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        General Assembly
16 November 1998

Original: FRENCH

General Assembly
Fifty-third session
Official Records

Third Committee
Summary record of the 47th meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Monday, 16 November 1998, at 3 p.m.

Chairman: Mr. Hachani ................................... (Tunisia)


Agenda item 104: Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women (continued)

Agenda item 105: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: questions relating to refugees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions (continued)

Agenda item 108: Elimination of racism and racial discrimination (continued)

Agenda item 109: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued)

Agenda item 110: Human rights questions (continued)

(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms (continued)

(e) Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (continued)

(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives (continued)

Organization of work

The meeting was called to order at 3.25 p.m.


Agenda item 109: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued) (A/C.3/53/L.26)

Draft resolution A/C.3/53/L.26: The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination

21. The Chairman, after informing the Committee that the draft resolution had no programme budget implications, recalled that Liechtenstein, Suriname and the United Republic of Tanzania had joined the sponsors.

22. Ms. Mekhemar (Egypt) announced that Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Malta, Mozambique and Niger were also sponsoring the draft resolution.

23. Mr. Shapiro (United States of America), speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, said that his delegation opposed the resolution because it injected the United Nations into the Middle East peace process, in particular the final status issue which must be the subject of direct negotiation among the parties to the conflict. The United States also opposed the draft resolution because the latter singled out one group of people for self-determination. The adoption of such a resolution, rather than reinvigorating the peace process, was likely to have the opposite effect. The United States would therefore vote against the draft resolution.

24. Mr. Gold (Israel) said that his delegation would vote against the draft resolution which at best, ignored and, at worst, threatened the positive developments on the ground. That did not in any way mean that Israel did not understand the desire of a people to achieve self-determination. The State of Israel — and the autonomy which the Palestinians currently enjoyed — were proof of that fact.

25. The issue in question should not be discussed in the Third Committee but rather at the negotiating table. Direct negotiations had been the key to every diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East, from the Camp David Accords with Egypt to the peace treaty with Jordan, the Madrid Peace Conference, the Oslo Accords and the Wye River Memorandum.

26. Moreover, adoption of the draft resolution would undermine the commitments to direct negotiations made by the Israelis and the Palestinians at Oslo, Hebron and Wye.

27. Finally, the draft resolution was irrelevant, since 98 per cent of Palestinians living in the territories were under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

28. The draft resolution spoke of the right to self-determination, “without excluding the option of a state”; it was important to distinguish between self-determination and the creation of a State. The establishment of an independent State was a security question affecting both peoples and they alone must make such a decision. Sovereignty for one must not threaten the life of the other. A lasting peace must strike a balance between Palestinian self-government and Israeli security. Using the Committee to influence the peace process threatened the right of both peoples to decide their future together.

29. A recorded vote was taken on draft resolution A/C.3/53/L.26.

In favour:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

Israel, United States of America.

Fiji, Georgia, Kenya, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nicaragua, Uruguay.

30. The draft resolution was adopted by 146 votes to 2, with 7 abstentions.

31. Mr. Al-Hariri (Syrian Arab Republic) welcomed the adoption of the draft resolution, which showed the international community’s desire to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people and to give it the freedom to decide its destiny on its own national territory. His Government supported the just struggle of the Palestinian people and hoped that the negotiations begun at the Madrid Conference would lead to a fair and final solution based on the principle of “land for peace” and the resolutions of the Security Council.

32. Israel must take responsibility for the obstacles hindering the peace process and withdraw from the occupied Arab territories, in accordance with the agreements concluded and the commitments undertaken.

33. Mr. Sepelev (Russian Federation) said that his delegation had voted for the draft resolution and desired the creation of an independent Palestinian State; political negotiations, leading to the creation of such a State, were the only way to make the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination a reality and safeguard Israel’s legitimate security interests.

34. Ms. Campestrini (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the signing, on 23 October, of the Wye River Memorandum between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Yasser Arafat; it opened the door for the early resumption of negotiations on permanent status, in accordance with the Oslo Accords, as well as the implementation of commitments made under the Interim Agreement.

35. The European Union was one of the sponsors of the draft resolution and it called on the parties to complete negotiations on the final status as soon as possible, and to avoid any unilateral act which might prejudice the final outcome.

36. Mr. Al-Kidwa (Observer for Palestine) welcomed the adoption of draft resolution A/C.3/53/L.26, an important document since it was linked to the principle of self-determination and the absolute right of the Palestinian people to act on that principle, and had received broad support. The main goal of the Palestinian people was to establish their own independent State and the draft resolution was an important step towards that end. It was unfortunate that the United States had once again opposed the resolution and he hoped that its position would change in the future.

37. The real problem remained the Israeli attitude in that regard. His delegation was convinced that Israel, by opposing the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, was violating the crux of the agreements, namely the mutual recognition by the two sides. It was impossible to recognize the existence of the Palestinians and their legitimate rights while refusing to accept their right to self-determination.

38. Israeli policies were seriously threatening the foundations of the peace process; the latter was not a vehicle for Israel to continue the subjugation of the Palestinian people and the occupation of their territory, but was rather a vehicle for the achievement of real peace and coexistence based on equality and respect for the right to self-determination. That right did not stem from any agreement; it was a natural, inalienable right and was in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and many other instruments; the adoption of the draft resolution had made that clear.

39. The Chairman announced that the Committee had concluded its discussion of agenda item 109.


The meeting rose at 5.45 p.m.

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