Nasser Al-Kidwa, Observer of Palestine, told the Committee the Palestine National Council had adopted a special resolution on the United Nations in which it had stressed that the Organization and the Committee should continue their work until such time as Palestine became independent. At that session the Council had eliminated those provisions of the Palestine National Charter which were contradictory to the contents of letters exchanged between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel in September 1993.
Under its 1996 programme of work, the Committee will sponsor the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, to take place from 21 to 23 May in Cairo; and the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization Symposium on the Question of Palestine, to take place from 24 to 26 June at Headquarters. In response to the financial situation of the Organization, the Committee will seek co-sponsors for selected meetings, and will seek to combine symposia and seminars where possible.
Priority tasks under the 1996 programme focus on the permanent responsibility of the United Nations regarding Palestine until a just and lasting settlement is reached, on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973); the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem and other Arab territories; and the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights, in particular the right to self-determination. The Committee will also endeavour to assist implementation of the agreements reached by the parties; and to cooperate with governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and organizations within the United Nations system in carrying out its mandate.
Also this afternoon, the Committee approved applications for accreditation from 22 non-governmental organizations, all of which had been recommended by the Committee's regional coordinating committees.
Elected to the bureau this afternoon were: Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal), Chairman; Ravan Farhadi (Afghanistan) and Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla (Cuba), re-elected as Vice Chairmen; and Joseph Cassar (Malta), re-elected Rapporteur.
Also briefly speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Tunisia, Ukraine, India, Cuba, Guinea and Afghanistan. The representative of Egypt spoke on behalf of the host country of the upcoming Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People.
IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Committee Chairman, said that at a time when the region of the Middle East was embarking on a delicate phase of change, the international community should be vigilant in supporting the peace process. The strengthening of United Nations activities aimed at fostering social and economic development of Palestinian territories had demonstrated the commitment of the Organization to peace-building.
The Secretary-General had continued to show a great personal interest in the welfare of the Palestinian people, and in the work of the Committee, he said. The principled position of the United Nations with regard to the Question of Palestine should be maintained.
The recent visit to the United States, and to Headquarters, of Yasser Arafat had showed how important would be the upcoming seminar on Palestine, to take place from 21 to 23 May in Cairo. Governments, non-governmental organizations and others were committed to carrying out the Committee's mandate to facilitate the transition to peace.
JOSEPH CASSAR (Malta), Committee Rapporteur, introducing the draft programme of work for 1996, said that in response to new realities on the ground, and in accordance with its mandate, the Committee would continue to exert all efforts to promote Palestinian rights, the effective implementation of agreements reached between the parties and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people during the transition period.
Keeping in mind the financial crisis of the Organization, the Committee would continue monitoring the situation on the ground and expand contacts with the Palestinian Authority and with Palestinian non-governmental organizations. The Committee would continue its programme of seminars and symposia, and, in an effort to streamline its work, would investigate the possibility of co-sponsoring those meetings with academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and others. Only one meeting of consultations with non-governmental organizations would be held each year; seminars, symposia and non-governmental organizations would be combined where possible.
Summarizing consultations with non-governmental organizations held on 1 and 2 February at Headquarters, he recommended that the International Meeting of Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine be held in September, in the area of the Palestinian Authority. With regard to an event in Asia, he recommended that consultations be held with prospective host countries with a view to holding a combined seminar and non-governmental organization symposium. He recommended that the annual North American seminar not be held, and that some of those resources be redeployed towards the North American symposium.
The bureau recommended that the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people be observed on Friday, 29 November. The observance would take place at Headquarters, at United Nations Offices in Geneva and Vienna, and elsewhere. In that connection, an exhibit would be displayed at United Nations Headquarters during the week of 29 November to 5 December.
NASSER AL-KIDWA (Palestine) said that the recent visit to Headquarters by President Yasser Arafat had included a meeting with the Secretary-General, a working lunch attended by the delegations of both parties and a meeting with the President of the Security Council for the month of May. Palestine was dedicated to the work of the United Nations and hoped that its role in the Middle East peace process would be enhanced. Palestinians very much appreciated the political stance taken by the United Nations in support of the Palestinian people.
The Palestine National Council had adopted a special resolution on the United Nations in which it had stressed that the Organization and the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People should continue their work until such time as Palestine became independent. At that session the Council had eliminated those provisions of the Palestine National Charter which were contradictory to the contents of letters exchanged between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel in September 1993.
Final status negotiations between the parties had begun on 5 May in Egypt, he said. The positive positions taken by the Palestinian side had made it incumbent upon the Israelis to take several necessary steps: lifting of the blockade on the Palestinian territories; refraining from violating the terms of the bilateral agreements, including the imposition of collective punishment; redeployment from Hebron; establishment of a corridor between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; release of all Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons; and pressing forward with the second phase of redeployment, including the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank.