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About the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
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        General Assembly
11 February 1991

Original: English



Held at Headquarters, New York,
on Wednesday, 6 February 1991, at 10.30 a.m.


Temporary Chairman: Mr. PEREZ DE CUELLAR (Secretary-General of the United Nations)

Chairman: Mrs. DIALLO (Senegal)


Adoption of the agenda

Election of officers

Organization of work

Other matters


This record is subject to correction.

Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Chief, Official Records Editing Section, Department of Conference Services, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza.

Any corrections to the record of this meeting and of other meetings will be issued in a corrigendum.

The meeting was called to order at 11 a.m.


1. The agenda was adopted.


2. Mr. SILOVIC (Yugoslavia) said that the Middle East conflict, the core of which was the question of Palestine, continued to defy a solution, in stark contrast to trends elsewhere in the world. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, caused by Iraq's intransigence and its refusal to comply with Security Council resolutions, seriously threatened the safety of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. In dealing with that crisis, the Security Council had taken decisions affecting the rights of the Palestinian people, although they fell short of opening the way for a durable solution to the problem of Palestine. Special recognition was due to the Secretary-General for his role in efforts to help the Palestinian people achieve its inalienable rights.

3. In 1990, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People had continued to discharge its mandate successfully; it should now concentrate on reactivating the peace process in order to achieve a just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine through the convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East. In the meantime, the protection of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories remained of paramount importance.

4. Bearing in mind the achievements of the Committee under its Chairman, Mrs. Diallo (Senegal), his delegation proposed her re-election for another term, and further proposed the re-election of Mr. Alarcon de Quesada (Cuba) as Vice-Chairman and that of Mr. Borg Olivier (Malta) as Rapporteur.

5. Mr. INSANALLY (Guyana) seconded the nominations put forward by the representative of Yugoslavia.

6. The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN said that, if he heard no objection, he would take it that the Committee wished to re-elect the officers named by the representative of Yugoslavia.

7. It was so decided.

8. Mrs. Diallo (Senegal) took the Chair.

9. The CHAIRMAN welcomed the Byelorussian SSR as a new member of the Committee, to fill the vacancy brought about by the accession of the former German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany.

10. The SECRETARY-GENERAL said that, on the occasion of the Committee's first meeting in an eventful year, he wished the members of the Committee, and observers, every success and assured them of his full support in the discharge of the Committee's mandate, in accordance with the directives of the General Assembly.

11. The Committee's activities were designed to promote the universal recognition and the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The importance of the Committee's role in that regard had been demonstrated by the fact that an overwhelming majority of Member States had voted to renew its mandate. That would enable it to continue its programme of work in the context of efforts by the international community to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

12. He offered the Chairman his congratulations on her re-election by acclamation to the chairmanship of what was an important committee. That was a measure of the Committee's high esteem for her leadership in the discharge of its important mandate, which called for perseverance and sustained efforts. He also wished to congratulate Ambassador Alarcon de Quesada on his re-election as Vice-Chairman and Ambassador Borg Olivier on his re-election as Rapporteur.

13. While all were, of course, currently preoccupied with the crisis in the Persian Gulf, attention must not be diverted from the question of Palestine, which was the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict and affected millions of lives and scores of countries directly or indirectly. There was a wide measure of agreement within the international community that a just and lasting settlement of the conflict must be based on the following three conditions: withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Arab territories occupied since June 1967; acknowledgement of and respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all States in the region and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries; and, lastly, a satisfactory solution of the Palestinian problem based on recognition of the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination. In that context, the question of Jerusalem remained of primary importance.

14. The situation in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip was a matter of serious concern to the international community. The mounting violence and resulting loss of life and injuries, the deportations and acts of repression had aggravated an already tragic situation. The Palestinian uprising, the intifadah, now in its fourth year, was evidence of the rejection by the Palestinian people of Israeli occupation.

15. In pursuance of Security Council resolution 672 of 12 October 1990, he had submitted to the Council on 31 October 1990 a report on the occupied territories which, among other things, contained his observations regarding steps which the international community might take to ensure the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians.

16. Having received his report, the Security Council, on 20 December 1990, had adopted resolution 681, in which, among other things, it had deplored the decision by Israel, the occupying Power, to resume the deportation of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories. The Council had urged Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the fourth Geneva Convention to all the territories occupied by it since 1967 and had called upon the high contracting parties to the Convention to ensure respect by Israel, the occupying Power, for its obligations under the Convention.

17. By its resolution, the Council had also requested him, in co-operation with the International Committee of the Red Cross, to develop further the idea expressed in his report of convening a meeting of the high contracting parties to the fourth Geneva Convention to discuss possible measures that might be taken by them under the Convention, and for that purpose to invite the parties to submit their views on how such a meeting could contribute to the goals of the Convention, and to report thereon to the Council. Moreover, the Council had requested him to monitor and observe the situation regarding Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation and to keep it regularly informed.

18. The protection of Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation remained a matter of deep concern to the international community and he would as far as possible and within the means available to him, discharge the tasks that had been assigned to him. However, it remained his view that the implementation of such steps alone would not bring an end to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which was essentially political in nature and called for a negotiated solution.

19. It was therefore a matter of encouragement that, when it had adopted resolution 681 (1990), the Security Council had also, on 20 December, taken note of the statement made by the President of the Security Council that same day. In that statement, the members of the Security Council had reaffirmed their determination to support an active negotiating process, in which all the parties concerned should participate, leading to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace which put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict through negotiations based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and taking into account the right to security of all States in the region, including Israel, and the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people. Further, the members of the Council had agreed that the convening, at an appropriate time, of a properly structured international conference should facilitate efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and lasting peace. However, they had been of the view that there was not unanimity as to when would be the appropriate time for such a conference. Lastly, the members of the Council had viewed the Arab-Israeli conflict as important and unique and as needing to be addressed independently, on its own merits. It was in that spirit that he had decided to appoint, in the coming weeks, a special representative for the Middle East to help launch an active negotiating process designed to promote peace in that region of the world. He would, of course, consult the parties concerned and the members of the Security Council before making a final choice.

20. The General Assembly, for its part, in its resolution 45/68 adopted on 6 December 1990 by an overwhelming majority, had called once again for the convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East and had requested him to continue his efforts with the parties concerned, and in consultation with the Security Council, to facilitate the convening of the Conference. The international community viewed the Middle East region as a whole as the most explosive region in the world. It also felt the paramount need to revive efforts aimed at ensuring a just and lasting settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict in general and the question of Palestine in particular, which was the core of the conflict and had brought and continued to bring immense suffering to both Palestinians and Israelis. He, for his part, would do all he could to discharge the responsibilities entrusted to him for convening an International Peace Conference on the Middle East and for achieving a just settlement of that long-standing dispute.

21. The Committee's efforts, since its establishment in 1975, had contributed significantly to heightening international awareness of the question of Palestine and to mobilizing Government and public support for a just solution of the problem. The Committee's programme of regional seminars, as well as non-governmental organization (NGO) symposia and international meetings, in which Palestinians, Israelis and experts from all parts of the world had been participating, had attracted wide attention, and it was encouraging to note that a number of Governments had extended political and material support to such events. Other activities which the Secretariat had undertaken, in consultation with and under the guidance of the Committee, such as the preparation of studies, monitoring reports and information bulletins, had also contributed significantly to a greater understanding of the question of Palestine.

22. As requested by the General Assembly, he would continue to provide the Committee with the necessary resources and assistance for the fulfilment of its mandate and for the implementation of its programme of work with the assistance of the Division for Palestinian Rights.

23. The CHAIRMAN said that she viewed her re-election as an honour for her country, which was a firm defender of the cause of the Palestinian people. She thanked the Secretary-General for personally opening the Committee's first meeting of 1991, and paid tribute to his ceaseless efforts to help achieve a settlement of the question of Palestine.

24. The various seminars and symposia organized by the Committee in 1990 had increased public awareness of the need to find a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian problem. The participation of a number of Israeli political and trade union leaders had been welcome. The significant results achieved by the Committee would encourage it to redouble its efforts.

25. Nevertheless, the violence at the Haram al-Sharif, the steady deterioration of the situation of Palestinian civilians as a result of repeated violations of the fourth Geneva Convention and the tragic events in the Persian Gulf demonstrated that the Committee's goal was far from being achieved. The Committee therefore reaffirmed its determination to pursue and intensify its efforts to secure a peaceful, negotiated solution to the question of Palestine, which was the core of the conflict which had been dividing the region for more than 40 years. The Committee would redouble its efforts to protect the Palestinian people from further injustice and enable it to exercise all its inalienable rights.

26. Recalling that the question of Palestine had been before the General Assembly since 1947 and before the Security Council since 1948, and that the Assembly had been calling for the convening of an International Peace Conference on the Middle East since 1983, she expressed the hope that the international community would pursue a settlement of the Palestinian problem with the same zeal that it had shown for other causes, so that 1991, which had begun so tragically, might see the advent of peace in the region, with the final achievement of a just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine that enabled the Palestinian people to regain its freedom and dignity in an independent Palestinian State that was recognized and respected by all.

27. Mr. AL-KIDWA (Observer for Palestine) said that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) attached great importance to the Committee's work both in and outside the United Nations. The General Assembly had shown its support consistently for the Committee, ever since it had adopted resolution 31/20 on the basis of the Committee's recommendations. The results of the Assembly's most recent session, which included a resolution supporting the cause of the intifadah, showed that the overwhelming majority of Member States supported the Palestinian people's struggle for the restoration of a Palestinian State that would include the city of Jerusalem, which was still under Israeli occupation. In particular, the General Assembly had recognized that a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East conflict was necessary to achieve that goal, and had therefore reiterated its call for an International Peace Conference on the Middle East.

28. The situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories was a source of particular concern. The United Nations had introduced mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on that situation, and the Secretary-General had proposed that the Security Council should convene a meeting of the high contracting parties to the fourth Geneva Convention to discuss possible measures that might be taken by them under the Convention. The Committee could provide support and input for both those initiatives. It should also give priority to the strategic and legal implications of the systematic immigration of Soviet Jews into the occupied territories. Since the accessibility of information was vital to solving the Palestinian question, he proposed that a plan be adopted for creating a computerized compilation of all the resolutions issued to date on the subject. The work of the Department of Public Information was also essential in furthering the world community's understanding of the problem.

29. The war in the Persian Gulf should not divert attention from the plight of the Palestinian people, for the various long-standing problems in the region were the real source of the Gulf war. The world was witnessing the most massive destructive endeavour in modern history, as the American and British air forces, in approximately 50,000 sorties so far, dropped bombs whose aggregate explosive power was estimated to exceed that used in the entire Second World War. Such actions clearly violated both moral principles and United Nations resolutions, which the United States of America was ostensibly defending. Although Palestinians had worked for a peaceful settlement of the crisis, they no longer had any choice but to side with Iraq. They would continue to call for a cessation of hostilities and a peaceful settlement of the conflict through the United Nations and its organs, particularly the Security Council. It was important that any such settlement should address the problems of the region as a whole.

30. It was also essential to focus on the crimes which Israel was perpetrating against Palestinians under cover of the current tragic events. For the past 22 days, a total and continuous curfew had been imposed on all Palestinians in the occupied territories. The curfew, which was still in effect, had led to untold suffering and economic deterioration. Israel's plans for the region were a matter of serious concern, and he was confident that the United Nations would act to protect the Palestinian people against Israel's machinations.

31. The Secretary-General withdrew.

32. Mr. OUDOVENKO (Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic) said that the statement by the Secretary-General confirmed the significance of the Committee's efforts to find a speedy solution to the Palestinian problem, which underlay the conflict in the Persian Gulf. The Committee had done useful work over the past year and had increased its authority among other United Nations bodies, as had been evident at the plenary meetings of the General Assembly at its forty-fifth session.

33. His country's reaction to the recent outbreak of war had been to express the hope that Iraq would comply with Security Council resolutions by withdrawing its troops from Kuwait. The sooner Kuwait's sovereignty was restored and peace was established, the sooner energetic efforts for a Middle East settlement could be pursued. A meeting had been held at Moscow in January between the Soviet Minister for Foreign Affairs and representatives of the PLO to devise a plan for the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait that would not aggravate the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the USSR had also consulted with Iranian leaders the previous day concerning possible peace initiatives. Those meetings had reached the conclusion that the conflict could be settled only through peaceful means, with the participation of all those concerned, including the PLO, and through full utilization of the peace-making potential of the United Nations. Recent events had placed a particular responsibility on the Committee, and he was confident that the Committee would be able to contribute to the peace process and to a solution of the Palestinian problem.

34. Mr. BURAVKIN (Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic) said that his country had consistently supported a comprehensive solution to the Middle East conflict and to the core issue of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. However, a Middle East settlement was still being blocked by Israel's occupation of Arab territories and by its refusal effectively to guarantee the human rights of Palestinians and to respect their right to independence. The recent tragic events in the occupied territories showed that Israel was using the occupation as an illegal means of seizing land. He was hopeful that steps taken by the United Nations and the Security Council to solve the problem would prove effective, since the Security Council had already demonstrated its ability to reach a consensus on questions of international peace and security. It was clear that the majority of Member States felt that it was necessary to hold an International Peace Conference on the Middle East which would include representatives of the PLO. The Committee must work towards that goal by taking specific steps for the convening of such a conference.


35. Mr. BORG OLIVIER (Rapporteur) said the fact that resolutions on the question of Palestine had been adopted by overwhelming majorities at the most recent session of the General Assembly showed that the international community was determined to advance towards a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question. That should encourage the Committee to intensify its efforts in the coming year. The Committee would need to consider what activities it wished to undertake in 1991 in fulfilling its mandate, in the light of current developments in the region and the deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. In particular, the outbreak of war in the Persian Gulf should strengthen the Committee's resolve to achieve its objectives.

36. In order to facilitate the drafting of the Committee's programme of work for 1991, as well as other future deliberations of the Committee, he proposed that the open-ended Working Group should be re-established in accordance with past practice.

37. The CHAIRMAN said that, if she heard no objection, she would take it that the Committee wished to re-establish the Working Group, with Mr. Borg Olivier (Malta) as Chairman and Mr. Jain (India) as Vice-Chairman.

38. It was so decided.


39. The CHAIRMAN informed the Committee that she had received a letter dated 27 December 1990 from Mr. Paul Diamond, Director of the Accounts Division of the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Finance, concerning reimbursement of the travel expenses of Committee representatives attending regional seminars and NGO symposia and meetings held away from Headquarters. At its 171st and 173rd meetings, the Committee had stressed that when its members served on delegations to such meetings, they should enjoy the status of officials on special assignment for the Committee to promote the aims and objectives of the mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly. In his letter, Mr. Diamond informed the Committee that, following the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 45/248 on the programme budget for the biennium 1990-1991, permanent representatives of Member States travelling on official business at United Nations expense would henceforth be authorized to travel business class.

The meeting rose at 12.10 p.m.

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