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

27 October 1999

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People recommended this afternoon that the General Assembly welcome the impending celebration in Bethlehem of the birth of Jesus Christ “as a symbol of the shared hope for peace among all peoples of the world”.

The Committee took that action by approving, without a vote, a draft resolution by which the Assembly would express support for the Bethlehem 2000 project, a multifaceted commemorative event scheduled to last from Christmas 1999 to Easter 2000. Also this afternoon, the Committee heard a statement by the observer for Palestine, and briefly discussed organizational matters.

Further by the text on Bethlehem 2000 (not yet issued as an official document), the Assembly would commend the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in support of the commemoration, and call for accelerated assistance and engagement by the international community, including the private sector, to ensure the project’s success of the commemoration. It would also ask the Secretary-General to continue to mobilize relevant actors in the United Nations system to increase their efforts in that regard.

Statement by Observer for Palestine

Nasser Al-Kidwa, observer for Palestine, said that the most recent development had been the second release of Palestinian prisoners and the opening of the first safe passage route two days before. While those were positive developments, their effect was limited by the overall situation. By Christmas, 2,000 Palestinians would still be in prison without any legal justification. The second, more important, safe passage route would still not be open. More importantly, the final status negotiations had not truly begun as the head of the Israeli delegation had only been appointed yesterday. That might be an indication that the delegation would not be empowered to negotiate a true solution. Under no circumstances would the Palestinian side accept the replacement of the framework of international law and legitimacy with a different framework.

The situation on the ground was even less positive, he said. About 10 days ago, the Israeli Government had taken a decision regarding “hilltop settlements” established after the signing of the Wye River Memorandum with the complicity of the previous Government. That decision, while removing some of the settlements, meant that 32 others were going to proceed. Israel continued to issue tenders for housing in existing settlements, including Jabal Abu Ghneim, and even in Gaza, where settlements were being enlarged.

In addition, he said the confiscation of massive areas of land for military training continued, including the equivalent of thousands of acres in the southern West Bank. The seriousness of the situation had been communicated to the Secretary-General and the Security Council. The settlement campaign was the antithesis of the right of the Palestinian people to their own State.

Responding to calls for an end to the adoption of “the traditional resolutions on Palestine”, he said that the United Nations had permanent responsibility for the Palestine question until it was resolved. There was no positive movement on the Israeli side; sometimes, there was even negative movement.

He expressed concern over the inclusion of Israel in the Group of Western European and Other States. It belonged in the Asian Group. Obstacles to Israeli membership in that Group would be removed once the final status negotiations had been settled. Hasty measures should be avoided; admitting Israel to another Group would be a permanent mistake, with no room for future correction.

Organization matters

The Committee Chairman, Ibra Deguène Ka (Senegal), said the meetings programme for the year 2000 was being formulated. The Government of Viet Nam had agreed to host the Asian regional meeting on the question of Palestine in March 2000.

The Assembly’s agenda item on the Bethlehem 2000 project will be taken up in plenary on 10 November 1999. The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People will be observed on Monday, 29 November. Consideration of the question of Palestine will begin that afternoon.

The Palestinian Rights Committee is scheduled to hold its next meeting at 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 12 November.

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For information media - not an official record