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        Security Council
31 August 2001

Security Council
Fifty-sixth year

4363rd meeting
Friday, 31 August 2001, 10.30 a.m.
New York

      Mr. Fernando de Soto
    Mr. Amin
    Mr. Wang Yingfan
    Mr. Doutriaux
    Mr. Corr
    Mr. Ward
    Mr. Kassé
    Mr. Koonjul
    Mr. Strømnen
      Russian Federation
    Mr. Lavrov
    Ms. Mahbubani
    Mr. Jerandi
    Mr. Kuchinsky
      United Kingdom of Great Britain
      and Northern Ireland
    Mr. Eldon
      United States of America
    Mr. Hume


The meeting was called to order at 10.50 a.m.

Adoption of the agenda

The agenda was adopted.

Wrap-up discussion on the work of the Security Council for the current month

Letter dated 27 August 2001 from the Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2001/822)

The President (spoke in Spanish): The Security Council will now begin its consideration of the item on its agenda.


Mr. Wang Yingfan (China) (spoke in Chinese): ...

I wish also to state my views on the open debate on Palestinian-Israeli violence, a debate which was timely and necessary. The Council bears responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It should take prompt and active measures in response to the deteriorating situation, and should help to quell the violence and to maintain peace and security in the Middle East. Especially over the past few months, the Council spent a great deal of time consulting on a draft resolution on the prevention of armed conflict. But faced with an actual conflict, the Council ought not to stand idly by. I need hardly ask what kind of impression that would leave with the international community.

But following the open debate on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Council did not play its proper role, which was regrettable. I must put on record that this was not the fault of the President.


Mr. Ward (Jamaica): ...


My delegation holds the veto to be undemocratic. It is even more so when the mere threat of its use stymies even a serious discussion of possible action to be taken on an issue. As recently as last week, due to the mere threat of the veto, the Council failed to consider meaningful action on the issue of the occupied Palestinian territories. As elected members of the Council, we must ask ourselves whether we surrender to such threatened use of the veto or if we pursue our objectives without fear of its use. Should we allow others to hide behind the threatened use of the veto to lock the Council into non-action? It is my view that, at a minimum, the permanent members of the Council have an obligation to require full discussion of the substance of any issue on which another permanent member has threatened a veto before the issue is appropriately discussed.


Mr. Kuchinsky (Ukraine): ...


The record of the Council will always be mixed. There are, of course, successes; sometimes there are failures. In our view, one of the major events for the Council in the past month — this was mentioned by some earlier speakers — was the urgent meeting held on 20 and 21 August on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The tragic course of events in that region required an immediate reaction on the part of the Council, and the convening of the meeting by the President at the request of the Islamic group was timely and was the right decision.

The effectiveness of the Council’s reaction to the situation was, however, once again undermined by its inability to act. It is truly regrettable that the Council demonstrated that it was not in a position to reach a unanimous decision on an outcome document following that urgent meeting. The inability of the Council to adopt such a decision aimed at putting a stop to the ongoing violence and bloodshed in the Palestinian territory and in Israel and at bringing the parties back to the negotiating table can really be viewed as the failure of the Security Council as a body to fulfil its Charter obligations. It did not serve the Council’s image well, and it sent a very wrong signal to the parties on the ground.


Mr. Corr (Ireland): ...


In the context of the discussion on the Middle East, which was mentioned by several earlier speakers, Ireland felt that it was fully appropriate for the Council to hold the discussion, given the circumstances and the fact that members — and other Member States — were given the opportunity to state their views on the situation. We heard many constructive statements during the debate. We share the view that it was unfortunate that the Council was unable to speak collectively on the matter.


Mr. Doutriaux (France) (spoke in French): ...


... There are just a few points touched upon in that note that I would like to comment on.

First, is the issue of the transparency and openness of our work to the whole of the membership of the United Nations. We believe that the current trend to greater transparency and more public meetings is a good trend, and my delegation is entirely in favour of that. There is a large number of cases in which we have everything to gain from acting in the most transparent way possible, including subjects on which political declarations are awaited on sensitive issues. In that respect, the public debate we had on the Middle East under the Colombian presidency was very important. As several speakers have said already, that issue of the Middle East remains open, and my delegation also shares some of the frustrations that have been aired here about the fact that the Security Council was not able to take a stand on that important question, which remains open, as the Council was reminded just now by the Ambassador of China.


Mr. Jerandi (Tunisia) (spoke in French): ...


For my part, I would here like to refer to one set of issues that is a constant puzzle for many delegations and that is food for wide reflection. It is a simple subject. It concerns the lethargy of the Security Council in regard to what is happening in the Middle East. The situation in that region is declining from day to day, but the Council constantly sends erroneous signals to the protagonists in the conflict. The Council sometimes hurries forward and skips certain stages in reacting to a conflict, and we note an incomprehensible activism, for instance when it comes to imposing or strengthening sanctions when more appropriate means could be used. But then we see the same Security Council totally ignoring other explosive situations.

Looking at the Council’s agenda for the month, we note that the situation in the Middle East and in the occupied territories has been considered on four occasions: 20, 21, 23 and 24 August.

But what was the outcome of those four days of work? They resulted in false signals sent to the parties to the conflict and in a sense of desolation that has been building since 24 August, the last time the Council examined the issue in informal consultations.

My delegation will not dwell on the issue of the situation in the occupied territories once again, but would nevertheless like to underline that the Council has shown itself incapable of shouldering its responsibilities in this regard. That is regrettable in view of the tragic situation of the Palestinian people, and, in particular, in the light of the threat that today hangs over the whole region. The Council, all of us, and all Member States should ponder this seriously.


Mr. Koonjul (Mauritius): ...


The easy-going qualities that usually characterize the month of August at the United Nations, and in the Security Council in particular, gave way to some very important debates in the Council under the Colombian presidency. Indeed, we had very useful informal consultations on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and on Liberia, as well as an important and urgent public meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine.

We regret, however, that despite the very wide participation and the intense debate on the latter issue, the Council was unable to agree on an outcome document. That is indeed very unfortunate given the gravity of the situation on the ground. We really have to address this issue in the future.


The President (spoke in Spanish): I thank the representative of the United Kingdom for his assessment of the work of the Council and, in particular, of the Colombian delegation’s contribution.

I will now make a statement in my capacity as representative of Colombia.


Let me further point out that one of the concerns which has motivated Colombia from the outset — and this was very aptly highlighted by the United Kingdom — has been a concern for managing the time of the Council and administering its work well. Hence the importance of being rigorous in keeping to the agenda but also flexible enough to cope with unexpected situations as they arise.

This, for instance, is what happened with regard to the situation in the Middle East. No provision had been made for it in the agenda, but it was taken up with the appropriate sense of urgency dictated by the magnitude of the crisis in the Middle East, which is of concern to all of us. Throughout the Council’s open debate and the individual statements by members, there were opportunities for each country to express its position. There were also many non-members taking the floor. I think about 37 statements were made on this topic. We agree that the lack of any outcome points ultimately to the complexity of the issue and the particulars of the situation in the Middle East. But we do hope that the Council will be able to make a unified and strong contribution to this topic of great concern for the international community.


The meeting rose at 12.35 p.m.

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