GA/PAL/1430
28 FEBRUARY 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, 28 February — The unilateral announcement by the United States of its vision for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without any attempt at dialogue or negotiation is a mockery of international efforts to resolve the ongoing crisis, the host country’s Prime Minister told the International Conference on the Question of Palestine today.

“Furthermore, to call it the ‘Deal of the Century’ bespeaks the ultimate in dishonest brokerage,” said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia in his keynote address to the two-day Conference, which brought together more than 300 Government and civil society representatives.  “Malaysia finds the plan utterly unacceptable and grossly unjust,” he emphasized.

Under the theme “South-East Asian Support for the Rights of the Palestinian People”, the Conference was organized by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in partnership with the Government of Malaysia and the Perdana Global Peace Foundation.

Prime Minister Mahathir went on to urge member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to continue their cooperation not only in political and economic affairs, but also in the pursuit of justice and peace for the Palestinian people.  “Our collective voice regionally should espouse more than just economic development,” he said.  “We should also extend a united front in supporting the rights of the Palestinians,” he added, noting:  “This is the primary purpose of this peace conference.”

Committee Chair Cheikh Niang (Senegal) also underscored the region’s strong commitment to the Palestinian cause.  “The peoples of this region have a long-standing, principled support for the quest of the Palestinian people to be free from oppression and occupation,” he said, explaining that they, like the people of many developing countries, endured hard struggles to free themselves and gain independence and sovereignty.  Almost all ASEAN countries have recognized the State of Palestine, he noted, calling for their support to convince pro-occupation lobbyists, including those in North America, Europe and Australia, to engage more actively in establishing a multilateral mechanism for negotiations between Israel and Palestine.  In doing so, it is important to reach out to all allies in the cause, including those in Israel.

Also addressing the Conference was Stefan Priesner, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Malaysia, who represented Secretary-General António Guterres.  He said that the deteriorating situation on the ground further erodes the possibility of a viable and contiguous Palestine based on the two-State formula.  He underscored the United Nations position that annexation of territory in the occupied West Bank, if implemented, would not only be illegal under international law, but would also close the door to negotiations.  It would have negative repercussions across the region and severely undermine opportunities for peace, he added.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine at the United Nations in New York, emphasized that what Palestinians need is not a new plan, but a mechanism to implement existing agreements and United Nations resolutions.  To defeat the “Peace to Prosperity” vision presented by the United States, Palestinians must first overcome the division among themselves, namely between Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority.  “We must put our house in order,” he stressed, calling for national unity and for the holding of elections across the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In the ensuing panel discussion, experts presented their perspectives on the United States plan and reported on the current realities of Palestinian life under occupation, including the consequent political and socioeconomic challenges.

The Conference will resume at 9 a.m. on Saturday, 29 February.

Opening Remarks

CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, recognized Malaysia as a long-standing Committee member always working to realize the rights of Palestinians.  He also acknowledged the roles played by other Committee members from South-East Asia — Indonesia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, as well as Viet Nam, an observer.  “The peoples of this region have a long-standing, principled support for the quest of the Palestinian people to be free from oppression and occupation,” he said, explaining that they, like many others in developing countries across the world, went through hard struggles to free themselves and gain independence and sovereignty.  The path to a just solution is clear, he said, noting that it is the establishment of two States — Israel and Palestine — based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital, as set out by relevant United Nations resolutions and international agreements.

The occupation prevents a just resolution and cements a system of exploitation, expropriation and annexation, he continued.  Pro-occupation lobbies, including those in North America, Europe and Australia, try to change the image of the conflict from that of one State’s occupation and illegal settling of Palestinian land to that of a conflict over “disputed territory” to which both sides have equal claims.  Such a system operates under the principle that “creating facts on the ground” would help to legitimize the illegitimate and that, over time, the international community will tire of the conflict and give up.  “But we must not tire,” he stressed.  “We must not give up.  We must continue to stand united.”

It is for that reason that the Committee is organizing events like the current conference around the world, to advocate for support for the Palestinian people in their just quest, he said.  Almost all ASEAN countries have recognized the State of Palestine, he added, calling for their support to convince those pro-occupation lobbyists to engage more actively in establishing a multilateral mechanism for negotiations between Israel and Palestine.  Many Israelis — Christians, Jews and Muslims — are also seeking a positive way forward towards a just solution, with freedom and dignity for all, he pointed out, describing them as allies.

STEFAN PRIESNER, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Malaysia, represented the Secretary-General.  He reiterated the Organization’s commitment to helping the parties overcome the current impasse and return to meaningful negotiations on ending the occupation and realizing a two-State solution.  Noting that the Conference was convened at a time of tensions in the Middle East, he emphasized that a political solution is needed now more than ever.  Unfortunately, violent incidents continue to occur daily throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in and around the Gaza Strip, he said.  “It is deeply troubling to see that the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate, further eroding the possibility of a viable and contiguous Palestinian State based on a two-State solution.”

He went on to underscore the United Nations position that annexation of territory in the occupied West Bank, if implemented, would not only be illegal under international law, but would also close the door to negotiations and deal a devastating blow to prospects for a viable two-State solution.  It would have negative repercussions across the region and severely undermine opportunities for peace, he warned, stressing that unilateral steps aimed at changing the status and character of Jerusalem are contrary to international law and United Nations resolutions.  While addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza must remain a priority, the core of the crisis there is political, he said, stressing that it is not possible to genuinely and sustainably improve the socioeconomic situation in the enclave without significantly easing restrictions on the movement of, and access to, goods and people.

Highlighting the critical importance of continuing Egypt-led intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts, he called upon Palestinian leaders to engage constructively with Egypt and others to advance reconciliation.  The holding of long overdue general elections throughout the State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, will be a crucial step towards giving renewed legitimacy to national institutions and reuniting the Palestinian people under a single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian National Government.  “The seventy-fifth anniversary of the Organization this year is an opportunity to uphold the values of the Charter to advance the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.

RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations in New York, highlighted the historically strong relationship between Palestine and Malaysia.  He also ackno