UNISPAL Home

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


GA/PAL/884
17 April 2002


PANELLISTS EXAMINE INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS TO CONTAIN

MIDDLE EAST CRISIS, RESUME DIALOGUE


(Received from a UN Information Officer.)


NICOSIA, 17 April –- The events of Sabra and Shatila were being repeated today
in the Palestinian occupied territory, Jerusalem Times publisher Hanna Siniora
said this morning at the International Meeting in Support of Middle East Peace.

He said that United States Secretary of State Colin Powell had not realized the
objectives of his mandate to effect a ceasefire, a withdrawal of Israeli forces
and the beginning of negotiations. Despite President Bush’s call for a
withdrawal, the Israeli army was present in all the cities they had invaded.
After Mr. Powell’s departure, Palestinians would be left with the siege of
Bethlehem and of President Arafat’s headquarters. The occupation continued with
no further word from President Bush or Colin Powell demanding that Israel
withdraw.

The representative of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
said the major goal today was to implement immediately Security Council
resolutions 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002) which provided for a meaningful
ceasefire and an immediate Israeli withdrawal. As soon as there was a ceasefire
and Israeli forces pulled out, the Tenet and Mitchell scheme should be
implemented. Its merit was that it led to reinvigorating the negotiating
process by providing an interconnection between security arrangements and
renewed political negotiations.

Professor Markus Kaim of the Friedrich Schiller University in Germany said that
anything that happened in the Middle East region could have more direct
consequences for the Europeans than for the Americans. Regional stability
occupied a higher priority on Europe’s agenda than the peace process per se.
Europe had played a major role in institution building and reducing major
imbalances in the Middle East. Without European financial aid it would be
difficult for a Palestinian State to exist or be consolidated. While a more
activist European Union policy was called for, there were constraints, the most
serious being Israel’s perception of its pro-Arab tilt. There were, however,
steps which the European Union could take, including helping in the placement of
military monitors in key positions such as the Golan Heights as part of an early
warning unit or as monitors for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and securing
needed resources in the region, namely in the area of water and water
management.

The United Nations Charter had always provided guidelines to preserve future
generations from the scourge of war, said Associate Professor of International
Relations at the University of Cyprus, Joseph S. Joseph. Israel would be in a
better position to expect peace and security if it paid more attention to the
messages coming from the international community. The European Union could do
more with regard to the situation in the Middle East. It could let Israel know
that their actions were not acceptable. The United States’ special relation
with Israel could be a useful tool in bringing the two parties together.

The representatives of Namibia, Tunisia and China also made statements.

The meeting will reconvene this afternoon to hold its final session which will
explore the theme “The urgency of ending the Israeli occupation and establishing
a Palestinian State”. Panellists will examine the Oslo process; elements of a
permanent solution based on international legitimacy; and Palestinian statehood
– a key to peace in the Middle East.

Presentation by Experts

HANNA SINIORA, publisher, The Jerusalem Times, said that the events of Sabra and
Shatila were being repeated today in the occupied Palestinian territory. Eleven
years after Madrid, there were new actors and new massacres. Whole families
were being killed by the Israeli onslaught. Although the Israelis denied that
there were massacres, it had not allowed reporters to enter the affected areas.
Despite the new Arab peace plan, Palestinians continued to suffer.

As a result of the invasion of the cities, there had been three Security Council
resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Israeli troops and, for the first
time, stated that at the end of negotiations there would be a Palestinian State.
The resolutions, however, have not been fulfilled. United States Secretary of
State Colin Powell had a mandate to call for a ceasefire, a withdrawal of
Israeli forces and the beginning of negotiations. None of those objectives had
been realized. Despite President Bush’s call for a withdrawal, the Israeli army
was present in all the cities they had invaded. After Mr. Powell departed,
Palestinians would be left with the siege of Bethlehem and of President Arafat’s
headquarters. The occupation continued, and there had been no further word from
President Bush or Colin Powell demanding that Israel withdraw.

He said that the European Union had sent Javier Solana to examine the situation
but he had been rebuffed by Ariel Sharon. When he returned to Europe there was
talk of sanctions against Israel but that talk had stopped. Without sanctions,
Security Council resolutions would not be implemented. Why was there a double
standard when dealing with the State of Israel? The Russian Federation had
tried to meet with Chairman Arafat but was also rebuffed. Israel had said that
it wanted normal relations with the Arab countries, but when that was offered by
the Arab peace plan, the Israelis responded by further invasions. The
Palestinians wanted peace. They wanted Israel to withdraw to the borders of
1967, not to the mandated borders of 1947. According to news reports, Sharon
had said recently that he would attend an international peace conference with
Arafat. Hopefully, that would be a result of Mr. Powell’s visit.

OLEG OZEROV, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian
Federation, said his Government was deeply concerned about the unprecedented
sufferings of the civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory. It was
troubled by the fact that Israeli forces had twice seized a Russian Orthodox
Church–owned property where Russian pilgrims were accommodated. In general, the
Russian Federation was concerned about the situation around the religious
sanctuaries in the territory of the Palestinian National Authority. Moreover,
there were indications that the conflict was spreading to other areas of the
region. The international community must do everything possible to stop the
conflict from expanding and urge restraint on all sides. Israeli use of force
could not lead to peace or to security. Palestinians too must be aware that
achieving political aims by means of terror was unacceptable and would not be
supported.

He said the major goal today was to immediately implement Security Council
resolutions 1402 (2002) and 1403 (2002) which provided for a meaningful
ceasefire and an immediate Israeli withdrawal. The siege of Chairman Arafat’s
headquarters must be lifted. He insisted that firing at residential areas,
demolition of houses and destruction of historical and religious sites be
stopped. As soon as there was a ceasefire and pullout of Israeli forces, the
Tenet and Mitchell scheme should be implemented. Its merit was that it led to
reinvigorating the negotiating process by providing an interconnection between
security arrangements and renewed political negotiations. That interconnection
had been a key stumbling block.

Palestinians would require international assistance to reconstruct their
infrastructure, security services and capability, he said. On 10 April, the
Russian Federation, United States, European Union and the United Nations had
transformed the “Quartet” into an authoritative international mechanism. For
the first time, leading international mediators declared that there must be
immediate, parallel and accelerated movement towards near-term and tangible
political progress.

MARKUS KAIM, Professor of Political Science, Friedrich Schiller University,
Germany, said a consensus existed that Europe had not had the political will or
inclination to directly struggle with the United States over the majority of
issues dealing with the Middle East. Europeans tended to be vocal critics of
what the United States did, or rather did not do, in the Middle East. The
United States responded by critiquing Europe’s tendency to be “biased” toward
the Arabs. The differing analytical approaches were a result of differing
priorities and political orientations. Europe was more attuned to and affected
by local developments than the United States. Anything that happened in the
Middle East region could have more direct consequences for the Europeans than
for the Americans. Regional stability occupied a higher priority on Europe’s
agenda than the peace process per se. Washington’s deep engagement in the peace
process was driven by the need to ensure Israel’s security and its integration
into the social fabric of the Arab arena.

He said the United States was a single State actor while Europe was composed of
several States with no single foreign policy. While United States policies
focused mainly on “high” politics such as military and strategic objectives,
Europe concentrated on the “low” politics of economy, culture and society and
stressed multilateral approaches. United States policies were dependent on and
responsive to domestic politics. European policymakers’ actions were less
fettered by domestic factors. Europe had played a major role in
institution-building and reducing major imbalances in the Middle East. Without
European financial aid it would be difficult for a Palestinian State to exist or
be consolidated.

Although the Palestinians had been satisfied with the low-key role of the
Europeans, he said, they would have preferred that the European Union be more
openly critical of the excessively brutal Israeli reactions. They would also
like to have more support for the deployment of United Nations security forces
between Israeli troops and the Palestinian population. While a more activist
European Union policy was called for, there were constraints, the most serious
being Israel’s perception of its pro-Arab tilt. There were, however, steps
which the European Union could take, including conditioning further aid to the
Palestinians Authority on full financial and political transparency. A
Palestinian State with an authoritarian leadership would never be a suitable
peace partner for Israel. European negotiators should also make it clear that
the European Union would not support a mass refugee return. It could also
monitor Palestinian media to ensure that blatant anti-Semitism and calls for the
destruction of Israel were eliminated.

The European Union should strongly advise Syria to participate in multilateral
talks, he said. Further, the Union could help in the placement of military
monitors in key positions such as the Golan Heights, as part of an early warning
unit or as monitors for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. The Union could also
secure needed resources in the region and enhance regional cooperation, namely
in the area of water and water management by building and maintaining water
desalinization plants. For Euro-Atlantic cooperation to be successful in the
area of Arab-Israeli peace-making, an institutional mechanism needed to be set
up to coordinate European Union and United States efforts. The United States
must understand that it alone could not bring about a peace settlement.
Moreover, there must be genuine unity in the European Union and it must be
willing to cooperate with the United States. Finally, the Union must not only
maintain its ties with Israel’s Arab neighbours, it must improve its political
ties with Israel.

JOSEPH S. JOSEPH, Associate Professor of International Relations, University of
Cyprus, said the Middle East problems should be solved peacefully with an
exchange of words, not the exchange of violence. Passion and revenge was
dominating actions. That vicious cycle could only lead to disappointment. The
international community must take steps to end the conflict. It could provide
useful guidelines for approaching the situation in a positive manner. It was
time to develop a plan of action that was result-oriented. Sending a
multinational peacekeeping force was an idea worth promoting. The failures of
the past should be a source of strength and not of discouragement.

The United Nations Charter had always provided guidelines to preserve succeeding
generations from the scourge of war. Israel would be in a better position to
expect peace and security if it paid more attention to the messages coming from
the international community. The United Nations was a microcosm of the real
world. It was an institutional arrangement. Each of the countries needed to
stand behind the resolutions. In the long run, the future of the European Union
would depend on the role it played on the international scene. Today, the
European Union let Israel know that their actions were not acceptable. The
United States could use its special relation with Israel as a useful tool to
bring the two sides together. The European Union and other organizations could
be helpful in bringing about a settlement to the situation and in the Middle
East. The establishment of a Palestinian State was not only what the
Palestinians wanted but it was what the global will called for.

The representative of Namibia said his Government condemned terrorism in all its
forms and manifestations. It did not condone suicide bombings. However, it
supported legitimate acts of resistance against foreign occupation and
aggression. The illegal occupation of Palestine, the oppression, the settlement
activities and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people by the
occupying Power were the root causes of violence and insecurity in the region.
Unless they were removed, the situation would continue to deteriorate. He
welcomed the Security Council’s recent reassertion of its responsibility in the area.
Unfortunately, Israel had chosen to ignore Council resolutions. To maintain its
credibility, the Council must ensure that its resolutions were implemented immediately
and without preconditions. If Israel did not withdraw its troops from Palestinian
territory, the Council must consider taking appropriate measures against the
Israeli Government. He supported the idea of an international observer force
and urged the Council to move speedily to authorize the establishment of such a
Mission to protect the Palestinian civilians.

The representative of Tunisia said the Palestinian people continued to live in
occupied territories, fearful of Israeli military attacks. He reiterated
Tunisia’s support and solidarity with the Palestinian people. The Israelis were
attempting to undermine the Palestinian people and spread misery among them. It
was clear that Israel’s refusal to implement resolutions 1397 (2002), 1402
(2002) and 1403 (2002) and its continued onslaught on the territories were
intended to deny the Palestinian people their inalienable rights and to hinder
any initiative that would lead to a settlement on the basis of international
legitimacy. He urged all peace-loving States and parties, especially the most
influential parties on the international level, to force Israel to respect
international law and Security Council resolutions. He requested those parties
to use their influence to force Israel to comply with the recent resolution
adopted by the Human Rights Commission. Sharon’s actions would only give the
Israelis the illusion of being invincible. The international community had to
convince Israel that military action would get them nowhere and that only
negotiations would bring them hope.

The representative of China said his Government strongly appealed to both the
Israeli and Palestinian sides, the Israelis in particular, to implement relevant
United Nations resolutions, to actively coordinate with the international
community’s peace-making efforts, withdraw all of its troops from Palestinian
territories and restart negotiations at an early date. Political solution
through negotiations on the basis of United Nations resolutions and the land for
peace principle was in accord with the fundamental interests of the people of
all countries of the Middle East. China had consistently supported the
Palestinian people in their just cause to restore their legitimate national
rights. It had made every effort to urge Israel to implement relevant United
Nations resolutions, terminate the military campaign against the Palestinian
people, and lift the siege of President Arafat immediately and unconditionally.


* *** *


Related document:
- GA/PAL/880
- SG/SM/2100-GA/PAL/881
- GA/PAL/882
-
GA/PAL/883
- CPR/IM/2002/8
______________________________________________________________________
For information media - not an official record