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About the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
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        General Assembly
4 March 1991

Original: Spanish



Held at Headquarters, New York,
on Friday, 22 February 1991, at 10.30 a.m.


Chairman: Mr. ALARCON DE QUESADA (Cuba)


Adoption of the agenda

Visit by the President of the General Assembly to the occupied Palestinian territory

Report by the Rapporteur on the Preparatory Meeting for the North American NGO Symposium held in New York on 11 and 12 February 1991

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 10.55 a.m.


1. The agenda was adopted.


2. Mr. de MARCO (President of the General Assembly) said that the idea of visiting the Palestinian refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory and Jordan was the result of talks with the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The representatives of Israel and Jordan and the Permanent Observer of Palestine had welcomed the idea of the visit and the support provided, given the conditions prevailing in the region, had been excellent.

3. In a frank exchange of opinions with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel during the visit, he had addressed the human aspect of the Palestinian refugee problem and clearly explained the significance of pertinent United Nations resolutions, mentioning the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and the principle of Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories in accordance with Security Council resolution 242 (1967). He had also raised the question of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East, which he believed should be convened without further delay.

4. The representatives of the Government of Israel believed that the United Nations resolutions did not reflect their position and that the idea of convening the International Conference was to put Israel in the dock. They said they were prepared to consider Israel's relations with all Arab countries without preconditions, but it appeared that no representatives of the Palestinian people would be included in the talks. He had repeated that it was not the purpose of the Conference to direct accusations at anyone, because all had made mistakes in the process, but to guarantee the rights of the Palestinian people and secure frontiers for all countries of the region, including Israel. Accordingly, the Conference was the best guarantee available to Israel for a life in peace and security with its neighbours, including the Palestinian people.

5. His talks also covered the issues of emigration by Soviet Jews and the settlements, which were causing demographic changes contrary to the spirit of the United Nations resolutions, in territories not recognized by the Organization as a part of Israel. There was also discussion of the work of UNRWA and the conditions which it required for the fulfilment of its mandate. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel maintained that his Government was behaving most humanely and showing respect for international norms in matters relating to the occupied territories and emphasized, besides, that his country was the only democracy in the region. In that connection, it was pointed out to him that even the best occupation still constituted occupation.

6. In response to questions from journalists during the visit about linkage between the situation in the occupied territories and the situation in Kuwait, he had replied that, although a parallel might be drawn, there was no linkage, because the occupation of Kuwait was not motivated by a desire to liberate the occupied Palestinian territory. The Israeli authorities, citing security reasons, did not allow a large number of journalists to accompany the visits to various UNRWA refugee camps, but the media were well represented on the visits to Gaza and the West Bank, despite the prevailing tension. Visits were arranged to injured and crippled children and adolescents in hospitals. Those living in the refugee camps complained vigorously of the difficult situation caused by the curfew, the closing of schools for long periods and the shut-down of most universities, as well as the demolition of homes in retaliation for throwing of stones by children.

7. Talks with the mayors of Bethlehem and Jerusalem showed they were dedicated to the cause of peace and yet realized that the situation was almost impossible and that the future of Israel, Palestine and Jordan depended on coexistence between the three States, which would have to work together in order to survive, finding a way of living side by side in their own independent countries. The situation was extremely difficult for men, and it was for that reason that Palestinian women were taking it upon themselves to maintain the spirit of defence of their people's rights. Jordan, for its part, despite the serious problems which it faced, was continuing to take in Palestinian refugees and to provide them with accommodation and education through the notable services of UNRWA. The Palestinians had said that they were eagerly awaiting the convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East and did not believe in violence as a solution. They said that United Nations support was confined to resolutions on paper and did not translate into action, because a double standard was adopted. An attempt was made to explain to them that a failure to support the work of the United Nations could be harmful to their cause. In any event, much care must be taken to avoid hasty, and possibly unjust, conclusions in respect of a people which had suffered for so long and had placed its faith in United Nations resolutions, despite the absence of results.

8. Prospects for peace in the region were not currently very encouraging. The United Nations should be much more attentive to the question of Palestine and the parties to the conflict should sit down at the negotiating table, because their positions were not entirely incompatible and could be reconciled. The solution was not to eliminate one of the peoples or States but to try and ensure that two Semitic peoples, each with its own national rights, could live in their own countries. It was a problem which concerned not only the Palestinian and Israeli peoples but each and every State Member of the United Nations.

9. The CHAIRMAN said that the information provided by the President of the General Assembly following his stay in the occupied Palestinian territory would undoubtedly enhance the work of the Committee and persuade Members of the United Nations of the need to devote greater attention to the question of Palestine.

10. Mr. AL-KIDWA (Observer for Palestine) said the initiative of the President of the General Assembly in paying a personal visit to the occupied Palestinian territory had been very positive, because it had served to reaffirm the United Nations' responsibility towards Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian people in general, as well as in respect of the attainment of their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty and the right to return. The visit was also concerned with the United Nations' obligation to protect Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation. The Committee should take further advantage of the valuable direct account by the President of the General Assembly and ensure that it was distributed more widely.

11. Mr. JAIN (India) said that, given the various events of recent years, the visit by the President of the General Assembly constituted a very important initiative, particularly because his account was given from a human point of view. His remarks on the situation in the occupied territories, the political thinking of the Israelis and the public opinion of Palestinians in the occupied territories were also of great value.

12. Mr. ELTCHENKO (Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic) said that the report of the President of the General Assembly on his visit to the occupied Palestinian territory reaffirmed the fact that the situation in that territory remained extremely tense. Of particular concern was the intensification of indiscriminate violence by the Israeli forces against the Palestinian population, particularly since the beginning of the Gulf war. In acting thus, Israel, as an occupying Power, was committing a flagrant violation of its legal obligation under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949. It should recall the provisions of Security Council resolution 681 (1990) in which the Council urged the Government of Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, of 1949, to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 and to abide scrupulously by the provisions of the said Convention.

13. Recent events meant that the Committee was invested with a special responsibility. Any moment could see a further escalation of the conflict, which would have serious consequences for the whole Middle East region and for the world in general. It was urgently necessary that Kuwait should recover its sovereignty and that peace should be achieved in the Persian Gulf in order that efforts to solve the Middle East conflict might continue. A formula must be found to guarantee the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and to put an end to military activity. In that regard, the recent meeting between the President of the Soviet Union and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, the results of which would surely promote progress towards peace, was encouraging. It was extremely important that delegations should show moderation in order to avoid an intensification of the conflict and a continuation of the war.

14. The search for ways of ensuring a real peace process in the Middle East must continue, with participation by all parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the PLO, and maximum use of United Nations potential, for example, by convening a Peace Conference on the Middle East under its auspices. All the countries concerned, and particularly States members of the Security Council, must not only help to find a rapid solution of the Gulf war but also join in the elaboration of an equitable security system, to cover both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the question of Palestine, in which the Governments of the region would play a decisive role.

15. Mr. GALAL (Egypt) said that the visit by the President of the General Assembly to the occupied Palestinian territory was of great importance by virtue not only of the position held by Mr. de Marco in the United Nations but also of the fact that he was the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Malta, a country which had distinguished itself in its defence of the Palestinian cause and played a notable role as a centre for communication in the Mediterranean, as well as in the non-aligned framework. He associated himself with the request of other delegations that the statement by the President of the General Assembly should be distributed as an official document.

16. Mr. de MARCO (President of the General Assembly) urged the State of Israel, whose history was also filled with suffering, to appreciate and understand the sufferings which the Palestinian people was undergoing. The protection of the civilian population in Palestine was of enormous importance for Palestinians since, although UNRWA was providing all the humanitarian assistance at its disposal, that assistance could not match the help which ought to be provided by the international community in such circumstances. He had attempted in his report to provide an objective account of the situation, but the question of collective punishments was a real issue in the territories and made the Palestinians extremely worried about their future. It was not the business of the Committee to judge other countries but to ensure compliance with the Charter of the United Nations.

17. It was to be hoped that ways would be found as soon as possible to solve the Gulf question and to enable the implementation, through peace, of the Security Council resolutions. The question of Palestine in its entirety would also soon have to be confronted. Israel would have to play a part in that process, because whatever solution of that question might be identified in the context of a Peace Conference on the Middle East would also be in its interests. As soon as he had finished preparing the report on his visit, he would request that the document be distributed to members of the Committee.

18. The CHAIRMAN proposed, with a view to avoiding the duplication of work, that the report of the President of the General Assembly on his visit to the occupied Palestinian territory be published as an official document of the Committee, to be made available within the next few days.

19. It was so decided.

20. Mr. de Marco (President of the General Assembly) withdrew.

21. The meeting was suspended at 12.13 p.m. and resumed at 12.15 p.m.


22. Mr. BORG OLIVIER (Malta), Rapporteur, said that the North American Co-ordinating Committee for Non-Governmental Organizations (NACC) had produced a provisional programme for the Symposium, which was contained in Working Paper No. 1. The proposed programme was comprehensive: it addressed the impact on the Palestinian people of the current conflict in the region and encouraged the development of effective strategies by the non-governmental organizations concerned. Subject to approval by the Canadian authorities, the Symposium would be held from 28 to 30 June 1991 at Montreal.

23. The theme of the Symposium was "Palestine: protecting lives and promoting peace - the impact of the Gulf war". There would be a panel meeting on the first day, at which two panellists, one Israeli and one Palestinian, would be invited to make statements. There would also be other activities relating to various aspects of the question of Palestine, including a working session on the morning of the second day entitled "Palestine: responding to current developments". During the evening of the second day of the Symposium, there would also be a peace celebration, to be addressed by one keynote speaker invited by the non-governmental organizations. It was also proposed that 20 workshops should be arranged, divided into three groups, over the course of the two days. If it were not possible to hold the meeting at Montreal, the Symposium would be held in New York from 26 to 28 June 1991. The Bureau would keep the Committee informed in that regard.

24. Among the priorities of NACC during 1991 would be the encouragement of involvement by non-governmental organizations in efforts to achieve a peaceful solution of the current crisis in the Gulf; a continuation of the postcard and petition campaign calling on the United States to support the convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East under United Nations auspices; a campaign for participation by the Governments of Canada and the United States in the development of strategies for protection of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory; and the dispatch of emergency delegations to report on the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Coordinating Committee proposed that the first such delegation should be sent during the current month of February.

25. The CHAIRMAN said that, if he heard no objection, he would take it that the Committee approved in principle the provisional programme for the North American NGO Symposium contained in Working Paper No. 1.

26. It was so decided.


27. The CHAIRMAN, on behalf of members of the Committee, proposed that the representative of Qatar be welcomed to the deliberations of the Committee as an observer.

28. It was so decided.

29. Mr. AL-BAKER (Observer for Qatar) said that the world's preoccupation with the current Gulf crisis did not overshadow his country's deep interest in addressing the question of Palestine. The settlement of that question was the key to any solution of the problems of the region and the necessary prelude for stability, security and peace in the Middle East. For over 40 years the Palestinian people had been deprived of its natural and legitimate rights, despite the recognition of those rights by the international community and the efforts made to secure their enjoyment. His delegation appreciated the activities and programmes carried out by the Committee and followed with great interest its programme of work, which included seminars and symposia designed to familiarize public opinion throughout the world with the just cause of the Palestinian people, as well as studies prepared for that purpose and all the other measures required to ensure that the Palestinian people could enjoy the right to self-determination and live in dignity in its own independent State like other peoples of the world.

The meeting rose at 12.30 p.m.

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