Thirty-eight Speakers Address Council; Measures Called

'Collective Punishment' That Threaten Peace Process

In a meeting called in response to the security measures recently imposed by Israel on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 38 speakers addressed the Security Council today, with most calling for an end to the harsh measures and describing them as a form of collective punishment that threatened the Middle East peace process.

Several speakers said that such measures as the demolition of houses, the confiscation of land and restrictions on the movement of people and goods strengthened the hands of extremists on both sides calling for violence to undermine peace. Moreover, they violated portions of international law, such as the Fourth Geneva protocol, relevant Security Council resolutions and Israel's commitments to its agreements with the Palestinians.

Acknowledging Israel's right to protect its citizens, speakers said measures taken to combat terrorism could not justify the punishment of an entire people for the actions of a few. The economic hardships in the territories should be eliminated to ensure Palestinian support for the peace process. Donor States should assist economic and social development in the territories and the international community should help the parties to combat terrorism.

The representative of the United States said the discussion of Israel's closure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip could not help the peace process and would only polarize that already difficult situation. The international community had responded aggressively to the challenges in the Middle East at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit by agreeing to develop a plan to fight terrorism. The Summit and the follow-up conference of experts on terrorism in Washington were more concrete ways to counter terrorism and promote peace.

The representative of Israel said that his Government had imposed a closure on residents of the West Bank and Gaza to restore a sense of security and to prevent armed terrorists from infiltrating his country to derail the peace process. The closure was not a form of collective punishment against Palestinians and in recent days Israel had eased it. The Palestinian Authority was responsible for rooting out terrorists and Israel was encouraged by recent efforts to curb terrorist groups. Israel would continue working to enhance the peace process and to implement the agreements reached with the Palestinians. Additional Security Council resolutions would merely complicate the peace process.

The Permanent Observer for Palestine said that the Israeli measures had absolutely no relation to security considerations and some of them were in practice before the recent bombings in Israel. Security should be for all. No party should take unilateral measures and impose them by force. "We cannot accept that the suffering of our people has become a commodity in the fever of the Israeli election", he added. The Security Council had a responsibility towards the Middle East and Palestine as part of its permanent responsibility for international peace and security. It should be allowed to express an official position on the Palestinian situation.

The representative of Egypt said, "demolishing homes and starving Palestinians would not prevent terrorism and peace would be achieved by raising living standards". The Council should not be silent on the matter. Otherwise, it would raise the question of double standards being applied to the actions of various countries, which might call into question the Council's legitimacy.

The representative of Italy, on behalf of the European Union, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia called on Israel to allow humanitarian assistance and materials for the internationally financed reconstruction programme into the territories.

The Permanent Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference said that Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) should be implemented. Israeli should withdraw from all Palestinian and Arab territories, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif and immediately halt its military actions in Lebanon. It should not carry out demographic or geographic changes in Al-Quds Al-Sharif during the interim phase of the Agreement, which might jeopardize the outcome of the negotiations on that city's final status. The representative of the United Kingdom said access to the city's holy sites should have been guaranteed during the last Easter celebrations.

Statements were also made by the representatives Botswana, Republic of Korea, China, Russian Federation, France, Germany, Honduras, Poland, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Chile, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, Norway, Malaysia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, Colombia, Cuba, Pakistan, Japan, Algeria, Yemen, Morocco and Senegal.

The acting Chairman of the Committee on the Inalienable Right of the Palestinian People also spoke.

The meeting, called to order at 10:59 a.m., was adjourned at 5:37 p.m.

Security Council Work Programme 

The Security Council met this morning to consider the "serious situation in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem". The meeting is in response to a 10 April letter to the Council from the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates, in his capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group for April (S/1996/257).

The Council has before it a letter from the Secretary-General (A/50/916-S/1996/233), which transmits a letter dated 29 March that the Secretary-General had received from Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In his letter, Mr. Arafat writes of the "difficult and critical circumstances" faced by the Palestinian people. He rejects and condemns the "policy of blockade and closure" being pursued by the Government of Israel. Those measures were causing hardships for the entire Palestinian people in the areas subject to the Palestinian National Authority, he states.

The general security blockade imposed on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the reoccupation of areas from which Israeli forces had previously been withdrawn and the failure of those forces to withdraw from the city of Hebron in accordance with the timetable agreed upon at Taba and Washington, D.C. were in flagrant violation of international covenants, conventions and customs, Mr. Arafat states. The blockade and closure were tantamount to a declaration of a state of war against the Palestinian people, who for more than a month had been subjected to collective punishment, starvation and contempt for their human rights.

The letter appeals to the Secretary-General to personally intervene with a view to ending the blockade and closure and to bring the matter to the urgent and immediate attention of the Security Council.

The Council also has before it a letter to the Secretary-General from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine (S/1996/235) which states that Israel has been taking harsh measures against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, including the confiscation of land and expansion of settlements, restrictions on the movement of persons and goods within the Palestinian territory, and into and out of that territory.

He terms those restrictions a "siege and strangulation" of the Palestinian territory and of the Palestinian people. The letter condemns those measures as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, applicable to all territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, and of resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly. The letter goes on to say that Israeli officials have indicated their intention to deport a number of Palestinians. Also, Israeli forces had failed to comply with agreements reached regarding redeployment from Hebron, which was to be completed by 28 March.

The letter calls on the Security Council to exert the necessary pressure on Israel to cease all illegal actions directed against the Palestinian people, to desist from all such actions in the future and to scrupulously abide by all agreements that have been reached between the two parties.

Annexed to the letter is a memorandum detailing: restrictions on freedom of movement within the Palestinian territory; interruption of the continuity of the Palestinian territory and restrictions on entry into occupied East Jerusalem; closure of the Israeli border to Palestinian persons and goods from the West Bank and Gaza and prevention of the entry of Israeli goods into the Palestinian territory; and closure of the borders of the West Bank and Gaza with Jordan and Egypt respectively.


NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, had been enduring a very difficult situation, wherein their daily suffering had risen and become unbearable, because of a set of policies and measures adopted by Israel, the occupying Power, in several fields.

The first field involved Israeli policy and measures with regard to the movement of persons and goods within the Palestinian territory and movement into and out of the territory, he continued. Those policies and measures in reality represented a siege of the Palestinian territory and the strangulation of the Palestinian people and their economy. The policy had various aspects, including the prevention of movement, or restrictions upon movement, between Palestinian cities and villages in the Palestinian territory itself, including some restrictions in the Gaza Strip. Another aspect was the division of the Palestinian territory as a result of Israel's non-compliance with the establishment of the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which represented a single territorial unit according to the Declaration of Principles of 1993. Also among such aspects was the imposition of restrictions on the entry of the Palestinian people into occupied East Jerusalem, despite the special status of the city as the religious, cultural and economic centre of the Palestinian people. A further aspect of the Israeli policy was the closure of the Israeli border to the Palestinian people and to Palestinian goods and the prevention of the entry of Israeli goods into the Palestinian territory or some parts of it.

That policy went far beyond the prevention of Palestinian workers from earning a daily living after the many long years of the exploitation to which they were subjected by Israel, he said. In truth, it represented the destruction of any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian economy, including the development of external trade and a free market. Further, such a policy had amounted to the isolation of the Palestinian territory from the outside world, which had caused serious pain and suffering and had at times resulted in the deaths of ill persons and in severe shortages in certain goods and basic living materials. In addition, the measures had been taken unilaterally by Israel, without consultation with the Palestinian side, and they had been illegally imposed by military means.

He said the second field involved a set of Israeli measures with multiple aspects, which began with the return of the occupying Power to a policy of demolishing Palestinian homes and threatening deportation. It also included several incidents of political assassination which occurred in different places including the territory under the control of the Palestinian National Authority and the territories of other countries as well. Also among those measures were the continuation by Israel of the confiscation of Palestinian land, continued construction of new bypass roads to severe Israeli settlements and the expansion of those settlements, which aim at the creation of more illegal facts on the ground.

The third field basically concerned the non-compliance of Israel with some of the relevant provisions of the agreements reached between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, he said. Perhaps the most striking examples of that were the failure of Israel to implement the redeployment of its forces from the city of Hebron, which was scheduled to take place by 28 March; the continued imprisonment of Palestinians in Israeli jails despite the agreements reached in that regard between the two parties; the failure to officially withdraw the Israeli military government and dissolve the civil administration after the inauguration of the elected Palestinian Legislative Council; and, as mentioned above, the failure to implement the provisions concerning the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza to connect the Palestinian territory. He condemned all those policies and measures.

Some parties had said that those Israeli policies and measures had come as a result of Israeli security requirements following the recent bombing attacks in Israel, he continued. While expressing understanding for Israeli concerns in that regard, he did not agree with the diagnosis of the situation or the remedy for it and rejected the basis of those policies. Some of those measures had absolutely no relation whatsoever to security considerations. Some of them were in practice before the bombings and others could not be justified even from an Israeli security point of view.

Maintaining security should involve the security of all the parties and under no circumstances should one party take unilateral measures and impose them by force, he said. Israel could not separate itself from the Palestinian territory and at the same time impose the isolation of that territory from the rest of the world as if that territory and its people were its hostage. "In other words, if Israel chooses separation, regardless of its reasons and despite its obligations and commitments, it should bear the consequences of such a decision and accept complete political separation at the same time", he said. "In all circumstances the basis should remain the commitment to the agreements between the two parties, to international law and to the relevant Security Council resolution."

He added that some parties been saying that the Israeli measures and policies were connected to the upcoming Israeli election and its complexities. "We are cognizant of the importance of the election and the various sensitivities in this regard and, of course, we do have our political preference, which is the preference for continuation of the peace process and for stability in the region", he said. "However, we cannot accept that the suffering of our people become a commodity in the fever of the Israeli election or in any other form."

Since the Palestinian side had made the peace process a strategic option, it had taken a clear position against all acts of terror and violence, he said. The Palestinian side had expressed its clear condemnation of the recent bombings in Israel and all similar operations. Similarly, the Palestinian side had condemned terrorist acts which had been committed by Israelis, such as the massacres at Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi and Al-Haram Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Palestinian National Authority, he continued, had chosen a course towards securing the Palestinian national interest that entailed the maintenance of security and order and the rule of law and the barring of any illegal groups from operating in its territories. The Authority had taken definitive measures to guarantee the implementation of the course within its available resources. The Authority was doing that based on overwhelming popular support, which was crystallized in the historical election process conducted by the Palestinian people in January. "We will fulfil our duties in return for our people's confidence and in order to fulfil our contractual obligations and to preserve the peace process towards the achievement of our national goals in building the independent Palestinian state with Holy Jerusalem as its capital", he said. At the same time, he stressed that a complete and absolute solution to the problem of extremism and terrorism was linked to bringing an end to the unfair and unjust practices against his people, to the achievement of further political progress in the peace process and to the improvement in the living conditions and their difficult economic situation.

The Council had a responsibility towards the situation in the Middle East and towards the question of Palestine as part of its permanent and constant responsibility for international peace and security, he said. The Council should not be prevented from assuming its responsibilities in that regard. The engagement of the Council could not but serve the goal of achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace and support the ongoing peace process. The Council should be allowed to express an official position with regard to the situation in the Palestinian territory. Nevertheless, despite the lack of such an achievement, the convening of the Council in an official meeting was a clear indication of the serious concern of the international community with regard to the existing situation and the negative impact it had on the peace process.

In concluding, he said the escalating Israeli aggression against Lebanon was causing a great suffering to the Lebanese people, in addition to great harm to the Middle East peace process. He condemned the Israeli attacks on Lebanese villages and cities, including the capital Beirut, and reiterated solidarity with the Lebanese people in their determination to bring the occupation to an end. The Council should bring an immediate end to the Israeli aggression towards the implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 425 (1978).

GAD YAACOBI (Israel) said that during eight terrifying days in February and March, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists from the West Bank and Gaza had perpetrated four separate suicide bombings within Israel, leaving 59 dead and 200 injured. In response, his Government had imposed a closure of Israel to residents of the West Bank and Gaza to restore a sense of security for Israel and to prevent armed terrorists from infiltrating into Israel to wreak further havoc with the express intention of derailing the peace process.

"Let me make it very clear", he said. The closure is not a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian population. It is a measure enacted solely to insure security for the people of Israel. In recent days Israel had sought to ease the closure. Some 7,000 workers from Gaza were permitted entry into Israel every day, and Palestinians aged forty-five and older had been able to enter Israel to work since 8 April. Projects within Gaza initiated by Israel and international donors continued to employ over 25,000 labourers.

The Palestinian Authority had gained self-rule over Gaza and other areas, he said. Israel believed that it was the responsibility of the Authority to root out terrorists still at large. Israel was encouraged by efforts recently undertaken by the Authority to curb terrorist groups within areas under its jurisdiction. Israel would continue to pursue peace and security and to fight the "dark forces of terrorism and fanaticism", he said. The terrorists in question were being supported by several foreign governments — one of which had just been invited to sit at the Security Council table. Last month, at the Summit of the Peacemakers in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, leaders from 29 countries, including many Arab States, had pledged their commitment to peace.

Israel would continue working towards enhancing the peace process and the implementation of agreements reached with the Palestinians, he said. Additional Security Council resolutions would merely complicate the peace process.

NABIL ELARABY (Egypt) said that the Israeli siege on Palestinian territories violated international law and Security Council resolutions. Israel should also end its attacks on Lebanon and withdraw from that country's territory. Israel could not justify its actions on Palestinian territories either. It had blockaded parts of Palestinian territory and closed the borders of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian territories had been isolated, causing harm to the Palestinians. Many workers who depended on Israel for their income suffered immensely from the blockade.

The Israeli practices strengthened the hands of extremists calling for violence on both sides, he said. The Security Council should not be silent on the matter before it, otherwise it would raise the question of double standards being applied to the actions of various countries. That might call into question its legitimacy in dealing with other crises.

Demolishing homes and starving Palestinians would not prevent terrorism, he said. Rather, peace should be achieve to raise the living standards of all. The Summit of the Peacemakers held in Egypt reaffirmed the links between peace, security and prosperity. Presidents Mubarak and Clinton had stressed the need to cooperate and support the peace process and condemned terrorist acts. They had expressed their aim to work together along those lines to strengthen the peace process.

The threats to peace in the Middle East, including terrorism, had been caused by extremists, he said. Palestinians had blown up bombs, killing Israelis. Before that, an Israeli extremist had killed Mr. Rabin and another had killed Muslim worshippers in a mosque in Hebron.

Israel should respect their timetable to end its occupation of Palestinian territories and stop collective punishments. "The strongest response to those trying to assassinate peace in the Middle East was to accelerate the peace process." Violence only begot more violence.

The Middle East had started moving from a period of war and struggle to a new stage trying to achieve peace and justice. That would impose burdens on all. The peace process called on all to give more impetus to negotiations that would lead to a peace settlement.

The Security Council must deal with the problem before it as a source of instability for the region. The Council should deal with all aspects of the Israeli measures. Peace would be achieved when all parties met their obligations. The debate must make clear to Israel that it must end its measures in the Palestinian and other Arab territories.

D.C.M. NKGOWE (Botswana) said recent events had shown that it took courage and bravery to make peace. There were still many enemies of peace in the Middle East — the assassins, the suicide bombers, the fanatics — who were bent on the use of force where others had opted for peaceful co-existence and the establishment of good neighbourly relations as the best path to a prosperous and mutually beneficial future between the people of Israel and Palestine. They could not afford to be panicked by threats or surrender to the machinations of the enemies of peace.

His Government recognized the limited but difficult choices that Israel was faced with to guarantee the safety and security of its people, he said. The brutal terrorist attacks in Jerusalem on 3 March and in Tel Aviv on 4 March were a grim reality of what Israel had to contend with and respond to. Peace-loving Palestinians shared the pain of their Israeli brethren and understood that such despicable acts were directed at Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli measures were a blunt instrument which did not distinguish between the guilty and the innocent. They were a form of collective punishment which hurt peace-loving Palestinians. They gave the impression of serious desperation in Tel Aviv which was exactly what the enemies of the peace process hoped for. It was therefore profoundly important that Israel do everything to avoid alienating the majority of the Palestinians who recently expressed, in free and fair elections, their desire for peace by supporting the PLO, he said. The capacity of the border closures to damage the peace process, poison the political atmosphere and reduce the pace of the implementation of the Agreements should not be under-estimated. The safety and security interests of the Israelis should be weighed against the human rights an the welfare of the Palestinian people as well as the overall objective of establishing durable peace. It was important that in all its efforts to guarantee the genuine security interests of its people, Israel must strive to take measures which would not harm the spirit and letter of the agreements it entered into with the PLO. Equally, the Palestinian National Authority should do everything it could to help stem the tide of terrorist attacks against Israel.

PARK SOO GIL (Republic of Korea) said that the progress achieved jointly by Israelis and Palestinians for the peace and common prosperity of the region was undeniable proof that any regional dispute, no matter how deeply rooted and complex, could be eventually solved through dialogue between the parties directly concerned. For a country like the Republic of Korea, which had suffered from the painful division of its land for almost half a century, the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue was a positive example of confidence-building measures and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Regrettably, a series of terrorist attacks in Israel on 25 and 26 February, and 3 and 4 March set a dark cloud over the region, he said. Despite the international community's hope that the Middle East peace process would continue intact, Israeli policy adopted in response to the terrorist attacks had adversely affected the lives of Palestinians. Israeli measures, such as the closure of its borders with the West Bank and Gaza had caused enormous hardship for Palestinians and had stirred international concern. The socio-economic problems resulting from Israeli countermeasures should be resolved as soon as possible, not just from a humanitarian perspective, but also for the sake of the peace process.

The current situation in the region demanded a most cautious and balanced approach, he continued. While terrorism should be prevented, the economic well-being of the Palestinians should be considered as well. Although the international community should encourage such a solution to preserve the peace process, the task itself was in the hands of the parties directly concerned. There was a legal framework to support that, particularly the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements of 1993 and subsequent agreements. Ultimately, however, it was the wisdom, courage and patience of Israelis and Palestinians alike which would enable them to surmount the daunting challenges before them. Given that both Israel and the PLO had a crucial stake in the peace process,the spirit of compromise and cooperation must be revived by accommodating, in a balanced manner, the economic well-being of the Palestine people and the security interests of Israel.

QIN HUASUN (China) said that China shared the concerns raised by the Israeli measures. Israel should lift the closures as soon as possible to allow the peace process to continue and allow normal economic life for the Palestinians. He expressed sympathy for all victims of terrorism. China opposed terrorism as a threat to international peace and security. All terrorist should be brought to justice.

He said that, in opposing terrorism and dealing with crises, there should be no violation of international law for the sovereignty of all countries. There should be no blind actions against innocent civilians. Actions should be taken to solve the causes of violence. The achievements of the peace process should be strengthened.

MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT (United States) said her Government regretted that the discussion of Israel's closure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was taking place. It could not help the peace process and could only polarize that already difficult situation and distract from the real challenges: how to combat terror, guarantee security, ease the economic dislocation of Palestinians and pursue the process of peace-making. The international community had responded aggressively to those challenges at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit meeting co-sponsored by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and United States President Bill Clinton. Participants had agreed to develop a plan to fight terrorism. The positive tone had ready been reinforced by a meeting of experts in Washington, which explored measures to combat terror and announced a package of steps to ease the suffering and hardships of Palestinians. Efforts should be focused on seeking ways to combat those who would destroy the peace process and prevent Arabs and Israelis from achieving further progress. The terrorism posed by Hamas was as much a threat to the Palestinians as it was to Israel. The Council should not engage in a divisive rhetorical debate when there was so much work to do.

The United States regretted the economic hardship and suffering of Palestinians caused by the recent Hamas terror attacks and the measures Israel had taken to deal with that threat. She called on the international community to do all it could to alleviate those economic hardships. The meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee of the donors in Brussels on 12 April outlined several key steps, including emergency job creation for Palestinians, project development and a strategy to mobilize necessary resources. It would not be an easy effort and there were no quick fixes. Both Israel and the Palestinians must rise to the challenge. Palestinians must do all they could to continue to root out terror; Israel, consistent with its security needs, must do everything it could to ease economic hardships for Palestinians. Together they must move to restore momentum to the implementation of their agreements. It was imperative that the international community lend them all of its support.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that he was alarmed at the closure of the territories and the suffering it caused. He condemned acts of terrorism in Israel by extremist groups. The Russian Federation was a participant in the Summit of the Peacemakers and had supported the resolutions adopted there, including those against terrorism. The parties should exercise restraint from actions that could aggravate the situation and harm the peace process. The improvement of the living conditions of Palestinians was a priority, as was the implementation of the interim agreement. Russia had been one of the forces behind the Madrid Conference on the Middle East.

Israel should give up its tough attitude towards Palestinian autonomy. But nothing would justify terrorism. The Russian Federation would try to enhance the peace process and to bring about Arab-Israeli reconciliation.

ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said his Government supported today's Council meeting to support the peace process, which was going through a difficult time. It was essential that the scope of Israeli security measures did not penalize Palestinians. Otherwise, their trust in the peace process and a durable compromise would be shattered.

His Government condemned terrorist acts against Israel and called on the Palestinian Authority to take measures against those who had committed them. Yet, some of the Israeli security measures had drastic effects on liberty and movement and created destabilizing effects on the budget of the Palestinian Authority. Those measures were also against the spirit and the letter of the agreements of 28 September 1995. The measures gave rise to rancour.

The parties must find a way to understanding, he said. Otherwise, the cycle of violence, repression and terrorism would begin again. That would have far-reaching effects, such as the recent effects on the populations of southern Lebanon and northern Israel. The international community must encourage the process with a just and global peace. That meant restoring confidence. His Government hoped that essential security measures were taken, so that Palestinians were not punished collectively.

TONO EITEL (Germany) said the situation in the Middle East had improved. But recent events showed that the peace process was threatened by terrorism. The Palestinians also wanted peace to improve their conditions. Terrorism had taken a heavy toll on Israel. The lives of Prime Minister Rabin and too many others had been taken by the enemies of peace.

He said that the Israeli measures imposed a heavy toll on Palestinians who had supported the peace process in the recent elections. He expressed support for the recent Summit of the Peacemakers held at Sharm el-Sheikh. He welcomed efforts by the Palestinian Authority to combat terrorism. The measures by Israel to ease its restrictions were welcomed. Further easing would be helpful. All parties should exercise restraint in order to support the peace process.

The international community should support the peace process, he said. Israel and the Palestinian National Authority should be encouraged in their steps towards peace. Germany had contributed and would continue to contribute to the development of the Palestinian territories.

STEPHEN GOMERSALL (United Kingdom) said his Government condemned terrorism unreservedly and recognized Israel's right to security. It had the right to protect its citizens against Hamas genocide bombings. But security and economic stability were two sides of the same coin. Serious and sudden unemployment among Palestinians had raised poverty to alarming levels and posed difficulties for the Palestinian Authority.

His Government regretted that there had not been more access to the Holy places over Easter. The status of Jerusalem remained to be determined and nothing should jeopardize upcoming talks on the issue. Stability rested on the proper functioning of democracy.

He welcomed recent Israeli measures to ease the closures of the West Bank and Gaza. Facilities for Palestinian exports to Egypt and Jordan must be guaranteed. Above all, his Government believed the peace process should continue, as it would benefit both Palestinians and Israelis alike and all parties should adhere to their agreements so far.

GERARDO MARTINEZ BLANCO (Honduras) condemned all acts of terrorism and expressed concern at the hardships being suffered by the Palestinians as a result of the closure of the territories. The situation was dangerous and affected the peace process and the economy of the Palestinians. The fight against terrorism should not be used to punish a people, and Israel should lift its restrictions. They would not help the peace process and would affect the implementation of the agreements between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. The measures of restriction affected even the distribution of food in the territories and they should be ended.

GIULIO TERZI DI SANT'AGATA (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, said that after the appalling bombings in Israel, which had killed and injured so many innocent victims, and which aimed through blind violence to undermine the peace process, the European Union reaffirmed its solidarity and support for all efforts to establish a durable peace in the region. Safeguarding the security of the Israeli and Palestinian populations was a fundamental element in implementing the peace process. In condemning the barbaric terrorist acts in Israel, it acknowledged the need to assure the safety of the Israeli population and to prevent further terrorist acts. It urged the Israeli and Palestinian Authorities to cooperate closely to detain and punish those responsible.

The European Union, he said, recognized the hardship imposed on the Palestinian population resulting from the closure by Israel for security reasons of all land and sea borders with Gaza and the West Bank. He recalled the essential role in building up support for the peace process in the Palestinian entity of the reconstruction assistance provided by the international community, almost half of which came from the European Union. The closure of the borders, which must be completely ended as soon as possible, was already threatening that essential import-dependent work, and causing suffering through lack of food supplies to the Palestinian population. He therefore called on Israel to allow humanitarian assistance and materials for the internationally financed reconstruction programme to go through, under appropriate security safeguards but without undue delay, and to cease the imposition of collective punishment. The peace process must be made irreversible. He urged all the parties to pursue its implementation with determination

ZBIGNIEW M. WLOSOWICZ (Poland) said the peace process in the Middle East was the only feasible option for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The two nations should persevere in the determination they had displayed to overcome emerging problems and to continue working together as foreseen in the Declaration of Principles and subsequent documents.

Terrorism had proved to be capable of shaking the very foundations of the peace process in the Middle East, he continued. It had brought death and suffering to innocent people. It had caused despair and had augmented the feeling of uncertainty so detrimental to the peace full future of that land severely tried by history. The Government of Poland had condemned the recent acts of terrorism committed in Israel.

His Government understood and respected the concerns of the Israeli Government, he said. It had the right and, indeed, an obligation to provide the security for its people. With an overall task of further advancing the peace process in the Middle East in mind, Poland sincerely hoped that the measures devised by the Israeli Authorities would be commensurate with the acts of terrorism, which — after all — were committed by individuals. The majority of the Palestinian population, who supported what the Israeli and Palestinian leaders had agreed upon, should not be held responsible for the crimes committed by others and left exposed to the new wave of humanitarian difficulties.

The economic situation of the Palestinian population was of paramount importance in checking violence, he said. He feared that the security measures instituted by the Israeli Government could obstruct the flow of international aid pledged to the Palestinians, thus causing an additional hardship to the people who lived in the area and slowing the whole peace process. He welcomed the recent decisions by the Government of Israel to ease some of the restrictions. The parties should refrain from undertaking any measures that could increase tension in the region and work together to overcome all the obstacles on the path to peace, stability and economic prosperity in the Middle East. His Government, for its part, would continue working along with the international community to assist the people of Israel and Palestine in their efforts to open a new chapter in their common history.

ADELINO MANO QUETA (Guinea-Bissau) said the recent closures were a major concern, as they had a negative effect which put the peace process at risk. Although the measures were claimed to the legitimate acts of security, they were not appropriate at the moment when parties were trying to redouble their efforts to preserve their achievements of the peace process.

He condemned the acts of terrorism which had cost innocent lives in Israel and welcomed the April summit which was held in Egypt under the leadership of President Hosni Mubarak and United States President Bill Clinton. He hoped the conclusions would help peace in the region and combat terrorism. At the current juncture, any progress towards peace depended on the parties involved, he added.

MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said that Israel had resorted to a harsh regimen of collective punishment on the residents of the West Bank and Gaza. Consequently, economic activities had come to a virtual standstill. Furthermore, Arab Jerusalem had been placed off-limits to all residents of the West Bank and Gaza. And, reminiscent of Israel's policies and practices of the past, schools of higher learning and other educational institutions had bene summarily closed, houses of alleged perpetrators of violence had been demolished, while the expansion of settlements and confiscation of lands had gone unabated. Those measures were in violation of all internationally accepted norms and principles and massive abuse of fundamental human rights, which had directly contributed to the Palestinian sense of alienation and frustration. All of that had opened a new, more cruel page in Palestinian-Israeli relations and was tantamount to a policy of retribution against the entire Palestinian nation for acts committed by individuals. They were incompatible with the vision of Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation and a Palestinian nation at peace with its neighbouring Israel.

As heinous as the consequences of violence and terrorism were, they should not deter the international community from expressing its strong and unequivocal condemnation of the punishment of an entire nation, he said. For, the Palestinian Authority, which itself had condemned terror attacks, had taken determined steps not only to apprehend the perpetrators of crimes, but also to maintain law and order. Hence, reasons of security could not be invoked by Israel for its draconian actions.

It was self-evident that prolonged closure and the imposition of restrictions had already caused considerable damage to the fabric of Palestinian economy and society, he said. They must now cease and goods be allowed to move freely across the pre-1967 borders. Furthermore, the Government of Israel should observe the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention applicable to the occupied territories and refrain from illegal actions. The future of the peace accords and their continuing support of the Palestinian people might well hinge upon Israel's actions.

The Middle East peace process faced a critical test, he said. Either it could move forward despite the setbacks, or it would relapse into a dangerous phase with its untold consequences. The most viable current policy was to establish a stable political environment and to persist in building peace. The peace process leading to Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories was the only door open to co-existence and a security future for all the countries in the region. Prolonged delays in reaching tangible gains might erode the mutual confidence that had been built in recent times.

JUAN SOMAVIA (Chile) condemned terrorism at all times. Its use in February in Israel was repugnant. At the same time, the measures taken to defend Israel must take account of their impact on the daily lives of people living under the areas controlled by the Palestinian National Authority. The closure of the territories had caused some humanitarian and political concerns that must be resolved as soon as possible.

He said there should be no collective sanctions. The borders should be opened. Violence should not be supported. He expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people in their suffering and sympathized with the Israeli victims of terrorism. The Israelis and the Palestinian National Authority should be supported, to enable them to overcome the problems they would face in their journey towards peace.

MOHAMMAD J. SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said it was a clear understanding of the economic and social situation facing the Palestinian people because of the restrictions, confiscation of land and other actions by Israel. As a result, the international community had increasing doubts about Israel's commitment to the peace process as a whole. Since late February, Israeli closures in the West Bank and Gaza had penalized the Arab population, preventing people from going to their places of work and worship. The closures had lead to hunger, poverty, unemployment, health problems and other suffering. The Israeli Government had even reimposed its military occupation in areas where it had withdrawn. Illegitimate Israeli practices in the occupied territories and its bombing of Lebanese villages were a clear violation of international agreement and led to instability which threatened the peace process.

The Security Council should pressure Israel to recognize its agreements and implement fully its commitments to the peace process, he said. Israeli collective punishment against the Palestinian people was not conducive to peace in the region and only contributed once again to the huge waste of humanitarian resources which could have been devoted towards development. Israel should withdraw its forces from all the occupied Arab and Palestinian territories, including the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon, according to relevant Security Council resolutions. He called for the Middle East to be declared a zone free from all nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

MOHAMMAD A. ABULHASAN (Kuwait) said the Israeli restrictions had violated the international norms and customs and had negated Israel's commitments make in the Oslo accords and other agreements. He was concerned at the inhuman Israeli practices and the Security Council should insist that Israel stop its mass punishment, respect their agreements wit the Palestinian National Authority and respect the rights of the Palestinians. That should include the right to an independent State, with Jerusalem as its capital.

Peace would be lasting and comprehensive if all of its aspects were dealt with, he continued. Therefore, progress should be made in the peace talks between Israel and Lebanon and with Syria. Measures should be found to fight terrorism and uproot its causes. Presently, efforts should be made to strengthen the peace process and ensure its success. It should not be allowed to lose its momentum. The international community should support the Palestinians people to build their infrastructures. Kuwait had been the first to give such support.

SAMIR MOUBARAK (Lebanon) said the international community was witnessing a renewed cycle violence, which had even reached the suburbs of Beirut. Even as peace was being celebrated in the Middle East, the drums of war were beating again. The Israeli military machine had damaged Lebanese cities and villages and killed scores of civilians. The Israeli Prime Minister had taken off his hat of peace and put on his boxing gloves. He wanted to show to the Israeli electorate that he would impose peace on Israeli terms.

He said that for weeks Palestinians had been subjected to a siege, with their homes blown up and with other forms of coercive punishment. Such punishments could not be justified and they were supported only in Israel. The restrictions had led to the deaths of children due to lack of medicine.

Israeli action had now reached Lebanon, with many of its cities being threatened, he continued. Israel had blockaded the Lebanese coast and bombarded homes in Lebanon. The bombardments had killed up to 50 people. Hundreds of civilians were also injured and many homes had been destroyed.

Those measures had only threatened international peace and security, he said. That policy would only lead to more tragedy for all. The measures violated international law and the United Nations Charter. They were contrary to civilized conduct. The Israelis showed they had no regard for the Security Council. Its leaders saw themselves as being above the reach of international law. He would reserve further comment on the situation in Lebanon for a later meeting.

JAKKEN BIORN LIAN (Norway) said the international community should coordinate its efforts to fight terrorism in the Middle East and worldwide. The Summit of Peacemakers in Sharm el-Sheikh and the coming ministerial meeting in Luxembourg, constituted the framework for international coordination and cooperation on counter-terrorism. Terrorism must not be allowed to stop the peace process. The international community must ensure that the clear message from the Summit of Peacemakers was fully implemented and amplified in its practical application.

It was vital that the donor community help to mitigate the effects of the border closure on Palestinian economy and society, he said. Norway had called for an emergency meeting of the ah hoc liaison committee in Brussels on 12 April The meeting had been devoted entirely to issues pertaining to economic help to the Palestinians. Based on reports presented to that meeting, the following areas should be highlighted: additional financial support to cover the deepening budget deficit was urgently needed and donors should pay their pledges to the Holst Fund without delay; new, small and dispersed projects should be funded that could create immediate employment; and pledges from the Paris Conference on 9 January should be fulfilled as soon as possible. Also, some improvements in the transport of goods into and out of the Palestinian areas had taken place and the number of Palestinians allowed into Israel to work was slowly picking up. These developments should continue, as they were of the highest importance for a substantial improvement in the Palestinian economy. In conclusion, he said, Norway was deeply concerned about the present escalation in Lebanon, which had led to civilian casualties and large migration flows away from the battle zone. He urged the parties to stop the spiral of violence and conclude an immediate cease-fire, so as to avoid further damage to civilians and enable the resumption of peace negotiations in the region.

The meeting was suspended at 1:34 p.m.

When the meeting reconvened at 3:30 p.m. RAZALI ISMAIL (Malaysia) said that if recent disturbing developments were not addressed comprehensively and urgently, they would have serious repercussions affecting international peace and security. Today's debate was a necessary response to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's strong plea for the Council to address Israel's policy of blockade and closure and its escalating military attacks in Lebanon. The combined effect of Israeli action in Palestine and Lebanon, at a time of political volatility in Israel, had reinforced those inside and outside Israel who wanted to derail the peace process. The major Powers, the United States and important countries in the Middle East must arrest the slide that could undo historic achievements.

Israel's security blockade in the West Bank and Gaza was damaging the nascent Palestinian economy, causing rampant unemployment and adversely affecting income from agricultural exports, he continued. Harsh Israeli measures, including the demolition of homes, confiscation of land, expansion of settlements and severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods represented grave violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and were a blatant strangulation of the Palestinian people and their economy.

Both Israelis and Palestinians had shown their strong commitment to fostering understanding and peace by signing the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1995, he said. Now, more than ever, those commitments should not be derailed by extremists or domestic politics. His Government reaffirmed its total commitment and support for the Palestinian people's right to exercise self-determination and to establish an independent State. It also supported the need for peace and security in Lebanon. Israeli occupation violated the sovereignty of southern Lebanon and was militarily indefensible. Israeli security would be protected through a political compact with its neighbours and Lebanon's integrity must be part of that compact. The attacks in Lebanon put Israel on a collision path. Leaders who had forged a historic breakthrough for peace must not let extremism or shortsighted policy prevail.

AHMAD HALLAK (Syria) said that the Israeli actions had isolated the Palestinian territories. Being silent on Israel's refusal to implement resolutions and abide by international legality had encouraged it to commit more attacks. Its actions had even reached Beirut, displacing thousands of civilians and causing many civilian casualties. Security would only be achieved by withdrawal from the occupied territories, not by blocking the Palestinians or attacking Lebanese territory.

The Council must shoulder its responsibilities in the face of Israeli action, he said. It should take action to ensure respect for international legality based on relevant Council resolutions and on the basis of land for peace. The full rights of the Palestinian people should be respected and granted. Those included the right to their State, with Al-Quds as its capital.

RAVAN FARHADI, Acting Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people, said the decision by the Israeli Government regarding the blockade and closure of Israeli borders with the Palestinian territory had led to economic hardships and aggravation of tensions in the area and was of great concern to his Committee. The action had made life for the people of the Palestinian territory extremely difficult. That situation might increase difficulties in the relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli policy, he added, had resulted in rapidly escalating hardships for the entire Palestinian population. Uncertain food supplies and massive unemployment had reached crisis levels. Patients and medical staff alike were unable to travel from one area of the West Bank to another to reach hospitals and clinics — even in emergency situations. Education, agriculture and business activity had been severely disrupted. International non-governmental organizations staff — including foreign nationals — had been prohibited from moving between population areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Committee believed that those measures violated the relevant provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 which was applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, including Jerusalem, as well as the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. The policy of Israel contradicted the concept of peacemaking on the basis of the agreements reached between the two parties. Responses to acts of violence committed by some elements should no be directed at the Palestinian people as a whole and should not hinder the peace process.

On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, he called upon the Security Council and the co-sponsors of the peace process to use their strong influence to persuade Israel to end its unjust policy of closure of Israeli borders with the Palestinian territory. The international community must also persuade thee parties to proceed rapidly with the peace process as the only way that a lasting peace could be achieved in the region. The Committee was also extremely worried about the negative impact on all Palestinians of the recent armed conflicts and of Israeli shelling and air raids in south Lebanon and in the suburbs of Beirut.

AHMET ENGIN ANSAY, Permanent Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the restrictive Israeli practices did not comply with the spirit of compromise and cooperation that should have characterized all dealings between the Palestinian and Israeli authorities in implementing the peace agreements. Israel's drastic actions only hindered the peace process and threw it into jeopardy. Those actions included the latest aerial attacks on Lebanese territories, including Beirut, its bombing even of ambulances, its decision to freeze the peace talks, its occupation of Arab territories and frequent closure of Palestinian borders. The Organization of the Islamic Conference did not condone terrorism and it should be contained, as it had stated at various forums.

The Islamic Conference wanted to continue encouraging and supporting the peace process, he said. However, that could not be accomplished without a visible and immediate change in attitudes and practices. It would like to see the implementation of Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) and Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian and Arab territories, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif. Israel should also leave Lebanese territories and the occupied Syrian Golan and immediately halt its military actions in Lebanon. That State should be persuaded not to carry out demographic or geographic changes in Al-Quds Al-Sharif during the interim phase, which might jeopardize the outcome of the negotiations on that city's final status, and to stop Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestine and Arab territories, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

He said that the international community should help the Palestinian people and alleviate their suffering. In that regard, the resolve towards the peace process should be maintained and the pace of its progress accelerated. The Palestinian National Authority should be helped to gain a firmer control over all its nation-building tasks, so that the Palestinian people might re-emerge as an independent, sovereign nation under its own flag flying over all of its territory, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif, and having the full status of a United Nations Member State.

GAAFAR M. ALLAGANY (Saudi Arabia) said his Government was deeply concerned with developments in the Middle East. Israel had continued its harsh measures in Palestine, including the confiscation of land, increasing Israeli settlements and restriction of movement. Israel claimed that those measures were to ensure its security but the policy had made life unbearable for Palestinians. The Israeli measures, including the severing of links between the Palestinian people and the outside world, were counter to peace agreements and had nothing to do with peacemaking.

His Government believed such actions were tantamount to declaring war against the Palestinian people, he continued. The question of Al-Qud Al-Sharif must be considered in any solution and Security Council resolution 242 (1967) must be taken into account. Any actions should not jeopardize talks on the future status of Jerusalem.

The Israeli Government had violated its commitments to refrain from putting any obstacles in the way of the peace process in the Middle East. Those commitments included recognizing the rights of the Palestinian people.

Syria had gone a long way towards furthering peace by raising the level of its representatives in bilateral negotiations with Israel.

Israel's constant bombardment of Lebanese villages violated Security Council resolution 425 (1978), which stipulates Israel's withdrawal from Lebanese territory. East Jerusalem must be returned to Palestinian authority. The Israeli leaders must learn from the lessons of history and recognize that there must be a balance of interests among rivals, so that the Middle East could enjoy peace and security.

TULUY TANC (Turkey) said that in the last few years there had been remarkable developments in the Middle East. The bold steps on the difficult road towards peace had aroused expectations and excitement and Turkey wholeheartedly supported the peace process. At the current significant time, it attached the highest importance to the preservation of the momentum towards achieving peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East. Presently, terrorism was the biggest danger to the peace process and the struggle against it was the legitimate right of the countries of the region. Terrorism must be eliminated in order for the quest for peace and stability in the Middle East to succeed. At the same time, it was necessary that while the struggle was being carried out, harm not come to innocent people, and the fight against terrorist acts remained within the boundaries of lawfulness.

He said another crucial element was the support being given by the Palestinian people to the peace process. Palestinians had recently established, through a democratic election, their legitimate administration. In order to maintain their support, it was important that the economic hardships encountered by the Palestinian people as a result of the measures taken by Israel be eliminated without delay. Improved economic conditions was one of the most important factors in ensuring people's attachment to peace. The collective punishment of the Palestinian people was not acceptable. It would weaken the support of Palestinians for the process.

HASAN ABU-NIMAH (Jordan) said that the Israeli measure were a form of collective punishment that exceeded the search for peace or security. There was a need to curb all acts of terrorism, which were condemnable acts. They destabilized the peace process and the region as a whole. However, dealing with that scourge must conform with international law and not by adopting double standards or measures that did not consider the social tragedies that resulted from the harsh treatment of Palestinians. Such measures escalated the atmosphere of tension, which had been receding.

The Israeli actions in Lebanon were a threat to the region's peace and security, also, he said. He would talk further on that at the appropriate time. The actions imposed on the Palestinians weakened support for the peace process and contradicted the agreements between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. Efforts should be taken to reverse the course of events in the territories and get Israel to reverse its blockade imposed on the Palestinian territories. The Council should urge the parties to return to the negotiating table and also support the peace process.

MOHAMED A. AZWAI (Libya) said the Israelis had interpreted the summit of Sharm el-Sheik as giving them support for the oppressive and suppressive actions against the Palestinian people daring to reject occupation and resist the occupiers, using whatever available resources they had from stones to suicidal operations. The Israeli Government had perpetrated the most heinous crimes against the Palestinians, convinced that that would help it get re-elected and would halt resistance to its obnoxious occupation. Reneging on promises was nothing new to the Israelis. A number of resolutions had been adopted calling on them to withdraw from the occupied territories to observe international treaties in dealing with the inhabitants of these territories, and allow the refugees to return to their homes. But the Israelis had never complied with them.

He asked why had the Israelis insisted on the non-implementation of Security Council resolutions? Why had the Security Council never been able to impose respect for its resolutions? Why was it that no single resolution against Israel had been adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter despite the fact that most Israeli crimes fell under that Chapter? Why did the whole world raise hell when Israelis faced resistance to their occupation, but never raised a finger when Israelis committed the most terrible measures against the Arabs in Palestine or in Lebanon? The Prime Minister of Israel had declared he would not sacrifice security for peace. Did not that prove that Israelis did not believe in peace, but worked for capitulation? Did not the Israelis know that the policy of suppression, oppression and the occupation of land by force would never lead to peace, he asked.

The Israelis and their allies would be gravely mistaken if they thought that normalization with Arab countries would force the Arab nation to surrender, he continued. The double standards applied by the Security Council under pressure by the United States and its allies, whenever there was something that touched the Israelis, was a wrong policy and destructive to United Nations credibility, and the Council in particular. That conviction was born out of Libya's experience with repeated United States aggression, the most prominent of which was the American aggression against Libyan cities in 1986 with the assistance of the United Kingdom. The whole world condemned the aggression, but the Council was unable to adopt a resolution condemning the aggression, because the aggressor used its power to veto. The Council ignored General Assembly resolution 41/38 which instructed it to remain seized of the question of the American aggression. He continued to hope the Security Council would play its vital role in the maintenance of world peace and security.

SLAHEDDINE ABDELLAH (Tunisia) said Israeli actions had disrupted the lives of Palestinians, as well as their contact with the outside world. The measures were a violation of Security Council resolutions, the Fourth Geneva Convention and agreements between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. The basic economic interests between the Palestinian territories and Israel had been strangled. The Palestinians had become isolated and were living in an almost "ghetto-like" situation under terrible conditions. The result could seriously affect peace in the region. The enemies of peace would find a pretext to carry out their designs.

His Government recognized the legitimate right of any government to provide security for its citizens, he continued. It had also condemned recent terrorist attacks in Israel and the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin. But the acts of a group could not be used to suppress an entire people who also had a right to security and to live in dignity and freedom. Punishing a whole people would not further peace. The Summit at Sharm el-Sheik had acknowledged the importance of peace and the need to counter terrorism, but the Israeli measures would only fuel hatred and impede the peace process.

He called on Israel to rescind harsh measures against the Palestinian people, which restricted their freedom of movement. He also called for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories according to the timetable to which the Israelis had agreed. If Israel really wanted a peace that would command respect and commitment, it must give up its current harsh policies.

He appealed to the United States and the Russian Federation to help renew the peace process and to donor countries to provide the Palestinian people with resources to help rebuild their economy. He called on the Security Council to call for restraint and the resumption of dialogue.

ANDELFO J. GARCIA (Colombia) said the international community wanted a just and lasting peace that would guarantee the security of all States in the Middle East. To achieve that, there should be full compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions. The United Nations responsibility should continue until the Palestinians had their rights and the problem of refugees was resolved. It was vital to ensure economic and social development in the Palestinians territories to further generate support for the Declaration of Principles. The improvement of the concrete situation of the Palestinians would garner more support for the peace process, failing which the peace process would be fragile. Therefore the actions by Israel ran counter to the efforts to buttress support for the peace process.

He agreed with Mr. Arafat's letter that peace was for the international community, the Arabs and the Israelis. Israel should reverse its policy and comply with is agreements with the Palestinian National Assembly.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) recalled that his delegation had previously warned that if harsh measures continued to be taken against the Palestinians, threats to the peace process might emerge. At that time the Security Council had not been able to take action due to a United States veto of a resolution on the question. Today, another meeting was being held on a similar situation.

How would the Security Council deal with the current situation? he asked. "How could we explain the difference between the rhetoric, the post-cold war new world order and the practice of daily reality?", he asked. How would the imposition of double standards in the Security Council be avoided?, he also asked.

He asked what the objectives of the Israeli actions were. He wondered if they were meant to incite those opposed to the peace process. Cuba demanded the end of the harsh measures. It also called for compliance with the resolutions of the Security Council. The United Nations and the Security Council should be able to fulfil their historic responsibilities to the Palestinian people.

AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan) said recent measures taken by Israel against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the holy city of Jerusalem — Al-Quds Al-Sharif, making it off-limits to the Palestinian people, and of imposing stringent restrictions on their entry into the city, had created enormous problems, particularly in view of the special status of the city as the religious, commercial and cultural centre for the Palestinian people. Those measures contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 as well as the relevant resolutions of the Council, Assembly and other organs of the United Nations. They also violated the agreements reached with the PLO and were particularly disturbing as they had a direct bearing on the peace process that should lead to the early exercise of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination through the establishment of an independent home land. That required the Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories, including the holy city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif. Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) continued to provide a viable and just framework for a durable and comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian question.

He said it was imperative to maintain the present momentum in the negotiating process and there should be no delay in the implementation of the agreements and accords concluded so far. Their provisions should be complied with both in letter and in spirit. He strongly urged the demonstration of the requisite flexibility and accommodation as well as a sincere commitment to a just and comprehensive peace that would ensure security and stability for the Middle East. Pakistan called on the Council to take urgent measures to redress the current grave situation as it imperiled the peace of the holy city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif. The Council had a duty to call upon the Israeli authorities to immediately end those unjust policies and practices and to desist from taking similar measures in future, he added.

HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said that the international community had witnessed steady progress in the Middle East peace process. That had been achieved through the best efforts of the parties directly involved and with the support of many other members of the international community committed to the restoration of peace in the Middle East. He was referring to the successful elections held last January for the Palestinian Council. A total of 650 election monitors, including 77 from Japan, had participated. In the light of that progress, the situation now evolving was disturbing. Japan joined the other countries that had expressed in the Council their grave concern over recent developments in the region. The same applied to the situation in Lebanon, he added.

In order to prevent further acts of terrorism and to get the peace process back on track, efforts by the parties concerned, with the support of the international community, were of primary importance, he said. It was significant that the Summit of Peacemakers held in Sharm el-Sheikh had condemned terrorism unequivocally. The Summit had sent two important messages: that further progress in the peace process was imperative; and that the international community would cooperate to fight terrorism to ensure that such progress was made.

The recent events in the Middle East demonstrated that poverty and unemployment provided a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, he said. If the international community was to bolster the foundations of the peace process and help to build a society free of terrorism, it was essential that the economic and social environment of the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza be improved. Measures to maintain order in the two areas must take due account of the socio-economic realities of the Palestinian inhabitants. Japan fully understood the need for Israel to have peace and security. However, if the economic and social environment in which the Palestinians lived continued to deteriorate, Israel's counter-terrorism measures could be self-defeating and undermine the overall peace process.

At the Peacemakers Summit, he said, Japan had announced its decision to provide a package of assistance for creating employment valued at about $10 million. It had, already implemented that assistance and was ready to participate in the subsequent efforts. It welcomed the emergency plan designed to improve the economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza, which had been announced at the Washington follow-up meeting to the Peacemakers Summit. The smooth implementation of the plan should help improve the Palestinians' economic situation.

The peace process was the only realistic option for bringing to an end the long and tragic history of conflict in the Middle East, he said. Japan strongly urged both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority to remain firmly committed to the peace process. They should redouble their efforts to build mutual confidence and proceed with the faithful implementation of the agreement expanding Palestinian interim self-government on schedule. The international community must support such efforts by the parties by cooperating to suppress terrorism and to improve the social and economic conditions of the Palestinian people. Japan would continue to extend its active assistance to the Palestinian people.

RAMTANE LAMARA (Algeria) said his Government had condemned the repressive measures by Israel, which had strangled the Palestinian people and their economy. The measures amounted to a collective punishment which violated international law and Israel's agreements. They also added to the economic and social distress of the Palestinian people and called into question key agreements, including the Israeli withdrawal from Hebron, which should have been completed by 28 March, and the commencement of negotiations on the status of Jerusalem, which had been deferred.

Respect for international law was the underpinning of the peace process, he continued. The Council had responsibilities to fill at a time when Israel's actions in southern Lebanon threatened a dangerous resurgence of the spirit of confrontation.

HAMED MOHAMED OBADI (Yemen) said that the Israeli measures could threaten the peace process. The reprisal measures violated the 1949 Geneva Convention. The blockade, confiscation of land and restrictions on the Palestinians had paralysed the movement of people and goods in the West Bank and Gaza. That could lead to catastrophe unless the measures were lifted. The blockade of access to Jerusalem violated the Israeli commitments to relevant agreements.

The international community and donor States should continue providing assistance and help end the Israeli reprisals, the confiscation of land and the demolition of houses, he continued. The Palestinians should be allowed to develop their own democratic state. Israel should realize peace would come through respect for Palestinian rights. The Israeli actions in Lebanon also threatened peace. The Security Council should pressure Israel to stop those actions and to respect Lebanese sovereignty, as well as withdraw from its territory. The relevant resolutions of the Security Council should be complied with. Israel should withdraw from the Syrian Golan. Further, it should stop its harsh practices, so that peace would move forward for all the people on the basis of justice.

AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco) said opting for peace was a difficult gamble, but the results of negotiations had made the peace process irreversible and the partners had chosen to preserve their work, despite tragedy, acts of violence and despair. That was why the international community must do its utmost to mobilize against terrorists and violence. But there was also a duty to give the Palestinians reasons for hope and confidence in the peace process. That had been aggravated by measures which had dealt a severe blow to Palestinians socio-economic life and robbed them of the motivation to go forward.

He said Israeli measures could also have unforeseeable consequences. The international community must give vital assistance to the Palestinian people, so they could go forward and enable them to demonstrate a reason to opt for peace. A lasting settlement must be built on the principles of laws, justice and equality. That must also be the foundation of a durable peace between Syria and Lebanon on one hand, and Israel on the other. The international community must ensure a future of peace and stability by putting an end to terrorism and by demonstrating political, economic and moral leadership.

ALIOUNE DIAGNE (Senegal) said that Israeli measures were tantamount to strangling the entire Palestinian economy and that of Jerusalem. They punished the entire Palestinian people for the actions of a few. He condemned the measures, such as the demolition of houses and the restriction of movement. The authorities in Israel should return to the path of wisdom and abide by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Conventions and protocols and relevant Security Council resolutions. That would give the peace process a further boost.

He agreed that a resumption and consolidation of the peace process would depend on a climate of trust created by the Oslo accords. Israel should cooperate with the people of Palestine, and the Palestinian National Authority. That would be the only guarantee of success for the peace process, which in turn would guarantee the security of Israel.


* In Press Release SC/6205 of 12 April, the meeting number should have indicated 3651st Meeting (PM).

* *** *