Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, in particular the decision of Israel to build a new settlement in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area of East Jerusalem.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said that just a few days ago the international community appealed to the Security Council to condemn Israel's new settlements and call upon Israel to suspend any provocative acts that could endanger the peace process. Once again, the Council granted total impunity to the actions of Israel. Once again, the United States decided to reiterate its unconditional support for the actions of Israel, in contradiction to its own stated policies, which so often justified international intervention for the sake of peace and security.
The United States could not hide the fact that the decision by Israel on the settlements in East Jerusalem was a flagrant violation of international law, he said. The illegality of Israeli settlement activities had been addressed in numerous resolutions. He joined in the international condemnation of the new Israeli aggressive actions. The Assembly should shoulder the responsibility that the Council had chosen to ignore.
KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said the Israeli Government's settlement policy was illegal and was one of the main obstacles to Middle East peace. The decision revealed the intention of Israel to occupy East Jerusalem indefinitely, as it aimed at altering the status of Jerusalem. The Prime Minister of Israel claimed that the building of Jewish settlements was not aimed at killing the peace process, but rather intended to revive it. Such a statement greatly disappointed the peoples of the world, who earnestly wished peace in the region. Israel should immediately stop its unjustifiable acts, which delayed and endangered the Middle East peace process. It should pay due attention to the just demands of the Arab countries.
RICHARD BUTLER (Australia) said the settlement decision in East Jerusalem by the Israeli Government was inconsistent with the body of Security Council resolutions on the Middle East. It was unhelpful and complicated the process of achieving a peaceful settlement. Both sides should avoid actions that jeopardized that prospect. Australia's support for the Madrid process had been strong and consistent -- a peace process based on the relevant resolutions and the concept of "land for peace".
He said Australia had demonstrated strong support for Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized borders and for the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. He acknowledged that the question of Palestinian self-determination and the ultimate shape of the Palestinian entity, including the possibility of an independent State, was subject to the final status negotiations. He called on Israel to reconsider its decision to build in East Jerusalem.
SERGEY V.LAVROV (Russian Federation) said the unilateral act of Israel in East Jerusalem was in contradiction to the norms of international law, since it sought to change the demographic composition of East Jerusalem. He could not agree, in principle, with the arguments that those problems should be addressed on a bilateral, Israeli-Palestinian basis. Such arguments would be sustainable if Israel had followed the peace process. Its unilateral actions, however, were taken outside the framework of bilateral talks with the Palestinians, which, in fact, envisioned negotiated solutions to the issues at talks on the settlements and the final status of Jerusalem.
He said that Russia, as a co-sponsor of the peace process, was willing to make every effort to avoid a reverse in the Middle East settlement and to contribute to the resumption of talks in a constructive spirit. The Palestinians right to self-determination and statehood could only be realized on a basis of mutual acceptability and within the framework of the current peace process. He called upon the Israeli Government to reconsider its decision.
AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan) said the recent new settlement decision by Israel was a cause for concern, as were other actions that continued to isolate East Jerusalem. He strongly condemned such actions as illegal and in violation of agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The measures undertaken by the Israeli authorities seriously undermined the peace process. Measures which sought to change the demographic and legal status of Jerusalem were illegal and invalid. Provocative Israeli actions had once again dashed the hopes that the Palestinian people would at last be able to exercise their inalienable rights. The international community must salvage the Middle East peace process and encourage the policy of dialogue and compromise. There should be no attempt to derail the agreements and accords already reached. The draft resolution before the Assembly was co-sponsored by Pakistan and offered a minimum of what should be expected of the Israelis.
NICOLAAS H. BIEGMAN (Netherlands) spoke on behalf of the European Union, and the associated States of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as Iceland and Liechtenstein. He said the Union called on all parties to observe the utmost restraint on issues that could prejudge the outcome of the final status negotiations. It greatly regretted the actions taken by Israel, including the annexation of land, demolition of houses, new settlement construction and expansion of settlements. The Union hoped both parties would proceed to substantial talks on the permanent status question, which were due to begin on 17 March.
The Fourth Geneva Convention was fully applicable to East Jerusalem, as it was to other territories under occupation, he said. Accordingly, he deplored the decision of the Israeli Government to approve construction plans for Jabal Abu Ghneim/Har Homa. The Union had added itself as a co-sponsor of the draft resolution to be considered by the Assembly. The peace process was the only path to security and peace for the Palestinians, as well as for Israel and the neighbouring States. The Union urged all parties to implement the Madrid and Oslo agreements fully.
KAREN TAN (Singapore) said the Israeli Government's decision to proceed with the construction of an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem could undermine the spirit of trust and cooperation which was vital to the success of the Middle East peace process. It threatened to unravel the hard work achieved thus far. Israel was entitled to housing plans to provide for the housing needs of both Jews and Arabs in the country. However, the selection of East Jerusalem was controversial, because unilateral steps that could alter the current status of Jerusalem would only complicate the already difficult negotiations.
She urged the Israeli Government to reconsider the housing project in East Jerusalem, so the peace process might continue unimpeded. She reaffirmed Singapore's commitment to a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Middle East conflict. It would continue to support efforts to bring about a peaceful settlement to the question of Palestine, so as to realize the just aspirations of the Palestinian people.
AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Al-Quds/Jerusalem Committee, said the Oslo agreements presumed that the parties would scrupulously comply with the provisions. By those agreements, Jerusalem was to be discussed at the end of the process, and no steps were to be taken that might prejudge those negotiations. The sensitivity of the question of Jerusalem had, thus, been taken into account. However, Israel had deliberately decided to leave the road of peace. Morocco deplored that development.
He recalled the credibility Israel had gained in a short time following the conclusion of the peace agreements. All of that was now "going up in smoke". The decision to establish a new Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem had done a great deal of harm and was contrary to Security Council resolutions. Those who believed in the peace of September 1993 were now wondering what had happened, after so much effort and sacrifice. The international community must not allow Israel to forget its historic responsibilities.
NGO QUANG XUAN (Viet Nam) said that while the peace process had been slowly easing its way forward, negative incidents had created a major obstacle to peace. He was deeply concerned over the 26 February decision to begin construction of new housing to the south of East Jerusalem, as well as other recent measures that encouraged new settlement activities. His Government affirmed the legal status of Jerusalem, as well as the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force. There would be no peace in the region without the attainment of Palestinian and Arab rights in that holy city.
He said Viet Nam shared the hopes of the international community that all parties concerned would honour their commitments, show good faith and refrain from taking any further measures that could undermine the peace process. All parties were urged to continue their negotiations within the Middle East peace process, on the basis of the Security Council resolutions and the timely implementation of agreements already reached.
ISAAC E. AYEWAH (Nigeria) said Israel's recent actions were aimed at presenting the Palestinians with a fait accompli. The only bright spot in the past 12 months in the peace process had been Israeli troop withdrawals from Hebron. It had been hoped that it would mark a turning point for the peace process, after the deadly blows that had been inflicted on it throughout 1996.
He understood very well the Israeli attachment to Jerusalem. However, the Government and people of Israel should recognize that the Palestinians and others felt equally strong about the city. The recent action by Israel could only prejudice the outcome of the negotiations on its final status. The fact that the Security Council was prevented from exercising its Charter responsibilities last week with respect to this question not only damaged its credibility, it also made the search for peace more difficult. He hoped that the Israeli Government would reconsider its position and decide against proceedings with the construction. That was the only way to ensure long-term peace and security for the region.
PRAKASH SHAH (India) said that once again the Assembly was meeting in emergency session after the Council had been unable to act, which once again demonstrated once again the need to democratize the Council. The recent decision by Israel to build a settlement in East Jerusalem was a threat to the confidence-building necessary for the peace process. All parties must intensify their efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace. The question of Palestine remained at the core of the Arab-Israeli problem. His Government continued to support a peace settlement based on the relevant Security Council resolutions.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said recent developments in the Middle East had dampened hopes. The decision by the Israeli Government to build new settlements in East Jerusalem could not advance the progress of peace. The intention of the Israeli authorities to implement measures to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory would further complicate the process. The international community must send a clear and unified message to the Israeli Government to cease the establishment of new settlements. The seeds of peace could only be watered by policies that enhanced the spirit and logic of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements of 1993. The peace process could not coexist with the extension of occupation, for the two were totally incompatible.
JORGE PEREZ-OTERMIN (Uruguay) said it was imperative that the parties not stray from the Madrid process. Destabilizing factors were now being introduced. The international community must promote continued dialogue. All parties should refrain from any actions that would detract from the process. The settlement policies of the Israeli Government imperiled the peace process. The events of late should not be allowed to turn into violence.
JAMES O.C. JONAH (Sierra Leone) drew attention to the sensitivity of the question of Jerusalem in the Middle East crisis. Unilateral actions on that question must be viewed as a matter of concern. His country supported efforts to draft a resolution that would send a message to the Government of Israel. While Israel must live within secure borders among its neighbours, it could not continue to take actions that would make difficult the achievement of peace in the Middle East. He reaffirmed support for the peace process, as well as the process of direct negotiations. However, he opposed any efforts by one side to pre-empt the outcome of negotiations.
FERNANDO GUILLEN (Peru) said the General Assembly was not interfering when it addressed non-compliance with the peace process. Recent actions represented an entirely new expansion policy. The decision to build settlements in East Jerusalem also violated the norms of international law. Peace must be respected.
DAUDI N. MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said that while the Hebron agreement had expanded hopes, the settlement decision of the Israeli Government injected new tensions on the ground and sought to undermine the trust that must exist between the parties if any meaningful process was to be sustained. The decision by the Israeli Government must be condemned, as through it Israel reneged on its commitment to the peace process in the Middle East. The Israeli decision could potentially, and on a profound scale, alter the dynamic of the peace process in the region.
He said it was a reflection of bad faith if unilateral actions were allowed to subvert the understanding to negotiate the status of the occupied territories. It would also constitute an irreparable erosion of the necessary confidence the parties must have to sustain such negotiations. It was regrettable that the Security Council was unable to act. The Organization had a considerable contribution to make to the peace process. It was a world forum and could not be discounted. The entire Security Council had agreed that the decision of Israel undermined the peace process. The Assembly, therefore, could not be seen as condoning any actions that might endanger the process.
AHMET ENGIN ANSAY, Permanent Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said his hopes for the peace process in the Middle East had been shattered by the recent unfortunate turn of events. The responsibility for it lay with Israel. The decision on 26 February to build a new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim was the final in a series of violations by Israel of various elements of the peace agreements. It was the latest attempt at pre-empting the outcome of the negotiations on a final status, by changing the legal status and demographic composition of Jerusalem.
The Islamic group of countries had called upon the international community, including the Security Council, to take urgent steps to ensure that the Government of Israel reversed its decision and renounced its settlement activity in all Arab occupied territories, in particular East Jerusalem, he said. The Conference now urged the Assembly to play its role and use its influence in bringing an end to continued Israeli expansionism. Israel must be persuaded to lift the siege around Jerusalem and stop implementation of all its decisions and practices that were adversely affecting the interests of the Palestinian people.