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


GA/9370
3 December 1997

Fifty-second General Assembly
Plenary
60th Meeting (AM)


ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS WOULD BOTH BENEFIT FROM SETTLEMENT
OF MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT, GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOLD


'Non-Zero-Sum' Approach Should be Applied to Palestinian,
Lebanese, Syrian Tracks of Peace Process, Republic of Korea Says


Rather than engage in polemics over which side was to blame for the deadlock in the peace process, it would be more fruitful to ask the Israelis and Palestinians whether the current situation was what they really wanted, the representative of the Republic of Korea told the General Assembly this morning, as it considered the situation in the Middle East.

If it was not, they should discuss all remaining issues -- including Israeli redeployment, an airport in Gaza, safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and the question of settlements, he said. Both sides would gain from a resolution of the situation. The idea of a non-zero-sum game should also be applied to the Israel-Lebanon and Israel-Syria tracks, he added.

The representative of Israel said that Governments in the Middle East must ask themselves whether they wanted economic growth and entry into the information age, or whether they wanted European investors to skip over their part of the world because it was seen as unstable and dangerous. Security was not a reward, but a necessary condition for progress. Peace held out the promise of regional cooperation, which was a win-win proposition that ensured economic and social progress for all.

The representative of Egypt said that restoration of the occupied territories was not a prize to be given to the Arabs by Israel. When his country's land was returned by negotiations, it was without settlements, although there had been some in Sinai at the time. That represented a precedent for peace between Israel and the Arabs, he said.

The representative of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said they opposed the development of settlements in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, and supported cooperation on security and the fight against terrorism. The Union would act to facilitate the resumption of talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. He said that economic and social progress, along with substantial improvement of the plight of the people in the region, were essential to the peace process.

Statements were also made by Indonesia, Kuwait, Turkey, Brunei Darussalam, Ukraine, Senegal, Malaysia, Belarus, Argentina, Ghana, Cuba, Yemen and Japan.

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The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its consideration of the situation in the Middle East and to take action on draft resolutions concerning the question on Palestine.


Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to elect a new Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and to begin its consideration of the situation in the Middle East.

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A report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Middle East (document A/52/467) is issued pursuant to two resolutions adopted by the Assembly on 4 December 1996. By resolution 51/27, the Assembly called once more on States which had transferred their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem, in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980), to abide by the provisions of the relevant United Nations resolutions. By resolution 51/28, it again demanded that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan in implementation of the relevant Council resolutions.

The Secretary-General states that to fulfil his reporting responsibility under those resolutions, he addressed notes verbales on 9 September to the Permanent Representative of Israel and of other Member States, asking them to inform him of any steps their Governments had taken or envisaged taking to implement those texts. As at 15 October, six replies have been received and are reproduced with the report. They are from Bangladesh, Colombia, Finland, Guyana, Japan and the Russian Federation.

The Assembly also had before it a report by the Secretary-General on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East (document A/52/581). (For background on that report, see Press Release GA/9366 of 1 December.)

The Assembly also had before it draft resolutions on Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan, and the Middle East peace process.

By the text on Jerusalem (document A/52/L.54), the Assembly would determine that the decision of Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem is illegal and therefore null and void and that it has no validity whatsoever. It would 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 its provisions. It would once more call on those States to abide by the relevant United Nations resolutions, and would ask the Secretary-General to report on implementation of the current text.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

By the draft resolution on the Syrian Golan (document A/52/L.55), the Assembly would demand once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967, in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions. It would declare that the Israeli decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void and has no validity whatsoever, and would call upon Israel to rescind that decision.

The Assembly would call on Israel to resume the talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to respect the commitments and undertakings reached during the previous talks. It would call on all the parties concerned, the co-sponsors of the peace process and the entire international community to exert all the necessary efforts to ensure the resumption of the peace process and its success.

Further, the Assembly would 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. It would reaffirm that the relevant provisions of the 1907 Hague Convention and the 1949 Geneva Convention continue to apply to the occupied Syrian territory and would call on the parties to those instruments to respect their obligations under them. The Secretary-General would be asked to report on implementation of the current text.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

By the draft resolution on the Middle East peace process (document A/52/L.62), the Assembly would stress the need to surmount the difficulties facing the peace process and to achieve rapid progress on all tracks of the Arab-Israeli negotiations. It would urge all parties to fulfil their obligations in good faith and implement the agreements already reached without delay.

The Assembly would call on the parties concerned to refrain from unilateral any actions which would pre-empt the outcome of negotiations. It would call for increased efforts to bring the peace process back on track and for the acceleration of those negotiations on the agreed basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). It would also call on Member States to extend economic, financial and technical assistance to parties in the region and to support the peace process.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States.

Also before the Assembly is a set of proposed amendments to the draft resolution on the Middle East peace process (document A/52/L.62). In its third preambular paragraph, the Assembly would also recall Security Council resolution 425 (1978) -- in addition to resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) -- as a basis for the convening of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. In operative paragraph 4, which urges the parties to fulfil their obligations in good faith, the phrase "contractual obligations" would be used.

In operative paragraph 5, which calls on the parties to refrain from unilateral actions which might pre-empt the outcome of negotiations, it would specifically refer to actions "on the ground". In operative paragraph 6, the reference to the agreed basis for negotiations embodied in resolutions 242 and 338, it would specify "including the principle of land for peace".

The proposed amendments are sponsored by Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

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Statements on Middle East Situation

JEAN-LOUIS WOLZFELD (Luxembourg) for the European Union and associated central and eastern European countries, as well as Cyprus and Iceland, said the Madrid conference and the Oslo process had opened the way to a mutual recognition between Israel and its neighbours, and to negotiated peace in the whole region. The absence of progress in the negotiations, the lack of implementation of the agreements reached and the upsurge of acts of violence against civilian populations had compromised the confidence which the peoples of the region had in the peace process.

He said the European Union called on all parties to honour the obligations and agreements which they had contracted at Madrid and Oslo, to fully implement the Israeli-Palestinian agreements already concluded and to reject any unilateral initiative which could delay or hinder the peace process. The Union reiterated its opposition to the development of settlements in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, and its support for cooperation in the field of security and in the fight against terrorism. It reaffirmed its position that East Jerusalem was subject to the principles set out in Security Council resolution 242 (1967), which affirmed in particular the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force.

He said the Union would continue to support the resumption of the negotiations between Israel and Syria, as well as the opening of negotiations between Israel and Lebanon. It had repeatedly asked for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon, and had advocated cooperation with United Nations forces there. The Union also wanted to confirm its support for the multilateral part of the peace process; it would take an active part in the regional working groups for economic development, and in other multilateral groups. The European Union, he added, intended to facilitate the resumption of talks between Israel and Palestine by contributing to the adoption of a code of good conduct between both parties, as well as to the adoption of measures of confidence. Economic and social progress in the region, as well as a substantial improvement of the plight of the people, constituted an essential part in the peace process. The foundations of peace were well known and had been established in resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) of the Council.

DORE GOLD (Israel) said the current Middle East peace process had its roots in a number of developments, including the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of global super-Power competition; the defeat of Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait, which proved that the main threat to many Arab States came not from Israel but from militarily strong "anti-status quo" regional powers, and the fact that Iran had not begun to assert itself as a regional power after its eight-year war with Iraq.

Today that situation had changed, he said. The consensus against the "anti-status quo" powers was shaken, Iran's "long arm of subversion" stretched across the region. Iran's total rejection of Israel, and revolutionary adventurism made its military build-up troubling. Its regional activism and "quest for weapons of strategic reach" should be of concern for all States interested in Middle East stability and security.

He said Israel was determined to move forward with the peace process, he said. Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the idea that Islam had replaced communism as the new enemy of the West. Israel was working with the Palestinians to implement the Interim Agreement, and proposed further redeployment, but it expected the Palestinian Authority to do its utmost to combat terrorism. Security cooperation was not a reward, but a necessary condition for progress. Peace held out the promise of regional cooperation, but that cooperation was not a prize that could be awarded or withheld from Israel. Regional cooperation was of benefit to all. It was a "win-win" issue that ensured economic and social progress.

Governments in the Middle East must ask themselves whether they wanted economic growth and entry into the information age, or whether they wanted investors from Europe to "skip over" their part of the world because they viewed it as unstable and dangerous.

He said the draft resolution on the Golan Heights prejudged issues that had to be negotiated. It was irrelevant and harmed the cause of peace. Israel was willing to listen to the Syrian point of view, but the Golan Heights were a vital security interest to Israel. In the past, it had been a staging ground for Syrian attacks against Israel and Syria still had large troop concentrations there, representing an enormous quantitative advantage over Israel. Syria must return to the negotiating table. Such a
step, more than any General Assembly resolution, would ensure peace.

He said a draft resolution on Jerusalem, presented yearly under the agenda item entitled "The Situation in the Middle East", dealt with "the centre of our (Israeli) aspirations". As the unified capital of Israel, he said, the city would remain open to all faiths -- "to practise in complete freedom with no fear".

Forces seeking to destabilize the Middle East were more active in 1997 than in 1991, he added, but they were often overlooked in today's discussion. Unless the threats to world peace coming from the Middle East were identified and addressed, they would undermine the well-being of nations around the world. Israel was on the side of peace and progress in the Middle East.

SITJIPTOHARDJO DONOKUSUMO (Indonesia) said the situation in the Middle East continued to be fraught with tension and posed a threat to international peace and security. The persistence of that state of affairs could be ascribed to the untenable policies and actions pursued by the Israeli Government, in contradiction to the principles governing the peace process as they related to its negotiations with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians. On 13 November, the resumed emergency special session of the General Assembly once again overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning the failure of the Israeli Government to cease the building of a new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim/Har Homa to the south of East Jerusalem. A few days ago, the Assembly clearly expressed its views on that Government's continued evasion of commitments and agreements reached, as well as its blatant unilateral measures to impose faits accomplis in the occupied Palestinian territory. Those policies and practices had led to frustration and despair among the Palestinian people and had resulted in the present setback to the peace process.

The Israeli Government had displayed the same manifest lack of commitment to the peace process with respect to the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of negotiations, he said. The sovereign territory of Lebanon remained under the illegal military occupation of Israel. It was essential that Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity be restored and respected. With regard to the Israeli-Syrian track of negotiations, Indonesia could not accept the attempts by the Israeli Government to reinterpret and step back from the principle of land for peace. Negotiations should resume from the point where they were halted and the two parties should commit themselves to what had already been achieved. A comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Middle East conflict must entail the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978).

BADER MOHAMMAD E. AL-AWDI (Kuwait) said conflict and an arms race in the Middle East had obstructed development and destroyed a sense of security; peace was a distant dream. The people of the region lived in concern because of the deterioration of the peace process resulting from the policies of the Israeli Government.

Kuwait had welcomed the peace process and the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians between 1993 and 1995, and the agreement with Jordan in 1994, and had called for progress on Lebanon and Syria as well as for Israel's compliance with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the "land-for-peace" principle. The process was threatened by the failure to implement agreements with the Palestinians and to redeploy, and by the pursuit of policies like border closures and collective punishment, and the settlement activity in East Jerusalem with a view to changing its demographic composition.

He said Kuwait supported the holding of a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Geneva Convention to discuss settlement policies. The co-sponsors of the peace process must make more efforts, and Kuwait welcomed those undertaken by Ms. Albright of the United States and the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation.

Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights would prove its good faith and its desire to reach a just and lasting peace, he added. Kuwait supported Syria's call for a resumption of talks on the issue where they had broken off. It also favoured Lebanon's position on Security Council resolution 425 (1978) which called for Israeli withdrawal from its territory. The time had come for Lebanon to be able to consolidate its peace, development and progress. The Arabs had opted for peace but Israel was destroying those hopes. Israel must observe the rights of others, show goodwill and avoid provocations; peace deserved patience because it would bring stability and development.

HUSEYIN E. CELEM (Turkey) said Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories, in defiance of relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, continued to keep the peace process hostage. Bilateral negotiations would prove to be the only peaceful way out of the present crisis. Israel could not expect its partner in the peace process to go on negotiating, while at the same time observing Israeli construction activities on the very land that was the principal object of negotiations. For those negotiations to be conducted in a favourable atmosphere and in good faith, all the settlement activities in the occupied territories, starting first and foremost with the Jabal Abu Ghneim project, should cease.

At the same time, he went on, no one should doubt that terrorism was a fundamental threat to peace. All countries should do everything in their power, at bilateral, regional and international levels, to support and contribute to the struggle against terrorism.

Turkey was concerned about the economic and social situation in the region. Improving living conditions for the Palestinian people, both within and outside the occupied territories, was a significant goal. In that regard, Israel's closure policies were particularly harmful. In the present circumstances, tangible support of the international community in the form of economic, financial and technical assistance to the Palestinian people was of paramount importance.

He said Turkey supported all settlement initiatives based on United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). On Lebanon, he stressed the significance of strict implementation of the Taif Agreement by all parties concerned, and the need for full implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978). A lasting, just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East could be based only on the rights of all States in the region, including Israel, to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders.

PENGIRAN BASMILLAH ABBAS (Brunei Darussalam) said there would be no peace in the Middle East without the return of the occupied territories - namely, the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon. Events during the year had caused a tremendous setback to the momentum of the peace process. Israel had not been forthcoming in implementing the peace agreements reached in Madrid in 1991 and in Oslo in 1993. Its decision to establish and expand existing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories was against the spirit of those agreements and was having a serious effect on the cultural characteristics and demographic composition of those areas, including East Jerusalem.

Mutual trust was vital for peaceful coexistence, he said. Israel should contribute positively to peace in the Middle East and comply fully with relevant Security Council resolutions. The right of the Palestinians to their homeland should be upheld and their suffering ended. Repeated delays in the peace process should not be allowed, and the agreements must be fully implemented. She called on the international community to provide renewed impetus and encourage progress in the peace process.

YURIY BOHAIEVS'KY (Ukraine) said the parties in the Middle East conflict had to overcome the current crises of animosity and reach a breakthrough. That was only achievable by honouring the terms of the Madrid Conference and the Oslo agreement, and should be conducted in full accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. Closer cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in combating terrorism, while implementing the Oslo and Hebron agreements, would help promote their final status talks. A just and comprehensive peace would remain elusive unless supported by adequate measures in the area of disarmament, particularly the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction accumulated in the region. That was why every year, Ukraine joined the consensus in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) on the draft resolution concerning the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region.

With regard to Israeli-Jordanian relations, Ukraine welcomed the signing by the two countries of the Treaty of Peace in 1994, which paved the way for establishing a cease-fire, the mutually agreed international borders, full diplomatic relations, economic cooperation, combating terrorism, and the special role of Jordan in looking after the Muslim relics in Jerusalem, he said. The Israeli-Syrian and the Israeli-Lebanese negotiating tracks were also indispensable to a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East problem.

He said his country was satisfied with the reports about the easing of tensions in the recent crisis between the Iraqi leadership and the United Nations Special Commission set up to monitor the disposal of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Only unconditional implementation by Iraq of all relevant Security Council resolutions could lead eventually to the lifting of sanctions. However, the international community should not disregard the critical humanitarian situation in Iraq which resulted from them. Ukraine welcomed the Secretary-General's recent recommendations to the Council on the oil-for-food programme. Those humanitarian flows should be delivered to people in need, under United Nations monitoring.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) said the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference had raised the hopes of the international community. However, Israel's illegal settlement activities in the Arab lands of Palestine and East Jerusalem, along with its border closings, stifling of the Palestinian economy and provocative actions by armed settlers heightened frustration and bred distrust. A rendezvous with history had been missed.

The construction of a new Jewish settlement on Arab soil at the highly symbolic site of Jabal Abu Ghneim was a deliberate provocation, he said. Israel must implement all the relevant General Assembly resolutions to ease the situation and show its commitment to peace. Peace could only be based on international legality, the relevant United Nations resolutions, and the basic principles established by the Madrid, Oslo and Taba accords -- including land for peace and the Palestinians' right to self-determination. The land for peace principle must also be applied to Israel's negotiations with Syria and Lebanon. The co-sponsors of the peace process must take new initiatives to save peace in the Middle East.

HASMY BIN AGAM (Malaysia) said the Israeli Government's unilateral decision to establish a new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem had injected a new and highly contentious element in the precarious peace process. Along with other patently discriminatory and punitive policies by the Israeli Government in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, the settlements policy had led to the virtual derailment of the peace process. Even as the international community focused on efforts to put the Palestinian-Israeli peace process back on track, there was a need to place similar importance on the Lebanese-Israeli and the Syrian-Israeli tracks, which were integral parts of the overall peace process.

The continued occupation of southern Lebanon by Israel constituted one of the main stumbling blocks to a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East issue. Israel's repeated justification of its military presence there was clearly unacceptable and would only ensure continued hostility between Israel and Lebanon, rather than improve the prospects for peace. The Israeli Government ought to have realized by now that its long-term peace and security could best be guaranteed not by maintaining a military garrison on Lebanese soil, but by building a cooperative and constructive relationship with its neighbour based on mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said the understanding reached between President Assad of Syria and the late Israeli Prime Minister Rabin in June 1995 represented an historic breakthrough in the peace process between Syria and Israel, that turned awry following the assassination of that Israeli Prime Minister and the subsequent hard-line approach of the Likud Government. It was hoped that serious contacts between the Syrian and Israeli sides would be resumed at an early date, so as to bring about the resumption of a full and constructive dialogue between them. Only through resumption of such dialogue would there be prospects for a final political settlement of the dispute between them. Also, the permanent settlement between Syria and Israel must include the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the occupied Golan Heights and its return to Syria, consistent with Security Council resolution 497 (1981).

ALEG LAPTSENAK (Belarus) said the ongoing deadlock in the peace process was a matter of concern. The recent signing of a protocol between the Israelis and Palestinians, the creation of eight bilateral subcommittees to discuss problems, and the release of Palestinian detainees gave rise to hopes that had not been realized, owing to the activities of extremist groups and to Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem. The parties must refrain from unilateral measures and do their utmost to resume dialogue and make progress until a complete settlement was obtained. Israel should refrain from unilateral actions aimed at pre-empting the outcome of those talks, and the Palestinian Authority must do everything in its power to fight terrorism. That, together with the opening of air and seaports in Gaza, safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, redeployment of Israeli forces, and close cooperation on security, would restore trust. Belarus condemned terrorism, which could not be used to promote any goal whatsoever.

The sharp drop in Palestinian living standards as a result of the current deadlock was also a matter of concern, he said. A further downturn would make peace unattainable. Donors must redouble efforts to ease the situation as soon as possible. Peace was impossible without progress between Israel and Lebanon and between Israel and Syria on the basis of land for peace. The complete restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity, based on Security Council resolution 425, was necessary. Belarus was committed to the principle of land for peace, with full respect for the right of all States in the region to live within secure, internationally recognized borders.

FERNANDO PETRELLA (Argentina) spoke of "a vicious cycle of frustration" in the Middle East peace process in the past year. He urged parties to renew their commitments to peace. He hoped the upcoming meetings of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Yasser Arafat would give positive impetus to the peace process.

Argentina urged the parties to implement their previous commitments. The building of new settlements in the occupied territories, especially East Jerusalem, had obstructed the peace process. Settlements also predetermined the results of the negotiations, he said, and Israel should reconsider those measures. He said he condemned all acts of violence on Israeli territory, which endangered the entire peace process. Israel had a right to a state of peace within its boundaries.

It was essential, he went on, to recreate a climate of trust between the parties, and to avoid extreme positions. Bilateral negotiations were the driving force in the peace process but the role of the United Nations should not be excluded. The Organization had a special responsibility to the people of Palestine. It was essential to reconvene peace talks between Israel and Syria, suspended since February 1996, and it was also important not to forget the grave situation in southern Lebanon.

JACK WILMOT (Ghana) said his Government was gravely concerned that further implementation of the interim self-government arrangements freely entered into by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had virtually ceased. The present Israeli Government had embarked on a systematic confiscation of Arab-owned land, expansion of settlements and construction of by-pass roads and quarries. The most serious development was the decision to build 6,500 Jewish housing units in Jabal Abu Ghneim. That project, intended to complete the ring of Israeli settlements encircling Arab-populated East Jerusalem, had brought the peace process to a halt.

He said the Assembly should reaffirm the inadmissibility, under international law and the United Nations Charter, of the acquisition of territory by force. It should also reiterate that all illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian Territory, especially settlement activities, could not be recognized, irrespective of the passage of time. Israel must implement measures which safeguarded the basic human rights of Palestinians and Arabs living in the occupied territories.

Ghana, he added, deplored all acts of terrorism and was relieved at the renewal of security contacts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. However, actions that frustrated an already depressed and deprived people were likely to provoke unnecessary tensions and instigate violence by extremists.

PEDRO NUNEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said the people of Palestine and all occupied Arab territories were more than ever confronting a crucial moment in their history. The genuine efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region continued to be subjected to grave and hostile incidents provoked by the occupying Power, which persisted in aggressive polices that threatened the peace process. That situation was facilitated by United States support for Israel on all fronts and particularly in the Security Council, where it did not hide its determination to veto any resolution that contained firm stands against its strategic ally in the Middle East.

He said the Declaration of Principles, the agreement relating to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and all other subsequent agreements must be respected. The terms and stages of the peace process endorsed in many international agreements must be met. Support for United Nations efforts and the peace process must be promoted. The Assembly should also lend its full support to the Observer Mission for Palestine. The question of Palestine was at the heart of the Middle East conflict. The goal of all concerned was to resolve that conflict by the establishment of Palestine as an independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital. Cuba supported the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention in all the occupied Arab territories.

NABIL A. ELARABY (Egypt) regretted that little progress had been made during the past year on the negotiating tracks. There had been many setbacks taking the parties back to the "pre-peace process era". He cited the decision of the current Israeli Government to continue construction of settlements in Jabal Abu Ghneim.

He said he welcomed the prospects of convening a conference of the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It was impossible for peace to flourish in the region with current Israeli policies. He recalled that when Egypt had recovered its land in the Sinai by negotiations, it was without settlements, although there had been some in the area at the time. That was a precedent in making peace between Israel and the Arabs, and it was why Egypt could not accept Israel's attempts to force settlements on
the Arab side.

He said Israel was determined to alter the demographic and geographic character of Jerusalem, emptying it of its Palestinian inhabitants. That was in violation of United Nations resolutions and the Oslo Agreement. With continued Israeli intransigence, the peace process could not expect to get back on track.

Egypt had decided not to participate in the recent regional economic conference, he said, since there was a link between peace and equal economic cooperation. Restoration of the occupied territories was not a prize to be given to the Arabs by Israel. A just and comprehensive peace was the basis for security in the region. Egypt called for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, free from all weapons of mass destruction. The establishment of a just and comprehensive peace required a new outlook by Israel, including a leadership which believed in the achievement of genuine peace.

PARK SOO GIL (Republic of Korea) said he would not engage in time-consuming polemics over which side was to blame for the current deadlock in the peace process. It would be more fruitful to ask the Israelis and Palestinians whether the current situation was what they really wanted and, if not, to discuss all remaining issues -- including Israeli redeployment, an airport in Gaza, safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and settlements. A chain of extreme actions and reactions over the past year had eroded trust between the two sides. The momentum for peace might be lost forever if prudent steps were not taken in the near future.

Both sides would gain from a settlement, he said. The idea of a non-zero-sum game should be applied not only to the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, but to the Israel-Lebanon and Israel-Syria tracks as well. The peace process could be complete only when the entire Arab-Israeli relationship moved forward. Increased trade and investment would contribute to peace and security. Since peace and development were two sides of the same coin, the Republic of Korea had earmarked $15 million between 1994 and 1998 for Palestinian rehabilitation projects, and took part in the fourth Middle East/North Africa Economic Conference in Doha last month.

Tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship stemmed from the impact of domestic politics in international relations, he said. The international community could help, but the most critical element was for the parties concerned to build bridges between them. Despite setbacks, the progress made had proven that Israelis and Palestinians were capable of overcoming their present difficulties.

IBRAHIM SAID AL-ADOUFI (Yemen) said peace in the Middle East should be comprehensive, just and lasting, and a basis for security and prosperity. It should spread tolerance and peaceful co-existence among the peoples of the region. Yemen was concerned at Israel's return to the policy of settlements, including the destruction of Palestinian houses and the building of new bypass roads around Israeli settlements. Those actions were a serious violation of agreements concluded with the Palestinian authority and would contribute to an upsurge in tension that would upset the peace process.

Yemen, he said, stressed the need for a final settlement which would give the Palestinian people the right to self-determination, and an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. Negotiations according to international law should address all of those issues. His country welcomed the Oslo agreements, and also welcomed the agreement between Jordan and Israel, which he hoped would be a prelude to Israel's withdrawal from Syrian and Lebanese territory.

He said he hoped that actions of the current Israeli Government would not lead to despair among the people of the region after the positive developments of the past. Israel must be made to understand that the basis of the peace process could not be circumvented, and that it was too important to be violated by policies that would run contrary to international law, particularly the laws against the acquisition of territory by force and the principle of land for peace.

Israel, he said, should accede to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and submit its armaments to international inspection. That would contribute to freeing the region from all weapons of mass destruction. Israel, he concluded, should accept the principle of sovereignty, and Lebanon should be compensated for damage caused in its territory.

HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said Israel was bound by the Oslo Accord and the Hebron Agreement to withdraw troops from the West Bank. The recent decision for redeployment of some forces was vague in regard to its extent and time-frame, and the conditions imposed made it even more contentious. The decision must contain specific details to be meaningful.

He said Japan was opposed to all forms of terrorism. Each party must honour its commitments. Israel must not take unilateral actions that could jeopardize the peace process, such as constructing illegal settlements on the West Bank.

He said his country was participating in the peace process by contributing economic assistance to the Palestinians. It was making a new offer of $23 million in aid, of which $12.6 million would be allocated to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and $11 million to the United Nations Development Programme's Japan Fund for Palestinian Development. Japan's assistance totalled more than $310 million. In addition, since February 1996 Japan had participated in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) peace-keeping operation in the Golan Heights, and, in January of that year, it sent a team to monitor the Palestinian elections. The most important factor to achieve peace was that all parties take part in negotiations in good faith.



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