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


GA/9182
3 December 1996

PEACE EFFORTS WILL FAIL WITHOUT SYRIAN, LEBANESE PARTICIPATION,
ISRAEL TELLS GENERAL ASSEMBLY


Draft Text on Middle East Peace Process Introduced;
Saudi Arabia Says Israeli Settlements Threaten Peace Process


Efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East would fail without the participation of Syria and Lebanon, the representative of Israel told the General Assembly this morning, as the Assembly began its consideration of the situation in the Middle East.

Calling for the resumption of negotiations with Syria, Israel's representative said both nations would benefit from the greater political and economic cooperation that normalization would usher in. Peace with Lebanon would be possible when Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon were disarmed and the security of northern Israel and southern Lebanon was assured. While all Israelis were united in their commitment to peace, if attacked, Israel would defend itself, as it had in the past.

The representatives of Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States joined this morning in introducing a draft resolution on the Middle East peace process by which the Assembly would stress that the achievement of a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East conflict would significantly strengthen international peace and security. The representative of Norway said the draft counselled the parties to fulfil their obligations and to implement the agreements already reached. Calling for the acceleration of negotiations, the draft also requested that Member States provide financial and technical assistance to the parties.

Urging progress in current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the representative of the United States also pushed for progress in Israel's discussions with both Lebanon and Syria. He said the adoption of the draft would send a strong signal to those parties to continue their efforts.

Arab nations addressing the Assembly this morning agreed that the policies of the new Israeli Government had caused the Middle East peace process to falter. The representative of Saudi Arabia, among others, said the renewed expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was generating a level of frustration and mistrust that could threaten the peace process. Such measures were incompatible with prior agreements and threatened to unravel them, he said.

The representative of Kuwait told the Assembly that for peace to exist in the Middle East, Israel must respect the right and laws of others, fulfil its past commitments, and respect international legalities and principles outlined in relevant Security Council resolutions.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Brazil, Bangladesh, Yemen, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Ghana, Ireland (for the European Union and associated States), Pakistan, Belarus, and Ukraine.

The Assembly meets again at 3 p.m. today to continue its discussion of the situation in the Middle East.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to begin its consideration of the situation in the Middle East. It had before it two reports of the Secretary-General and three draft resolutions on Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan and the Middle East peace process.

In his report (document A/51/543), the Secretary-General notes that General Assembly resolutions 50/22 A and B of 4 December 1995 dealt with, respectively, the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980) and with Israeli policies in the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

In order to fulfil his reporting responsibility under the resolutions, the Secretary-General reports that on 31 August 1996 he addressed notes verbales to the Permanent Representative of Israel and to the Permanent Representatives of the other Member States, requesting them to inform him of any steps their Governments had taken or envisaged taking concerning implementation of the relevant provisions of those resolutions. As of 16 October, a reply had been received from Japan, which is included in the report. Japan states that it supported resolution 50/22 A at the fiftieth session of the Assembly, but had taken no specific measures to implement its provisions. Regarding 50/22 B, Japan states that it has never recognized the occupation of the Golan Heights by Israel. Desiring peaceful resolution of the issue, however, Japan says it has encouraged the parties to engage in direct negotiations. It has also supported the efforts of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

The second Secretary-General's report (document A/51/678-S/1996/953) reviews both progress and set-backs in the Middle East peace process during the last year. The report notes that Israeli troops were withdrawn from the major West Bank cities, with the exception of Hebron, which led to the first Palestinian general election in January. However, violence in Israel, such as the bombings in February and March, threatened to stall the peace talks, prolonged the closure of the occupied territories, and led to further violence in September.

The Secretary-General urges all parties to the peace talks to show determination and flexibility in negotiations and calls for progress on the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese tracks of negotiation. The United Nations would continue to support the peace process and to respond to the needs of the population in the West Bank and Gaza, he states. The coordinated approach to the delivery of assistance implemented by the United Nations Special Coordinator at the time had proved effective, particularly in times of crisis. However, economic and social conditions in the West Bank and Gaza remain dire and it is hoped that ways will be found to improve them in the near future, including by further easing and eventually lifting the closure.

The report also contains information received by the Secretary-General from the Security Council and the parties concerned on means to promote peace in the region. The members of the Council stressed the need of the parties to pursue negotiations and to fulfil their obligations under the agreements. The Security Council states its continuing determination to back the peace process and to support implementation of agreements reached.

In a note verbale of 30 September included in the report, the Permanent Observer of Palestine states that the new Israeli Government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has adopted guidelines which contradict the letter and spirit of the binding agreements signed with the PLO, namely the 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements and the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strips. In addition, the Government of Israeli has said it would not honour the agreed timetable and the Government has resumed colonial settlement activities in the occupied territories, activities the Assembly has repeatedly termed as illegal.

The international community, represented by the General Assembly, needed to uphold the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, the principles of the Charter, international law and the validity of the Security Council resolutions, the note continues. For the current peace process to succeed, the principles of earlier agreements and relevant Security Council resolutions must be followed.

The Government of Egypt, in a note also dated 30 September, states that the new Government of Israel has adopted and implemented policies which contradict the interim self-government arrangements, as well as the relevant United Nations resolutions and the principles of international law. Egypt opposes these policies and is deeply concerned over the future of the Middle East peace process. The Government of Israel should fully respect and promptly implement the agreements reached and re-launch the peace process, the note states.

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

JAKKEN BIORN LIAN (Norway), introducing the draft resolution on the Middle East peace process, said the road to peace in the Middle East was less well-travelled than the road to war. Although the road to peace in the Middle East was dangerous, the alternative to peace was too ghastly to contemplate. The implementation of the interim agreement was far behind schedule. While the new Israeli Government needed time to put a negotiating team together, the time to reinvigorate the negotiating process had come. He urged the Israelis and the Palestinians to settle outstanding issues regarding Hebron. Norway stood ready to assist the parties, he said, noting that his country had deployed civilian observers to Hebron.

At the present time, he continued, the peace process was going through a difficult period. The draft resolution was a serious and balanced attempt to reflect both the achievements and the fact that difficulties existed. The draft urged the parties to fulfil their obligations and to implement the agreements already reached. Calling for the acceleration of negotiations, the draft also called on Member States to provide assistance to the parties. At the current crucial juncture, it was necessary for the Assembly to give a clear expression of support for a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.

ALEKSANDR S. GORELIK (Russian Federation), also introducing the draft on the Middle East peace process, said that during the past year serious steps had been taken towards the achievement of the rights of the Palestinians. The draft being presented today called upon States to assist the Palestinians. The Russian Federation intended to support the restoration of the economic system in the occupied territory. The United Nations and its agencies had an important role to play in assisting the Palestinian people.

A comprehensive and fair solution based on the land-for-peace formula must be reached without any outside interference, he said. The uncertainty of the negotiations had led to increased hostility and a lack of trust. Overcoming the Middle East instability demanded progress on the Syrian track. Goodwill was needed on the part of all parties. The adoption of the draft would signal the parties to complete their negotiations. The United Nations and the Security Council would continue to play an important role.

EDWARD W. GNEHM (United States) said his Government was pleased to co- sponsor the draft on the Middle East peace process. The current year had not been an easy one for the peace process. Progress had been slow; extremist factions would like to believe the peace process had stalled. However, the United States would not accept that the peace process was stalled. As the parties to the conflict had clearly stated their commitment to the Madrid process, the Assembly should endorse that commitment.

The Israelis and the Palestinians were negotiating the next important steps, including the issue of Hebron, he said. It was hoped that progress would be achieved in negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, and Israel and Syria. The United States remained committed to the political independence of Lebanon, its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The adoption of the draft before the Assembly would send a strong signal to the parties to continue their efforts.

DAVID PELEG (Israel) said all Israel stood united in the commitment to peace. Since the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, the Middle East had undergone a sea change. Israel trusted that Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, would use its regional and international standing to help further the peace process and to moderate the radical elements in the Arab world. Israel also hoped that its relationship with Jordan would serve as a model for future relations with all of the States in the Middle East region. The peace being created between Israel and its neighbours would translate into full regional cooperation.

Israel's efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace and greater regional cooperation would fall short without the participation of Syria and Lebanon, he continued. Syria, as a leader in the Arab world, had a major role to play in the future development of the region. Israel believed that Israel and Syria could mutually benefit from greater political and economic cooperation which normalization would bring about. He reiterated Israel's invitation to Syria, as a party to the Madrid Peace Conference framework, to resume negotiations with Israel without preconditions. Israel looked forward to the resumption of negotiations with Syria. Syria itself must decide if it wished to promote peace or to perpetuate conflict. Recent messages emanating from Damascus had left the Syrian position unclear.

In recent days, the Syrian ambassador to Cairo had threatened Israel with the use of chemical weapons, he said. That speech marked the first time that a Syrian official admitted to Syria having in its possession a cache of chemical weapons that it planned to use against Israel. Israel yearned for peace, but if attacked, it would defend itself as it had in the past.

The only issue that existed between Israel and Lebanon was related to preserving the security of northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Only when Hezbollah terrorists were disarmed, and the Lebanese Government extended its effective control up to the international boundary, would the hope of peace between the two countries become a reality. Syria and Lebanon needed peace as much as Israel and the rest of the Middle East. There was no other way than through direct negotiations at the decision-making level. It was hoped that in that way understanding and agreements would be reached with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

He said the draft resolution on the peace process expressed the continued support of the international community for the positive changes in the Middle East. The United Nations had played an important role in providing economic assistance to the Palestinians. Israel welcomed and encouraged that support.

GAAFAR ALLAGANY (Saudi Arabia) said the region was in transition from an age of conflict and war to a new stage, where a just peace could exist. However, continuation of the peace process would not go on automatically. All parties involved must give new momentum to the negotiations. The region was currently in a crisis, which could wreck the peace process.

He was following with deep concern the resolutions of the Israeli Government concerning new settlements, he continued. Those measures should not be allowed to exacerbate tensions in the area and completely undermine the peace process. The new principles guiding the Israeli Government were of concern, especially with regard to settlements and the return of refugees in Jerusalem. Israel's recent statements were not linked to agreed-upon principles, but to the emergence of new ones. Furthermore, the lack of security was damaging to Palestinian integrity and led to a worsening of their economic situation.

The present number of settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank had increased by 45 per cent, he said. Such action was incompatible with prior agreements and threatened to unravel them. Where once his country was hopeful about Israeli-Palestinian accords, it was now concerned about their efficacy. Furthermore, there was a stifling of fundamental liberties among the people of the Syrian Golan, with the Israeli imposition of unduly harsh taxes.

A peaceful, fair and global settlement in the region could not be achieved without the withdrawal of Israel from such settlements in accordance with resolutions and agreements. And, peace could not be global or stable without a system of regional security based on fair and equal arrangements, with a minimum number of weapons. The area must be free of nuclear, chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction.

He called on Israel to resume the peace process, despite the position of its new Government. The Arabs were determined to complete the peace process, but it required the response of all parties. The Russian Federation, the United States and the European Union should take measures to give new momentum to the process, and force Israel to comply with the various resolutions, along with the principle of land for peace.

CELSO L.N. AMORIM (Brazil) said that the peace process had witnessed some recent set-backs. It was the earnest wish of his Government that the parties involved immediately resume the good track of dialogue and compromise on the basis of agreements already reached. In that context, a fair and prompt solution for the West Bank town of Hebron was essential. The Syrian- Iraeli negotiations would also further contribute to the peace settlement. He reiterated his Government's concern for the situation in Lebanon and restated its firm commitment to its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

Economic development in the West Bank and Gaza was indispensable for the full implementation of the 1993 Declaration of Principles, he said. The participation of the international community in the economic aspects of the peace process was also essential. The donations made so far to the Multilateral Fund, which would provide $1.2 billion to the Palestinian Authority, had been disappointingly small. Aware of the obstacles all sides faced, he encouraged all those genuinely interested in bringing about peace to that troubled area to persevere in their efforts to settle differences through dialogue and compromise.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) noted a few positive developments, in particular the redeployment of Israeli troops from major cities in the West Bank and the holding of general elections of the Palestinian National Authority. Nonetheless, the mood of progress had been quickly overtaken by increasing frustration and anger over the retraction of the new Israeli Government in some crucial areas of negotiations.

Resolving the question of Palestine held the key to the achievement of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, he said. However, the very attitude of the Israeli Government, apparent in its desire to replace "land for peace" with "security for peace" had dealt a severe blow to the peace process. Indeed, Israel must withdraw its troops from Hebron without delay in order to facilitate the return of trust and progress towards peace.

He said it was regrettable that for the last 10 months Israel had vigorously pursued blockades and the collective punishment of the people of the occupied territories. Restrictions on movement and goods had devastated the economy and morale in the occupied Palestinian territory. Even more regrettable was Israel's refusal to allow safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Interference in the affairs of the Palestinian Authority violated the spirit of the peace agreements.

Israel's recent decision to resume the confiscation of land was another threat to peace, as were steps to bring about demographic and geographic changes in Jerusalem, he continued. There was hardly any justification to Israel's claim to consider the question of Jerusalem non-negotiable. Self- determination by the Palestinian people leading to the eventual establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital "seems to be as elusive as ever", he said.

His Government condemned any attempt by Israel to alter the demographic and legal character of the Syrian Golan Heights. He called upon Israel to desist from such attempts and to refrain from undertaking repressive measures against the Syrians in the Golan area. He also condemned the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and the resulting violation of human rights. He called for the complete and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories of Lebanon.

ABDULSALAM KASSIM AL-AWADHI (Yemen) said his country was concerned about Israel's resumption of the construction of settlements, as well as its refusal to withdraw its forces from Hebron. The continued refusal of Israel to fulfil past commitments threatened the whole peace process. He called for the withdrawal of Israel from the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon. The international community had recognized the authority of the peace process, including the principle of land for peace. The new Israeli Government could not circumvent the peace process, as the interests of the States of the region were greater than the intentions of a single Government. The achievement of a lasting peace agreement in the Middle East must include measures to guarantee the security and stability of all nations in the region. That would necessitate the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

BADER AL AWDI (Kuwait) said there had been a breakdown in the peace process, due to the irresponsible practices of the new Israeli Government. The Israeli policies that impeded peace in the region were dangerous. The economy of the territories had not changed and the Israeli Government continued practices that were in violation of agreements and international norms. In addition, the Israeli Government was in the process of expanding its settlements. Israeli policy was one of provoking Islamic sentiment, such as its efforts to change the Islamic nature of East Jerusalem. The Islamic nature of the city must be preserved.

The peace process was indispensable, he said. Israel must withdraw from the Golan Heights, as well as from southern Lebanon. Peace in the region would require that Israel respect the right and laws of others, that it fulfil its commitments, and that it respect international legalities and relevant Security Council resolutions.

HUSEYIN E. CELEM (Turkey) said there were three obstacles in the path of the peace process -- unfulfilled obligations, terrorism and economic frustrations. For the process to regain momentum, the parties must respect their commitments under the existing accords and avoid any action that may adversely affect them. If the negotiations on the redeployment of Israeli forces in Hebron reached a successful conclusion, it could be a breakthrough. He advised caution in decisions regarding such issues as the holy sites and the settlements, saying that they could lead to "serious set-backs".

He said countries must stop lending their support to terrorism. Turkey stood ready to participate in enhanced cooperation against it. On the economic and social situation in the region, he said the momentum achieved so far needed to be translated quickly into better living conditions for the Palestinian people, both within and outside the occupied territories. He called for the tangible support of the international community in the form of economic, financial and technical assistance to the Palestinian people. He commended the signing of the Articles of Agreement of the Bank for Economic Cooperation and Development for the Middle East and North Africa.

Turkey had always supported the just cause of the Palestinian people, he went on, and was ready to contribute to all initiatives for a settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. A lasting, just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East could be based only upon the rights of all States in the region, including Israel, to exist behind secure and internationally recognized borders.

KHALED KHALIFA AL-MUALLA (United Arab Emirates) deplored the behaviour of the Israeli Government which, he said, had rejected its commitments and gone back on its obligations under the Madrid agreement and the land-for-peace principle. Israel continued to confiscate land and establish settlements and to desecrate the holy places. On Lebanese and Syrian tracks, Israel was determined to honour no agreements and was stepping up its violent hegemony. It has lost its credibility and there were now doubts about its preparedness to go ahead with the peace process. The continuation of those practices was simply incompatible with the peace process, and could have unpredictable results for the entire world.

The Arab parties had demonstrated how serious they were about achieving a just peace, he said. It was a flexible peace based on wisdom, and on the re-acquiring of sovereignty for all Arab peoples. Only this week, the Israeli prime minister said he would continue building settlements. All this could only lead to another cycle of violence. There must be a way of getting Israel back on the path of peace. Israel must continue in an unconditional way to work honestly on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, and to strengthen the confidence-building measures. The Middle East situation must be resolved on the basis of international law and fairness.

NUGROHO WISNUMURTI (Indonesia) said that hopes for positive, spill-over effects from the recent redeployment of Israeli army units from the West Bank, the transfer of responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority, and the recent Palestinian elections, had proved groundless. Progress in the Israeli-Palestinian talks had been mirrored in the transformation of relations between Israel and Jordan to the mutual benefit of their peoples. Yet, progress in the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese negotiating tracks had remained stubbornly slow. And it was not difficult to judge the significance of the recent regression in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Broken commitments, intransigence, procrastination and circumvention by the Government of Israel had virtually extinguished the hopes aroused by the peace process.

Israel's lack of commitment to the peace process had also been evident in negotiations with Syria and Lebanon, he said. Israel's violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon was totally unacceptable, and he unreservedly supported the demand for the complete and immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon. He noted with deep concern recent Israeli attempts to reinterpret, or indeed discard, the principles underlying the Israeli-Syrian negotiating track. A just settlement in the Middle East necessarily entailed implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, the principle of land for peace and the return of all occupied Palestinian and Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan, southern Lebanon and the city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif. Otherwise, comprehensive peace would remain elusive.

Moreover, without economic and social development, the peace process remained fragile, he said. Yet, areas under Palestinian jurisdiction had been closed, including the borders of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with Jordan and Egypt, and Palestinian homes and properties had been demolished. It was clearly incumbent upon the international community to mitigate the suffering of the Palestinian people. The important accomplishments of the past few years must not be allowed to dissipate. Instead, the climate of distrust should be replaced by a new faith in peace.

CHRISTINE LEE (Singapore) told the Assembly that last September's violent clashes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip had put the Middle East peace process in jeopardy. Peace could not be further delayed. Both sides must work together in a spirit of genuine compromise, rather than act from narrow, short-term political considerations that would lead only to a renewed, bloody cycle of violence.

Israel and Palestine must recall their commitment to the peace process for the good of their peoples, she said. Now more than ever, they needed something greater than mere assurances, words or handshakes to give them hope for an end to hostilities and for new momentum to the peace process. Thus, her Government welcomed the news of the recent discussions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. She hoped that those discussions would lead to renewal and advancement of the peace negotiations. The fact that the peace process had come so far was in itself a most remarkable achievement.

PEHIN MOHAMMAD (Brunei Darussalam) said recent events had deeply frustrated hopes in the Middle East peace process. The present Israeli leadership had not lived up to commitments signed by previous leaders. Instead of expediting the withdrawal of its troops from Hebron, Israel was trying to change the accords that had been previously agreed. It had also returned to increasing the Jewish settlements and demolishing more Palestinian homes in the occupied areas. The process was therefore moving at a faltering pace and it was doubtful that the parties would reach the next stage. The parties should honour their commitments for a comprehensive peace settlement in the region. His country would like to see a resumption in the Syrian- Israeli negotiations, as well as complete withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights.

He said that, in spite of the negative signs, all parties should move in a positive manner on the basis of the peace accords, in order to reach a just and comprehensive settlement. They should adhere fully to the provisions agreed upon in Madrid and Oslo.

JACK WILMOT (Ghana), tracing developments in the Middle East, said there was a feeling that a year ago the region seemed headed for a lasting peace, but now might be on a track back to war. He cited various agreements reached, and expressed satisfaction that the economic advantages of peace were recognized. Ghana had been happy that in all of the endeavours, Israel participated on equal footing with its neighbours, which would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Against this background, he expressed deep concern and anxiety over the recent outbreak of violence, with serious implications for the future of the peace process.

He noted both the Israeli Government and the PLO had reaffirmed their determination to carry on with the peace negotiations despite the numerous set-backs. The alternative was a return to instability, sustained violence, regional tensions and uncertain economic prospects. Even a no-war no-peace situation would not augur well for the region, as it would perpetuate tension and deprive the countries of the region of an opportunity to exploit their enormous economic, commercial and trade potential.

Progress must also be made on all tracks of negotiation. He further called on the United Nations to continue to provide the needed encouragement to the process. The donor community, international organizations and investment institutions must provide the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction with adequate economic, financial and technical assistance to enable it to discharge its responsibilities towards the people of Palestine.

JOHN CAMPBELL (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the associated States of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Iceland, told the Assembly that the Union deeply deplored the violence and suffering inflicted upon the civilian populations of the Middle East during the events of the past year. A deep sense of frustration now existed among the peoples of the region at the deplorable increase in the levels of violence, at the lack of progress in the peace process, and at the failure to implement in full agreements already in place. Progress had been further impeded both by Israeli policies and by the continued threat of terrorist attacks.

On the other hand, several events had demonstrated a continuing commitment to the peace process. They included the Palestinian elections, the undertakings by the Palestine National Council to amend the Palestinian Charter to recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist, and the resumption -- after the violence following the Temple Mount tunnel incident -- of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The Union, deeply committed to the peace process and aware that peace in the Middle East was in its fundamental interest, had appointed a Special Envoy to the Peace Process, he said. It saw the Envoy's mission as complementing efforts already undertaken by the United States and others, and was pleased with the positive response his appointment had received in the region. Among other recent European Union steps had been the visit to the Middle East by the troika of Foreign Ministers from Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands, together with the Vice President of the European Union.

The Union, he said, looked forward to the implementation of the existing Palestinian-Israeli agreements, including the redeployment of Israeli security forces in and from Hebron and the release of Palestinian prisoners. The European Union also considered economic and social progress to be an essential component of the peace process. For some years now, it had been the principal donor of aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The total sum of the European Community's budget contribution, together with Member States' bilateral contributions, accounted for approximately 45 per cent of total donor contributions in 1995. The Union had pledged a contribution of $120 million for 1996. The Union was convinced that the peace process was the only way forward in the Middle East and that there could be no alternative to it.

AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan) said that five years ago the international community had hoped that the Middle East, at the close of the century and perhaps for the first time in modern history, was about to achieve durable peace. Unfortunately, developments over the last six months had dampened optimism. The peace process had not only been stalled, it was in serious danger of being reversed. The unwillingness of the Government of Israel to honour the peace agreements signed by its predecessor, its decision to rule out any compromise on Jerusalem or a Palestinian State, plus narrowly based decisions to expand Jewish settlements on the occupied lands, could nullify gains made so far.

Palestinians continued to be subjected to torture and inhumane and degrading treatment, he continued. Such policies of repression and violence would further reduce the chances of peaceful coexistence. At the core of the Palestinian problem, as everyone knew, was the realization of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Other vital issues, such as the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, with the Holy City of Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of some 3.5 million Palestinian refugees to their homeland in safety and honour, must also be addressed in earnest. The relevant Security Council resolutions continued to provide a viable and just framework for realization of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.

ALYAKSANDR SYCHOU (Belarus) said that despite recent positive developments in the Middle East, his Government was deeply concerned over the escalation of tensions arising from the activities of extremists, continuing acts of violence, and the resumption of armed hostilities on territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The vicious cycle of violence and confrontation could only be broken around the negotiating table. At the present critical stage in the history of the region, the dynamics of peaceful settlement should be maintained, and the unconditional adherence of the parties to the provisions of previously concluded bilateral agreements should be ensured.

He understood the need to ensure the security of Israel in the face of internal and external terrorism, he said. However, legitimate security interests should not stand in the way of implementing commitments already undertaken. He believed that ensuring security and implementing measures to combat extremism and terrorism were the joint responsibility of both parties to the conflict.

Genuine peace in the Middle East, he went on, would be impossible without significant progress in the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese negotiations. The resumption of bilateral negotiations between Israel and Syria late last year had become a part of the dynamics of the peace process and it should be maintained. He hoped that the parties would be able to restart the dialogue as soon as possible, based on the "land for peace" principle, gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces and the demilitarization of the Syrian Golan. He warned, however, that the region would continue to be a potential hot-bed of tensions without positive improvements in the living conditions of the Palestinian people.

ANATOLI M. ZLENKO (Ukraine) said the present situation was caused primarily by the deviation of the parties from previously undertaken commitments. There was a need to achieve a mutual compromise between all the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace in the region could be established only through a constructive dialogue, on the basis of mutual respect and tolerance. One of the most important aspects was the battle against terrorism, and the barbaric and extreme methods used by extremist groups to undermine Middle East peace efforts must be eradicated. Ukraine was also concerned over the military operations in the eastern part of Lebanon in April 1996, which caused casualties to civilians and United Nations peace-keeping personnel, and produced a severe humanitarian crisis. Actions that threatened the safety and security of United Nations peace-keepers were absolutely unacceptable.

The situation in the Middle East, he continued, was also destabilized to a great extent by numerous intraregional conflicts. He said he was worried about the situation concerning Iraq, emphasizing the necessity to refrain from any further use of force to solve the problems in the region. Further deterioration of the situation in that country was "extremely dangerous" for the prospects of a Middle East settlement.


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