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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


GA/9225
13 March 1997

GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLS ON ISRAEL TO REFRAIN FROM
SETTLEMENT ACTIVITY, EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN AT
RECENT DECISION TO BUILD IN EAST JERUSALEM


Resolution, Adopted by Vote of 130-2-2, Confirms Israeli Actions
Purporting to Alter Status of Jerusalem Invalid



The General Assembly this afternoon, expressing deep concern at the decision of Israel to initiate new settlement activities in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area in East Jerusalem, called upon Israel to refrain from all such actions, which alter the facts on the ground and pre-empt the final status negotiations on Jerusalem.

By a vote of 130 in favour, to 2 against (Israel and United States), with 2 abstentions (Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands), the Assembly confirmed that all Israeli actions that purport to alter the status of Jerusalem are invalid. The Assembly called upon all parties to continue their negotiations within the Middle East peace process on its agreed basis and the timely implementation of the agreements reached (see Annex).

The representative of Israel said the draft resolution was one-sided and biased. It singled out Israel and was detrimental to the Middle East peace process. He added that the murder of six schoolgirls and their teacher in the Jordan Valley today reinforced Israel's belief that the only way to promote peace in the Middle East was through direct talks.

The representative of the United States said the decision by Israel to begin construction in East Jerusalem ran counter to the achievements of the parties to date and undermined the trust needed for successful negotiations, particularly in the permanent status talks. Nevertheless, the United Nations was not the appropriate forum for addressing the current issues before the parties. The international community should express support for the achievements of the parties to date and respect their commitment to work together towards a common goal without the interference of outside parties, he added.

The Permanent Observer for Palestine, while expressing gratitude for the overwhelming support given to the resolution, said that if Israel began construction on the settlement in East Jerusalem, he would again return to the Security Council to request action.

Statements in explanation of vote were also made by the representatives of Norway, Lebanon, Peru, Bolivia, Canada and Syria.

The representatives of Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union) and Jordan made statements concerning the deaths of the Israeli schoolchildren in the Jordan Valley today.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to take up a draft resolution on Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular in occupied East Jerusalem (document A/51/L.68).

The Assembly met in urgent session on Wednesday, 12 March, at the request of the Arab Group of States and the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement. The meeting followed the failure of the Security Council on 7 March to adopt a draft resolution that would have expressed deep concern about Israel's decision to build a 6,500 unit housing complex in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area of East Jerusalem. It would have called on Israel to refrain from any settlement activity that would alter the facts on the ground, pre-empting negotiation on the final status of Jerusalem. It was not adopted due to a negative vote by a permanent member of the Council, the United States.

The draft text before the Assembly would have it express concern at the decision of the Government of Israel to initiate new settlement activities in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area in East Jerusalem, as well as other recent measures that encourage or facilitate new settlement activities. Stressing the illegality of such settlement activities, the Assembly would confirm that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel which purport to alter the status of Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, are invalid and cannot change that status.

By the draft, the Assembly would call upon the Israeli authorities to refrain from all actions or measures, including settlement activities, which alter the facts on the ground, pre-empting the final status negotiations, and have negative implications for the Middle East peace process. It would also call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, which is applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

While urging the parties to fulfil their obligations, including under the agreements already reached, the Assembly would call upon them to continue their negotiations within the Middle East peace process on its agreed basis and the timely implementation of the agreements reached.

The draft is sponsored by Afghanistan, Algeria, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Viet Nam.

Action on Draft Text

Introducing the draft resolution on Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, NUGROHO WISNUMURTI (Indonesia) said Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, China, Guyana, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen, Cambodia and Comoros were added to the list of co-sponsors.

He said speaker after speaker in yesterday's debate had rejected the Israeli settlement decision as against international law and in contradiction to the relevant United Nations resolutions. It was not in concert with the agreements already reached in the peace process between the two parties. The Assembly must pronounce itself on the issue, following the Security Council's inability to take action. The co-sponsors regard the text as reasonable and balanced. The adoption of the resolution would be a real contribution to the peace process.

In explanation of vote before the vote, DAVID PELEG (Israel) said the draft resolution was one-sided and biased. It singled out Israel and was detrimental to the Middle East peace process. He would vote against the draft and he called on Member States who supported the peace process to do the same.

The murder of six schoolgirls and their teacher in the Jordan valley today reinforced Israel's belief that the only way to promote peace in the Middle East was to support the political process through direct talks, he said. Needless debates far removed from the realities of the region had never contributed to settling the contentious issues between Israel and its Arab neighbours. It was difficult to comprehend why the countries who wished to play a more active role in the Middle East peace process were rushing to support and even co-sponsor such a blatantly one-sided resolution.

HANS JACOB BIORN LIAN (Norway) said his country had attempted to facilitate cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and leadership. It was, therefore, concerned at current developments and had urged the Israeli Government to reconsider its recent settlements decision. Norway would support today's draft resolution. Nevertheless, the parties themselves must resolve outstanding issues. The signing of the Hebron Protocol had been a step in that direction. They should respect both the letter and spirit of the Oslo agreements. Norway stood ready to help them reach the important goal of peace in the Middle East.

HICHAM HAMDAN (Lebanon) said Israel's settlement decision violated international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. He had hoped that today's draft would provide that Israel's decision also violated the foundations of the peace process under the Madrid formula, which was rooted in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the principle of land for peace. Israel had taken its decision to build the new settlement despite the strong opposition of the Arab side. Israel still failed to acknowledge that East Jerusalem was subject to the provisions of Security Council resolution 242 (1967).

Israel's policies were responsible for the acts of violence in the region, resulting in an increasing number of innocent victims, he said. The United Nations represented the conscience of the world, protecting the vulnerable against oppressors. It was regrettable that today's resolution had not been adopted by the Security Council, owing to a veto by one of its permanent members.

FERNANDO GUILLEN (Peru) said his country felt bound to support today's resolution. The peace process should respect internationally recognized boundaries. Treaty and agreement provisions should be respected. It was important and essential to refrain from any act of violence and to maintain peace.

The draft resolution was adopted by a vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands).

BILL RICHARDSON (United States) said his country shared the concerns expressed by many States with respect to the current decision regarding construction in East Jerusalem. That decision to commence construction ran contrary to the progress and achievements of the parties to date. It was not helpful to the peace process. It undermined the trust and confidence needed for successful negotiations, particularly with respect to the talks on permanent status, including such issues as Jerusalem and settlements. It was essential that the parties do nothing to pre-empt the results of forthcoming negotiations.

Despite the useful role the United Nations could play and had played in promoting Middle East peace, it was not the appropriate forum for addressing the current issues now under negotiation between the parties. Despite political controversy, the parties had reached agreement on Hebron, and Israel had announced the first phase of its further redeployment from the West Bank. That represented the first step in a three-phase project, and it was hoped Israel would do more in the subsequent phases. Further negotiations were also envisaged. The General Assembly ought not to inject itself into that process.

He said the international community should reiterate its support for the progress of the parties to date and respect their commitment to work together towards their common goal -- a peaceful and prosperous Middle East -- without the interference of outside parties. The Assembly had done just that in its annual resolution on the Middle East peace process, and it was the kind of positive contribution the United Nations could make to peace in the region.

He also expressed condolences to the families for the horrific attack on schoolgirls near the Jordan River today. Such actions were particularly tragic. Violence could never be the answer. It could only produce more victims.

EDGAR CAMACHO OMISTE (Bolivia) stressed the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force. Bolivia supported the Middle East peace process, and hoped the parties would achieve understandings that would accommodate the interest of all concerned, enabling a just and lasting peace to be established. Conditions must be created which engendered mutual trust and the right climate for negotiations, in order to resolve the most serious problems inherited from the past.

ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) said his country was deeply saddened by the attack today against innocent Israeli schoolchildren and extended condolences to their families. Canada had supported today's resolution. However, Canada would have preferred if it had reflected the fact that both parties had obligations with respect to the peace process.

He said all parties must refrain from unilateral actions which could prejudice the final status negotiations. Israel's decision to build a new settlement in East Jerusalem undermined the trust that was the very basis of the peace process.

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said the Israeli decision was a violation of international law. The draft should have mentioned other Israeli activities in the occupied territories. Jerusalem was not under Israeli jurisdiction and Israeli settlement activities were a major obstacle on the road to peace. The United Nations was the appropriate forum to address issues of international peace. If Israel wanted peace, it would have to pursue peace on the basis of the Madrid process. The action by the United States in the Security Council had given a green light to Israeli settlement activities. Syria aspired to peace in the region, a peace based on equality.

AHMED OULD SID'AHMED (Mauritania) said his country would have voted in favour of the resolution had it been able to do so.

JEAN RAVOU-AKII (Vanuatu) said his country would have voted in favour of the resolution had it been able to do so.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, expressed gratitude to the supporters of the resolution, particularly to the 57 States who had voted for such a resolution for the first time. It was a clear and nearly unanimous position, which called on Israel to stop its plans to build in Jabal Abu Ghneim and other such activities. There was a central role for the United Nations to play in such a situation, especially when a Member State violated international law and failed to abide by its agreements in the peace process. If Israel went ahead with the settlement construction next week, it would go against the will of the international community and international law. The resolution was a new opportunity to help rebuild the peace process.

If the construction plans were implemented by Israel, he said he would return to the Security Council to call for action. It was his hope that the Council would then act unanimously on the matter. He expressed opposition to what had happened in the Jordan Valley today. A just and comprehensive peace was the only solution to the situation in the Middle East.

NICOLAAS H. BIEGMAN (Netherlands), on behalf of the European Union, expressed shock and grief at the loss of innocent life in the Jordan Valley today.

ZEID RA'AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) expressed his Government's sorrow over the terrible tragedy in the Jordan Valley. Jordan had condemned the act of one individual and extended condolences to the families of the victims.



ANNEX

Vote on Israeli Settlement Activities


The draft resolution on Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular in occupied East Jerusalem (document A/51/L.68) was adopted by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against, with 2 abstentions:

In favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua-Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Comorros, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Island, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

Against: Israel, United States.

Abstaining: Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands.

Absent: Albania, Barbados, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Palau, Panama, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Turkmenistan, Zaire, Zambia.


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