|INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE COMMEMORATED AT UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AT GENEVA|
Message of Secretary-General Notes a Peaceful Settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Remains Heart-Rendingly Elusive
29 November 2006
The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was commemorated today at the Palais des Nations, with speakers maintaining the need for a return of the parties to the negotiating table, and the pursuit of a two-State solution within the framework of international law, while decrying the increasingly deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
At the beginning of the meeting, a minute of silence was observed.
Sergei Ordzhonikidze, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, read out the message of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In his message, the Secretary-General lamented that a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained heart-rendingly elusive. In the past few days, with the announcement of a ceasefire in Gaza, they had had a glimmer of hope that the latest round of hostilities might give way to a period of calm, and he called on both sides to adhere to that commitment, and to avoid any actions that could jeopardize further progress. It remained crucial for Israel to exercise maximum restraint, and to uphold its responsibility to protect Palestinian civilians under international law. The constant rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against Israeli civilian targets were also unacceptable and should be stopped at once.
The bloodshed of the past several months had been all the more tragic because it was clear that majorities of both Palestinians and Israelis wanted a negotiated, two-State solution. The Secretary-General also believed that the leaders of each side – President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert – were genuinely committed to lifting their peoples out of decades of pain and uncertainty. Today, Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515 remained the accepted guideposts for a just and lasting solution, and UN peacekeeping operations had helped create space for diplomacy.
Other speakers also welcomed the current ceasefire and urged the parties to continue it. Several speakers also highlighted the progressive development of the Palestinian political process, as evidenced by the success of the recent Palestinian parliamentary elections. However, the outlook was predominately sombre, and speakers emphasized the devastating humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied territories, which had increased alarmingly over the past six months. In particular, Israeli military operations that had used excessive and indiscriminate force against the Palestinian people, killing innocent civilians and destroying vital public infrastructure, were condemned, as was the financial and economic blockade against the Palestinian Authority.
Speakers all agreed that while only the parties themselves could build the peace, the international community had a continuing and important role. There appeared to be a growing consensus that the time was ripe for the convening of an international conference on the Middle East. Several called on the Quartet to reinvolve themselves, and indicated that the Road Map, as well as relevant Security Council resolutions and international law, remained the basis for any peace plan. Others mentioned the principle of land for peace, and the Arab Peace Initiative in that connection.
Contributing statements were representatives of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Palestinian National Authority.
Messages of solidarity were sent from the President of Turkey and the President of Senegal. A statement was also received from Finland on behalf of the European Union.
SERGEI ORDZHONIKIDZE, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, read out a message from United Nations Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Secretary-General lamented that a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained heart-rendingly elusive. In the past few days, with the announcement of a ceasefire in Gaza, they had had a glimmer of hope that the latest round of hostilities might give way to a period of calm, and he called on both sides to adhere to that commitment, and to avoid any actions that could jeopardize further progress. He also encouraged them to extend the ceasefire to the West Bank. Indeed, an end to violence was absolutely essential. It remained crucial for Israel to exercise maximum restraint, and to uphold its responsibility to protect Palestinian civilians under international law. The constant rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against Israeli civilian targets were also unacceptable and should be stopped at once.
The Palestinian Authority itself faced a debilitating political and financial crisis. Palestinian institutions, hospitals and schools were in an alarmingly precarious state, exacerbating the acute suffering already being endured by the Palestinian people. Indeed, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza demanded immediate attention, and the Secretary-General hoped the donor community would continue to be generous.
The bloodshed of the past several months had been all the more tragic because it was clear that majorities of both Palestinians and Israelis wanted a negotiated, two-State solution. The Secretary-General also believed that the leaders of each side –
President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert – were genuinely committed to lifting their peoples out of decades of pain and uncertainty. The parties themselves would continue to bear the primary responsibility for finding their way out of their predicament: no one could make peace for them, impose peace on them, or want peace more than they did. At the same time, the international community had also played an important part in the conflict from its very beginnings, and could not escape its own responsibility to contribute to a solution. The United Nations had always been in the forefront of that international role. Today, Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515 remained the accepted guideposts for a just and lasting solution, and UN peacekeeping operations had helped create space for diplomacy. On this International Day, the-Secretary-General asked that they commit themselves to breathing new life into the peace process so that the goals of statehood for Palestinians, and security for the State of Israel, could be realized before this tragedy took too many more lives.
SAVIOUR F. BORG, Permanent Representative of Malta, read out a statement on behalf of PAUL BADJI, Chairperson of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The Palestinian people had known almost four decades of foreign occupation. Over the past year, Israeli military operations had continued unabated, with the use of heavy weaponry in the densely populated areas resulting in numerous civilian casualties. Particularly hard hit had been the Gaza Strip, destroying hopes generated by Israeli disengagement and underscoring the failure of unilateral measures. Settlement activities and construction of the Wall had not only continued, but had seemed to intensify, in particular in and around East Jerusalem. And the restrictions on Palestinian movement had continued to stifle an already depressed Palestinian economy.
However, Mr. Bajdi noted that there were reasons for hope too. One of those reasons was the fact that the need to establish a sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous State of Palestine living side by side in peace with a secure Israel had by now become almost universally acknowledged and accepted. The Road Map had charted the way to a final peaceful settlement. What had been sorely missing was a determined and robust political action to see the political process through. Also on the positive side, the Palestinian parliamentary elections, conducted under very difficult conditions of occupation, had been a major success. That process had provided the best proof of the social and political maturity of Palestinian society. The ongoing negotiations on the national unity government were an important step in dealing with the current political and socio-economic crisis and, hopefully, in facilitating the resumption of the long-stalled peace process. Indeed, international efforts aimed at encouraging dialogue and negotiations had not ceased. The recent peace initiative coming from Europe could be a promising undertaking and there was a growing consensus on the need to convene an international conference on the Middle East, with the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference of 1991 as its main inspiration.
MOUSSA BOCAR LY, Permanent Representative of Senegal, reading out a message from the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said that violence and human rights violations had reached unprecedented levels in the last six months in the Gaza Strip, with killings taking the lives of many innocent civilians, as well as demolishing a large number of homes and public infrastructures. The destruction of the only power station in Gaza, combined with an alarmingly expanding poverty rate and a severe deterioration of the health system, had all contributed towards a humanitarian crisis there. The human rights situation was in no way better in the West Bank, owing to the ongoing construction of the separation wall that increasingly isolated Palestinian communities from each other and was compounded by the growth of Jewish settlements on confiscated land. Ambulances transporting sick patients waited long hours before being allowed to cross checkpoints and reach the nearest hospital. The human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan remained as bad as in previous years. Split families continued to be separated, and the population suffered from discrimination in job opportunities and from an environment endangered by land mines.
During its annual field visit to Egypt, Jordan and Syria, which took place from 11 to 22 November 2006, the Special Committee had had ample opportunity to see for itself and record testimonies of Palestinian and Arab witnesses. The Committee had submitted its report to the General Assembly in early November, and an updated report would be submitted in the early months of 2007. The Special Committee was convinced that the impunity enjoyed by Israel for decades now had to be brought to an end by all available legal means. It could not be concealed that, during its field visit, anger had been at times expressed against the apparent inaction of the international community, including the United Nations, and a number of Palestinians had said they felt neglected, if not abandoned by the international community. New initiatives for peace to improve the dire humanitarian situation of Palestinians were urgently needed to reverse consequences of the current human rights and humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Special Committee welcomed the ceasefire agreed on in Gaza and sincerely hoped that that initiative would engender further action to establish sustainable peace in all occupied territories and to protect human rights of Palestinians and other Arabs there.
SAAD ALFARARGI, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, reading out a statement by AMR MOUSSA, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said they were commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People at a time when the situation in the occupied territories was deteriorating daily at every level, causing great suffering for the Palestinian people. Israel’s “Autumn Fog” operation had been condemned by the international community; those indiscriminate attacks had led to many deaths and wounded, most of them women and children. And that was not to mention the targeting of civilian infrastructure and the huge prison run by the Israeli machine. In addition, the Israelis had kidnapped a large number of democratically elected Palestinian representatives, which had spread a feeling of hopelessness among the people, and had led to an increase in the violence.
The situation in the Gaza Strip had deteriorated owing to the withholding by the Israeli Authorities of the taxes that paid the salaries of Palestinian civil servants, aggravating the humanitarian situation and led to the deterioration of the services delivered by the Palestinian Authority. Numerous Israeli actions, including the spread of settlements and the building of the segregation wall, had foiled all efforts for peace, including those of the Quartet. That indeed was at the root of the deteriorating security situation in the region. All efforts had to be combined to relaunch the peace process, under the aegis of the UN Security Council – the body that was responsible legally and morally for the resolution of the situation. In that regard, he recalled that the Arab League had criticized the Security Council in the past for not fully taking up that role and shouldering that responsibility. Finally, the only guarantee for peace in the region was to find a just and lasting solution to the plight of the Palestinian people.
BABACAR BA, Permanent Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, reading out the message of the Chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that, since they had met last year, important developments had occurred in Palestine, including the organization of the Palestinian legislative elections, to whose transparency and integrity the whole world had attested. Even so, the blockade and ceasing of international assistance extended to the Palestinian people that had followed hard on the heels of those elections had inflicted serious damage and heavy losses on all walks of Palestinian life. This year the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People had come in the aftermath of Israel’s perpetration of the Beit Hanoun massacre, which had claimed the lives of scores of helpless children and women. The Organization of the Islamic Conference welcomed the resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in that regard, and called for their immediate implementation. The dispatch of the fact-finding mission to investigate that massacre also had to be accelerated, and the responsible Israeli officials had to be prosecuted as war criminals.
Since June, hundreds of Palestinians had been killed and thousands had been wounded. Israel had been perpetrating daily violations of international law as it continued to wage military campaigns and reoccupy various towns and areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in addition to Israel’s application of its policy of collective punishments and perpetration of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians. Similarly, Israel had continued to build the racist separation wall so as to isolate hundreds of Palestinian towns, thereby creating a new faits accomplis on the ground to obstruct the establishment of a future Palestinian State. The Islamic Conference therefore renewed its call to convene an international conference aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of the resolutions of international legitimacy, the principle of land for peace, and the Arab Peace Initiative, and he reiterated the Conference’s readiness to play an active role in that regard.
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS, Permanent Representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, observed that the Non-Aligned Movement had historically maintained a firm stand of solidarity with the Palestinian people and their just cause. At the fourteenth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, held in Havana in 2006, the heads of State and Government of its Member States had adopted a declaration on Palestine reaffirming their firm commitment to continued support for the Palestinian people so as to put an end to the Israeli occupation; to a just and peaceful solution to the conflict; and to the right of the Palestinian people to exercise its right of self-determination in an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital. At the same time, they had strongly condemned the continuing and growing military aggression against the Palestinian people; reiterated their deep concern at the increased deprivations following the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council, as well as the growing financial and political isolation imposed on the Palestinian Authority by some in the international community; and reaffirmed the need in all circumstances to apply international law, international humanitarian law, the Fourth Geneva Convention and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter with respect to the Palestinian question.
Mr. Fernández Palacios wished to stress that the Non-Aligned Movement had not failed to raise its voice and to take action in light of recent events in Beit Hanoun and the intensification of the Israeli escalation against the Palestinian people. It had supported the convocation of a special session of the Human Rights Council to address the Israeli incursion in the Gaza Strip; it had requested an emergency meeting of the Security Council, and had presented a declaration of its members at that meeting; and, faced with the paralysis of the Security Council owing to the veto of one of its permanent members, it had then convoked a resumed tenth extraordinary special session of the General Assembly, in which it once again denounced Israeli military operations against the Palestinian people, and its indiscriminate and excessive use of force, which were violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The Non-Aligned Movement urged the international community to adopt immediate measures to stabilize the situation and to renew the peace process, and reaffirmed at the same time the permanent ongoing responsibility of the United Nations with regard to the Palestinian question.
KHADIJA RACHIDA MASRI, Permanent Observer of the African Union, observed that no force could contain the anger of a people that rejected submission. Everyone agreed that the Palestinian people had been pushed to the limit, as any hope for living in peace in a free and independent State faded away. Meanwhile, the powers capable of bringing effective pressure to bear on Israel – so that the peace accords were translated into reality on the ground and so that Israel would implement Security Council resolutions – had not shown the political will to do so. The recent massacres in Beit Hanoun were a further proof of the cruelty with which Israel led its military operations. In flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention, residential areas had been attacked nightly, with the result that women, children and older persons had been killed in their sleep by that excessive and disproportionate use of force. In the Gaza Strip devastating raids had destroyed infrastructure and public facilities. Moreover, to that sombre picture had to be added the arrest and detention of members of a democratically elected government.
Ms. Masri drew attention to the fact that the African members of the Human Rights Council had voted unanimously to adopt a resolution condemning the atrocities committed by Israel and to instigate an investigation into those acts within the framework of the last special session of the Council. Moreover, during the ninth session of the African Union Executive Council, they had appealed to the international community, and in particular to the members of the Quartet, to relaunch their plan, within the framework of the principles of international law and Security Council resolutions, so as to enable a return to the negotiating table and ultimately to reaching a durable and comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.
NATALLIA ALEKSANDROVICH, of the World Young Women's Christian Association, in a joint statement on behalf of the Geneva-Based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that the Palestinian People needed the international community’s solidarity more than ever before. But they needed concrete actions and not just words. NGOs asked the United Nations Member States, among other things, to immediately press Israel to stop the collective punishments, targeted assassinations and indiscriminate attacks, and to adhere to international humanitarian law as prescribed in the Geneva Conventions; to resume financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, and to press Israel to release fully the tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority; to call for the immediate release of the democratically elected Palestinian Ministers and legislators who were illegally abducted and jailed; to call on the UN Security Council to intervene to ensure the protection of the civilian population and call for an immediate investigation of the 6 November massacre in Beit Hanoun; to respect and follow the International Court of Justice advisory opinion of 9 July 2004 regarding the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; to work, as a matter of urgency, towards a UN monitoring system to register damages arising from the construction of the Wall, as instructed by the General Assembly to the Secretary-General; and to call for and press on all parties to help the Israeli and Palestinian Governments reach a just and sustainable peace. Finally, with regard to the ceasefire agreement, they hoped it would be maintained and expanded in the best interests of peace.
MOHAMMAD ABU-KOASH, Permanent Observer of Palestine, reading out a message by MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the Palestinian National Authority, said that this year the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People had more significance than ever due to the steps taken by the Palestinian people to strengthen their political regime by the adoption and exercise of the democratic system – embodied by the presidential, legislative and municipal elections, which the international community had testified to be transparent and honest. He wished to remind all that since September 2000 over 4,300 Palestinians had been killed – approximately one third of them children – and this year had witnessed a large increase in the number of those killed. For their part, they had exerted and were continuing to exert their utmost efforts to bring all forms of violence against Israel to an end, and had reached a mutual ceasefire. They called on Israel, which had not committed itself to the ceasefire, to end all its aggressive military actions in order to reach a comprehensive and mutual ceasefire. That would enable them to create the right atmosphere and provide the necessary groundwork for the resumption of negotiations and the attainment of a just solution based on the signed agreements, the two-State solution, and the road map that had been adopted by the Security Council in its resolution 1515.
Now the time had come for the convening of an international conference to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict on all tracks, and for the members of the Quartet to play the role of an honest intermediary and guarantor of the implementation of the agreements based on resolutions of international legitimacy, the principle of land for peace, and to establish an appropriate mechanism to achieve that goal. For their part, and despite the oppression, killing and destruction that they had been subjected to, their hands were still outstretched for peace. However, Mr. Abbas cautioned that what the Israeli Government was planning and the measures it was taking to keep control over large and important parts of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley would lead to the undermining of the two-State solution and would force the whole region into further violence and chaos, the consequences of which would not be limited to the Middle East region.
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