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


GA/9183
3 December 1996

PARTIES TO MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS URGED TO SET ASIDE
SHORT-TERM INTERESTS, FOR GREATER GOAL OF COMMON PROSPERITY

Syria Tells General Assembly All in Region Will Benefit From Settlement;
Critics Say Israel Has Not Fully Honoured Commitments


Several countries this afternoon called for cooperation from parties concerned to put the Middle East peace process back on track, and the policies of the new Israeli Government came into focus as the Assembly continued its consideration of the situation in the Middle East.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said it was imperative for all to transcend their short-term, myopic interests, extinguish their distrust and look towards the even greater and nobler goals of reconciliation and common prosperity.

Peace, said the representative of Syria, was an equation; it required balance between all the parties. His country believed that the peace process must succeed because there was a benefit for everyone in the region when peace was achieved. He called on the international community to influence Israel effectively to do what was right, since the peace process would provide for peace, security, development and progress.

Malaysia was "dismayed and seriously concerned", its representative said, that the policies of the new Israeli Government and its intransigent attitude were jeopardizing the peace process. If the present Israeli Government desired permanent peace, it must scrupulously honour the agreements reached by it and the Palestinians.

The representative of Australia urged the parties to make efforts to move the Middle East peace process forward; and to honour the obligations and commitments they had made, including redeployment of Israeli troops from Hebron and the commencement of substantive talks on the final status. He said that direct dialogue between the parties must resume, and Israel, Syria and Lebanon must redouble their efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement based on the implementation of Security Council resolutions.

Statements were also heard from the representatives of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Japan, Cuba, Czech Republic, Senegal and Argentina.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the Permanent Observer for Palestine said that the movement towards peace had turned to confrontation and conflict recently, as a result of the policies of the government of Mr. Netanyahu, notably its refusal of the principle of land for peace, and its attempt to circumvent the agreements already made. He warned that if those "reckless policies" continued, it would be impossible to achieve peace.

Also speaking in right of reply, the representative of Syria said people described by Israel as "terrorists" were "freedom fighters resisting the occupation of their lands".

Also speaking in right of reply were the representatives of Iran and Lebanon.

The Assembly will meet again tomorrow, 4 December, at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of the situation in the Middle East.

Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the situation in the Middle East. The Assembly has before it two reports of the Secretary-General and draft resolutions on Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan and the Middle East peace process.

(For background of the Secretary-General's reports, see Press Release GA/9182 issued today.)

Under the terms of the draft resolution concerning Jerusalem (document A/51/L.38), the General Assembly would determine that the decision of Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem was illegal and, therefore, null and void and without validity. It would also deplore the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980), and their refusal to comply with the provisions of that resolution. The Assembly would once more call upon those States to abide by the provisions of the relevant United Nations resolutions, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.

The resolution is sponsored by Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

By the terms of the draft resolution on the Syrian Golan (document A/51/L.39), the Assembly would declare that Israel had failed to comply with Security Council resolution 497 (1981), and also that the Knesset decision of 11 November 1981 annexing the occupied Syrian Golan constitutes a grave violation of Security Council resolution 497 (1981) and, therefore, is null and void and has no validity whatsoever. It would call upon Israel to rescind it.

The Assembly would further reaffirm its determination that all relevant provisions of the Regulations annexed to the Hague Convention of 1907, and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, continue to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, and call upon the parties thereto to respect and ensure respect for their obligations under those instruments in all circumstances.

The Assembly would also determine once more that the continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and its de facto annexation constitute a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region and demand that Israel resume the talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and respect the commitments and guarantees reached during the previous talks. The Assembly would further demand that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

The text is sponsored by Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

By the terms of the draft on the Middle East peace process (document A/51/L.40), the Assembly would urge all parties to fulfil their obligations and to implement the agreements already reached, and call for the immediate acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process on its agreed basis. The Assembly would further stress the need to achieve rapid progress on all tracks of the Arab-Israeli negotiations within the peace process.

Under other terms in the draft, the Assembly would also call upon all Member States to extend economic, financial and technical assistance to parties in the region and to render support for the peace process. It would encourage regional development and cooperation in areas where work has begun within the framework of the 1991 Madrid Conference.

The resolution is sponsored by Norway, Russian Federation and the United States.

Statements

HASAN ABU-NIMAH (Jordan) said his Government was extremely concerned about the stalemate that had developed between the parties to the Middle East peace process. In particular, addressing himself to Israel, he wished to warn against the dangers of such a stalemate. The United Nations had an essential role to play. That role must be revitalized in order to turn back the current of events that threatened to paralyse the peace process.

He called for a comprehensive and lasting peace, a peace which would constitute a turning point towards stability and peaceful coexistence. The 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel had established the foundations for cooperation in various fields. It had been hoped that the treaty and other agreements, such as the accord signed in Oslo, would lead to progress on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts and to economic development for the Palestinians. However, that hope had not been realized.

While all parties held a common responsibility, not all parties held equal responsibility for impeding the peace process, he said. Peace was the only true means of fighting the violence and extremism that threatened the stability of the region. Stability could not be achieved by delaying the implementation of agreements. Israel's refusal to withdraw from Hebron and the expansion of its settlements impeded progress, as did its confiscation of lands, its restrictions on Palestinian movement and its use of torture. The "land for peace" formula was a basic principle of the peace process. The most recent statement by the Israeli administration that the Jordan Valley was a permanent part of Israel and would remain so, regardless of the final agreement, ran counter to peace.

The Israelis and Palestinians had agreed to defer the consideration of certain issues in order to cultivate an environment that could support peace, he said. It was inconceivable that the deferral period would be used by the Israeli authorities to alter the situation on the ground. All deferred questions should now be put on the table. Solutions to those matters must be found for stability to be guaranteed.

The situation of East Jerusalem was one such issue, he said. East Jerusalem was an internal part of the West Bank and the Holy City had been given special attention by the Security Council. The Council had rejected any attempts by Israel to change the nature of Jerusalem or to alter its demographic character. Since that issue had been deferred, any action taken by Israel since the beginning of the 1991 Madrid peace process would constitute an attempt to change the condition of the Holy City before a final agreement had been reached. His Government had followed with great concern the recent violence in Jerusalem and took a keen interest in its custodial responsibility to the holy places, pending the final agreement.

The regional economic development plan must be encouraged, he said. Many regional governments had called for progress in the political negotiations, so as to ensure economic development. The United Nations must encourage the forward movement of the peace process. The European Union must also play an important role, alongside the sponsors of the process.

PARK SOO GIL (Republic of Korea) said that, while there were obstacles that threatened to unravel the Middle East peace process, the international community could not throw up its hands in frustration because the political and economic implications of the enduring conflict were too overwhelming. The problems that plagued the peace process might seem insurmountable, but they were man-made and could be resolved. The parties directly concerned with the Middle East peace process had the full power to direct its destiny. Their judgement would solely determine the nature of the environment in which they and future generations would live. Last month during the Middle East/North Africa Economic Conference, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had said that centuries from today people might look back and comment that "our countries had peace within their grasp and squandered it." Every effort should be made to avoid the realization of that statement.

All of the concerned parties must transcend their short-term, myopic interests, extinguish their distrust and look towards the nobler goals of reconciliation and common prosperity, he said. The international community had made a number of commendable initiatives to facilitate the peace process, but the most critical requirement was for the parties directly concerned to engage in candid dialogue. The same initiative, determination and courage that the parties demonstrated to forge a historical framework for peace and stability in the region could also be invoked to pave a new avenue, built upon cooperation and coexistence, which would eventually lead to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region.

SAMIR MOUBARAK (Lebanon) said that for 10 years Israel had continued to occupy the south of Lebanon. It was no secret that the Lebanese and Syrian "tracks" were both essential if peace efforts were to be successful. It was also essential that Israel withdrew from illegally occupied territories and accepted the principle of land for peace. Its occupation of the south of Lebanon had caused destruction and tragedy. The constant attacks perpetrated daily by Israel in the north of that region underlined the futility of Israel's so-called quest for peace.

The international conscience was moved when Israel bombed the United Nations headquarters, scattering innocent women and children who had gone to seek shelter. Israel ran concentration camps and arbitrary detention camps in the area, violating all known norms of civilized behaviour.

He said Lebanon insisted on the implementation of Security Council resolution 425 which would enable the country to return to normalcy in the south. The new Israeli Government had said "no" to the negotiating table and to the agreements reached by its own predecessor. It was escalating tension, speaking only the language of violence and threats.

He believed that a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the land being held in southern Lebanon could help to strengthen the peace process. It was up to Israel to respect the will of the United Nations and international law. The peace and prosperity to which all were aspiring must be based on peace for land and on the principles of the Madrid agreements.

FAROUK AL-SHARA (Syria) told the Assembly that since the new Israeli Government came to power it had taken every opportunity to express its intransigence. It had replaced the principle of land for peace with "peace for peace". The peace process began after its basic principle, land for peace, had been agreed. It was on this basis that the discussions in Madrid, and later Washington, began. All this was done, he recalled, with the knowledge and supervision of the United States. All that the new Israeli Government had said since attaining power, was "no" to all of this.

In addition, Israel had been building settlements, and talking about building more. The world must tell Israel to stop these practices. Peace, he said, required balance between all the parties. Syria believed that the peace process must succeed because there was a benefit for everyone in the region when peace was achieved. He called on the international community to influence Israel effectively to do what was right, as the peace process would provide for peace, security, development and progress.

NABIL A. ELARABY (Egypt) said that the Israeli Government, not satisfied with all the damage it was already doing to the peace process, decided to resume building settlements, which, among others, constituted a violation of the Oslo agreements. Israel's persistence would have dire consequences on the future of the region. Those who settled on those lands did not own them, and the Government was illegally trying to alter the demographics of the area. Israel, as the occupying Power, had the obligation not to alter the demographic character as long as its status had not been determined.

In the field of regional cooperation, nothing could flourish with the peace process at a standstill, he continued. Political peace and economic progress were two sides of the same coin. A just and comprehensive peace was the basis of security and progress for all parties. His country continued to call for a zone free from weapons of mass destruction, but Israel always turned a deaf ear to the call. Achieving peace was an objective for all in the region. Israel must abandon the policies it had been pursuing and the international community must rescue the peace process from its dead end.

HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said the most recent outbreaks of violence in Jerusalem and other occupied territories were symptoms of the Palestinian people's frustration with their bleak prospects. His Government strongly condemned the acts of terrorism waged against innocent civilians by Palestinian extremists and understood the resulting need of Israeli authorities to tighten security. However, the closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip had caused great economic hardship for the Palestinian people. Israel must ensure its national security in ways that would not deprive the Palestinian people of their right to live in peace. Israel must lift the closure without further delay, while satisfying its legitimate security needs.

The international community must create an environment conducive to progress in the Middle East peace process, he said. By adopting the current draft resolution, the international community would reaffirm its support for the ongoing efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East and call for all concerned parties to accelerate the negotiations. By doing everything in their power to break the current stalemate in the peace process, the parties concerned would restore confidence in the sincerity of their intentions and renew a sense of hope among the people they represented.

PEDRO NUÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said the consideration of the Middle East was of particular importance now; the efforts of the Palestinian people and all the people of the Arab territories to reach peace had met with grave resistance from the occupying Power. The support that Israel continued to receive from the United States allowed that situation to continue. The Israeli occupation of Arab territories must be put to an end and there must be total compliance with the terms of international agreements. Cuba reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to have an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. Cuba demanded the return of all Arab territories now occupied by Israel and the respect of the territorial integrity of all States of the region. The United Nations must play a continued role in efforts to bring peace to the region.

HASMY BIN AGAM (Malaysia) said his Government was dismayed and seriously concerned that the policies of the new Israeli Government and its intransigent attitude were jeopardizing the peace process. If the present Israeli Government desired permanent peace, it must scrupulously honour the agreements reached by it and the Palestinians. A radical departure from the course of the peace process, which the new Israeli Government seemed bent on taking, would dash hopes and expectations.

The continued Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon was a blatant violation of Lebanon's sovereignty, he said. Malaysia remained committed to support Lebanon's quest for peace and security and an end to the Israeli occupation. The agreement reached between Israel and Syria in 1995 had been an important step forward. Unfortunately, the hard-line approach adopted by the new Israeli Government, particularly with regard to Israel's continued occupation of the Golan Heights, had led to another set-back in that area, as well as in the overall peace process. A permanent political settlement would necessitate the withdrawal of Israel from the Golan Heights; the sooner that fact was recognized and accepted by the Israeli Government, the brighter the prospects for a final resolution would be. The continued expansion of settlements, which had changed the original demographic character of the area, violated the Fourth Geneva Convention. The policy was clearly designed to provoke Syria and raised questions about Israel's real intentions and motivations in the region.

He said Malaysia urged the Israeli Government to abandon that aggressive policy and desist from building new settlements which created "new realities" on the ground. A lasting and comprehensive settlement would require the complete withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories, the occupied Syrian Golan and the occupied Lebanese territories, on the basis of the land-for-peace principle.

KAREL KOVANDA (Czech Republic) said the crucial tasks in the Middle East peace process were implementation of existing arrangements, completion of the first stage of Israeli troop withdrawal, particularly in Hebron, and the release of Palestinian prisoners. Further steps should be taken to relieve the plight of Palestinians by removing roadblocks, enabling safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, eliminating obstacles to economic assistance and implementing infrastructure-related projects. The basic principles for a successful outcome were embodied in Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 425, and their focal points -- self-determination of Palestinians in all its aspects and the territory-for-peace principle -- were indispensable for a just, comprehensive and enduring peace.

It was in the interest of all States that the peace process resume and that all countries concerned, particularly Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, start participating as soon as possible, he said. The Government of the Czech Republic would continue to work for the opening of talks between Israel and Syria and between Israel and Lebanon, with full respect accorded to the integrity, independence and sovereignty of Lebanon. He said the territorial integrity of Iraq and its borders needed to be respected, and Iraq must implement the appropriate Security Council resolutions as a prerequisite for the lifting of sanctions. It was also important to create the appropriate conditions for the full and speedy implementation by the Iraqi Government of Security Council resolution 986.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) said actions in violation of the peace accords, including the prolonged shutdown of the West Bank and Gaza, resumption of the confiscation of Arab lands, the creation and extension of settlements, the constant lack of safety and the ongoing detention of Palestinian prisoners, were responsible for heightened tension that could plunge the region into a cycle of violence. This dangerous situation had strengthened the conviction that there was no other way to establish peace but through negotiations and the implementation of the mutually agreed-upon peace accords.

His Government emphasized the question of Palestine because it shared the conviction, held by others in the international community, that this was the heart of the Middle East conflict. Senegal, along with all peace- and justice-loving countries, appealed to those concerned to resume the peace process with cooperation across the board. Today, more than ever, countries in the region must redouble their efforts to preserve what had been achieved, and to promote what had been established in Madrid. A lasting peace in the Middle East could be achieved only if the Palestinian people were allowed to exercise their legitimate national rights.

FERNANDO PETRELLA (Argentina) said the conflict in the Middle East was the last great conflict to be resolved. It was a great conflict because it contained the elements to spark widespread violence. The progress of democracy, together with the international promotion of human rights, made all people participants in the negotiations regarding the Middle East.

The years of effort to bring peace to the region must not be squandered. Dialogue between Syria and Israel was indispensable. He said the fact that the Arab and Jewish communities had been among the founders of his country gave the Government of Argentina special interest in the matter. Reality and commitment must now guide the parties towards a lasting peace.

RICHARD BUTLER (Australia) said the parties must make efforts to move the Middle East peace process forward. They must honour the obligations and commitments they had made, including redeployment of Israeli troops from Hebron and the commencement of substantive talks on the final status. Direct dialogue between the parties must resume. He said Australia's policy on the Middle East had been based on the fundamental commitment to Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized boundaries. However, the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination was also a fundamental principle. International support for negotiations in the Middle East had not changed.

Given the importance of providing international economic support and practical assistance to the Palestinian Authority, he said, Australia had committed more than 20 million Australian dollars for the implementation of the Oslo accords. It had also demonstrated its commitment to peace in the Middle East through its substantial contribution to the multinational operation in the Sinai.

Recalling the tragic events in southern Lebanon in April, he urged Israel, Syria and Lebanon to redouble their efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement based on the implementation of Security Council resolutions. A zone free of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East would greatly encourage regional security. He also urged Middle East nations, particularly those States which operated nuclear facilities not under international safeguard agreements, to adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Noting that a significant number of Middle East States had already signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), he called on all others to follow suit.

He said Australia remained deeply concerned by the suffering of the Iraqi people. The responsibility for the welfare of those people, or the lack of their well-being, rested with the Government of Iraq. The recent agreement by the Iraqi Government to the terms of implementation of the oil-for-food formula was welcomed. Australia looked forward to the final and full compliance of Iraq with all Security Council resolutions.

Right of Reply

NASSER AL-KIDWA (Permanent Observer for Palestine) said that the positive movement to peace had recently taken a reverse turn to confrontation and conflict, as a result of the policies of the government of Mr. Netanyahu, notably, its refusal of the principle of land for peace, and its attempt to circumvent agreements already made. If the reckless policies of the Israeli Government continued, it would be impossible to achieve peace; the Government of Israel must clearly understand that it could not enjoy the positive parts of peace without carrying out its obligations.

The fact that there was a nuclear reactor in Israel which was not within the control of international inspection constituted a tremendous danger, he said. The situation in the Arab Gulf region required close attention. The territorial integrity of Bahrain and of the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Iran, Libya and the others must be respected.

KHALIL ABOU-HADID (Syria) said that some statements taken from the press, and attributed to the Syrian ambassador by the Israeli representative in the debate, were false and had been subsequently denied. The choice of Syria was peace, and if Israel chose peace it should listen to the voice of Arab States and the international community. Like other Arab States, Syria had signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; Israel had not. Syria had declared its readiness to resume peace negotiations within the framework widely accepted by the former Government of Israel.

He said Syria rejected the use of the word "terrorism" by the Israeli representative. President Hafez Al-Assad had said Syria could not throw its displaced and uprooted people into the sea; they were not terrorists. Those in Syria did not carry out terrorist actions; they were freedom fighters resisting the occupation of their lands. The massacres perpetrated by Israel in such places as the occupied Palestinian territories, in the occupied Syrian Golan and in Lebanon, were the clearest signal it was not ready for peace.

MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) said the representative of Israel had made baseless allegations against his country during the morning meeting of the Assembly. The hope was to divert the attention of the international community away from the continued occupation of southern Lebanon by Israel. Iran supported the Lebanese people, people who were fighting against that occupation. Those people could not be labelled as terrorists; they were entitled to struggle against the occupation of their homeland.

SAMIR MOUBARAK (Lebanon) said the representative of the occupying force in southern Lebanon had attacked the efforts of those who were resisting the occupation. They had been described as terrorists because they were committed to freedom and had been unwilling to yield to the Israeli force. While placing itself above international law, Israel invoked the right to self- defence to justify its actions. The pretext of security zones had failed completely. Peace could be achieved only by following international legality. Lebanon was committed to the end of occupation and to fulfilling its obligations under international law.


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