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Panel I: "The International Peace Conference on the Middle East (United Nations General Assembly resolution 38/58 C), the need for such a Conference, efforts and prospects to promote a successful outcome and benefits thereof"
42. The Seminar was of the view that among contemporary international problems, the Middle East conflict was, by its very origins and its implications, by far the most complex and one which continued to be a threat to peace and international security. Its complexity demanded an early solution because the longer the problem remained unsolved, the more difficult would a just solution be.
43. Historically, the United Nations had inherited the problem at the time of its establishment, when it partitioned Palestine and created Israel. Since then, it had been continuously seized of the problem, as evidenced by the numerous resolutions that had been adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council.
44. Unfortunately, those who wished to maintain the status quo had opposed any attempt by the United Nations to settle the question of Palestine. Nevertheless, it remained, for historical, institutional and political reasons, most qualified to provide the framework for the search for a solution.
45. The question of Palestine was now an international problem in the fullest sense of the word. It was no longer possible, therefore, for solutions to be found by bilateral negotiations. The United Nations alone could provide the framework which would guarantee to all parties to the conflict the security, impartiality and the equality necessary for serious negotiations which would result in a just and lasting solution.
46. The International Peace Conference on the Middle East called for by General Assembly resolution 38/58 C offered the best opportunity to find a just solution to this intractable question and would provide the necessary framework for such negotiations.
47. The International Conference on the Question of Palestine held in Geneva in 1983 had, in its Declaration, listed the major guiding principles which should govern any concerted action for the purpose of resolving the question of Palestine.
48. Those guidelines included:
(a) The attainment by the Palestinian people of its legitimate, inalienable rights, including the right to return, the right to self-determination and the right to establish its own independent State in Palestine;
(b) The right of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian people, to participate on an equal footing with other parties in all efforts, deliberations and conferences on the Middle East;
(c) The need to put an end to Israel's occupation of the Arab territories, in accordance with the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, and consequently, the need to secure Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem;
(d) The need to oppose and reject such Israeli policies and practices in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, and any de facto situation created by Israel as were contrary to international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, particularly the establishment of settlements, as those policies and practices constituted major obstacles to the achievement of peace in the Middle East;
(e) The need to reaffirm as null and void all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which had altered or purported to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, including the expropriation of land and property situated thereon, and in particular the so-called "Basic Law" on Jerusalem and the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;
(f) The right of all States in the region to existence within secure and internationally recognized boundaries, with justice and security for all the people, the sine qua non of which was the recognition and attainment of the legitimate, inalienable rights of the Palestinian people as stated in subparagraph (a) above.
49. The attainment and the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people remained fundamental to any solution. They recognized the rule of law in ensuring justice and security for both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
50. The International Conference on the Question of Palestine had considered it essential for an International Peace Conference on the Middle East to be convened with the aim of negotiating and finalizing a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The Conference was to be convened under the auspices of the United Nations with the equal participation of all parties directly involved, including the PLO, as well as the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other States concerned.
51. The merit of this formula for participation in the Conference was that it did not exclude any of the parties to the conflict. Indeed, it protected the right of all concerned parties to be present at the settlement on equal terms. That was in direct contrast to Israel's insistence on settling the question outside the United Nations without the participation of the PLO, one of the interested parties. Moreover, the United States would have the opportunity of participating in every stage leading to the convening of the Conference and, therefore, could have no valid reason for objecting to the very idea of the Conference.
52. The Seminar was convinced of the vital and urgent need for the convening of the Conference as called for by resolution 38/58 C. The nature of the problem, the interests of the many parties concerned, and its global repercussions made it imperative that solutions should be sought through collective efforts under the auspices of the United Nations. Only at the Conference table could solutions be found that were acceptable to all and took into account the rights and interests of all parties concerned and not merely the narrow strategic interests of one party.
53. Such a Conference would make it extremely difficult for anyone to retain territory acquired by aggression and, at the same time, would provide the necessary guarantees for the accords concluded at the Conference.
54. The Seminar stressed that the PLO should be an equal participant in the Conference as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. It emphasized at the same time its view that the Palestinian problem could not be solved without the participation of the PLO.
55. The Seminar regarded as most important that participation in the Conference should be conducted in a constructive spirit and that all participants should be motivated by the political will to find a solution conducive to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.
56. The vital importance of the Conference was reflected in the fact that the majority of States had expressed their strong support for the holding of the Conference. That was also a reflection of the political will of the international community.
57. It was regrettable, therefore, that almost three years after the idea of the Conference had been put forward, positive steps towards the convening of the Conference had yet to be taken. The Seminar noted that the President of the Security Council, on 14 March 1986, in his reply to the Secretary-General of the United Nations regarding the results of consultations amongst members of the Security Council, had indicated that the majority of the members of the Security Council were of the view that the Conference should be held with the least possible delay. Others, however, had felt that conditions were not favourable at that juncture and considered that further consultations should take place.
58. The Seminar hoped that all those in support of the Conference, and that was the overwhelming majority of the international community, would unite to overcome the obstacles posed by the refusal of Israel and the United States to agree to participate in such a Conference. It was the refusal of these two States alone that obstructed progress towards the convening of the Conference.
59. The attention of the Seminar was drawn to the increasingly active participation of non-governmental organizations in furthering the objectives of the United Nations on the question of Palestine. Non-governmental organizations had, at the annual United Nations International Non-Governmental Organizations Meetings on the Question of Palestine, repeatedly expressed their strong support for the convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East under the auspices of the United Nations as specified in United Nations resolution 38/58 C and had declared their readiness to work towards the convening of that Conference.
60. The Seminar felt that in this International Year of Peace, it was most important that the international community should exert all its efforts in finding a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to a problem which had resisted solution for so long.
Panel II: "The role of the Palestine Liberation Organization"
61. It was customary to regard the Palestine Liberation Organization solely as a national liberation movement of the Palestinian people. In fact, its role went beyond the normal and recognized task of such a movement. The PLO was not fighting only for the recovery of the national political rights of the Palestinian people, but also for the reconstruction of a dispersed society, uprooted from its geographical framework and its historic environment as a result of the creation of the State of Israel and the wars that followed.
62. The political identity, the very existence of the Palestinian people, was denied. Since 1967, Israel had pursued a policy of judaization and annexation in the occupied territories, starting with Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and establishing and reinforcing settlements on national and private land confiscated or expropriated. The other aspect of that policy was linking the economic infrastructure of the occupied territories with that of Israel. The purpose of that policy was to make it seem that Palestine was dead and could not be brought back to life. That was the heart of the whole Middle East problem.
63. The Palestinian people had refused to remain passive in their new situation, to be deprived of their right of self-determination. Having established their objective, they had found a weapon to achieve it - the PLO. But because of the special nature of the Palestinian problem, the tasks of the PLO had of necessity to go beyond the traditional concept of the liberation struggle.
64. The PLO was not only fighting against foreign occupation, but to rebuild a nation which was fighting for existence. To that end it had set up military and civil, social, cultural and economic institutions to meet the needs of the Palestinians as far as possible, and to form the infrastructure of the future Palestinian State it meant to create.
65. Towards the mid-1950s the Palestinians had recovered sufficiently from the shock of dispersion and occupation to begin the search for a solution to the problem resulting from the establishment of Israel on part of their territory and from the fact that the Palestinians were now a stateless nation. The just nature of the Palestinian struggle for national liberation entailed the creation of truly Palestinian parties and specifically Palestinian institutions.
66. The constitution of the Palestine Liberation Organization Movement (Fatah) had to be seen in that context and the Arab States decided at their summit in January 1964 to establish the PLO. The PLO functioned autonomously, although not independently of the Arab States, until 1967, the year of the second Arab-Israeli war. It was at that time that the bases of the present institutions of the PLO were laid in order to meet the social, political and military needs of the struggle for the political existence of the Palestinian people and for the liberation of Palestine.
67. The PLO passed through many trials from the Black September massacre of 1970 to the massacre of Sabra and Shatila in 1982, through the war it suffered in Lebanon in 1975/76, the siege of Beirut in 1982 and the bombardment of its headquarters in Tunis in 1985. In spite of those events, the PLO had asserted itself thanks to the strength it drew from the Palestinian people's allegiance to it and from other friendly peoples and States that supported the Palestinian cause and recognized the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
68. That support derived also from the work done by the PLO among the Palestinian people, in its name, and which was based on:
(a) Assertion and consolidation of the unity of the Palestinian people and of its national identity, engaging the entire people in the struggle for self-determination. In that area, the success of the PLO was indisputable, since it had made the Palestinian people a key element in the quest for a settlement to the Palestinian question, which thus became the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
(b) Formation of a new generation of Palestinians with dignity and confidence in their potential, the capacity to contribute to the social, economic, political and intellectual advancement of their people, the ability to ensure better defence of its interest and its cause, by ensuring that the young generation was given the opportunity of vocational education, or by obtaining or allocating school and university scholarship.
(c) The many forms of assistance to be provided to the Palestinian people in the occupied territories in order to help them to remain there and resist Israeli occupation and expansionism more effectively.
(d) The establishment of political, economic and cultural links throughout the world, particularly with States supporting the struggle of the Palestinian people. It was with those States, and particularly the African ones, that the PLO had concluded economic and technical co-operation agreements based on mutual interest and reciprocal solidarity. The PLO economic institution - SAMED - existed in some 10 African countries for that purpose. The function of SAMED, however, was not only one of training and production. It was also to make Palestinian economic and trade staff into ambassadors of their people and of their revolution to friendly countries who required them. The Palestinian people did not possess the material or financial resources to assist them but relied for that purpose on their base capital - their grey matter and experience.
69. The official visits paid by Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee, to some 15 African States during the past three months were evidence of the importance the PLO attached to friendship and solidarity between the African peoples and the Arab peoples in general and the Palestinian people in particular. The PLO supported the convening of a second Afro-Arab summit meeting (the first such meeting had taken place in Cairo in 1977) in order to develop political and economic relations between Arab and African States and harmonize their policies with a view to effective co-operation in the struggle against under-development and against Zionist expansionism in Palestine and apartheid in South Africa.
70. The African countries had shown their solidarity towards the Arab world and the central cause of the Palestinian question by breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel - some of them in 1967 and others in 1973. It was in 1973 that Arab-African relations assumed a new dimension and were extended to the economic field. The OAU Council of Ministers had decided to establish a Committee to explore the possibilities of economic co-operation with the Arab countries. The PLO role was to act within the Arab economic and financial institutions of which it was a full member to consolidate that co-operation.
Panel III: "Africa and the question of Palestine:
i. African public opinion
ii. Relation between Israel and South Africa"
71. During the discussion on that subject it was stated that the development of informed public opinion on any issue or set of issues was rarely an easy or automatic process. It was indisputably, however, a necessary task in the context of the question of Palestine where the rights of a people were being infringed. It was also difficult to discuss African public opinion in general as a region. However, it was noted that public opinion was an important and fundamental element which could contribute to, and be utilized in the search for peace in the Middle East based on a just solution of the problem of Palestine. This element, therefore, had to be mobilized to inject the voice of reason into world affairs and had to be enhanced by a deeper understanding and awareness of all the aspects of the problem of Palestine.
72. The plight of the Palestinian people was one that was viewed with profound sympathy by the peoples and Governments of Africa. There had been support for the struggle of the Palestinian people from the earliest stages of the independence of Africa's countries themselves, and special attention had always been paid to the question of Palestine in the framework of the Organization of African Unity. A deep interest and active involvement in the search for a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to that problem represented the natural and understandable response of the African peoples who themselves had experienced colonial domination, oppression and exploitation. Therefore, African support for the Palestinian cause was the sympathetic identification of a common struggle against imperialism, colonialism and racism. It was also felt that greater solidarity should be exercised by the African and Arab people in their common cause.
73. African public opinion held the view that a lasting and abiding peace in the Middle East could only come through the recognition of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the right to their own independent State under the leadership of the PLO. Self-determination was a principle very dear to the African continent, a continent still saddled with wars of liberation from foreign occupation and domination.
74. African States noted a close similarity between the situation in the Middle East and southern Africa. Both South Africa and Israel had racist régimes with aggressive policies which caused not only human suffering, but also threatened the sovereignty and stability of African and Arab States. Those racist régimes remained intransigent as ever, pursuing the inhuman policies of apartheid and zionism, respectively, in spite of repeated condemnation by the international community. The Israeli and South African aggressive policies were not confined to their own territories, but extended beyond their borders to neighbouring countries where frequent raids were mounted resulting in serious loss of lives and property. Such daring violations of the sovereignty of those States were in contradiction to the aims and objectives of the Charter of the United Nations. That attitude had been particularly frustrating to many African States genuinely committed to change the status quo in South Africa. It emphasized that the liberation of the people in Namibia and South Africa and the of the people of Palestine were part of the same struggle. The Seminar expressed its solidarity with the struggle of the people of Palestine, a solidarity that was particularly strong due to the history of the decolonization process on the African continent and the role that the independence movement had played, and continued to play, in achieving self-determination and national independence.
75. The international system of information, generally dominated by Western Powers, played an important role in the attitudes of groups and individuals. The mass media emphasized divisions among the Palestinians, Arab internal conflicts, "Arab terrorism", and reported less frequently what was happening inside the occupied Arab territories, the daily repression by the occupying Power against the Palestinian people as well as the mischievous consequences of the policy of settlements' implementation.
76. Public opinion in Africa needed a clearer depiction of the Palestinian question in order to have a positive attitude and to support the struggle of the Palestinian people, which was close to that of their brethren in Namibia and South Africa. In Africa there were more urgent problems, immediate ones, those of hunger, of development. One fact had to be underlined: very few countries in Africa had renewed their diplomatic relations with Israel. Those relations were cut by all the members of OAU after the 1967 war, showing that even if they were not well informed of the detailed situation, they didn't approve of the Zionist's disregard of United Nations resolutions and the continuation of military occupation of Arab land. Those despicable methods were the same as those of South Africa.
77. Solidarity between all the human rights supporters was necessary to stop all forms of racial discrimination, to destroy the apartheid concept, to bring about the implementation of Security Council resolution 435 (1978), granting independence to Namibia, and United Nations resolutions concerning the Middle East and the Palestinian question. World peace was threatened by Israel's attitude and that of South Africa. Both those Governments followed a policy of racial discrimination and ignored United Nations resolutions. Furthermore, they had established channels of co-operation among themselves, thus reinforcing régimes detrimental to their African and Arab populations.
78. The most dangerous field of activities in which both racist régimes seemed to have close consultations and even co-operation was the field of nuclear weapons. Wide presumptions, supported by political statements and press reports, led one to believe that they had launched a well-studied programme of mutual assistance in the field of nuclear research, with the knowledge and the co-operation of some big Powers. Generally, such endeavours were conducted with secrecy and the truth was very difficult to establish. One could try only to understand the motivations of such behaviour. The danger was that such weapons could be used either against Africa or an Arab country by those racist régimes, for the implementation of their discriminatory policy.
79. To counter the challenge posed by the increasing collaboration between the racist régimes of South Africa and Israel in political, economic, military, nuclear and other fields, it was necessary to step up co-operation and strengthen solidarity, both on regional and international levels.
80. The point was also made that particular attention should henceforth be directed towards countries still not sufficiently supportive of the just cause of the Palestinian people, so as to correct the misperception and distortion on the question of Palestine and concerning the PLO conveyed by Israel and its supporters. In the contemporary world, it was highly anomalous that the Palestinian people should be denied the exercise of their inalienable right to self-determination enjoyed by other peoples. The fault for that situation lay squarely on Israel.
81. It was important that the public media should play a more responsive role in providing a more balanced reporting on the Middle East and, in particular, on the plight of the Palestinians as a dispossessed and harassed people. Institutions such as universities, colleges, research institutes, churches and other religious establishments as well as national and international non-governmental organizations had a crucial role to play in the formation of public opinion. Those institutions had to be urged to give wider coverage and more balanced treatment to the question of Palestine.
82. Symposia organized by the United Nations or other organizations were a pressing necessity for the African non-governmental organizations. Through those means, the churches, labour unions, women's groups and other non-governmental organizations could be sensitized. Special consideration had also to be given to wider observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which had been established by United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/65 D to be 29 November each year, and the occasion had to be taken to give maximum coverage to the question of Palestine.
83. Every effort had to be made to step up the widespread dissemination of information, as one of the major contributions to the achievement of a just solution of the problem of Palestine on the basis of the attainment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights had an important role in such dissemination of information. Furthermore, the United Nations Department of Public Information was requested to make every effort to ensure that accurate information on the question of Palestine received the widest possible dissemination.
Panel IV: "The United Nations and the question of Palestine"
84. The question of Palestine remained close to the hearts of the people of Africa because of the similarity that the struggle of the Palestinian people bore to the struggle of the people of Africa. Apartheid, Namibia and Palestine were questions that had appeared on the United Nations agenda almost since its inception. The international community had assumed a sacred trust for Namibia and Palestine more than 60 years ago under the mandate of the League of Nations and those questions had been closely linked with the activities of the international organization.
85. While still in its infancy, the United Nations had, on 29 November 1947, adopted resolution 181 (II) which approved the plan for the partition of Palestine. The plan had provided for the creation of an Arab and a Jewish State, but so far only the Jewish State had come into being. That State, Israel, had become a Member of the United Nations in 1949 on conditions of its compliance with the terms of resolution 181 (II) which had recognized the right of the Palestinian people to their own State, and resolution 194 (III) adopted in 1949 which had recognized the right of return of Palestinian refugees. However, as it was well-known, Israel had completely disregarded the assurances which it had given, contributing thereby to the question of Palestine. With the adoption of resolution 181 (II), the question of Palestine had become inextricably a responsibility of the United Nations.
86. However, the fact that the evolution of the question of Palestine was intertwined with that of the United Nations was no mere reflection of historical coincidence. It was rather a reflection of the reality that the issues which lay behind the tragedy of the Palestinian people went to the very heart of principles upon which the United Nations was founded - namely, respect for the dignity of peoples and the sovereignty of States and the pursuit of peaceful intercourse among nations and peoples.
87. The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the sovereignty of the Palestinian people over Palestine had been repeatedly and unequivocally recognized in resolutions adopted by the United Nations.
88. The evolution in status of the Palestine issue and of Palestinian representation in the United Nations took a significant step forward in 1974 when the question of Palestine was included as a separate item on the General Assembly's agenda for the first time since 1952. In that same year, the PLO was invited to participate in the Assembly's proceedings on the question of Palestine as the representative of the Palestinian people.
89. As important was the Assembly's reaffirmation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine, including: (a) the right to self-determination without external interference; (b) the right to national independence and sovereignty and (c) the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes.
90. Lack of progress in implementing the exercise of those rights had resulted in the General Assembly establishing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in 1975. That action underscored the fact that the question of Palestine lay at the core of the Middle East conflict and that a solution had to be found which ensured the implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. International recognition of, and significant priority to, the Palestinian cause became manifest in the following years by the resolutions adopted by the different organs of the United Nations.
91. The recommendations of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People themselves had been repeatedly approved by the General Assembly since 1976; however, the opposition of a permanent member of the Security Council had prevented the Council from taking action on them.
92. The Committee, however, had continued to be active in pursuing implementation of its recommendations and had initiated much of the action taken by the General Assembly on the question of Palestine. Indeed, as a consequence of its initiative, the International Conference on the Question of Palestine was held in Geneva in 1983.
93. Since then, the International Peace Conference on the Middle East called for by General Assembly resolution 38/58 C had become the focal point of the work of the Committee since it believed that the Conference would mark a significant step towards the achievement of a solution of a problem that was long overdue.
94. The political solution of the question of Palestine remained the primary responsibility of the United Nations in spite of all the difficulties involved. The Seminar agreed that the United Nations had a crucial role to play in the search for a negotiated peace in the Middle East which would ensure justice for all people in the region; lack of progress hitherto did nothing to diminish its obligation to continue to press toward with its attempts for a solution.
95. The Seminar recognized that unlike the case of Namibia, for example, that of Palestine was not one where the United Nations was playing a role supportive of the safeguard efforts of the liberation movement on the ground. Because of the particular character of the question of Palestine it was in the United Nations more than elsewhere that progress was being recorded.
96. The Seminar considered that since 1974, thanks to the efforts of the United Nations, with the full and unequivocal support of the PLO, there had been a gradual but marked evolution in the question of Palestine, to the point where the international community was now sensitized, as never before, to the facts of the Palestinian situation and the need for early action to ensure the enjoyment by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights, in particular their right to their own independent State. Also the PLO had become the interpreter, as far as the Organization was concerned, of the wish of the Palestinian people.
97. United Nations efforts had reached an impasse over the question of the holding of an International Peace Conference on the Middle East with the refusal by the United States and Israel to support that initiative. The Seminar made a fresh assessment of the difficult situation facing the United Nations in the attitude of those two States, but resolved that the response of the Organization should not be one of despair. It determined that the Committee, as well as non-governmental organizations, should intensify their efforts to inform public opinion throughout the world, but more particularly in the United States, of the facts of the Palestinian situation with a view to exerting increased pressure for change in that country's attitude towards the question of Palestine.
the Republic of Kenya for their support of the struggle of the Palestinian people under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, its sole legitimate representative, for the exercise of its inalienable rights in Palestine.
H.E. Mr. Noel G. Sinclair (Guyana)
United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid
Mr. Abdelmahmoud Mohamed (Sudan)