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        Economic and Social Council
25 April 2003

Original: ENGLISH


Fifty-ninth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on Monday, 14 April 2003, at 3 p.m.

Chairperson: Ms. AL-HAJJAJI (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)





The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.




Draft resolution on the situation in occupied Palestine (E/CN.4/2003/L.9)

74. Mr. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia), introducing the draft resolution, said that the right of peoples to self-determination had been on the agenda of the United Nations for many years. The principle of self-determination was enshrined in Articles 1 and 55 of the Charter of the United Nations, the relevant resolutions and declarations of United Nations bodies, and the provisions of the International Covenants on Human Rights. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action referred to the right of self-determination of all peoples and especially of those subject to foreign occupation. The General Assembly had adopted many resolutions reaffirming the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. In view of its importance, he hoped that the Commission would be able to adopt the draft resolution by consensus. He was convinced that recognizing the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination would help to guarantee peace and security in the Middle East.

75. Mr. LEBAKINE (Secretary of the Commission) said that the representatives of Germany, Poland and Togo and the observers for Andorra, Estonia, Iceland, Jordan, Malta, Nicaragua, Norway and Portugal had become sponsors of the draft resolution, which had no financial implications.

76. Mr. BIGGAR (Ireland), speaking on behalf of those member States of the European Union that were members of the Commission and the acceding country of Poland, said that the entire European Union, the acceding countries of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia and the associated countries of Romania and Turkey had endorsed the general comment he was about to make.

77. The Union was able to support and had sponsored the draft resolution which reaffirmed once more the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. It was certain that the text would not prejudice in any way the final status negotiations between the parties. It firmly believed that the right of the Palestinian people to build a sovereign, democratic, viable and peaceful State could not be brought into question, as that right was already established. Moreover, the international community shared a common vision of two States living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders. All efforts should be directed towards translating that vision into reality.

78. The Union attached the highest priority to the publication and implementation of the “road-map” endorsed by the Quartet in December 2002, which set out a clear time frame for the establishment of a Palestinian State by 2005, through a settlement negotiated between the parties on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002). The Union was determined to continue to work with its partners in the Quartet to assist Palestinians and Israelis alike to move towards reconciliation, negotiations and a final, just and peaceful settlement to the conflict.

79. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that, although the issue of self-determination for the Palestinian people did have some impact on human rights, it was essentially part of a much broader political context to be determined in the bilateral track of negotiations between Israel and Palestine. The two parties had recently negotiated outstanding permanent status issues, including the future status of the territories in dispute.

80. The history of the modern State of Israel was dominated by the efforts of the Jewish people to defend their rights to self-determination in their homeland and their right to live in peace and security. The Palestinian leadership had yet to realize that the conflict was a story of two peoples, and not just one. Israel supported the principle of self-determination and the right of all peoples to govern themselves, including those in the Middle East. More than 20 years previously, Israel had recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements, and expected equal and mutual recognition. It had hoped to attain such recognition through peaceful means in the framework of the Camp David Accords negotiated in 1978.

81. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership had chosen not to consummate those negotiations, but had instead resorted to a course of continuous violence in an attempt to force Israel to make further concessions, contrary to every agreement signed between the two parties.

82. In presenting their case in the Commission and elsewhere, Arab and Palestinian speakers sometimes used code words and euphemisms. One such example was the so-called “right of return”. According to the Palestinians, if and when a Palestinian State was established, Palestinian refugees could return, not only to that State, but also to Israel, thus effectively annulling Israel’s right to self-determination. At other times, the same speakers used plain language to demonstrate that the ultimate goal of the Palestinian leadership was neither to coexist nor to negotiate but to end the existence of the other side and eliminate its national movement.

83. He urged the members of the Commission, therefore, to vote against the draft resolution.

84. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the preamble to the draft resolution made it clear that the text was based on the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the provisions of the International Human Rights Covenants. Only one of the operative paragraphs reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinians to self-determination, including their right to establish their sovereign and independent Palestinian State. The observer for Israel had chosen to refer to issues that were totally unrelated to the draft resolution under consideration. Consequently, he would refrain from replying. However, if Israel sincerely believed in the right to self-determination, it should add its name to the list of sponsors of the draft resolution.

85. Ms. KIRKPATRICK (United States of America), speaking in explanation of vote before the voting, said that the President of the United States had recently reaffirmed America’s commitment to implementing its “road-map” towards peace and believed that all people in the Middle East deserved to live in dignity, under free and honest Governments. People who lived in freedom were more likely to reject bitterness, blind hatred and terror and were far more likely to turn their energy towards reconciliation, reform and development.

86. It was high time that the Commission embraced a similar vision for peace in the Middle East. Resolutions like the one under consideration served only to reinforce the distrust and fear that were obstacles to a genuine and lasting peace for the Palestinian and Israeli people. The repeated efforts by some members of the United Nations to isolate and vilify the Government of Israel were an affront to the Charter of the United Nations.

87. The draft resolution damaged the ability of the United Nations to play a constructive role in the search for peace in the Middle East. It tainted the Organization with bias and prejudice, polarization and mistrust. Any Government that supported a role for the United Nations in the peace process should oppose the draft resolution and help to shape a debate in the Commission that could help dispel the fear and misunderstanding that had fuelled the war for too long. Her delegation would vote against the draft resolution.

88. Mr. SMITH (Australia) said that, while Australia supported the draft resolution which recognized the legitimate right of the Palestinians to a viable, independent State, it was concerned at the fact that no references were made in the text to the need to resume negotiations on a peaceful settlement to the conflict in the Middle East.

89. At the request of the representative of the United States of America, a recorded vote was taken on the draft resolution.

90. The draft resolution was adopted by 51 votes to 1, with 1 abstention.

91. Mr. ALVARADO ORTIGOZA (Guatemala) said that his Government respected the inherent right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their right to establish a sovereign and independent State, and recognized that no State should prevent the realization of those rights. However, it objected to the fact that the draft text requested that the resolution should be transmitted to Israel without any mention of the rights of the Israeli people to self-determination and the recognition of an Israeli State.

92. Human rights and politics should not be mixed up, however closely linked they might appear to be. His delegation could support only a resolution that addressed the right of both peoples to self-determination and focused on the protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of both peoples, without value judgements.

93. The work of the Security Council and other bodies more suited to finding a final solution to the problems would not be hampered as long as the Commission approached the issue solely from a human rights point of view, without bias towards or against either of the parties.

94. For those reasons, his delegation had abstained from voting on the draft resolution.


The meeting rose at 6.05 p.m.

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