UNISPAL Home

See also: UN DPI Multimedia
About CEIRPP
Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Committee on Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
249th Meeting (AM)
GA/PAL/813
29 November 1999

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS HAS ENTERED
`MOST PROMISING AND MOST DIFFICULT' PHASE

Palestinian Rights Committee Receives Statements, Messages
From Many Nations, at Observance of International Day of Solidarity


The Middle East peace process had entered a phase that was, at once, its "most promising and most difficult", Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning on the occasion of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Addressing a special meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Secretary-General called on the parties involved to guard the "fragile accomplishments" of the peace process, to press forward and, above all, to refrain from any actions that might prejudice the outcome of the delicate permanent status negotiations. He hoped that one of the earliest achievements of the new century would be the long-awaited moment when peace and prosperity could be fully enjoyed by all peoples in the Middle East.

In a statement read on his behalf by the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, expressed the hope that Palestine would participate in the Millennium Summit of the United Nations as a Member State. United Nations resolutions had been a "safety net" for Palestinian rights, but unlawful Israeli policies and practices, in violation of those resolutions, were of grave concern. The beginning negotiations for a permanent settlement would include matters that were important and difficult, but also unequivocal in terms of the minimum rights acceptable to the Palestinian side.

The Chairman of the Committee, Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal) urged the parties to those negotiations to stand by their commitments and preserve the integrity of the peace process. Certain actions by the Israeli Government, especially the construction of settlements, could complicate current negotiations and alter the physical character of the thereby predetermining the outcome of the talks. While the steps taken by the parties to the Sharm el-Sheikh had been promising and raised hopes for a relationship between the two peoples, the issues on the table now were complex and highly emotional.

The President of the General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), said he hoped that soon there would be no need to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, except to recall its historical value. The achievement of a common peace in the Middle East, accompanied by social and economic development, would be a fitting tribute to the memories of all those who had died in pursuit of those noble objectives.

Danilo Turk (Slovenia), Security Council President for November, called on the parties to fully implement their existing commitments and to scrupulously abide by their obligations under international law. The Council was determined to keep developments under review and to provide the necessary support to the agreements reached, as well as to their timely and speedy implementation.

A statement was also made by 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.

The representative of South Africa, on behalf of the President of South Africa in his capacity as Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement also spoke.

The representative of Burkina Faso read out a message from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Also, the representative of Algeria delivered a message from the Algerian President, on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the Under-Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs in the League of Arab States read a message from the League's Secretary-General.

Additional statements were made by a representative of the International Network of Non-Governmental Organizations on the question of Palestine; and the head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Messages of support and solidarity, in observance of the occasion, were received from the heads of State of Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Guinea, Afghanistan, Egypt, Ecuador, Qatar, Tunisia, Namibia, Cyprus, Guyana, Viet Nam, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Peru, Poland, Mexico, Philippines and the Russian Federation.

Messages were also sent by the heads of Government of Pakistan, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Malta, India, Lesotho, Bangladesh, Turkey and the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Syria, Japan, Ukraine, Oman, Argentina, Madagascar, Malaysia, Colombia, Morocco and Finland.

The Governments of Uruguay and Zimbabwe also sent messages, as did the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

There were also messages from the Organization of African Unity and Federacion Palestina del Peru.

The Committee Chairman announced that the Palestinian art exhibit presented by the Committee in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine would be opened at 6 p.m. in the Public Lobby of the General Assembly Building. The exhibit, entitled "Follow the Star: Images from the Palestinian City of Bethlehem at the New Millennium", is composed of a collection of paintings by Palestinian artists.

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to hold a solemn meeting in observation of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The General Assembly, in its resolution 32/40 of 2 December 1977 and in subsequent resolutions, called for the annual observance of such a day, in recognition of the need to promote and support the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination, peace and independence.

Statements

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that following a lengthy and disturbing stalemate, Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations had been resumed in recent months. Promising steps had been taken by the parties, as provided for in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. That important document had opened the door for a series of measures on issues of crucial importance.

He said that the issues currently on the table were complex and highly emotional, but they raised justifiable hopes for the future relationship between the two peoples. He hoped that both Israelis and Palestinians would follow the letter and the spirit of the agreements signed to date and would implement them - in full and in good faith - in accordance with the agreed timetables.

As the negotiations on the permanent status issues continued, it was incumbent on the parties to stand by their commitments and thereby preserve the integrity of the peace process, he continued. Therefore, it was regrettable that some actions by the Israeli Government, especially the continuing constructions of settlements, threatened to complicate the current negotiations. Those actions were fundamentally altering the physical character of the area, creating faits accomplis on the ground and shifting the territorial balance in favour of one side. Thus, they were predetermining the outcome of the permanent status talks.

The settlements constituted a form of continued occupation and contravened the basic premises of the Middle East peace process and Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), he said. The future of the holy city of Jerusalem was yet another issue of concern to the international community, particularly in the light of the many illegal actions to completely change the status, demographic composition and physical character of the international holy city.

The United Nations, for its part, would continue to have a permanent responsibility for the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects, he said. In that connection, the Committee had noted the important initiatives taken by the Secretary- General in support of the peace process, in particular the recent appointment of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.

This year's observance of the International Day of Solidarity was unique, because it was taking place on the threshold of the new millennium, he continued. The world would soon celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. That event was of landmark significance not only for the Palestinian people and the region, but also for believers throughout the world. This year, the General Assembly had once again adopted unanimously a resolution on the Bethlehem 2000 Project, reflecting its faithful support for that historic commemoration, which would commence next month and continue until Easter 2001. The Committee called on the international community to spare no effort to ensure the success of the Bethlehem 2000 Project, launched in 1997 by the Palestinian Authority.

In conclusion, he said that all participants in the settlement of the question of Palestine should continue to contribute to the building of a comprehensive just and lasting peace in Middle East. On behalf of the Committee, he reiterated the strong support of its members for that noble goal.

THEO-BEN GURIRAB (Namibia), General Assembly President, said he hoped that one day, sooner rather than later, there would be no need to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people at the United Nations, except to recall it for historical purposes. For the international community, the commemoration had become an occasion to renew its pledge of support for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood, the principles of international law, as well as relevant United Nations resolutions and declarations.

He said the question of Palestine had been a major concern of the Organization for more than fifty years. Regrettably, the General Assembly's resolution on the subject of 29 November 1947 had run into a pre-meditated wall of defiance and "unilateralism", preventing its implementation. In addition, the strategic projections of major Powers had turned the region into a cold war zone of confrontation. It had been a long journey, and finding a just and durable solution to the question, as well as a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, had remained elusive. Five decades later, the problem remained the oldest unresolved issue on the United Nations agenda.

The peace negotiations had been revived, he said. The signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum on 4 September had been a major breakthrough. The international community was gratified that the parties had finally succeeded in breathing new life into the peace process. That had made possible the progress on related matters, including on some of the outstanding technical matters, the release of Palestinian prisoners, the opening of safe- passage routes, as well as an agreement on modalities concerning such issues as a timetable and final status negotiations. The way forward had been set in motion.

Continuing, he said the urgent task of the international community must be to help the parties through that critical period so that the peace process could come to fruition for the benefit of all the peoples in the Middle East. In that respect, a spirit of constructive dialogue, mutual respect and compromise was absolutely crucial for international and regional peace, stability and security. The United Nations would continue to have a direct interest in the peace process until the achievement of a satisfactory settlement based on self-determination, justice and a mutual commitment to good neighbourliness.

Social and economic development must accompany peace in the Middle East, in order for it to take root, he said. Both peace and development, however, needed committed friends and sustained assistance. Both the United Nations family and the international donor community should intensify efforts aimed at providing much needed economic and technical assistance to the Palestinian people, now and in the future. The Committee had done much to keep the question of Palestine very much alive in the General Assembly. In that context, it should be commended and urged to continue its work until the job was done.

He said the achievement of common peace, security, cooperation and development in the region would be a fitting tribute to the memories of all those who had died in pursuit of those noble objectives. It would also be a victory for the United Nations, itself, as it entered the new millennium. Now was the time for freedom, peace, reconciliation and building, he said. Such was the desire of Israel and its neighbours, particularly the Palestinians.

KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary-General, noted that each year, the international community came together to commit itself anew to the goal of finding a solution to the question of Palestine, which lay at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That event was also a reminder of the pressing need to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace there. The observance was taking place today against the backdrop of revitalized negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

He said that since the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum in September there had been a further re-deployment of troops from the West Bank, an agreement on the release of prisoners, the opening of a safe passage corridor between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the resumption of the permanent status negotiations. The parties had also recently agreed in Oslo to set up additional negotiating mechanisms and a timetable for the framework and final settlement agreements. He commended the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, for their "courage and wisdom" in pursuing peace and reconciliation. Their efforts had restored the hopes that peace, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) would finally come to the region.

Regrettably, he said, difficulties on the ground continued to pose obstacles to progress. As such, he called on the parties to guard the "fragile accomplishments" of the peace process, to press forward and, above all, to refrain from any actions that might prejudice the outcome of the delicate permanent status negotiations. Despite remaining important differences, everyone agreed that peace was much more likely to blossom in an atmosphere of improved economic and social conditions. Thus, United Nations agencies, such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would remain deeply involved in providing humanitarian aid, health care and education and in fostering agricultural, industrial and commercial development.

Continuing, he congratulated the UNRWA on its fiftieth anniversary. That agency had remained a vital lifeline to refugees. He urged the donor community to do all it could to end the Agency's chronic financial constraints and ensure that its dedicated staff had the necessary resources and tools to carry out their vital work. The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories was another expression of the keen interest taken by the United Nations in the situation. Terje Rod-Larsen of Norway, the recently appointed Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Secretary-General's Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, would do his utmost to enhance United Nations assistance to the Palestinian people and to ensure the Organization's effective support of the peace process.

The peace process had now entered a phase that was at once its "most promising and most difficult", he said. The continued support of the international community, including governments, donor countries and institutions, and civil society had remained crucial. The Committee had provided unwavering support for the Palestinian people throughout their many decades of suffering. The United Nations family, likewise, had remained strongly committed. On the twentieth century's last International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, he dared to hope that one of the new century's earliest achievements would be the long-awaited moment when peace and prosperity could be fully enjoyed by all the peoples of the Middle East.

DANILO TURK (Slovenia), President of the Security Council for the month of November, said that today's event demonstrated the solidarity of the international community with the Palestinian people and its enduring commitment to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

He said that the annual observance of the Day was not just a symbolic act of solidarity, but also a reflection of the importance attached to attainment of the long- awaited solution to the question of Palestine, which had preoccupied the international community for over fifty years. Such a solution remained a key element in the overall endeavour to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

For decades, the Security Council had been engaged in the various aspects of the question of Palestine and in efforts aimed at achieving a peaceful settlement in the Middle East, he continued. The current peace process, launched at Madrid in 1991, had as its basis Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). The signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum was an important step forward in the Middle East peace process. The Members of the Council had expressed their belief that the new agreement opened the way for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace within a reasonable time frame in the entire region, based on all relevant Security Council resolutions.

The Council had condemned vigorously all acts of terrorism and violence in the region, he said. It had called on all parties to implement in full their commitments under existing agreements and to abide scrupulously by their obligations under international law. The Members of the Security Council were determined to keep developments under review and to provide the necessary backing, giving full support to the agreements reached, as well as to the timely and speedy implementation of those agreements.

As the Palestinian people were going through a difficult period of transition, they needed considerable economic assistance in many areas, he continued. In that regard, the Council was grateful to all those organizations and entities within the United Nations, as well as the international donor community that continued to provide the invaluable economic assistance to the Palestinian people. To succeed, that undertaking should be focused, well-coordinated and sustained.

Reading out a message from Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, NASSER AL-KIDWA, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said that the United Nations bore enduring responsibility for the Palestinian issue, in legal, political and moral terms, until all of its aspects were truly resolved.

Over the years, the United Nations had, in fact, upheld the rights of his people and had adopted a large number of resolutions based on its Charter, public international law and international humanitarian law, he continued. Even if those resolutions had yet to be honoured in view of the refusal and intransigence of Israel, the occupying Power, they nevertheless continued to serve as a basic safety net for the rights of the Palestinian people. They also constituted a foundation for the achievement of justice and peace.

Recently, with the help of many Arab and international actors, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum had been signed in Egypt, he continued. Its implementation had started in a sensible manner, which, he hoped, would move the peace process forward. However, he remained extremely concerned by the many unlawful Israeli policies and practices that were being maintained in violation of the relevant United Nations resolutions. Among the actions undermining the peace process were the settlement activities and the expropriation of land and illegal transfer of Israeli civilians into the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and areas around and just outside Bethlehem.

The beginning negotiations on a permanent settlement would include matters that were important and difficult, but also unequivocal in terms of the minimum rights acceptable to the Palestinian side, he said. They included the rights with respect to East Jerusalem as part of the territories occupied in 1967 and as the capital of the Palestinian State; the right of the Palestine refugees to return or to receive compensation in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194 (III); and the right to the territory occupied in 1967 with the requirement that Israel should withdraw completely from there.

Palestine needed the support and assistance of the international community to arrive at a definite solution by the agreed time in September 2000, he said. On the threshold of the celebration marking the beginning of the third millennium from the birth of Jesus Christ in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, he was confident that the suffering of the Palestinian people was drawing to a close. I trust in your continued support and assistance to us for the achievement of our rights, and I am confident that Palestine will participate in the forthcoming Millennium Summit of the United Nations as a Member State", he said.

JOHN DE SARAM (Sri Lanka), 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 the Special Committee was obligated to inform the General Assembly on whether the conditions affecting human rights in the occupied territories were in conformity with international standards and the requirements of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war. As he had repeatedly reported, an elaborate system of laws, regulations and administrative measures had curtailed all aspects of the lives of the people in the occupied territories and had substantially infringed on their human rights.

He said he had been encouraged to learn of some meetings between young Palestinians and Israelis, demonstrating an apparent willingness of the younger generation to communicate with each other and bridge the divide. Other encouraging developments had been the decision, a few months ago, by the Supreme Court of Israel to prohibit certain extreme coercive methods of interrogations; the easing, a few weeks ago, of residency restrictions on Palestinians in East Jerusalem; and the recent opening of access between Gaza and the West Bank.

Today was an appropriate day to reaffirm the commitment of the Special Committee to ensure its continuation as an impartial voice, he said. It was the profound hope of the Committee that the peace process would soon conclude satisfactorily through the bilateral negotiations embarked upon by the two parties. On the eve of the new millennium, the Committee had also sought the achievement of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace - long awaited by all the peoples of the region. That achievement would resolve the many political, economic, social and human difficulties that had troubled the lives of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories for too long.

DUMISANA SHADRACK KUMALO (South Africa) delivered a message from the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. He said that more than 50 years after the United Nations had voted to accord the Palestinian people a national homeland, that dream remained unfulfilled. He expressed his unflagging support for the continued efforts of the Palestinian people to achieve their inalienable rights, including the right to liberty, self-determination and statehood on their own land.

He said that committed peaceful negotiations were the only means of ending conflict and bringing peace and security to Palestine, Israel and the rest of the region. Peace was possible only through the commitment of both parties to all the agreements reached so far. There was no alternative to the formula for exchanging land for peace, thereby affording the Palestinian people their own national territory.

Despite the new developments, Palestinians continued to suffer humiliation and economic hardship, he continued. Many still lived in exile as refugees and as yet had seen no definitive end to their misery. Fortunately, the peace process had been resuscitated, and the final status negotiations had added a new momentum to the process. Since the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum and the recent Oslo Summit, there had been a renewed positive spirit in the quest for peace. The resumption of negotiations would provide fresh hope to the Palestinian people.

South Africa and the world stood by the Palestinian people in their rightful quest for freedom and statehood on land that was theirs alone to govern, he continued. He called upon the international community to remain steadfast in its commitment and support for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and the realization of the legitimate rights of all Palestinians. The people of Palestine and the whole region needed support for their efforts to put an end to a conflict that had plagued the world for so many decades. The Movement reaffirmed its traditional and long-standing solidarity with the Palestinian people and its support for the implementation of all United Nations resolutions on the question of Palestine.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso), spoke on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Burkino Faso, Youssouf Ouedraogo, in his capacity as President of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Hopefully, the new era would be one of peace and fraternity in Palestine and throughout the Middle East. The entire world was celebrating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, who, for the last half century, had courageously pursued their legitimate struggle to the right to life -- the right to exist. The international community had concentrated increasingly on the quest for a just and lasting solution.

He said he was pleased at the willingness shown by the parties concerned to pursue negotiations on the basis of the Wye Plantation Agreements and the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. Those agreements had paved the way to peace and reconciliation. For its part, the Islamic Conference would reaffirm its full solidarity towards the achievement of such noble objectives. Hopefully, the impetus underlying cooperation between the Palestinians and the Israelis would be strengthened to enable the dawn of 2000 to be a time of lasting peace. The Middle East should set the example of peace for the new millennium and inspire an end to conflict around the world.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria), delivered a message from Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria, on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). He expressed his warmest congratulations to the Palestinian people on the occasion of today's commemoration and said that, to this day, that people had been deprived of their right to live in peace on their own land. The peoples of Africa had constantly given their support to the struggle of the Palestinian people. The ideals of freedom, justice and peace pursued by the peoples of Africa led them to perceive the struggle of the Palestinian people as a legitimate struggle for self-determination and implementation of their inalienable rights.

Recently, the Heads of Government and State of Africa had once again reaffirmed their support to the Palestine people and their right to exercise their inalienable rights under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, he continued. On this solemn commemorative day, the OAU made an urgent appeal to the entire international community and in particular to the co-sponsors of the peace process to redouble their assistance to the Palestinian people.

For its part, the United Nations must continue to honour its commitments to the Palestinian people and to restore justice in accordance with the relevant resolutions and the norms of international law, he said. The Palestinian Rights Committee had an important role to play in promoting the rights of the Palestinian people, as well as other peoples of the world.

SAID KAMAL, Under-Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs in the League of Arab States, spoke on behalf of Ahmed Esmat Abel Meguid, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. The commemoration, he said, was an opportunity for the League to express its appreciation to the United Nations, especially to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which had represented the distinct framework for the follow-up to the question of Palestine.

Upon the observance last year of the International Day, he said the unanimous view had emerged that the peace process was facing a grave dilemma because of the policies of the previous Israeli Government. Today, the situation was still characterized by the same degree of "ambiguity and uncertainty". The assumption of power by Prime Minister Ehud Barak had been accompanied by a climate of optimism that the new administration would overcome the mistakes of its predecessor and return to the correct track of the peace process. Numerous positions taken by Mr. Barak, however, had cast doubts on that optimism.

He noted, for example, Mr. Barak's refusal to withdraw from the occupied territories to the borders existing in 1967, as well as his encouragement of Israeli settlement and the continued deprivation of the Palestinian people from exercising their sovereignty over land, resources and borders. He said such actions had cast doubt on applicability of Security Council resolution 242 (1967). The opening of negotiations and the resulting Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum had simply re-framed existing agreements.

The situation was no better for the Lebanese and Syrian tracks, he said. A stalemate had prevailed and the current Israeli administration, similar to its last one, had continued its acts of aggression in occupied South Lebanon, showing that Israel had not opted for peace but still considered Palestinian territories to be contested. Such Israel practices and ideas "robs the peace process of its essence and undermines its very foundations", he said. Those also threatened, sooner or later, to return the region to its spiral of violence. The responsibility for peace fell foremost on the United Nations and the co-sponsors of the peace process.

He said the League, for its part, would launch a strong warning against Israeli attempts to promote the impression that things were progressing smoothly. The League was concerned and surprised at such attempts. General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947, which had bestowed legitimacy on Israel, had also conferred that recognition on Palestine, thus, it was still the optimum framework. The League, in cooperation with the United Nations system and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), had supported the construction and development of Palestine. In the next phase, it would launch a wide-ranging technical programme for Palestinian occupational training, in conjunction with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

If the Palestinian question was the heart of the Middle East problem, achieving a just solution was a necessary element for regional security and stability, he said. Another source of regional turmoil was the situation in Iraq and the ramifications of the second Gulf War. There had been no reason for the continued sanctions against Iraq since its withdrawal from Kuwait, and lifting them would conform with the Security Council members' own political, economic and security interests. It was high time for Iraq to be free and stable once again and play its usual role, on equal footing, in the Arab system towards building regional peace, security and stability.

Continuing, he said the League would urge the two sides in the peace process to proceed on the basis of United Nations resolutions, and in a spirit of integrity and impartiality. The support of the European Union for the peace process and the Palestinian economy had been laudable. Difficulties would persist as long as the United States did not transform itself from a traditional strategic ally of Israel to a more neutral party to the conflict. The League was concerned at the pressures exerted by some lobbyists in support of Israel and the flagrant bias of the American media.

DON BETZ, speaking on behalf of the International Network of Non-Governmental Organizations on the question of Palestine, said that thousands of NGOs from every continent made daily efforts to tell the story of the Palestinian people to the public, the media and elected officials. They were united by their firm belief that peace would be achieved only when justice was secured. Non-governmental organizations had been working in close cooperation with the United Nations, governments and intergovernmental agencies. They often served as humanity's eyes and ears, voicing the truth and sometimes cutting through obfuscation, mythology and mendacity. They often said what others were unable or unwilling to articulate.

A serious challenge today was apathy in the face of frequent new reports about the status of the peace process, he said. The Palestinian people continued to need the support of the international community -- governmental and non-governmental, public and private - in their struggle to achieve human rights and self-determination.

Last week, representatives of NGOs from different parts of the world had met at United Nations Headquarters at the invitation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people. They had reaffirmed the minimum requirements for a comprehensive and lasting peace, which included the Israeli withdrawal to the borders of 4 June 1967, the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, the establishment of an independent State of Palestine, the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes and the release of all Palestinian political prisoners from Israeli jails. All those principles were enshrined in various United Nations resolutions and in the Fourth Geneva Convention.

During the meeting, all the NGOs had expressed their deep concern over the position of the Israeli Government and the statements known as Mr. Barak's four "No's" rejecting the minimum requirements stated above. That policy could not lead to the establishment of an independent, sovereign and viable State that guaranteed the minimum national and political rights of the Palestinian people. Therefore, he called on all the Member States, especially the United States, to assume their legal and moral responsibilities and ensure the full implementation of all relevant United Nations resolutions related to the question of Palestine.

FAROUK KADDOUMI, Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the international show of unanimity concerning the Palestinian cause had represented the overwhelming desire of the international community to establish peace through supporting the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent State on their own soil. The peace process should serve those objectives and ensure the return of the Palestinian people to their homeland.

He said the United Nations had remained the "sole custodian" of peace, security and solidarity in the world, by protecting the right to self-determination and an end to colonialization and occupation. As the protector of human rights, the United Nations had sought to free mankind from hegemony and domination. Continuing support for the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people would strengthen their hopes for a just and lasting solution. In particular, the commitment of the United Nations and the international community towards that goal and the return of refugees to their homeland would provide an indispensable basis for regional peace.



* *** *


______________________________________________________________________
For information media - not an official record