Action Said to Impair Peace Process; Israel Contends Aim

Is Just to Coordinate Public Services for Neighbouring Communities

The Security Council today  held a debate on the situation in the occupied Arab territories, in  particular the 21  June decision by the  Government of Israel to expand the border  of Jerusalem and extend the municipal authority over  some Jewish settlements  in the  West Bank through the  creation of an "umbrella authority".

Meeting  at the  request  of  the Sudan,  the  Council heard  a number  of speakers call on the  Israeli Government to  rescind its decision to  expand the boundaries  of the holy  city and cease  its expansionist  policies.  By initiating, encouraging  and endorsing settlement  activity in the  occupied territories, the  Israeli Government was in  violation of  the Fourth Geneva Convention,  they  said.    Israel  should   recognize  the  right  of   the Palestinians to  exercise self-determination, without  excluding the  option of a State. Other speakers  called on the Palestinian leadership to reaffirm its  commitment  to the  legitimate right  of  Israel  to live  within safe, recognized borders.

The  Observer for  Palestine said  that  throughout  the years  Israel had undertaken a number of  illegal and immoral  policies and measures to  annex occupied territories, confiscate lands and expand municipal boundaries,  and to isolate East Jerusalem from  the rest of the West Bank.  Palestine  hoped the  Security  Council would  finally undertake  the  necessary measures  to guarantee  the  rescinding  of  the  plan,   and  to  prevent  Israel   from undertaking any further  illegal actions  in Jerusalem and  the rest of  the occupied territories.   The  Council  was  under obligation  to do  that  in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law.

The representative of Israel  said the "umbrella  municipality" was merely a coordination mechanism between Jerusalem and  surrounding communities.  It did not  entail a  shift of  municipal boundaries,  nor did  it involve  the extension of  municipal authority over any  Israeli settlements.   It simply allowed neighbouring communities  to coordinate  services — such as  public works, sanitation,  water, public health clinics  and education  — with the purpose  of  creating economies  of scale  to  reduce costs.   The  greatest problems facing  Jerusalem were terrorism and  preventing violence, and  did not originate from Israel's efforts to preserve and protect the city.

The representative  of the Sudan,  speaking on behalf  of the Arab  Group, said  the  Israeli action  in expanding  the boundaries  of Jerusalem  was a flagrant violation  of  international law  and  the  Madrid and  Oslo  peace accords. The Arab League had called upon the United States to get Israel  to abide by the  accords already achieved.   The Security Council  must condemn the  Israeli action and declare it null and void.   Any Council measure must reaffirm its  principled position.  A  wrong message should  not be sent  to Israel.

The  representative of the  United States  said all parties to the Middle East process should refrain from any  unilateral action which could prejudge the outcome of the  permanent status  negotiations.   The Palestinians had agreed in principle  with ideas  his Government  had put  forward, and  the United  States was working with  Israel to determine whether they could also accept a proposal that would allow both sides  to return to permanent status negotiations.   The Council could  not and should  not interject itself into issues that the parties themselves had decided would be dealt with in  face-to-face negotiations.

Statements  were also  made  by Bahrain,  Russian Federation,  Costa Rica, Brazil,  China,  United  Kingdom  (on  behalf  of  the  European  Union  and associated States), Japan,  Gambia, Kenya, France, Gabon, Slovenia,  Sweden, Portugal,  United Arab  Emirates, Algeria,  Morocco, Norway,  Qatar,  Egypt, Syria,  Yemen, Lebanon,  Jordan, Tunisia,  Bangladesh, Saudi  Arabia,  Iraq, Kuwait,  Oman, Mauritania,  Indonesia, Malaysia,  Iran, Colombia,  Cuba  and Peru.

Representatives  of  the  Committee  on  the  Inalienable  Rights  of  the Palestinian  People, and  the Permanent  Observers  for  the League  of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.

The meeting,  which began at 10:20  a.m., was suspended at  1:12 p.m.  It resumed at 3:39 p.m. and adjourned at 6:35 p.m.

Council Work Programme

The Security  Council met  this morning  at the  request of  the Sudan  to consider the situation in the occupied Arab territories.

The Council had before it a  22 June letter (document  A/52/963-S/1998/557) to the Secretary-General from the Permanent Observer for Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, which  requests that the Council  meet to  consider recent illegal Israeli settlement activity.

That request, states Mr.  Al-Kidwa, was in response to the decision by the Government  of  Israel,  the  occupying  Power,  to  expand  the  border  of Jerusalem and  extend the municipal authority  over some Jewish  settlements in the West Bank, establishing an  "umbrella authority".  The  plan included accelerated  construction  of roads  for  those  settlements,  a  multi-year housing investment plan and new infrastructure.  It  was a step towards  the annexation  of  more  occupied Palestinian  land  to  the  already illegally expanded Jerusalem municipality and ensure a  greater Jewish majority in the demographic composition of occupied Jerusalem.

In an 18 June letter (document A/52/958-S/1998/535) the Secretary-General, the Permanent Observer for Palestine noted a statement by Prime  Minister  Benjamin  Netanyahu  of  Israel announcing  the  "umbrella municipality." Regarding  Israel's  attempt  to build  a new settlement at Jabal Abu  Ghneim to the south of occupied East Jerusalem, Mr.  Al-Kidwa quotes the Prime Minister as  saying:  "You  will see houses at 'Har  Homa', many houses, by the year 2000."

In  a  15  June  letter  (document  A/52/949-S/1998/511),  the Permanent Observer for Palestine  states that the Israeli army  issued an order on  11 June which allowed for the establishment of the  civil guards in the  Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  In practice, the  civil guards could serve as a  private army or  as an occupying army within  the occupied territory.  On the same  day, the Israeli army issued another order granting the settlement "Ariel" the formal status of a  city, implicitly indicating that it is not a

part of the occupied territory anymore.

By a letter dated 9 June (document A/52/948-S/1998/487),  Mr. Al-Kidwa informed the Council  that the Interior  Ministry of Israel approved the construction of 58 housing units for Jewish settlers in the area of the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem.


NASSER AL-KIDWA,  Permanent  Observer  for Palestine, said the  issue of Jerusalem was of great  importance to Palestine, the  Arab and Muslim worlds and  to the  international community as a whole.  The United  Nations had adopted a  special regime (corpus separatum)  for the city, and at a  later stage refrained from recognizing the de  facto situation resulting from  the war of 1948.   It had then  effectively dealt with the occupation  resulting from the 1967 war, with the aim of preventing Israel, the occupying  Power, from carrying  out any measures  to change  the legal status  or demographic composition of  East  Jerusalem, as  an integral part of  the  territories occupied since 1967, and to  which the Fourth Geneva  Convention of 1949 was applicable.  The Security Council had  adopted 16 resolutions on  Jerusalem, 10 of which were adopted  after the  occupation of  1967.  The  Council had reaffirmed in those resolutions its rejection  of all the Israeli  measures, considering them  null and void, and had called upon Member  States not to recognize them  and not to  move their  embassies  there.  There existed, therefore, a  clear international consensus  concerning  the  issue   of Jerusalem.

Throughout the  years,  Israel had  undertaken  a  number of  illegal  and immoral  policies and  measures to  annex occupied  territories,  confiscate lands  and expand municipal  boundaries and to isolate  East Jerusalem from the rest of  the West Bank.  Some  150,000 settlers had  been brought in, in an attempt  to create  a specific  demographic composition.  Those Israeli measures were creating a  situation that might lead  to the explosion of the whole region at any moment.  On  21 June, the Israeli Government had decided to approve  a plan aimed at  strengthening the  illegal hold  of Israel on Jerusalem.  The plan  would expand the municipal  boundaries of the city and would  establish an  "umbrella  city" to include a number of illegal settlements in the West Bank. That represented  a concrete step towards the illegal  annexation of  more  occupied  Palestinian  lands to the already illegally expanded Jerusalem  municipality, and towards  maintaining a specific demographic  composition with  the aim of further  "Judaization" of the city.

The plan  constituted a flagrant violation  of international  law and the 1949 Fourth  Geneva  Convention, as  well  as  of several  Security  Council resolutions and those of the tenth emergency special  session of the General Assembly.  He said Palestine hoped the Security  Council would have the will to finally undertake the necessary measures  to guarantee the rescinding of the  plan,  and to  prevent Israel from undertaking any further  illegal actions  in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories, beginning with the  adoption  of a  draft  resolution  sponsored  by the Arab  Group.  Palestine believed the  Council was under obligation to do that in accordance with the Charter and international  law.  The Palestinian  people could not give up Jerusalem, he said.  That was a reality which  must be understood.

DORE GOLD (Israel) said that 50 years ago the Jewish inhabitants were expelled from the Jewish quarter of the Old City of  Jerusalem.  Free access of  the Jewish  people to their holy places, particulary the Western Wall, was denied.  From 1948 to 1967, the Council did not meet  once to consider the denial of Jewish rights in  Jerusalem.  With Jerusalem's reunification, Israel was determined never to let that happen  again.  Israel's position in Jerusalem was not a product of recent events alone.  It emanated from a continuous historical link between the Jewish people and their eternal capital.  In addition, the Jewish  people's majority in  the city was not a present-day  demographic development, but it had been established in 1864, when Jerusalem was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

He said  his Government had  a  special  responsibility to  preserve  and protect  Jerusalem as a city that was holy to each of the three great faiths: Christianity, Islam  and Judaism.  In the 1994 Washington Declaration,  Israel pledged to  respect the  special role  of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem and give  priority to that  historical role in permanent  status  negotiations.   Israel  had sought to ensure the  development of Jerusalem for all its people, and was determined to protect the city for all its residents.  That consisted of a municipal blueprint  for bolstering the  city's economy and  infrastructure.  His Government's actions to  preserve and  protect Jerusalem  were fully in accordance with the Interim Agreement between Israel and  the Palestine Liberation Organization  (PLO), which  provided that  the city remain  under exclusive Israeli jurisdiction, while remaining an issue for permanent status negotiations.

Despite what Israel's critics  claimed, he said, the "umbrella municipality"  was  nothing  more  than a coordination mechanism  between Jerusalem  and surrounding  communities.  It did not entail  a  shift  of municipal boundaries, nor did it involve the extension of municipal authority over any Israeli  settlements.  It simply  allowed neighbouring communities to coordinate services — such as public works, sanitation, water, public  health clinics and education  — with the purpose of  creating economies  of scale  to reduce costs.  Such patterns of regional coordination existed between Jerusalem and  Palestinian cities in the West Bank that  were under the complete  jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.  Israel did not believe that they were  part of  a conspiracy to erode its status in northern  Jerusalem.  They were  practical solutions to local problems.

The  greatest  problem  facing Jerusalem  did  not  originate in  Israel's efforts  to  preserve and protect the city, he said.  Israel  faced Palestinian non-compliance  in fighting terrorism  and preventing violence.  In the last year, it was disclosed that  bomb factories belonging  to Hamas were operating in   Ramallah  and  Bethlehem  outside  of  Jerusalem.  The bulk of the infrastructure used  for  repeated suicide  bus  bombings  in the heart of Jerusalem remained intact.  Israel  was determined to make the peace process work.  The international community had  an enormous responsibility in that regard.   It could support the existing  framework  for  direct  negotiations between  the  parties  or undermine it with sterile  political resolutions  that  had little  factual basis.

JASSIM  MOHAMMED  BUALLAY  (Bahrain)  said  the  recent decisions  by  the Israeli Government were intended to  increase its stranglehold  on Jerusalem and  to  eradicate  its  Arab  character  by  changing  the  demographic and population  make  up.    Those actions  were  also contrary  to  all Council resolutions on the subject.  The Israeli Government  had taken a "u-turn" in face  of  all its  commitments, and  it had  turned  its back  on the  peace agreement contracted with the Palestinian people.  The peace  process in the Middle East was now facing an impasse, despite  the intense efforts made  by the United States  and the Russian Federation, as  well as the States of the European  Union, to put  the peace  process back  on the  right course.   By taking  a number  of illegal  actions  this  month, Israel  had flouted  all agreements  it  had  signed  with  the  Arab side  that  were  based  on the principle of land for peace.

The plan of the  Israeli Government included the building of roads and the expansion of services between Jewish settlements  and Jerusalem, as well  as increasing  the number  of settlements, he said.  The expansion  plan was intended  to change  the demographic  composition of  the holy city and to expand  the  number of  Jewish  inhabitants  in order  to  create  a  Jewish majority.  Such acts were in breach of  the framework of the  Madrid peace conference and all General Assembly and Council resolutions, particularly resolution 252 (1968) which provided that  such actions by Israel  were null and void.   The international community and the co-sponsors of the peace process must put pressure  on Israel to  push it to cease its  consolidation policies.  The international community  should supervise  and prevent settlements in Jerusalem and the occupied  territories.  The countries  that provided economic and other financial  assistance to  Israel should  cease such actions because it only allowed the Israeli Government to continue its illegal actions.

SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said his country  shared  the negative reaction  of the international  community to recent  pronouncements by Israel.  Those Israeli actions  further complicated the Middle East peace process.  Unilateral  actions aimed at changing the demographic  composition and borders of  Jerusalem in violations  of the  status quo  ran counter  to agreements already reached between the parties.   The Russian Federation, as a co-sponsor of  the Middle  East peace process,  believed that the  Israeli actions could cast a pall on the negotiations.

MELVIN  SAENZ-BIOLLEY  (Costa  Rica)  said  his  country  maintained  deep friendship  with Israel, while, at the same time, believing that the Palestinian  people had  a  right to  self-determination  and  independence.  Costa Rica  was concerned by the  negative effect  on  the peace process  of the Israeli plans announced by its  Prime Minister.   The  final status  of Jerusalem had to be  determined in negotiations.  Costa Rica appealed to the parties to fulfil their obligations under the Oslo peace process.  He  hoped Israel would not carry out those plans.

CELSO L.N. AMORIM  (Brazil)  said his  country remained  convinced  that, despite the setbacks  suffered by the peace  process, the great  majority of the people  in the Middle Eastern were committed to  honouring the religious traditions that  had sprung  from their region  to enlighten the world,  by living together in a spirit  of tolerance and mutual respect.   At the same time, he said, the international community  could not fail  to express its disquiet as agreements freely entered into seemed to be taken  lightly, and disenchantment  was allowed to spread among those who had not only invested their political and diplomatic resources in the peace process, but had also placed their honest faith in its viability.

To those who remained attached  to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, it was simply unacceptable to contemplate a scenario in which mutual  confidence was  being  eroded  by  episodes  that were  being perceived as an expression of lack of commitment to the peace process.

QIN HUASUN (China) said the Israeli Government's recent decisions  had raised concern among the  international community because they had occurred at a  time when  all sides concerned were  trying to revive the Middle East peace process.  Changing the status quo in  Jerusalem ran  counter to  the peace process and would lead to further complications.  China believed that the settlement of the question of  Jerusalem should be carried  out through peaceful negotiations, according to the  relevant Council resolutions.  The principle of land for peace and the effective implementation of all agreements reached  between Israel  and Arab  countries  should guide  those negotiations.  The Middle East  peace process had come to  a sensitive and crucial moment.   The parties involved should strictly abide by the relevant United Nations  resolutions and  the Oslo  agreements.   The parties  should also cease all actions that might lead to the deterioration of the situation in order to allow  the peace process  to come out of its  deadlock as soon  as possible, with a view to reaching a  lasting and just settlement to the situation in the Middle East.

BILL  RICHARDSON (United  States) said  his Government had worked intensively  on behalf  of a  just, comprehensive  and durable  Israeli-Arab peace.  The international community was all too aware  of the consequences that specific  actions could have on  the peace process, particularly those that involved  an issue of  permanent status.  Jerusalem  represented one of the most sensitive and emotionally charged issues.  The United  States regretted the announcement by Israel that  it intended to create an umbrella municipality  and to  broaden the jurisdiction  and planning  boundaries of Jerusalem.  That decision  was unhelpful at the current stage of negotiations.  All parties should refrain  from any unilateral action  which could prejudge the  outcome of the  permanent status negotiations.   In that context, his Government welcomed Israel's statement that there would be no change  in  the  political  status  of  Jerusalem  pending  the  outcome  of permanent status negotiations.

He said  the Middle East peace  process had faced severe difficulties, and had  been mired in a prolonged stalemate for many  months.  Yet, the parties managed  to keep  alive  the possibility of negotiating their differences rather than confronting each other.  The  Palestinians had  agreed in principle with ideas his  Government had put forward, and the United States Administration was  now working  with  the Israeli  Government to  determine whether they could also accept the outline that  would allow both sides  to return to  permanent status negotiations.  Only negotiation could resolve the  issues.  The United  States called on Israel, as well as the Palestinians, not to take action that  would make those negotiations  harder to begin and to conclude.  The Council could not  and should not interject itself into  issues that the  parties themselves had decided  would be dealt with in  face-to-face negotiations.  Yet, the Council should continue  to offer the parties its unqualified support  and encouragement, as they sought to bring  an end to  the bitterness and  pain that had divided them for so long.

Sir JOHN WESTON  (United Kingdom), speaking  on  behalf of  the European Union and the  Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Cyprus, Iceland and  Liechtenstein,  said the  Union  was  deeply concerned  by the Israeli Government's endorsement of plans to extend  the municipal authority of Jerusalem in ways that would alter the  demographic balance in the city area and tended  to  pre-empt the final status of occupied land.    The European  Union had  consistently called on Israel  to recognize  that the Fourth Geneva Convention applied de facto  and de jure to those territories and to  comply fully with  its provisions.  By initiating, encouraging and endorsing  settlement activity  in  the occupied  territories,  the  Israeli Government was in violation of that Convention.

East Jerusalem was subject to the principles set out in Council resolution 242 (1967), he said.  Its provisions stated the  inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and, therefore, East Jerusalem was not under  Israeli sovereignty.   The final  status of  Jerusalem should  be determined in final status talks,  and neither side should  take actions which sought to pre-empt that.

The European Union supported the efforts of the United States to gain  the agreement of  the parties to a package of ideas which, if accepted, would open the  way to implementation of existing agreements  and the relaunching of  final status talks.   The Union called on Israel to recognize the right of the  Palestinians to exercise  self-determination, without excluding  the option of a State. At the same time, it called on the  Palestinian people to  reaffirm their commitment to the legitimate  right of  Israel  to live within safe, recognized borders.


HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said his country was concerned  that  unilateral actions of  Israel could lead to  the destruction of the very basis of the Middle East peace process.   Japan had  expressed its official concern in  a press statement from the Foreign  Ministry on 27 June, saying the country was watching with close attention how  Israel proceeded with  its plans on Jerusalem.  The Israeli action, he said, was  unwise provocation.   Mutual trust between the parties involved in the peace process was essential.

It  was  of  primary  importance  that  the  parties  summoned  wisdom  to implement commitments they had  entered into, he said.  Japan believed  that open debate  served useful purpose.  The international community  had to be on  guard  to ensure  that the  situation  did not get out of hand.  Its reaction should, however, serve to advance the goal of peace in the region.  

BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA  JAGNE (Gambia) said he was concerned about recent  developments aimed at extending the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. The present stage of  the peace process, which was in a state  of near paralysis, had  already given  rise  to  feelings of  frustration and fatigue.  In that context, it would be  ill-advised to  do anything  that would complicate matters  unnecessarily and increase  tension in  an already volatile situation.

He said  Jerusalem was home to all three revealed religions  — Judaism, Christianity and Islam —  and, therefore, it should not be transformed into a theatre of conflict,  but a terrain  for cooperation.  In these difficult times,  practical ways must  be found  to reactivate  the peace  process, as there seemed no credible alternative to  the Oslo accords, which constituted a reasonable modus vivendi for Israelis  and Palestinians,  who needed  to live in peace alongside with each other.

He said he had faith in the ability of the United States, in its indefatigable efforts as the principal peace-broker,  to give fresh impetus to the peace process — with the support of the parties concerned.

NJUGUNA M.  MAHUGU (Kenya)  called upon the parties  to respect  Security Council resolutions  on the status  of Jerusalem and the Middle  East.  The question  of  the  final status  of Jerusalem  must  be  decided  through negotiation by the parties directly involved.   The international community could not allow  the establishment of  new facts  on the ground that  would prejudge the final status negotiations.  Kenya urged the  parties to reactivate their political will and  resolve  their  differences  through dialogue.  It strongly encouraged the facilitators  of the peace process  to continue to mediate a mutually acceptable solution to the whole Middle East problem and, specifically,  the Palestinian question.  Kenya would continue to support  the parties in  their search for a  durable, comprehensive, just and lasting  peace.  It urged them to resume discussions on the issue before the Council.

ALAIN DEJAMMET (France)  said all legislative and administrative  measure taken  by Israel that changed the character and status of  Jerusalem were null and void and should be revoked immediately.  France had long supported the Middle  East peace process and  had reaffirmed  periodically its support for endeavours by the  United States to secure the agreement of the parties to its reasonable proposals.  The international community had heard too frequently that  the peace  process was going  through a  crucial stage  and warranted patience.  Patience was warranted when a process was going in  the right  direction, and there must be time allowed for  attitudes to evolve.  Yet, the  process was now witnessing a reverse trend.  There had been no response to the United States proposals,  and Israeli policies in  Jerusalem were creating  an irreversible situation there  that would  strip the city's status of any real meaning.   It would also alter the boundaries of the city and create a new municipal structure that would clearly alter the existing status quo.  Israeli actions would  also constitute  a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention  and disregard  the relevant  resolutions of  the Council.  France appealed to Israel to abandon that approach.

Jerusalem was a  sacred place for three major religions, he said.  Only an agreement between the parties could break  the deadlock that was  profoundly disappointing and saddening to all those  who admired the courage and vision of the Israeli and  Palestinian leaders who initiated it.  The security of Israel was alegitimate concern and was recognized by the  international community  and  also by  Palestinians.   Genuine  security only  lay in the resolve of peoples and their leaders to opt for coexistence and cooperation.  The parties must choose once and for all to put their  efforts into good faith discussions.  France appealed to  Israeli leaders to opt for negotiation.

CHARLES ESSONGHE (Gabon) said the expectations raised  by discussion  on the peace  process in  the Middle  East had proven to be illusory.  Once again, the  international  community was witnessing  a  fresh  increase in tension  between the parties.  Gabon was perturbed by the precarious nature of the situation in the region in light  of recent developments.  The Madrid agreements, as well as agreements  that  followed,  had  established a framework that would allow the  building of a lasting and  just peace in the region.   Yet, there had been  a net slippage  backward in the process.  All the parties  should fulfil their obligations  and refrain  from any measures that would damage the process.  The United Nations had a major role to  play in the Middle East  in view of the deadlock which existed at present.  Gabon believed that  only  dialogue would  enable  the  parties to  eliminate  the remaining areas under dispute.

DANILO TURK  (Slovenia) said  the peace  process, launched  in Madrid  and Oslo,  proved that  peace was  a  realistic possibility.  The Israeli and Palestinian leaders should live  up to their  responsibility and commitments to their own  people, and continue further  steps towards peace and security for the benefit and well-being of the people of the Middle East.

There was a wide degree of consensus in the  international community about settlement  activities, which were illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention.  That Convention was  applicable in the present situation. Activities and plans altering the demographic  balance in the Jerusalem area blocked the peace process.  Jerusalem was a  holy city for three  religions. The  question of its status was emotional and potentially explosive.  It should be solved in negotiations  between the two  parties, but until  then the status  established by Security Council resolution 242 (1967) continued to apply.    All  sides  should refrain  from  any action that could  have negative implications for the peace process.

He  commended  the  efforts of the co-sponsors of the peace process, especially  the United States, whose determination and commitment to the success of  the process gave  hope that the difficulties could be overcome.  The right of Palestinians  to self-determination and the right of Israel to live within safe borders would have  to be fully recognized  and articulated in specific arrangements.

HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden) said his Government deplored the recent decision by the  Israeli  Government to extend the jurisdiction of  the Jerusalem municipal authority.   It  was yet another in  a succession of  measures by Israel to change the  demographics  of Jerusalem, and to  strengthen  the  position of  the occupying Power.   All  Israeli settlements in the occupied territory  were illegal under  the Fourth  Geneva Convention.    That included settlements in East Jerusalem. The Israeli  settlement policy endangered  the Middle East peace process.  The Israeli Government must rescind  all actions  which changed  the status  of Jerusalem, including the latest action which was the reason for today's meeting.

Sweden urged  Israel to  accept the  proposals of  the United States  on a further  withdrawal from the areas on  the West Bank,  he said.  At present, that course was the  only way to regain the momentum of the peace process and resume final status  negotiations.  In  1993, Israel and the PLO  agreed that true and lasting security for the two  peoples could be achieved  only through a political process, at the negotiating table.   Only such a process could pave the way  for a comprehensive and  just settlement that could lead to lasting peace in the Middle East.

ANTONIO MONEIRO (Portugal)  said the recent  plan of Israel to  extend the municipal authority of Jerusalem contravened the  terms of reference of  the peace process and the spirit of the Oslo accords.  It came after a sequence of  unacceptable actions by  the Israeli authorities against the Palestinian population  in Jerusalem.   It violated  the Fourth Geneva Convention which applied to the occupied territories, including  Jerusalem.  The measures not only increased  the frustration of all those supporting the peace process, but encouraged those on both sides opposed to it.

Portugal appealed to the Israeli authorities to  reconsider their decision on  the  municipality of  Jerusalem, since  it would  only derail the peace talks.  It also appealed to Israel to accept the  current United States initiative so that the  peace process could resume.  Portugal believed that there  was no  alternative to  the peace  process in  the  Middle East. The Security Council must urge the parties  to   live  up  to  their  commitments and to comply with their obligations under international law and the agreements they had reached.

ELFATIH MOHAMED ERWA (Sudan), speaking  for  the  Arab Group,  said  the Israeli action in expanding the boundaries of Jerusalem came in the  context of   its  expansionist  policies  over Palestinian territories.  Relevant General Assembly resolutions  had  reaffirmed   the  special  status   of Jerusalem.  The  Israeli action also violated Security Council  resolutions.  It was a flagrant violation of international law and the  Madrid and Oslo peace  accords.  It was an effort to  pre-empt  the  outcome  of   the negotiations.  Israel was following a policy of fait accompli, he said.

He noted a  statement adopted by the Arab  League at an emergency  special session last  week, in  which it  had stated that  the Israeli action was a serious violation of international  law and "wreaked of  racism".  The  Arab League had called  upon the  United States  to get Israel  to abide  by the accords  already  achieved.  It had welcomed the  position of the Russian Federation,  a co-sponsor  of  the  peace accords,  as well  as that  of the European  Union.  The Security  Council must condemn  the Israeli action and declare it null and void. Any Council  measure must reafffirm its principled position.  A wrong message should not be sent to Israel.

MOHAMMAD J. SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said the Council was meeting to consider  the recent decision by the  Israeli Government  pertaining to the expansion  of the municipal  borders of Jerusalem, to  include neighbouring and other illegal  settlements on the  West Bank.   That decision aimed at changing  the demographic,  institutional, and legal framework  of that holy Arab city.  The ultimate Israeli aim was to isolate  the city from the other cities  of the  West  Bank, the Gaza Strip and the other occupied Arab territories.  The recent decision  by Israel  was a  flagrant violation of international  humanitarian  law and the basic principles of the  peace process.  Its policies would gain the Israeli  Government  no  legal  or  legitimate right to those lands.  The international community  had condemned similar  Israeli actions in  numerous resolutions.

He said  recent decisions  by Israel had coincided with its call for  a second  peace conference in Madrid.  Those actions clearly  unmasked the aggressive intentions of the Israeli Government and  explained the obstacles Israel put in the way of  a resumption of the peace process.  The arming of its settlers,  the demolition of  homes and  the confiscation of  lands were also  part of Israeli policy.  All those measures were aimed at annexing the eastern part  of the holy city  of  Jerusalem.   That  policy  had  grave consequences for  the well-being  of the Palestinian people  and the  peace process in the Middle East. The  international community should hold  Israel responsible for any negative repercussions caused by its illegal actions.

ABDALLAH  BAALI (Algeria)  said that  for  several  weeks Israel had been taking  a  series of measures to tighten its grip on the occupied territories.  The  recent  plan  to  expand the municipality of Al-Quds (Jerusalem)  manifestly defied  international law,  particularly  the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Israel's latest decision  was not in  keeping with the  basic principle of the peace process — land for  peace.  It was a  flagrant violation of the agreements reached by the parties.  He  noted that the  future of the Holy City was to be discussed in the final status  negotiations.  Israeli action  was in  anticipation of events, and as a  fait accompli to bring pressure to  bear on the Palestinians.  It was an outright threat  to international peace and  security because of  the tensions it had generated which could lead to an explosion.

Algeria expected  the Security  Council to  fulfil its  mandate and  have Israel  rescind its plans.  Failure to do so  would lead to extremism.  The Council must shoulder its responsibilities.

AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco) said the Israeli Government's recent decision to expand  the municipal authority of Al-Quds was another in a  series  of challenges that  it had placed before  the international  community.  Israel was reiterating  its contempt for  previous Council  resolutions, which  had emphasized that all measures that changed the geographic and demographic nature of Al-Quds were null and void.  Israel's  actions demonstrated  its  arrogance, and  its refusal to undertake the international agreements  it had pledge to  uphold.  The Israeli Government had signed the Oslo agreements  and had committed to establishing a bridge  of confidence and respect with international community.   Yet, its actions were in contradiction to  international legal instruments and United Nations resolutions.  It involved a long-term  strategy of totally changing the make-up of the holy city.

Morocco had always supported a just and lasting peace in the Middle  East. The  latest acts  of aggression by  Israel only strengthened  the beliefs of those who had  thought that there  would never be peace with Israel.  The international community  had  launched  numerous appeals to Israel to put aside its aggressive policies, but those appeals  had been made in vain.  There was no longer any suspicions about Israel's  intentions or its sense  of justice.  The Muslim community had affirmed  that the  city was  an  integral  part of  the land occupied by Israel since  1967, and the Council  should act by reminding the Israeli Government to honour its previous commitments.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said his Government was concerned about the recent approval by the Israeli Government of a  plan which would alter  the demographic balance in the  Jerusalem area.  The  plan was not  conducive to creating trust between the parties  in the Middle East peace process, which was  essential to  move  the process  out of  the  present stalemate.  The decision might actually increase tension between  the parties and might pre-empt the outcome of final status talks.

Israel should recognize the applicability of the Fourth Geneva  Convention to  the occupied  Palestinian territory,  including Jerusalem, and  to other Arab territories  occupied  by Israel since 1967, and comply  fully with  its provisions.  Norway also  appealed to the parties  to respect the letter and spirit of the Oslo  accords.  In addition, his Government urged the  parties to intensify their bilateral consultations  at the  highest  possible level,  to implement  the outstanding issues  in the interim agreements, and move as  fast as possible to the final status negotiations.

NASSER BIN HAMAD AL-KHALIFA (Qatar) said  Israel was attempting to  impose a  fait accompli on the Palestinian people through  its actions, including the attempt to change the demographic composition of Jerusalem.  Israel had refused  to implement  Security Council  resolutions  on Jerusalem and had turned its back on the peace process.  The  Israeli Government was attempting  to stand  the fundamental  principles  of  the peace  process on their heads by a number of unilateral acts.  Its actions seemed to  indicate that  Israel was not subject to any international law.  Its settlement policies and attempts to change the demographic  composition  of  Jerusalem  all  violated  the  Fourth   Geneva Convention.  Security Council  resolutions had  described as  null and void any actions to change the demography of Jerusalem.

He called on the Security Council to uphold its previous resolutions and to demand that Israel  rescind its plans.  The international community  must compel Israel to stop its policies, he added.

NABIL A.  ELARABY  (Egypt)  said  Israel's expansionist  policy  aimed  to prejudge the  outcome of the legal  status and  demographic composition  of Jerusalem, while  isolating it from the other  cities of the  West Bank.  It was part  of a  plan to  obstruct the peace process to which the  previous Israeli Government had  committed itself.  Jerusalem represented a spiritual and historic  heritage; it was a city that was a source of  profound religious feeling in the  Arab world.  Any  measures that altered the status of Jerusalem were null and void, and Egypt rejected them in  form and in substance.   Such measures  ran counter  to international legal instruments and United  Nations resolutions.    Israel's decision aimed at  annexing settlements ran counter  to its commitments  with the  Palestinian Authority designed  to  defer decisions  on  that  territory  until  the final  status negotiations.

Previously,  the international  community had  categorically rejected  the illegal measures taken by  successive Israeli governments  to annex  eastern Jerusalem.  The city of East Jerusalem was an integral part of the  occupied Palestinian territories.  Those territories, including East Jerusalem, were subject to  rules of  The Hague  and the  Fourth Geneva Conventions, which prohibited the occupying Power from annexing any territory.

The General Assembly, in numerous resolutions,  had stated that the Fourth Geneva  Convention was  fully applicable  to the  occupied Arab territories.  In addition, the  States parties  to that  Convention had  a responsibility  to ensure the Convention's  applicability.  Unfortunately, Israel had  trampled all the  provisions of  those resolutions, as well as all relevant Council resolutions.  The provisions of the Middle  East peace  agreements must  be applied by  both sides,  and neither  party should  take unilateral actions that would prejudge the outcome of the final  status negotiations.  If  that happened, all commitments and agreements lost their value.

The PRESIDENT then suspended the meeting of the Council.

When the Council resumed its meeting at  3:39 p.m., MIKHAIL WEHBE  (Syria) said Israel's  provocative decision to  expand the municipality of Jerusalem was  aimed at erasing  the Arab character of the city, and into completing its total Judaization.  It was an aggression against the Palestinian people which  Syria  totally  rejected.  Furthermore,  the plan was a flagrant violation of General Assembly and Security  Council resolutions, as well  as the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Syria considered the  decision null and void and of no legal consequence.

The Israeli action  was aimed at destroying the peace process, he said.  It was a  practical embodiment of  ethnic cleansing,  which had  led to  the expulsion of  thousands of Palestinians from  their homes and forced  many more into exile.  Palestinians who had  always  owned  their  land  now controlled only 5 per cent of it.

Scores of Assembly and Council resolutions  had demanded that Israel cease actions that might alter the character of Jerusalem and to withdraw from occupied  Palestinian and  Arab lands, but Israel had totally  refused to comply.  Why had no sanctions been imposed on Israel for non-compliance  with Security  Council  decisions?  he asked.  The policies  of the Israeli Government had led to  the total  paralysis of the peace  process.  Israeli action was an explosive issue.  Syria would not give up  its lands.  It was for  a  lasting peace  based on  the  relevant resolutions of  the Security Council which  demanded Israeli  withdrawal from  Syrian Golan,  and to  the borders existing before the 1967 war.

Syria urged the co-sponsors of the  peace process, European Union member States  and  peace-loving countries  to urge Israel to resume the peace negotiations.  The Security  Council must demand compliance of its resolutions by Israel.   It should call upon Israel to rescind its decision.  Syria supported the Palestinian  people  and  urged  the   international community to continue to offer them all the  necessary assistance.   A mere expression of  concern and  denunciation of Israel for its plan  was  not enough.  The Council must move effectively and firmly to have Israel resume its negotiations  with  the  parties.   The  Council must avoid a double standard in upholding international peace and security.

ABDALLA  SALEH AL-ASHTAL  (Yemen)  said the  Israeli  expansionist  policy would alter the demographic composition of  Jerusalem and destroy the legal, natural and  ethnic status of the city, which belonged to all three major religions.  Yemen condemned the  expansionist policy  of  the  Israeli Government  as it was a  flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, international  law  and numerous  Assembly  and  Council  resolutions.  The Council had  affirmed numerous times that  the Fourth  Geneva Convention was applicable to all the  territories occupied  by Israel  in 1967,  including Jerusalem.

The Council  should  adopt practical  concrete  measures  to  prevent the repeated  violation by Israel of its  previously adopted  resolutions, he said.  Ever since the current extremist Israeli Government came to power, it had relentlessly renounced the Oslo  agreements and undermined the  peace process with new ploys.  The peace process must not  be stopped.  Yemen invited the Council to assume its role in  accordance with resolution 242, which was the  essential framework for achieving a  just and lasting  peace settlement in the Middle East.

SAMIR  MOUBARAK  (Lebanon)  said the  recent Israeli programme  aimed to tighten the Government's illegal grip on Jerusalem by expanding the size of the settlements.  It is a concrete, illegal  step aimed  at annexing more occupied territories.   Lebanon had hoped that there would be a new dawn in the region  and that  a just,  lasting  and permanent  peace would  prevail.  Yet, Israel's expansionist policies  had  dealt  a  blow  to those  hopes.  Israel had declared openly  that it was  reneging on its commitments to  the peace  process and  had made  settlements a basic  political priority.   The Council was once again forced to concentrate on the Israeli measures in the occupied  East   Jerusalem  that  aimed  at changing  the legal status  and demographic composition of that city.

The Council had adopted 16 resolutions  on Jerusalem,  among those  were texts that declared  that all actions that aimed at changing the legal  and demographic status of the city  were null and  void and had no legal basis.  The Fourth Geneva Convention  applied  to all of the occupied Arab territories, including Jerusalem.  Despite the stated pretexts, all illegal Israeli actions had always led to an escalation  of violence and an increase in the tensions among Arabs and Israelis.  What peace could come from  such measures?  The current failure in the peace process was a result of Israeli actions.   The provisions of  international law stated  that the land seized by  Israel in 1967 must be  returned to their rightful owners.  In addition, Israel, as the occupying Power,  must  not  make  any  change  in  those territories.   In many  of its resolutions, the Council  had demanded  that Israel respect its commitments and obligations  as occupying Power.  Lebanon called  on  the co-sponsors of  the  peace  process  and the international community to  persuade Israel to implement its commitments.  Israel should not be free  of the  pressures of  public opinion so it could continue its expansionist settlement policies.

IBRA DEGUENE KA, Chairman  of  the Committee  on  the  Exercise of  the Inalienable Rights  of the Palestinian People,  said  the Committee  firmly condemned  the  Israeli  Government's decision to expand the borders  of Jerusalem.  Israel through  its policy of  faits accomplis had set about to modify the historical characteristics and the Arab-Jewish  make-up of the city.  For more than  18 months,  the expulsion of  Palestinians from  their homes in East Jerusalem had been taking  place.  The expelled  Palestinians were not immigrants; their families had lived there.  A recent introduction of a quota system into a plan for Jerusalem aimed for  a target in which 70 per cent of the population of Jerusalem would be Jews and 30 per cent Arabs by the  year 2000.  Such  unilateral decisions were  not only a provocation for the Palestinian people,  but represented  major setbacks  in the  peace process that had been on hold for more than a year.

The  Committee expressed its profound  concern about  the Israeli  action which  it considered null and void.  The Committee urged Member States to call upon  the Israeli  Government to rescind its decision and to refrain from  establishing a fait  accompli on  the ground  which might predetermine the outcome of the final status talks.  Israel must desist from any action that would  alter the  physical character, demographic  composition and the institutional structure of Jerusalem and the  status of Palestinian and Arab lands.   Israel must implement quickly  and comprehensively  the agreements already concluded with  the PLO in order to create the necessary conditions for  a just and lasting settlement on  the basis of Security  Council resolutions 242 (1967) and  338 (1973).   Jerusalem belonged  to all faiths and peoples, and must remain the city of peace.  It must be the cradle for peace and harmony for all peoples.

HASAN ABU-NIMAH (Jordan) said the Israeli Government's decision contravened to  the Fourth  Geneva Convention,  several Council  resolutions and international law.  It also  ran counter to the 1993 agreement  that stated that  the status  of Jerusalem would  be decided in  the final stage negotiations of the Middle  East peace process.   Jordan was pleased  to see that all the speakers  that previously had taken the floor had confirmed the position that  Israel's expansionist policies  should be considered null and  void and without any legal justification.  They were  destructive to  the peace process  and to  the work  of preceding Israeli leaders who  had made worthy progress.   Jordan condemned all Israeli  attempts to alter the Arab nature of Jerusalem and especially Israel's expansionist policies.

The Israeli decision was  one link in  a chain  of measures that had  been brought to the  attention of the Council in  recent years, he said.  Jordan had warned against  Israeli policies  that  infringed  upon the  rights  of Palestinians and had nefarious  effects on the peace process.  All of  those acts had  inherent  dangers  and constituted  a threat to security in  the region.  Israel's Prime  Minister had stated publicly that he wanted to keep the Arab population under  30 per cent of  the total for  Jerusalem and  had hinted at other expansionist moves.   His Government appealed  to Israel to continue  along the road  that had  started in  Madrid.   The States  in the region must support one another and not deprive the inhabitants of hope  and opportunity.

ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said  the Israeli decision on  Jerusalem was one of the most  dangerous acts as far as the holy city was concerned.  It was aimed at changing the  city's  demographic  nature  and  erasing its  Arab identity.  It was  a provocation for the Palestinian people and a challenge to the international community.  It was also a clear  violation of international  law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention  and  the relevant resolutions  of the United  Nations.   Furthermore, it violated Security Council  resolutions, particularly resolution 242.   Israel  still violated the  will of the international community and refused to comply with resolutions.

The Council must  adopt firm  measures  to  get Israel to rescind its decision and to return to the peace negotiations.  The  world was looking at the   Council  to  see  what   resolution it would  adopt  to  uphold  its credibility.

ANWARUL KARIM  CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the  situation in the  occupied territory was  a matter  of grave concern to  the international  community.  One  country's continued  defiance of  international law  and United Nations resolutions,  and  systematic violations  of  human  rights in  the occupied territories, were unfortunate.   Israel had paid only scant attention to the international community's demands.   It  had continued its illegal  measures and  actions which  violated  the  territorial  integrity  of  the occupied territories and imposed restrictions on the  freedom of movement of  persons and  goods. Israel's  recent programme to strengthen  its illegal  hold on Jerusalem  would expand  the border  of that  city and extend  the municipal authority over some Jewish settlements  in the West Bank.  Bangladesh called on  the  Council and  the  international  community  to  demand that  Israel refrain from that gross violation of  international law and relevant Council resolutions.

He  said his Government was concerned  by Israel's  flagrant violation of human rights and its imposition of  the instrument of oppression against the Palestinian  people, under  the pretext  of security considerations.  The Israeli Government  was retaliating against  violations by individuals  with collective punishments such as blockades,  the demolition  of houses, the confiscation of  property and mass deportations.   Bangladesh  called on the international community to reinject momentum into  the peace process and  to exert  all the necessary  efforts and initiatives to ensure its continuity and success.  It was  necessary to end all illegal  measures and actions  by Israel in  order to  restore mutual confidence and promote peace.  The peace process could be effectively advanced by the withdrawal of all troops from the occupied territories,  ceasing settlement activities in those areas  and allowing the Palestinian diaspora to return to their homeland.

ABDULRAHMAN S. AL-AHMED (Saudi  Arabia)  said  his  country was  gravely concerned  about the continuing acts of  the Israeli  authorities to change the demographic  and  structural character of Jerusalem,  as well  as  its legal, historical, religious and cultural  identity.  It was a violation of the 1949  Fourth Geneva Convention  and The Hague  Convention of  1907.  The Israeli action would  also  influence  negotiations  on   the  future  of Jerusalem, and  result in the  total control  of the city by  Israel and the city's isolation from  the rest of the West Bank.  Permanent peace  in the Middle East  would not be  achieved without a just solution  to the issue of Holy  Jerusalem.   The  future  of  the region was in the hands of the international  community  which  must  take  the  necessary steps  to stop Israel's illegal practices.  The Israeli plan would shatter  the peace process.  The  expansion  of Jerusalem  was  unacceptable  and contravened international treaties and resolutions and would  not be  accepted by  the Muslim world.

He said the Israeli Government would  lose its credibility  in the  peace process.   The Security Council must demand  that Israel  stop any  illegal practices in Arab Jerusalem.  The Council must assume its  responsibilities and take the necessary measures to stop Israeli violations.

NIZAR HAMDOON (Iraq) said the measures that  aimed  to  eliminate Jerusalem's Arab identity  were part of Israel's  plan to control that  city by  expanding  the municipal  boundaries.  Those measures  were in clear violation of resolutions  of the Security Council.  The Council should give sufficient attention to that issue  and stop the Judaization of that sacred city.  The Council  must confront the fact that Israel's policies since 1967 had involved using the machinery of the Council to achieve its narrow  self-interest.  One permanent member of the  Council still  insisted that  the question  of Palestine  and  Jerusalem  had no place on the agenda  of the Council.  That  country had matched its words  with deeds and had  prevented the Council from looking into the question of  Palestine and Jerusalem.  In the instances when the  Council had looked into that issue, that country had used its veto to abort resolutions that held Israel  accountable for its actions.

The international community had met with  anger and resolution the Israeli Government's decision to expand the boundaries  of Jerusalem, he said. Those actions  represented a clear physical violation  of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The Council should adopt a resolution that condemned the recently  adopted  Israeli  law  and   enforced  measures  to   prevent  the occupation  authority from  establishing  additional settlements.  If the Council did  not do so, it would only  weaken its  credibility, which  was currently in a pitiful state.

MOHAMMAD ABULHASAN (Kuwait) said the Council  and the Assembly had already adopted many resolution  on the issue,  but they had gone  unimplemented and neglected by Israel, the occupying  Power.  Israel had also challenged those resolutions and adopted provocative policies to  erase the Arab character of Jerusalem and  change the  city's demographic  and geographic nature.  The decision taken  to expand the municipal  boundaries of  Jerusalem to include the surrounding settlements was yet another  testimony to  Israel's lack of commitment to the bilateral  agreements signed with the Palestinian Authority, as part  of the peace process.  The present Israeli  Government had not left any room for doubt that its practices and policies would undoubtedly lead  to a failure  of the peace  process and  plunge the region into a state of  increased tension  and instability.  A  lack of confidence was prevailing among the parties concerned with the peace process.

Kuwait  strongly  condemned Israel's  decision to expand the municipal boundaries  of Jerusalem, he  said, and  also demanded  that Israel recommit itself to  the provisions of  the Fourth Geneva  Convention and apply  those provisions to all the  territories it had occupied  since 1967.  Israel must commit itself to the  agreements it had made with the Palestinian Authority.  Unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the occupied lands  was the  only guarantee  for peace and security for all the countries  in the region.  The Council should stand firmly in the face of Israeli policies and practice  in order to  force that country's Government  to be  committed to international law and all bilateral agreements of the peace process.

MOHAMMED  ABDULLAH SALIM  AL-SAMEEN (Oman)  said  the Israeli  decision on Jerusalem would enable it to  strengthen its hold on the city and to change its  demographic  character.  The measures taken by Israel to expand Jerusalem's municipal  boundaries represented a flagrant  violation of  the peace  process, as well  as international  resolutions.  It jeopardized the peace process.  Oman was disturbed to see the peace  process threatened.  Israel continued to pursue  settlement policies  and had  not fulfilled its obligations, thus bringing  the peace process to  a deadlock.  The  decision on Jerusalem was yet another step in a long acts of violations.  Oman urged the  co-sponsors of the  peace process and the European Union to bring pressure to  bear on  Israel to resume the process.  The collapse  of the peace process would have profound consequences.

The Security Council should ensure that Israel rescinded its  decision.  Oman would  support the draft resolution that would  be brought before  the Council.  The draft would  not be confrontational, and he hoped it would  be adopted by consensus.

AULD DEDDACH (Mauritania) said the new Israeli plan to expand the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem proved once again that the United Nations and the  Security Council must assume  responsibility to maintain peace and security in  that sensitive  part of the  world.  The Israeli policy would alter the status of Jerusalem and tighten that Government's grip on the city.  It also represented  a violation  of international  law, the  Fourth Geneva Convention, and the resolutions of the Council and the Assembly.

Israel's refusal to implement the relevant  resolutions  forced   the international  community to adopt  new measures that would  force Israel to respect and adhere  to international law, he said.  Mauritania called  for the convening of an  international conference of the States parties to  the Geneva Conventions to discuss the forceful application of those Conventions in the occupied  territories.  The actions  of  the  Israeli Government threatened to destroy  the efforts of others to establish a just, permanent and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  His Government called on  the co-sponsors of the peace process to resume their responsibility and prevail upon  the Israeli Government to work towards progress in  the peace process on all tracks, within the agreements made at Oslo and Madrid.

MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said the  Security Council could not remain indifferent  and passive to  the series  of Israeli onslaughts  on the peace process.  It should ensure that the region did not lapse into a crisis  with far-reaching  consequences.  The  peace process must move forward.  Israel must fully observe the  agreements already  reached, and  negotiate in good faith on the  remaining key issues and on the basis of a  recognition of the right of the Palestinians to an independent State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as their capital.

He reiterated that the attainment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian  people  was  an essential  pre-requisite  for  a  durable  and comprehensive peace  in the  region.  The Security Council must  ensure the unconditional withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories in accordance with its resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and  425 (1978).  The Council must send a clear and  unambiguous message  to Israel to  end its  illegal policies  and actions.

RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) said the Israeli Government, through its unilateral actions, placed into serious question  its own commitment to  the peace process.  His delegation called upon Israel to  join the Palestinians and  other concerned  parties  to make  every effort to  revive the  peace process.   It also called  upon Israel to build  effective partnerships with Palestinians, as well  as with its neighbours at  all levels.  The  Security Council must take immediate steps to  ensure the exercise of the inalienable rights of  the  Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination, as  well as to promote efforts to  encourage the  immediate resumption of  the Palestinian-Israeli  peace process.   Malaysia also  urged the co-sponsors  of the  peace process  to earnestly  encourage the  Israeli Government to honour its  obligations and commitments to  the  peace agreements.  Security for all countries in the  Middle East could be assured only by the establishment  of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region.

HADI NEJAD-HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said  Israel robbed the Palestinian people of their  land  some 50 years ago.  Now the Israeli  Government was  in the process  of  robbing Palestinian  and  the entire Muslim nation of  their heritage and what they  held to be  divine and sacred.  The  current Israeli programme aimed  to  strengthen  and perpetuate  its illegal  occupation  of Jerusalem.  It included the creation of  an "umbrella municipality", and it included  the  construction of roads and other infrastructure  in Jewish settlements  in the  West Bank.   That  programme was a practical move to illegally  annex more of the Palestinian occupied territories to the municipality  covering  Jerusalem.  That municipality  had  already  been expanded illegally  and in violation  of the rules of international law and the relevant resolutions of the Council and the Assembly.

The announcement of  the programme  by the highest-level Israeli  official clearly  illustrated that  country's  total defiance  of  the  international community, he  said.   There was  little doubt  about the  disdain that  the Israeli  leaders  had  for  the  principles  of  international law and the decisions  of the United  Nations.   It was  commonly acknowledged, deplored and  condemned, but very little was  done about it.  The present meeting was a  test for the Council to discharge its  obligations  on behalf  of  the general membership  of the  Organization and thus gain  the credibility  it deserved.  The international community expected  the Council to condemn  the Israeli decision  of 21  June,  demand  that the decision  be rescinded and adopt measures to counter the organized  Israeli steps to alter the historic and demographic status of Jerusalem.

MARTA GALINDO (Colombia) said that at  a ministerial meeting of non-aligned countries  in New  Delhi last  year, all  resolutions on Jerusalem  had been reaffirmed as being an  integral part of Palestine.  Measures to change  its demographic  character   were  deemed  null  and void.  The  movement's Coordinating Committee at a meeting in Colombia last May  had reaffirmed the inalienable rights  of  the  Palestinian  people  and  their  right  to  an independent State of their own with Jerusalem  as capital.   The ministers and heads of delegations of the  Coordinating Committee had also  reaffirmed their  position  on the  illegal occupation of all Palestinian and Arab territories, including  Jerusalem, and urged  compliance all  by Israel with General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.  They had also  endorsed the  resolutions of the tenth special session of the General Assembly, which also called for a  meeting of the contracting  parties of the  Fourth Geneva Convention.

BRUNO  RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said the General Assembly, at its last (fifty-second) session and its tenth emergency  session, had dealt with  the question of  Palestine and Jerusalem.  The Council also examined the issue last year,  and only  the veto  of one  permanent member prevented it from adopting a  resolution in March 1997.  The situation  was deteriorating alarmingly, particularly  in the  context of  increased Israeli  settlements and the continuation of blockades.  More settlements were being built  and roads were being  constructed to link them.  The recent Israeli programme was a flagrant  violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and  the relevant Assembly and  Council resolutions.   It lacked any legal value  and clearly flouted the will of the international community.

He said  the holding  of  an open  debate  demonstrated  the duty  of  the Council  to deal with  the status  of the occupied Arab  territories, and it should not be subjected to  any conditions or terms.  How long would  States have to witness a double standard  adopted by some Council permanent members that took care of  national interests and blocked  action through the use of their veto? he asked.  The Council had before it an opportunity to enhance its  credibility and defend  the principles of the Charter.  The Council should  adopt specific measures to impede  Israeli  actions that  violated international  law and  the  will of  the Council itself.  Cuba  stood in solidarity with Palestinian people in  the  achievement  of  their inalienable rights.

ALI AL-SALAFI, Charge d'affaires  ad interim of the Office of the Permanent Observer  for the League of Arab  States, said  the question  of Jerusalem was deferred to the  final  status  negotiations between  the Palestinian Authority  and the Israeli Government.   The  decision by Israel to annex settlements to the municipality  of Jerusalem  represented a clear violation  of the  peace accords.  The expansion of the holy  city  also violated   international legitimacy, including 16 Security Council resolutions.   Those  clearly  stated that legislative  and  administrative measures that changed the  status of Jerusalem were null and void and could not  change the status of that city.  Israel was trying to  surround Jerusalem with settlement  belts which  would  lead to  a decrease  in  the percentage of Arab citizens, which now comprised a clear minority.

Israel had seized most  of its territory in  Jerusalem by force, he said.  The recent  Israeli  expansionist plan  aimed to tighten  the  grip of  the municipal  authority and  dominate the  city.   The  League of Arab  States called upon the co-sponsors of the peace process to take a stand before  the Israeli measures.   The United States should maintain a positive response in the wake of Israel's recent settlement plan.   Momentum in the peace process must be  recaptured in  order to maintain peace and security for all the countries  in the region.  The Israeli  policies, if  unchallenged, would return the  Middle East  to a state  of conflict once again.  All parties should avoid unilateral measures that would  increase tension and  make negotiations more  difficult. The League of  Arab States  called for support of Arab rights in the face of Israeli provocations.

MOKHTAR LAMANI, Permanent Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference,  said previous Security Council resolutions had, among other things, urged Israel to stop  changing the demographic  character  of Jerusalem.  Israel had continued  to  confiscate  Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, filling them with Jewish settlers.  Religious sites had not been spared.  Repeated condemnation  of those  Israeli acts had not led  to any tangible  results.  He reiterated that the international community considered  international  guarantees for Jerusalem and that its future should be determined in  future talks.  The peace process was suffering from total collapse.  The Security Council must take a firm  position  now commensurate with the challenges  posed by Israel.   Any complacency on the Council's part  would be tantamount to  encouraging Israel  to continue with its policies.

FERNANDO GUILLEN (Peru) said there should be a special status and international guarantees  for the  city of Jerusalem.  Two resolutions submitted on the subject in the past had been vetoed.  At the tenth  special session of the General Assembly, resolutions  adopted had been supported  by a vast majority of the membership.   It had  been clearly established  that the status  of Jerusalem  was nothing  that should  be settled by  bilateral negotiations between two parties.  It had been also established  that there should be  international guarantees  for Jerusalem.  Peru believed it was indispensable for  the Security  Council to adopt decisions firmly on the matter of Jerusalem.

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