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I should be grateful if you would have the present letter and its annex circulated as a document of the Security Council.
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
On 17 May, the Permanent Representative of Yemen, on behalf of the Group of Arab States, requested an immediate meeting of the Security Council to consider the grave and ongoing violations of international law in the Rafah area (S/2004/393). Reacting to the request, the Council held informal consultations on 18 May, during which Algeria, on behalf of the Arab Group, tabled a draft resolution for the Council’s consideration. Introducing the draft, Algeria informed the Council about the unfolding tragedy of large-scale demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah in the Gaza area. Most Council members supported the draft resolution, while terming the demolitions “unacceptable”. One delegation, while stating that it opposed demolition of houses in principle, emphasized the need to balance the text. It proposed amendments to the draft resolution and desired to discuss them with the sponsors so as to agree on a consensual text. The text evolved in subsequent discussions among the interested parties as well as in further informal consultations on 19 May.
Following protracted negotiations, the draft resolution was adopted on 19 May, as resolution 1544 (2004), by 14 votes in favour, with 1 abstention. The Secretary-General, who had earlier condemned the home demolitions, was present during the adoption of the resolution, in which the Council called on Israel to respect its legal obligations, expressed grave concern regarding the humanitarian situation of Palestinians made homeless in the Rafah area, called for cessation of violence, and called on both parties to immediately implement their obligations under the road map. Several members made statements in explanation of vote after the adoption. The Permanent Observer of Palestine and the Representative of Israel also made statements.
At an open meeting on 21 May, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, gave the monthly briefing on the situation in the Middle East. He noted that since the Secretariat’s last briefing the situation had been characterized by growing violence, destruction and despair. He emphasized two points from the text of resolution 1544 (2004), namely, the need for the Government of Israel to ensure that it stayed within the parameters of international law in defending its citizens; and the need for both parties immediately to implement their obligations under the road map.
The Under-Secretary-General informed the Council that the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory was at a very low point, with visible signs of donor fatigue and a severe shortage of finances for humanitarian assistance efforts. Elsewhere in the region, along the Blue Line, violations had threatened to disrupt a precarious stability. He reiterated various elements of the Quartet’s statement issued on 4 May expressing the commitment of the Quartet principals to finding a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He further stated that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had reported that more than 18,000 people, in total, had lost their homes in Gaza since the outbreak of the uprising in September 2000. The Agency estimated that it would cost $32 million to rehouse them. To date, UNRWA had managed to rehouse only 1,000 homeless people.
As for the situation along the Blue Line, the Under-Secretary-General informed the Council that, after an Israeli incursion into Lebanon across the Blue Line on 5 May and ensuing anti-aircraft fire by Hezbollah, the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Southern Lebanon, Steffan de Mistura, had publicly urged both sides to exercise restraint amid a background of high regional tension. Further, the Secretary-General, on 7 May, expressed his great concern about the escalations and strongly urged the parties to exercise restraint.
Following the open briefing, the Council held informal consultations. The Council members generally supported immediate actions by the parties to the conflict under the road map in order to bring permanent peace in the region. The persistent violations of international law in the occupied territories were strongly condemned. While noting Israel’s “disengagement plan”, the members generally called for its implementation in accordance with the road map. Some members acknowledged the right of States to self-defence but stressed the exercise of that right within the bounds of international law.