SUMMARY RECORD OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-THIRD MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Wednesday, 19 April 1950, at 11 a.m.
The CHAIRMAN, supplementing the information given in document CCP.RWA/3 concerning the possibility of reducing the number of refugees, announced that, according to a statement made by the Israeli representative to the Commission on 30 January last, the State of Israel considered that “it must leave the exact extent of the repatriation (of refugees) to be determined by the nature of the peace concluded and by the relevant circumstances obtaining at that time”.
Mr. BLANDFORD (United States of America — Chairman of the Advisory Commission) suggested that two separate groups of questions should be taken up. On the one hand, there were various special problems of concern to the Agency, such as Gaza, Arab assets, compensation and others, on which the Commission possessed information which the Agency would be glad to share. On the other hand, it would be desirable for the meeting to consider ways and means of enabling the two bodies to maintain the necessary contact and, more particularly, the question of appointing a liaison officer.
The question of liaison between the Commission and the Agency
The CHAIRMAN stated that the Commission would be glad to hear the views of the Agency on the organization of liaison with a view to the reciprocal exchange of information. It thought that the liaison service might be set up at Beirut, in which case it would be logical for the task to be performed by a member of the Agency’s Secretariat.
Should the Agency agree in principle to that idea, the meeting could proceed to discuss the details of the scheme. The actual choice of a liaison officer could be made the subject of informal conversations.
Major-General KENNEDY, Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said that in any case the Agency would need to have a representative at Geneva to enable it to keep in touch not only with the Commission but with various other institutions. Until the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees was wound up, contact could be maintained through General Parminter, thus allowing a month or two in which to study longer-term arrangements.
From the Agency’s point of view, it would be most desirable for the Commission to be permanently represented at Beirut by a member of its own Secretariat.
Mr. BLANDFORD (United Status of America — Chairman of the Advisory Commission) thought that while the organization of the liaison body was being studied and even while it was actually being set up, the Commission might arrange to have a representative well acquainted with its activities at Beirut. That would enable the Agency to go on collecting the documentation it had begun to assemble at the first two meetings.
The CHAIRMAN thought it would be a very good idea for General Parminter, who was on excellent terms with all the parties, to be the Agency’s representative at Geneva for as long as possible. With regard to the other proposal, he would like to hear the views of the other members of the Commission and the Principle Secretary.
Mr. de BOISANGER (France) agreed that it would be most desirable for a representative of the Agency to remain as long as possible in contact with the Commission.
As far as Beirut was concerned, he did not see how it would be possible in practice to second a member of the Commission’s Secretariat for service there. What was required was that there should be at Beirut some organ in a position to keep the Commission informed of the work of the Agency.
The CHAIRMAN remarked that efforts should be made to set up a service of use to both bodies. The Commission had thought, in principle, that the liaison officer at Beirut should be attached to the Agency’s Secretariat. Apart from other considerations, it would be not advisable to select anyone whose connection with the Commission was publicly known, in order to avoid giving the impression that the two bodies were working hand in glove.
The PRINCIPAL SECRETARY suggested that, in the common interest of both sides, the final solution of the liaison question should not give the impression that the Commission was represented on the Agency. Furthermore there were political objections to the permanent posting of a member of the Commission’s Secretariat to an Arab country. It was therefore preferable for the liaison officer to be chosen front the staff of the Agency. The person appointed should, of course, and, as far as possible, be conversant with the Commission’s work from its inception, since he would be specially called upon to maintain liaison with the Commission.
The provisional appointment of General Parminter as representative of the Agency at Geneva would be most satisfactory,
Mr. de SAINT-HARDOUIN (Franca — Advisory Commission) agreed that the presence of General Parminter in Geneva would prove a most satisfactory solution while the Agency was getting under way, and would enable the Commission to be kept informed of what was going on in Beirut. At the same time, the Agency would, from the very start, be in need of all kinds of information and the presence of a liaison officer provided by the Commission would meet that need. He accordingly requested the Commission to attach a liaison officer to the Agency at least for some time.
The CHAIRMAN observed that the representatives of both bodies agreed in principle on two points. Both considered it a perfectly satisfactory arrangement for General Parminter to keep the Commission informed of the activities of the Agency as long as he remained in Geneva; when he left, someone else might possibly be appointed in his place. On the second point, they all recognised the need to have at Beirut a person well acquainted with the Commission’s problems and able to answer any enquiries made by the Agency or to transmit the request for information to the Commission.
The only point that remained to be settled was the choice of a liaison officer; care should be taken not to select someone who was liaison to be closely associated with the Commission, and who on that account might do more harm than good.
Major-General KENNEDY, Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, thought there was no need to settle the matter straight away. It would be sufficient for the Commission’s representatives in Jerusalem to effect the desired liaison with the Agency by means of meetings once or twice a week.
Mr. de BOISANGER (France) pointed out that the Commission’s representatives in Jerusalem were not in a position to follow all the aspects of its work and that they would therefore be unable to assist the Agency. The best way for the Commission to keep the Agency informed would be by telephoning or writing to the liaison officer in Beirut. Any formal expression of the Commission’s views on a particular subject could only emanate from Geneva.
Mr. de SAINT-HARDOUIN (France — Advisory Commission) suggested that the Agency would require not only expressions of opinion but also someone in Beirut fully conversant with the work accomplished by the Commission and able to reply at short notice to any enquiries from the Agency.
Mr. de BOISANGER (France) replied that the Commission had no representative in the Near East capable of meeting those requirements.
The CHAIRMAN thought that the only way to solve the problem was for the two bodies to hold informal conversations on the choice of a liaison officer. In any cases the general principle of the need for liaison between them in their common interest had been recognised.
Mr. BLANDFORD (United Status of America — Chairman of the Advisory Commission) enquired whether, to the Commission’s knowledge, any negotiations were on foot between the parties concerned with a view to reducing the number of refugees.
The CHAIRMAN stated that, so far as the Commission was aware, no negotiations of the kind were proceeding. If the Commission’s general proposals were accepted by the parties, it would have to consider the special problems to be studied. Should any progress be made in that direction, the Commission might have to seek the assistance of the Agency.
Mr. BLANDFORD (United States of America — Chairman of the Advisory Commission) said that if he had rightly understood the purport of the Chairman’s remarks, the Commission viewed the refugee problem as a whole as part of its efforts at conciliation and considered that, as matters stood between the parties, changes in the position of the refugees in particular areas were unlikely to occur.
The CHAIRMAN explained that at the moment the problem of the refugees in the Gaza area was making no progress. One of the proposals made by Egypt in that connection had been carried out by a decision between the parties arrived at under the auspices of the Mixed Armistice Commission. The Israeli Government having been unwilling to consider the other proposals they were still outstanding. If, however, the general proposals of the Commission were accepted, that would lead to the joint examination of certain special questions by the interested parties.
Mr. de BOISANGER (France) supplementing the information given on page 2 of Document CCP.RWA/3, stated that, during his recent tour, the representatives at Gaza of the American Friends Service Committee and of other institutions had brought to his notice the special case of the village of Beit Hanun. As a result of recent arrangements in the Mixed Armistice Commission between Egypt and the State of Israel, it had been made possible for that village, formerly in No-Man’s Land, to be re-occupied by some three or four thousand refugees from Gaza. But they had been unable to benefit or to put the land under cultivation again because their buildings had been destroyed and they had no equipment or livestock. It struck him that the matter should be of special interest to the Agency, since the re-settlement of the Arabs in their own village was the sort of experiment which should have a favourable psychological effect on the other refugees. At all events the merits of the case were worth investigating, a thing he himself had been unable to do owing to lack of time.
The CHAIRMAN pointed out that the question of reuniting scattered families was still a live one. The Commission was anxious that a broader definition should be given to the term “family” and, in view of the informal assurances it had received from the representatives of the Israeli Government on that point, it hoped to be successful. The .Agency would probably discover other bases similar to that of Beit Hanun.
Mr. de BOISANGER (France) mentioned, in that connection, the position in the demilitarised zone between Syria and Israel.
Mr. BLANDFORD (United States of America — Chairman of the Advisory Commission) observed that it was clearly in the interest of both bodies for the number of refugees to be reduced.
The CHAIRMAN, agreeing with the previous speaker, added that a reduction in the number of refugees would not only be a fortunate circumstance in itself, but would also react favourably on those refugees not actually benefiting from any local improvements. The Commission was however only too conscious of the fact that it was in the interests of certain circles — with which the Commission did not of course associate itself — not to reduce the number of refugees,
Mr. de BOISANGER (France) remarked that the main obstacle the Agency would come up against would be a psychological one. It had been a good thing to organize the camps, but the refugees were gradually getting used to the idea of living at the expense of the international community and that state of mind was being encouraged by certain Governments, though not by that of the Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan. It would therefore be a good idea to show, by some examples, that the refugees could either return home or settle elsewhere and lead a happier existence than in the camps. In that field, however, the measures taken by the Agency might sometimes clash with the views of the local authorities and might even have to be carried out without their cooperation.
Major-General KENNEDY, Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said that such examples showed the type of activity the Agency should first undertake. To begin with, it should concentrate on the projects most likely to be successful.
National Status of the Refugees
Mr. BLANDFORD (United States of America — Chairman of the Advisory Commission) enquired what was the status of those persons commonly referred to as refugees. Were they refugees proper or unemployed nationals of the country in which they were living? How was one to interpret the recent resolution of the Arab League on the question? Finally, was the recent offer of Jordanian nationality to refugees conditional on their settling on Jordanian territory?
Sir Henry KNIGHT (United Kingdom — Advisory Commission) recalling the proposal to issue Nansen passports to the refugees to enable them to travel to countries such as North Africa, which were likely to give them employment, said he would welcome further information on the question.
The PRINCIPAL SECRETARY explained that the Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan had offered Jordanian nationality to all the refugees. The fact that the recent elections had also been held in the Arab part of Palestine implied that the Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan considered those territories as annexed and regarded the refugees living there as Jordanian subjects. On the Other hand, the Arab League had passed a resolution contesting the legality of that claim. It was difficult to express any opinion on a legal question of that nature as one could not be sure which legal rules were applicable.
As far as the Gaza area was concerned, Egypt did not consider the refugees living there as her own subjects and there was no sign of any intention on her part to annex the area. The same was true of the refugees in Lebanon and Syria whose legal position was defined by the special statute applying to them.
The CHAIRMAN referring to the suggestion of the United Kingdom member on the Advisory Commission that it would be desirable for some identity document to be given to refugees to enable thou to travel, pointed out that the Commission had endeavoured to establish a technical committee for the Gaza area to study inter alia the question of the issue of such documents. The proposal to set up such a committee had, however, not been accepted by the Israeli Government and, following on that setback, the Commission had sought to reconcile the two opposing attitudes by submitting some general proposals.
The PRINCIPAL SECRETARY stated that although the Jordanian Legation in Cairo was prepared to issue Jordanian passports to all the refugees of the Gaza area, the latter, for the most part, had not sufficient money to pay the fees charged. Something should be done to remedy that state of affairs.
Major-General KENNEDY, Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, expressed on his own behalf and on behalf of the members of the Advisory Commission, his gratitude to the Conciliation Commission for the support it had given them and for the valuable information furnished, The exchange of views had brought out the advantages of a well-established liaison and had made it clear that the idea was accepted by all in principle.
The CHAIRMAN thanked the Director of the Agency for his kind words and added that the Commission was likewise most anxious for liaison to be set up between it and the Agency since in that way it will be possible for information to be exchanged, in the interests of both bodies, through the medium of a properly established organ.
Examen de l'UNRWA/UNCCP liaison, statut des réfugiés dans les pays arabes, proposition d'un comité technique pour les réfugiés à Gaza - 143e séance deCCNUP (Genève) - Compte rendu Français