Secretary-General Remarks: Video

Permanent Observer for State of Palestine Mentions Plans for Proposal’s Rejection

Members of the Palestinian Rights Committee described their work today as all the more urgent in light of the new Middle East peace plan unveiled by the United States, which deviates from the long-held international consensus on the question of Palestine.

As the members convened to elect their Bureau and adopt a programme of work for 2020, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, thanked the Committee – known formally as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People – for its firm support, particularly since the beginning of the “onslaught of the [United States President] Trump Administration against the rights of the Palestinian people”.

He went on to outline efforts to combat that political aggression — which began with Washington’s 2018 decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, and now also entails support for Israel’s annexation efforts — emphasizing that such policies ignore long-standing international efforts in support of a two-State solution.

Underlining the right of Muslims and Christians to exercise their religious freedoms in Jerusalem, and of Palestinians to a sovereign State, he said there are efforts to unify around a rejection of President Trump’s proposal.  The League of Arab States recently convened in Cairo and rejected it, he recalled, adding that it is not, in fact, a plan for peace but aims instead to perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Among other things, such an approach would give Israel licence to annex at least 30 per cent of the occupied West Bank, he pointed out, stressing that efforts are under way to unify and mobilize Palestinians against the proposal.  There are plans to dispatch a high-level Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation to continue that discussion in Gaza, he added.

Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas will soon travel to New York to address the Security Council, he continued.  Working alongside the delegation of Tunisia — now a non-permanent Council member — the State of Palestine will seek a draft resolution “with the strongest possible language” but also the broadest possible support, for adoption as soon as early next week, he said.  Inviting all Member States to co-sponsor that text, he declared:  “We know it will be defeated by a veto, but we want to show that the entire international community supports a common position.”  He added:  “This is only the beginning.”

Secretary-General António Guterres also delivered remarks, emphasizing:  “Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains key to sustainable peace in the Middle East.”  Indeed, “its persistence reverberates far beyond Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and contributes to further radicalization across the region,” he noted.  Welcoming the General Assembly’s December 2019 adoption of all draft resolutions that the Committee recommended to it, he said the latter’s work is firmly rooted in the Charter of the United Nations and international law.  The Committee and the wider United Nations stand committed to helping Israelis and Palestinians resolve the conflict on the basis of a two-State solution, he added.

For that reason, he continued, the United Nations has repeatedly raised alerts about actions that could erode the possibility of a viable and contiguous Palestinian State based on a two-State solution and that contravene international law, including the expansion and acceleration of illegal settlements and the ongoing demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned properties.  Emphasizing that Jerusalem remains a final-status issue, he also called attention to the situation in the Gaza Strip, saying no amount of humanitarian or economic support will resolve it.  Like the broader conflict, Gaza ultimately requires political solutions, he stressed.  It is equally crucial that the Egypt-led intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts continue, he said, calling upon Palestinian leaders to engage constructively on that front.

Committee Chair Cheikh Niang (Senegal), reaffirming that body’s commitment to its mandate, said it aims to improve its work and adapt to the changing environment.  Expressing concern that the situation on the ground is deteriorating, he noted that 71 years after the adoption of resolution 181 and a quarter of a century after the signing of the Oslo Accords — which were supposed to lead to the self-determination and independence of the Palestinian people — the reality on the ground, in addition to being volatile, increasingly looks like a single State.  Meanwhile, the adoption of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) has not prevented the continuation of illegal settlement construction and expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem, he pointed out.

Echoing concerns about the proposed United States Middle East plan, he said it contravenes international agreements and relevant United Nations resolutions.  Noting that a total of 139 Member States have officially recognized the State of Palestine so far, he declared:  “The time has come to translate the international community’s commitment to the two-State formula into concrete action as the only viable option, ensuring security, peace, independence and sovereignty for both the Israelis and the Palestinians.”  In the spirit of multilateralism, the peace process must be relaunched on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, by putting on the table all pending issues, such as settlements, the status of Jerusalem, refugees, security and the situation in Gaza, he stressed.

In that regard, he went on to invite such actors as the Middle East Quartet, the Security Council and influential countries of the region to continue the pursuit of a two-State peace process, with the goal of endowing the Palestinian people with a sovereign, viable and independent State in which they would live beside the State of Israel in peace and security.  He also urged Member States to continue efforts to guarantee the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) access to predictable, sufficient and sustained resources, thereby enabling it to implement its mandate properly for the benefit of millions of refugees.

Several delegates echoed the concerns raised about the recently released United States Middle East peace plan, with some emphasizing that such developments make the Committee’s work even more urgent.

In that regard, Indonesia’s representative urged the Committee to “keep the issue in the spotlight” and to push forward efforts to publicize the proposed peace plan’s potentially negative implications.

Lebanon’s representative agreed that the Committee should step up its efforts in light of new threats to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, adding that, as a human rights matter, “this question affects all countries”.

Malaysia’s representative said his delegation will support any concrete and honest effort to reach a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while stressing that such a solution must emerge from negotiations involving the parties concerned.

Committee Vice-Chair Neville Gertze (Namibia) pointed out that, despite the passing of numerous United Nations resolutions and decisions, “we find ourselves today further away from ending the conflict and to stopping the injustice against one of the parties”.  It appears that the more unilateral actions by the Israeli Government and its supporters are condemned, the more the rights of the Palestinian people are diminished, he said, pointing out that the Committee was established precisely to avoid such a situation.  Namibia is alarmed by recent developments that deepened the divide between the two sides and represent a further setback in the quest for a just and lasting two-State solution.

At the outset of the meeting, the Committee approved its agenda and re-elected its Bureau as follows:  Mr. Niang (Senegal), Chair; Adela Raz (Afghanistan), Ana Silvia Rodríguez (Cuba), Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia), Mr. Gertze (Namibia) and Jaime Castillo Hermida (Nicaragua), Vice-Chairs.  Ms. Raz will serve as Acting Rapporteur until another delegation puts forward a candidate for the post.

The Chair briefed members on the Committee’s recent and upcoming activities, including those organized in observance of the 2019 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and the Security Council debate on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Question of Palestine”, to be held on 21 February.  He added that the Committee will host a Forum on the Question of Palestine in New York on 2 April.

In other business, members took note of a letter from the President of the General Assembly (document A/74/671) relaying the decision by the Government of Ukraine to cease its membership in the Committee, effective 1 January 2020.  In addition, they approved a “streamlined” programme of work for 2020 (document A/AC.183/2020/L.2), as well as concepts for a conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 28-29 February, and a delegation visit to India on 2-3 March.

Also speaking today were representatives of Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Bolivia, Iraq, Jordan and Nicaragua.

A representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation also delivered a statement.

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

For information media. Not an official record.