GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT HIGHLIGHTS ATMOSPHERE OF COOPERATION, RESPECT

DURING FIFTY-FOURTH SESSION, DESPITE POLITICAL DIFFERENCES

The President of the fifty-fourth General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), in his closing statement before suspending the Assembly today, highlighted the atmosphere of  cooperation and mutual respect that had prevailed during the session, despite the  divergence of views and political differences on a wide variety of agenda items, including Security Council reform, implementation of the outcome of the 1995 World Summit for  Social Development and the causes of conflict and the promotion of a durable peace and sustainable development in Africa.

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Summaries of Plenary and Committee action follow.

Plenary

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Addressing the issues of the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle  East, the Assembly reaffirmed  the necessity of achieving  a peaceful settlement of the question of  Palestine, which it identified  once more as the core of the Arab-Israeli  conflict; and declared Israel's jurisdiction over Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan null and void.  During  the debates broad support was expressed for the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum and the Wye River Memorandum.  The conclusion of  the Final Status  Talks was also urged.

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Second Committee

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In a recorded  vote, the Assembly adopted a draft resolution on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian People in the occupied Palestinian territory.   Once again, it called on Israel, the occupying Power, not to exploit, to cause loss or depletion of,  or to endanger the natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.

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Fourth Committee

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Much attention was paid during the session to the resumption of the Middle East peace process following the signing on 4 September of the Sharm el-Sheikh memorandum.  Taking up the related issues of Israeli practices and the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Committee stressed that the positive momentum of the peace process must be maintained.  It reaffirmed that  Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were illegal and demanded complete cessation of all such  activities.  It called upon Israel to prevent violence and guarantee the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians.

There was widespread agreement that the work of UNRWA, which has just marked its fiftieth anniversary, must continue, as more than 3.5 million Palestinian refugees remain displaced.  Those  refugees had borne the brunt of  cost-cutting measures necessitated by  the Agency's financial crisis.  Most speakers welcomed UNRWA's new unified budget  structure and expressed hope that the changes would result in greater transparency and efficiency.

Among Middle East-related draft resolutions approved by the Committee were texts on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories, and Israeli  practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.  Others involved: temporary emergency humanitarian assistance to   displaced persons; offers by Member States of grants and scholarships for higher education, including vocational training, for Palestine refugees; Palestine refugees'  properties and their revenues; and the proposed University of Jerusalem "Al Quds" for Palestine refugees.

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Document symbol: GA/9697
Document Type: Press Release
Document Sources: General Assembly
Subject: Human rights and international humanitarian law, Palestine question, Refugees and displaced persons
Publication Date: 12/12/1999