 2000.  They emphasized the need for a more serious action by the international community challenging the presence of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The participants noted that the mandate of the United Nations Register of Damage caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory should be given full support and be implemented without delay.    

6. The participants agreed that a negotiated solution to the issue of Jerusalem, based on international law, was absolutely critical for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and fundamental for a lasting peace in the whole region.  The participants expressed serious concern that the Israeli policies and actions in East Jerusalem included the issuance of demolition orders against Palestinian properties, the forcing out of Palestinian Jerusalemites from the city, and the severing of the city from the rest of the West Bank through the expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation wall.  In this connection, the participants stated that the status of Jerusalem could only be resolved through negotiations and in full accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.  The participants recalled Security Council resolution 252 (1968), which stated that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tended to change the legal status of Jerusalem, were invalid and could not change that status.  

7. The participants expressed serious concern that Israel was not abiding by its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention to provide protection to the civilian population under occupation.  The applicability of the Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, had been repeatedly confirmed by the Conference of the High Contracting Parties, as well as by the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council and the International Court of Justice.  The participants reiterated that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could only be found in accordance with international law and based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003), and all other relevant United Nations resolutions.  The continued support of the international community was crucial for advancing the negotiations, namely, a consistent and sustainable effort by the Quartet and the regional partners with both parties.  The Arab Peace Initiative remained an important element for advancing peace in the region and should be seized upon.

8. The participants of the Meeting, hosted by Malta, a European Union Member State, appreciated the absolutely critical role played by the European Union and other European States in support of the Palestinian people.  They encouraged the policy-making organs of the European Union to play a more active role in various aspects of the political process, in addition to the European Commission’s substantial economic assistance.  

9. The participants were of the view that national parliaments and interparliamentary organizations had a special role to play in advancing the Israeli-Palestinian political process.  Such organizations as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, the European-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly of the Barcelona Process (EMPA), the European Parliament, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union worked towards upholding international law and promoting an effective political dialogue aimed at resolving all permanent status issues.

10. The participants commended Malta for its proactive and constructive role in the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and encouraged its continuation.  They learned with appreciation that the delegation of the Committee to the Meeting had met with the President and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta and discussed how Malta and the Committee, respectively, were contributing to efforts at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The participants expressed gratitude to the Government of Malta for hosting the Meeting and the generous hospitality extended to them.