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Source: United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
29 November 2010



UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AT GENEVA HOLDS SPECIAL MEETING TO COMMEMORATE THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
29 November 2010


The United Nations Office at Geneva today held a Special Meeting to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Special Meeting was organized in observance of General Assembly resolution 32/40 B of 2 December 1977.

Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, reading out the message of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, commended the steps taken during the past year to improve conditions on the ground. However, much more was needed, the Secretary-General noted. The Palestinian Authority must continue to roll out the institutions of statehood, combat terrorist attacks and curb incitement. Meanwhile, it was both Israel’s interest and its duty to begin rolling back the measures of occupation, particularly with respect to movement, access and security actions. An overwhelming international consensus existed on the need to end the occupation, address the fundamental security concerns of both parties, find a solution to the refugee issue and see Jerusalem emerge from negotiation as the capital of two States. Mr. Ban challenged the two leaders to show statesmanship and political courage in reaching a historic peace. The international community, for its part, must be ready to assume its own responsibilities for peace.

Providing statements at the Special Meeting were representatives of the following entities: the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union and non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The Permanent Observer of Palestine also made a statement on behalf of the President of Palestine.

Messages or statements for the International Day were also received from Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Amir of the State of Qatar; the President of Turkey, Abdullah Gül; Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh; Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the President of Tunisia; as well as the European Union.

Statements


SERGEI ORDZHONIKIDZE,
Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, reading out the message of BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said two timelines would reach a critical point in 2011. First, Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had pledged to seek a framework agreement on permanent status by September. Second, the Palestinian Authority was on track to complete its two-year agenda of readiness for statehood by August.

At its meeting in September 2010, the Quartet had stated that an agreement could be reached in the timeframe set out by the leaders themselves, and that the Palestinian Authority, if it maintained its current performance in institution-building and the delivery of public services, was well-positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future. Yet few Palestinians were optimistic that anything decisive would be achieved next year, or even at all. Looking at the situation on the ground, he understood this despair, Mr. Ban asserted in his message. Soon after direct talks on final status had begun in September, they had been undermined by the expiry of Israel’s commendable settlement moratorium. Construction of hundreds of new units throughout the West Bank had commenced, and new approvals for settlements in East Jerusalem had been given. This development was a serious blow to the credibility of the political process. The obligation remained on Israel to meet its responsibilities under international law and the roadmap to freeze settlement activity.

It was also true that few Israelis seemed hopeful that peace could be achieved soon, and Mr. Ban was sensitive to Israel’s security concerns. But he asked all Israelis to look with fresh eyes at the indisputable emergence of a reliable security partner on the ground, and the continued commitment of President Abbas to Israel’s right to live in peace and security, and to his rejection of violence and terrorism. The Secretary-General also reminded everyone of the promise of the Arab Peace Initiative that a two-State solution and comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace would be followed by the establishment of normal relations between Israel and all Arab States.

Mr. Ban commended the steps taken during the past year to improve conditions on the ground. However, much more was needed. The Palestinian Authority must continue to roll out the institutions of statehood, combat terrorist attacks and curb incitement. Meanwhile, it was both Israel’s interest and its duty to begin rolling back the measures of occupation, particularly with respect to movement, access and security actions. The Secretary-General remained very concerned about conditions in Gaza. He expressed appreciation for the modification of Israel’s policy and the approval of a substantial number of United Nations projects. But this could only be a first step. Full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 should follow. Israel needed to enable broader civilian reconstruction, free movement of persons and the export of goods, and facilitate the swift implementation of projects. Rocket fire from Gaza must stop. A prisoner exchange, the extension of de facto calm and progress on Palestinian reconciliation were also key steps.

An overwhelming international consensus existed on the need to end the occupation, address the fundamental security concerns of both parties, find a solution to the refugee issue and see Jerusalem emerge from negotiation as the capital of two States. Mr. Ban challenged the two leaders to show statesmanship and political courage in reaching a historic peace. The international community, for its part, must be ready to assume its own responsibilities for peace. Let the year ahead be the one in which a just and lasting peace in the Middle East was finally realized. He would do everything in his power to support these efforts, the Secretary-General asserted in his message.

A Representative of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan, reading out a message on behalf of the
Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said 63 years ago the General Assembly had adopted its landmark resolution 181. It embodied a solemn commitment by the international community to the establishment of two States in Mandated Palestine. Today, the promise stood only half fulfilled. One State came into being as Israel in 1948, while the Palestinian State remained a vision yet to be realized. The question of Palestine was at the top of the United Nations agenda then, and it remained there today, as the great unfinished business of the century. It weighed heavily on the collective consciousness, an ongoing human tragedy, continuing to inflame the region. As decades ago, the Palestinians were still not free. Half of them lived on their own land under occupation. The other half was dispossessed and lived the half-life of a refugee, longing for a light at the end of the tunnel. The Palestinians still had little control over their national destiny, while the region only knew little meaningful security and stability. Unfortunately, the impassioned calls of the international community had not been heeded. From its actions it appeared that Israel had chosen settlements over peace. During the past several decades the United Nations had been relegated to a supporting role. The results spoke for themselves. The path of negotiations remained the strategic option of choice. But should the process fail to yield results, the United Nations may be called upon to assume the role of an arbiter. The international community must prepare to rise to the challenge. To do anything less would be a dereliction of duty.

A Representative of the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reading out a message from the
Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said this day provided a critical reminder to the international community of the urgent need to finally resolve the Palestinian question in a just and equitable manner. Despite well intentioned efforts to revive the peace talks this year, the facts on the ground revealed that prospects for the achievement of their fundamental right to self-determination were as distant and elusive as ever. Ongoing confiscation of land, settlement and housing expansion and the construction of the Wall were severely undermining prospects for an end to the attainment of statehood. Policies and practices emanating from the current regime of occupation continued to infringe on a whole spectrum of rights. Consequently, a significant proportion of the occupied population lived in poverty; many of them totally dependent on humanitarian aid. Moreover, over 6,200 Palestinian prisoners remained in detention, while allegations of torture and ill-treatment had been made. Earlier this month, the Special Committee had presented its fourty-second report on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan. The report had concluded that an unacceptable culture of impunity prevailed, leading to the repetition of violations that had been highlighted year after year by the Committee and many others. As a key means to address the long-standing pattern of systematic human rights violations, the Special Committee had called for diplomatic efforts to be intensified with a view to adopting appropriate measures to require Israel’s compliance with Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on the Palestinian question and with international humanitarian and human rights laws. It was only with a political solution, with human rights at its heart, that Palestinians and Israelis would enjoy human security and peace as neighbours.

A Representative of the
League of Arab States, reading out a message from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said it was now certain that Israel’s pursuit of colonization policies and its demand that the Palestinian authority recognize Israel as a Jewish State impeded any possibility of continuing negotiations in accordance with a clear timetable. It was no longer acceptable that the international community remained unable to shoulder its responsibility against this stubborn colonization. Unilerateral measures taken by Israel were null and void. For that reason, the League of Arab States called upon the international community, in particularly the United Nations and its specialized agencies, to assume full responsibility and implement the legimate international decisions pertaining to the peace process. All must move from conflict management to taking a clear and realistic decision. The Ministerial Committee of the Arab Peace Initiative had proceeded to reinitiate peace negotiations, but efforts continued to encounter categoric rejection. It had therefore been decided to highlight a clear position that could be summarized as follows: First, the Israeli Government bore the full responsibility for the faltering of direct negotiations and -- given the continuation of illegal settlements -- that the continuation of direct negotation included the full stop of Israeli settlement on Palestinian territory. Second, the position of President Obama concerning the right of the Palestinians, as reiterated before the United Nations General Assembly, was saluted. Today, as before, the League of Arab States was prepared to cooperate with the American administration. Third, peace with Israel was impossible without the Israelo withdrewal from all Occupied Arab Territories, which should lead to the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State. Fourth, the international community was called upon to take all necessary steps to put an end to the inhumane blockade imposed on Gaza. Israel had flouted international law and international instruments. It was essential to recall that the continuation of this long-term conflict would only lead to insecurity and instability in the region.

A Representative of the
Organization of the Islamic Conference, reading out a message from the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the International Day came this year at a time when the Palestinian cause was going through difficult times. Difficulties stemmed from the persistence of Israeli aggression, and its obstinacy in perpetrating its illegal practices, as well as creating de facto realities on the ground. Added to this was its flagrant contravening of the tenets of international law and the terms of reference of the peace process. Ignoring the international community’s demands and efforts to stop settlement activities in occupied lands, Israel, the occupying power, had persisted in defying international law and intensifying colonial settlement, and was indeed accelerating settlement-building in the West Bank and the occupied East Jerusalem. Adding insult to injury, Israel had encouraged settlers’ violence against Palestinians. This wave of violence had risen sharply this year and gone beyond killing and harming Palestinians to destroying their crops and uprooting thousands of olive trees. Israeli persistence in its blockade required the international community to act seriously not only to lift the unjust blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, but also to bring Israel’s leaders and officers who were responsible for this blockade to international justice. The international community should exert serious efforts to compel Israel to abide by the terms of reference of the peace process and to respect and implement the agreements and understandings reached in that regard. Israel must also refrain from carrying out all unilateral acts aimed at imposing new realities on the ground and undermining the outcome of negotiations. Needless to say that peace talks were meaningless as long as Israel sought to dictate the negotiations’ outcome.

A representative of the
Non-Aligned Movement said the Non-Aligned Movement remained firm in its condemnation of the harsh policies and practices, as well as the disproportionate and excessive use of force against the Palestinian people, the destruction of their homes and property, and restriction of their freedom to move freely in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Non-Aligned Movement remained highly concerned at the lack of real progress in achieving a sustainable, equitable, and conclusive peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Clearly, there was an urgent need for the international community to take urgent and concrete steps towards achieving this peace. It was impossible to disregard the devastating effect of the Palestinian question on peace, security and stability, not only in the Middle East, but in the whole international sphere. This was a matter that did not tolerate further delay or procrastination. It should not be acceptable that an entity imposed on another entity and its people a "fait accompli" for the mere reason that it possessed the tools of subjugation and suppression. The international community must do more to manifest its support and collective role for a just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to facilitate the attainment of peace in the region. The Non-Aligned Movement reiterated its firm legal and political opposition to Israel's settlement policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Non-Aligned Movement would strongly support all initiatives and efforts to address the Palestinian question, a question that had at all times been of priority on its agenda.

A representative of the
African Union, reading out a message from the President of the African Union Commission, said the International Day remained an occasion for the international community to reflect on the evolution of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories year after year. Unfortunately, even the most impartial observer must conclude that the situation on the ground had deteriorated. This was highlighted by the increased oppression of the Palestinian people, not only in terms of the intensity of the aggressions and blind and disproportionate attacks by the occupying power, but also in terms of their untenable nature and magnitude. The African Union remained profoundly concerned at the position of the Israeli authorities and their refusal to accept international efforts aimed at reaching a just solution. In the African Union’s view, Palestinian national unity remained the cornerstone of the Palestinian people for freedom and independence. In this regard, the African Union fully supported the efforts deployed by President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian leaders to strengthen the national unity with a view to resolve the current impasse and ensure Palestinian national unity, both geographically and politically. The African Union hoped that an independent and sovereign Palestinian State would have become a reality and Palestinian people would be fully enjoying their rights at the same occasion next year. The international community must take its responsibility in an objective and firm manner and spare no effort to help the two parties to reengage in the negotiation process, which must result in the final settlement of the Middle East conflict.

A representative of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, reading out a message from the
non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said there had been no fewer than eight Security Council Resolutions and four General Assembly Resolutions concerning the conflict between Israel and Palestine, but these remained un-implemented. The numerous peace talks, negotiations, plans and proposals had led nowhere. The failure by Israel and by the Governments of the Occupied Territories to comply with the obligations in relation to this framework had been identified in numerous reports and resolutions. As was obvious by its subsequent conduct, Israel had not responded in good faith. On the contrary, Israel had tightened its stranglehold on the Palestinian population further and without commensurate response from the international community. It was time for change. At the 2005 World Summit Outcome, the concept of the “responsibility to protect” had been endorsed, an emerging legal doctrine that had resonance in relation to the situation under consideration. In essence the responsibility was one of “due diligence” with the capacity of one State to influence another. Put very simply, the ability of Israel to continue its occupation, the blockade and its military interventions would be severely curtailed without the acts, or omissions, of other States. It was crucial that the international community and United Nations bodies take coherent, practical steps to urge Israel to fulfill its international human rights obligations and implement all UN resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Permanent Observer of Palestine, reading out a statement on behalf of the
President of Palestine, said since its inception, the United Nations had continued dealing with and shouldering its responsibilities towards the question of Palestine until its resolution through an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and holy places and allowing the Palestinian people to determine their destiny. Although the resolutions had not yet been implemented, due to Israel’s refusal and intransigence, they remained valid and still constituted the foundation for the protection of the Palestinian people and the basis for achieving justice. The Palestinian commitment was strong to achieve a comprehensive agreement that led to two viable States - one already existed, Israel, and the other must achieve its independence, the State of Palestine. But there was no way to attain a real, lasting and comprehensive peace which was not based on the resolutions of international legitimacy. The alternative was to slip further towards the unknown. The path of political process must be corrected, erosion of the negotiations must be stopped, and the commitment to the obligations of the just and lasting peace process must be reaffirmed. What could extinguish the fire of violence and control extremist tendencies was the brave step towards the permanent status negotiations in order to reach fair agreements ending the occupation and providing a solid stability for the region. That was why the Palestinian Authorities strongly rejected all unilateral action by Israel, the occupying power. The core causes of this conflict were occupation and settlement activities. It was time for the world to address the roots of this conflict by ending the occupation and allowing for an independent State of Palestine, which would hopefully be a new, active and recognized member of the United Nations next year.


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