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13th plenary meeting
Saturday, 27 September 2008, 9 a.m.
President: Mr. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann .......................................... (Nicaragua)
The meeting was called to order at 9.05 a.m.
Agenda item 8 (continued)
The President ( spoke in Spanish): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Pham Gia Khiem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.
Mr. Pham Gia Khiem (Viet Nam): ...
In follow-up to the Annapolis outcome, I wish to reaffirm Viet Nam’s support for the role of the Quartet, the League of Arab States, regional countries and the United Nations, especially the Security Council, in the quest for a lasting solution in the Middle East. Such a solution should respect the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to establish an independent State of their own, and the principle of land for peace.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt.
Mr. Aboul Gheit (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
At the regional level, as members know, Egypt is persistently involved in painstaking efforts to keep open a window of hope that would allow the Palestinians to achieve their legitimate ambition to gain an independent State on the Palestinian territories occupied on 5 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The current situation, thanks to the efforts of the United States, might suggest to some that there is hope for a real settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians before the end of the year. However, through diligent monitoring of the situation, we understand that achieving a just and lasting settlement of the conflict — one that provides an opportunity to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and to bring about a Palestinian State — requires serious political will on the part of Israel. This must include the dismantlement of settlements in tandem with withdrawal from the land, and the restoration of Palestinian rights.
However, I must admit that we are sceptical about the strength of the will and conviction of Israeli decision makers. Hence the procrastination and setbacks, as well as the hesitation in settling issues. This is what leads to the widely condemned and politically loaded settlement activities, which clearly indicate the regression and weakness of the Israeli side’s will for peace. This is also the reason for the prolongation of the conflict, with its consequences that the whole world knows only too well. But we in Egypt will not lose hope; we will continue to work with everyone in order to achieve the objectives of justice, stability and security for the whole region.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Moctar Ouane, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Mali.
Mr. Ouane (Mali) (spoke in French ): ...
Mr. Salgueiro (Portugal), Vice-President, took the Chair.
Mali calls for the resumption of the negotiating process in the Middle East and reaffirms its unswerving support for the creation of a sovereign and independent Palestinian State.
The Acting President : I now call on His Excellency Mr. Walid Al-Moualem, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Mr. Al-Moualem (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
The Middle East region is one of the most volatile regions of the world, and it continues to face mounting challenges. Daunting as those challenges may be, they must not deter us from moving forward towards the light at the end of the tunnel and from seeking better conditions. Syria is an essential part of the solutions sought by the peoples of the region, by virtue of its geographic location and the aspirations of its people.
For that reason, President Bashar Al-Assad took the initiative to convene the Damascus Quartet Summit, attended by President Sarkozy of France, the Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey. All of those States have a stake in the security and stability of the Middle East region. Each and eve ry one has made constructive contributions, despite differing perspectives and positions. The four leaders probed the issue of peace and stability in the Middle East and stressed the need for consultations and coordination and joint pursuit of those objectives. They recognized that inaction, the suffering resulting from the Israeli occupation of Arab territories that has continued since 1967 and disregard for the Palestinian people’s rights have driven the people of the region into a state of despair. Under those circumstances, attaining a just and comprehensive peace becomes untenable and the region becomes a fertile ground for anger and turmoil. In the final analysis, that situation does not serve the best interests of the world or of the countries of the region.
By convening the Quartet Summit, Syria stressed that a just and comprehensive peace is its strategic choice and that it is striving to attain it in cooperation with regional and international partners who share its vision. The realization of peace requires all of those who have a direct stake in the matter, or those who have the power or who can influence the outcome, to evince the necessary political will.
Years after the will to build peace lost its priority status in the policies that influence the situation in the region, we were asked to go to Annapolis. We all went to Annapolis, despite the ambiguity of the undertaking. We wonder what Annapolis achieved. Where exactly do we stand? Have the Annapolis promises to establish a Palestinian State before the end of the current year been fulfilled? Has Israel stopped building settlements in the occupied Arab territories?
Despite all that, given that the withdrawal of Israel from our occupied Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 and making peace are Syrian national priorities, and notwithstanding the circumstances to which I just referred, we entered into indirect negotiations with Israel, with commendable mediation by Turkey.
As President Al-Assad said, we wanted the negotiations to establish the grounds and pave the way for direct negotiations that would ultimately be sponsored by many international parties. Peacebuilding requires, however, genuine Israeli will that is capable of accommodating the exigencies of peacemaking. It also requires the American will to include peace in the Middle East on its list of priorities after years of deliberately ignoring and dodging the question, which has exacerbated the situation in the region.
Syria stresses once again its firm and consistent support for the Palestinian people’s rights to recover their occupied land and establish their independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. Syria underlines the need to restore Palestinian national unity through national dialogue and is working towards that end in its capacity as the current Chair of the Arab Summit.
The Acting President : I now call on His Excellency Mr. Sayyid Badr bin Hamad AlBusaidi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman.
Mr. AlBusaidi (Oman) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
Everyone knows that the Palestinians are suffering the repercussions of tragic human circumstances that have deprived them of their right to a life of dignity. The harsh Israeli policies of closures, the erection of checkpoints and the perpetuation of settlement activities make the daily lives of Palestinians very difficult. Those practices also undermine efforts and initiatives to achieve peace and stability. Indeed, they call into question the credibility of Israel’s desire to seek a real solution to end the conflict.
We urge the international community to step up its efforts to make Israel shoulder its responsibilities, in view of the importance and inevitability of peace as the only option for joint and harmonious coexistence between all peoples of the region. It has become clear that there can be no peace without the restoration of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, foremost of which is their right to live safely on their land and in their independent State, side by side with Israel and within internationally recognized boundaries.
The Acting President : I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Mourad Medelci, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria.
Mr. Medelci (Algeria) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
The President returned to the Chair.
On the Middle East, Algeria is pleased to note the positive developments in Lebanon and encourages all parties to persevere on the path of unity and national reconciliation. It is obvious that the Middle East will know no peace without a settlement of the Palestinian question, which is at the core of the Israeli-Arab conflict. There is no need for me to remind the Assembly that the advent of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East will inevitably require restoring to the Palestinian people their national and historic rights, including their right to an independent State, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, the return of refugees and the restoration of all the other Arab territories occupied by Israel. On that basis, we appeal to the international community to fully shoulder its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people, to support their just cause politically and to step up its humanitarian assistance in order to ease their suffering.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I now give the floor to His Excellency Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain.
Shaikh Al-Khalifa (Bahrain) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
The Middle East faces many acute issues in desperate need of settlement, the most pressing of which is the need for a just, comprehensive, lasting and peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question based on ensuring security for all the peoples of the Middle East region, including Israel. Such a settlement must take place within the framework of international legitimacy and the relevant terms of reference, where the choice will be just peace, as called for in the Arab Peace Initiative.
In that regard, there is also an urgent need for a peaceful settlement on the Syrian track, including withdrawal from the occupied Arab Syrian Golan and the remaining Lebanese territories. It also requires a halt to Israeli incursions into Lebanon, whose stability must be supported. It is also important to have a resolution of the issue of the occupied islands of the United Arab Emirates, either through direct negotiations or by referring the issue to the International Court of Justice. That would be a significant step towards strengthening trust between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Iran.
In order for the Middle East to enjoy stable and lasting peace, it is incumbent upon us to re-evaluate our outlook on the region and to consider the possibility of developing new regional frameworks to address and overcome long-standing challenges. Now is the time, for example, to consider the establishment of an organization that would include all States of the Middle East, without exception, to discuss long-standing issues openly and frankly, in the hope of reaching a stable and durable understanding between all parties. As Arabs, we accept peace as a strategic option. We are committed to international legitimacy, ending old conflicts and hostilities and beginning a new chapter for a historic rapprochement between the peoples of the region that will lead towards a better future characterized by understanding, stability and prosperity.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Omar A. Touray, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Gambia.
Mr. Touray (Gambia): ...
The people of the Middle East are tired of living in a theatre of conflict. The Palestinian conflict has lingered for too long and the condition of ordinary Palestinians continues to deteriorate even after numerous accords and promises. General Assembly resolutions, Security Council resolutions and even the recent International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the situation are not being implemented. The Quartet and the international community seem helpless. We must ask ourselves: “How do we respond to the despair and lack of action that seem to characterize the peace agenda of the United Nations in that region? When will the two-State solution be achieved?” Unless we do something to break the logjam in the ongoing negotiations, lasting peace will remain elusive.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I now call on His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates.
Sheikh Al Nahyan (United Arab Emirates) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
With regard to the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates has strongly supported the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, including final status negotiations and the outcome of the Annapolis Conference. In that context, we would like to express our concerns about the lack of earnest in Israel’s attitude towards those negotiations. We call on the international community, and in particular the Security Council and the members of the Quartet, to press Israel to lift the siege it has imposed on the Palestinian people and to implement international resolutions related to freezing all of its illegal settlement activity, dismantling unlawful settlements and ending its occupation of all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967, including the holy city of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and some Lebanese territories. Ending the occupation would bring Israel into compliance with relevant international resolutions, the road map and the Arab peace initiative. It would also ensure the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusa lem as its capital, as well as Israel’s security.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I now call on Her Excellency Ms. Aïchatou Mindaoudou, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration of the Niger.
Ms. Mindaoudou (Niger) (spoke in French ): ...
The bilateral negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that have begun in the context of the commitments undertaken at the Annapolis Conference are a genuine source of satisfaction for my delegation. We believe that the parties should take advantage of those negotiations. We therefore encourage them to maintain the momentum of Annapolis, which reflected the willingness of the parties concerned to make progress towards peace. We should also like to welcome the recent initiative of President Nicolas Sarkozy of France in the context of the Euro-Mediterranean Conference. We fervently hope that all those measures will make it possible to reach a speedy agreement that enshrines the vision of the two-State solution of Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security within internationally recognized borders and on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, the Arab peace initiative and the Quartet’s road map.
The meeting rose at 1.15 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.