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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
29 November 2006


General Assembly
GA/10541

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly
Plenary
60th Meeting (PM)

WITHOUT EXERTING PRESSURE ON ISRAEL, PEACE PROCESS WILL REMAIN STALLED IN REGION,

POLITICAL HEAD OF PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION TELLS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

As Debate Begins on Question of Palestine, Middle East Situation,
Assembly President Underscores Deterioration in Occupied Territory


It was time to hold an international conference on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to implement practical measures to end the occupation in a process that had, so far, been stalled because no real pressure had been exerted on Israel to implement its side of the agreements, the Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization said today, as debate began in the General Assembly on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.

The 2003 Road Map remained the internationally recognized path to peace on the question, Farouk Kaddoumi said, but it had been flawed from the start by the 14 reservations insisted upon by Israel, followed by the five guarantees given to Israel by the United States in 2004.  Conditions had worsened for the Palestinian people, culminating in the Beit Hanoun massacre on 8 November.  That had prompted the resumption of the Assembly’s tenth emergency special session after the United States, once again, blocked action in the Security Council in line with its dual policy of encouraging peace initiatives, on the one hand, while encouraging Israeli non-compliance on the other hand, he said.

The results of the January legislative elections, which had been held at the insistence of the United States, had apparently landed a “severe blow to US dreams of finally dealing with a subservient new leadership”, he said.  The election results had proved that the United States’ reading of the facts on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were completely erroneous.  It made no sense to blame failure of the peace process and the continued violence in the Territory on the present democratically elected Government.  The Quartet needed to recognize that and deal with the crux of the matter, namely the Israeli withdrawal of Gaza and the West Bank, where violence was used against unarmed civilians.

Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, of Bahrain, called the Assembly’s attention to the gravity of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory when she opened the debate this afternoon.  Deepening poverty, destruction of infrastructure and shortage of food only aggravated the situation, heightened desperation and encouraged extremism.  The killing spree on both sides must stop.  The cycle of violence must be broken.  The lives of civilians must be preserved at any price.  Only then could dialogue be resumed and a political solution achieved.  A solution to the conflict would open the door to a political settlement, and that, in turn, would contribute to peace in the region.

The Chairman of the Committee of the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Paul Badji (Senegal) introduced four resolutions on the Committee itself; on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat and on the special information programme of the Department of Public Information, reaffirming the important mandates entrusted to those entities by the Assembly.

The fourth draft, on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, reiterated the Assembly’s position on the essential elements of a settlement and included references to last year’s developments, he noted.  This year’s text emphasized the central role that the Security Council should play in moving towards a peaceful settlement and encouraged all international actors, including the Quartet, to take immediate steps in support of resuming the peace talks.

The Committee’s Rapporteur, Victor Camilleri of Malta, highlighted some recent decisions of the Committee, including its “strong condemnation” of the policy and practice of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, as well as all attacks against Israeli civilians in Israel.  The Committee had also expressed particular concern at Israeli incursions into Gaza in recent months and their “destructive effects on the Palestinian people and on their hopes for peace”.

The Committee had subsequently called on Israel to withdraw its forces from Gaza, and to release all imprisoned cabinet members, parliamentarians, and other Palestinian prisoners, he said.  Wishing to contribute to a comprehensive settlement to the question of Palestine, it had called on all States to join in that endeavour and had invited the Assembly to recognize the importance of the Committee’s role and to strongly support that body’s mandate.

Expressing serious concern on behalf of the European Union about the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Finland’s speaker urged both sides to implement the Agreement of Movement and Access of November 2005.  Israel should also respect previous agreements and fulfil its obligations, including the opening of border crossings and the transfers of Palestinian tax and customs revenues.  He meanwhile welcomed the Gaza mutual ceasefire agreement as a promising first step towards a sustainable peace and urged the Palestinians to work towards national unity and to form a government that would be a partner for the international community in relaunching the peace process.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Kuwait, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 30 November, to continue the debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.

Background

The General Assembly met this afternoon to begin its consideration of the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.

For its consideration of the question of Palestine, the Assembly has before it a report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/61/35).  In it, the Committee stresses that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine needs to be based on the following essential principles; the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and from the other Occupied Arab Territories; respect for the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized boundaries, and the recognition and exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination.

The report covers the period from 6 October 2005 to 4 October 2006 and describes a year marked by a steady deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  Strongly condemning the killing of innocent civilians by either side, the Committee expresses particular concern at the Israeli incursions into Gaza in recent months.  While denouncing rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian armed groups, the Committee is especially alarmed by the Israeli Government’s intention to expand large settlement blocks in the West Bank, which means separating East Jerusalem from the West Bank and the southern West Bank from its northern part.

Furthermore, the report notes that the international community needs to focus on meaningful benchmarks to engage all parties, in order to achieve a mutual ceasefire and support international peace efforts, including the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map.  At the same time, the Committee welcomes the decision to form a National Unity Government and the designation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as the person in charge of negotiations with Israel.

Also in its report, the Committee emphasizes the contribution made by the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights -- through its programme of mandated activities -- in enabling the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights.  Its programme of international meetings and conferences has contributed to focusing the attention of Governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations on crucial issues in the advancement of a peaceful settlement.  Those meetings have been successful in raising international awareness and mobilising support.

In the report’s conclusion, the Committee commends civil society organizations for their efforts in upholding international legitimacy on the question of Palestine through advocacy and the mobilization of public opinion.  The special information programme of the Department of Public Information has likewise contributed, by informing the public and media of relevant issues.

In light of the many difficulties facing the Palestinian people, the Committee, in its report, further calls upon all States to join in the endeavour to achieve a just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine, while inviting the General Assembly again to recognize the importance of its role and reconfirm its mandate with overwhelming support.

Further in relation to the question of Palestine, the Assembly has before it a note of the Secretary-General transmitting a report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, on the subject of combating racism and follow-up to the Durban Programme of Action (document A/61/335).  In that report, the Special Rapporteur notes that he has been monitoring the situation of Muslim and Arab peoples in various parts of the world, in the aftermath of the events on 11 September 2001.

In the present report, he notes the “alarming” signs of a retreat in the struggle against racism and a growing acceptance of racism as reflected in the platforms of democratic parties.  He calls on the General Assembly to remind States of the central role political will plays in combating racism and xenophobia in linkage with the promotion of multiculturalism.  He also calls on the Assembly to draw attention to the serious nature of defaming religions, including anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia.  To promote the struggle against them, he calls for strengthening the United Nations role in inter-religious and intercultural dialogues and for the inclusion of relevant representatives in activities for peace, development and human rights.  International sporting bodies could also encourage the combat of racism through sport.

A draft text on the Committee on the Exercise of Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/61/L.31) would have the Assembly reaffirm that the United Nations has a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until the question is resolved in all its aspects in a satisfactory manner, in accordance with international legitimacy.

The draft resolution would have the Assembly request the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for, and assistance to, the Palestinian people.  It would authorize the Committee to make such adjustments in its approved programme of work as it may consider appropriate and necessary in the light of developments and to report thereon to the Assembly at its sixty-second session and thereafter.

A draft resolution on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (document A/61/L.32) would have the Assembly consider that the Division continues to make a useful and constructive contribution through assisting the Palestinian Rights Committee in the implementation of its mandate.

The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to provide the Division with the necessary resources and to ensure that it continues to carry out its programme of work, as detailed in the relevant earlier resolutions, in consultation with the Palestinian Rights Committee, and under its guidance, including, in particular, the organization of international meetings and conferences in various regions with the participation of all sectors of the international community, liaison and cooperation with civil society, among other activities.

A draft resolution on the Department of Public Information special information programme on the question of Palestine (document A/61/L.33) would have the Assembly request that the Department continue the programme for the 2006-2007 biennium, in cooperation with the Palestinian Rights Committee, and in a manner that enabled flexibility for developments.  With regard to the question of Palestine, the Department would disseminate information on United Nations activities related to the matter and update publications on various aspects of the issue.  It would expand its audio-visual collection, arrange fact-finding news missions for journalists, organize seminars and assist the Palestinian people in developing their media.

By a draft resolution on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/61/L.34), the Assembly would demand that Israel, the occupying Power, comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, and that it cease all of its unlawful and unilateral actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, that are aimed at altering the character and status of the Territory, including, among other things, via the de facto annexation of land, and thus at prejudging the final outcome of peace negotiations.

The Assembly would demand accordingly that Israel, the occupying Power, comply with its legal obligations under international law, as mentioned in the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion, and that it immediately cease its construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and calls upon all Member States of the United Nations to comply with their legal obligations, as mentioned in the advisory opinion.

Further, the Assembly would reiterate its demand for the complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, and calls for the full implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

The Assembly would call upon the parties themselves, the Quartet and other concerned parties, to exert all efforts to halt the deterioration of the situation, to reverse all measures taken on the ground since 28 September 2000 and to immediately resume direct peace negotiations.  The international community would be called upon to take immediate steps to support the resumption of negotiations and revival of the peace process, including through confidence-building measures.  The Assembly would stress the need to end reoccupation of Palestinian population centres and to immediately implement the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings.

Further, both parties would be called upon to fulfil obligations in regard to implementing the Road Map, emphasizing the need to resolve all remaining issues in the Gaza, including with durable arrangements for border crossings and ports.  It would also stress the need for Israel to withdraw from the territory occupied since 1967, for the Palestinian people to realize their rights and for a resolution to the problem of Palestinian refugees.

By another provision, the Assembly would urge the expediting of economic, humanitarian and technical assistance to the Palestinian people to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis; to rehabilitate the Palestinian economy and infrastructure, and to support the improvement of Palestinian institutions.

The Secretary-General’s report on the situation in the Middle East (document A/61/298), reminds the Assembly of its resolutions 60/40 and 60/41, in which it deplored the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem, in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980) and called, once more, upon those States to abide by the provisions of the relevant United Nations resolutions.

Further, to resolution 60/40, which deals with Israeli policies in the Syrian Territory occupied by Israel since 1967, the Assembly demanded that Israel withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

In order to fulfil his reporting responsibility under resolutions 60/40 and 60/41, the Secretary-General addressed notes verbales to Israel’s Permanent Representative and to the Permanent Representatives of other Member States on 2 June, requesting them to inform him of any steps their Governments had taken, or envisaged taking, concerning implementation of the relevant provisions of those texts.  As at 15 August, replies had been received from Israel, Mali and Syria.  Those replies are reproduced in section II of the report.

In another report of the Secretary-General on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/61/355-S/2006/748), the Secretary-General presents an update on the situation in the Middle East.  He conveys his observations on the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on international efforts to move the peace process forward in the one year period ending in September 2006.

In brief, he says that the current round of Israeli-Palestinian violence is entering its seventh year, and the anticipated revitalization of the peace process has still not materialized.  After the January election, in which Hamas won a majority of seats, the Quartet had made clear to the new President Mahmoud Abbas that future assistance to the Palestinian Government was tied to the principle of non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of commitments.  Then, after the Israeli election in March, in which a coalition government had been formed, and led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the decision to establish a permanent border for Israel ultimately led to a Palestinian attack on an Israeli military base, the capture of an Israeli soldier and the launching of a wide-ranging military operation in the Gaza Strip by Israel, while Palestinians continued attacks by rocket fire until the situation was brought under control, in part by the United States Security Coordinators, among others.

Outlining the security situation and arrangements in detail, the Secretary-General then recalls that the Road Map had indicated the end of 2005 as the target date for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that, although that deadline had passed, the Road Map remained the agreed-upon framework for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

The draft resolution on Jerusalem (document A/61/L.35) would have the Assembly reiterate its determination that any actions taken by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on Jerusalem were illegal and, therefore, null and void.  It would further call Israel to cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.

Further to the draft, the Assembly would welcome the decision of those States that had established diplomatic missions in Jerusalem to withdraw their missions from the city, in compliance with Security Council resolution 478 (1980).

Under other terms of the text, the Assembly would stress that a comprehensive and just solution to the question of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and Israeli sides, while also including internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by people of all religions and nationalities.

The draft resolution on the Syrian Golan (document A/61/L.36) would have the Assembly declare that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void, and had no validity whatsoever, as confirmed by Security Council resolution 497 (1981).

Further to the draft, the Assembly would call upon Israel to resume the talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and respect the commitments reached during previous talks.  It would also have the Assembly demand, once more, that Israel withdraw from all of the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967.

In other provisions, the Assembly would determine, once more, that the continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and its de facto annexation constituted a stumbling block in achieving a lasting peace in the region.  It would call upon all parties concerned, the co-sponsors of the peace process and the entire international community, to exert all necessary efforts in resuming the peace process.

Address by the General Assembly President

Opening today’s debate, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa (Bahrain), said that it was imperative that the international community be aware of the gravity of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The aggravation of poverty and destruction of infrastructure, as well as a shortage of food in the Palestinian Territory and Gaza Strip had only aggravated the situation, further heightened desperation and encouraged extremism.  Civil society needed to make every possible effort to end the killing spree on both sides:  the lives of civilians must be preserved at any price.

Noting that the situation called for the resumption of dialogue and the political process, she said that a solution could only be achieved politically.  All adopted resolutions should be implemented, while the cycle of violence must be stopped immediately.  In order to reach a comprehensive and just solution, positive steps were essential.  A solution to the conflict would open the door to a political settlement, and that, in turn, would contribute to peace in the region.

PAUL BADJI (Senegal), chairman of the Committee of the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the Committee was deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  The withdrawal of the Israeli army and settlers from the Gaza Strip last year had not created the anticipated and much-needed momentum for the resumption of a political dialogue.  The Israeli Government had not engaged the Palestinian Authority as a political partner, opting instead for a unilateral approach, the consequences of which were now evident.

He stressed that there had been no progress in the political arena, either immediately after the pull-out or in subsequent months.  The border crossings had remained closed for long periods, especially since June, and the number of checkpoints had increased to 542 in the West Bank.  That further aggravated the situation of the Palestinian people, already experiencing the notorious practices of the occupying Power, from the expansion of settlements in the West Bank to he intensified strikes against the Gaza Strip.  On behalf of the Committee, he called upon the Government of Israel to stop all actions that could further destabilize the situation, particularly its heavy use of military force and the settlement activity, as well as the construction of the West Bank wall.

He then introduced four draft resolutions approved by the Committee, A/61/L.31, A/61/L.32, A/61/L.33 and A/61/L.34.  The first three drafts were related to the work of the Committee, the Division for Palestinian Rights, and the Department of Public Information, and reaffirmed the important mandates entrusted to those entities by the Assembly.  The fourth draft, entitled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine,” reiterated the Assembly’s position on the essential elements of a settlement, and included references to last year’s developments.  This year’s draft emphasized the central role that the Security Council should play in moving towards a peaceful settlement of the question, and encouraged all actors in the international community, including the Quartet, to take immediate steps in support of the resumption of peace talks.

Statements

VICTOR CAMILLERI, Rapporteur of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced that body’s annual report (document A/61/35), briefly summarizing each chapter and highlighting, among other things, the relevant political developments the Committee had monitored during the year, including the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, held this past January; the efforts of the Palestinian leadership to resolve internal difficulties; the escalation of violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; the continued construction of the separation wall; and the operational difficulties faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

He went on to highlight some of the decisions the Committee had taken during the year, including its “strong condemnation” of the policy and practice of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, as well as all attacks against Israeli civilians in Israel.  The Committee had also expressed particular concern at Israeli incursions into Gaza in recent months and their “destructive effects on the Palestinian people and on their hopes for peace.”  The Committee subsequently had called on Israel to withdraw its forces from Gaza and to immediately release all imprisoned cabinet members, parliamentarians and all other Palestinian prisoners.

Finally, he said, the Committee, wishing to make a contribution to the achievement of a comprehensive settlement to the question of Palestine, had called on all States to join it in that endeavour, and had invited the Assembly, once again, to recognize the importance of the Committee’s role and to strongly support that body’s mandate.

FAROUK KADDOUMI, Head of the Political Department, Palestine Liberation Organization recalled that the Assembly had recognized the organization in 1974 and had recognized the Palestine National Council’s Declaration of Independence in December 1988.  He also recalled the peace initiatives that had been launched, beginning with the 1991 Madrid Peace process, the 1993 Oslo Accords, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the 2003 Road Map, launched by the Quartet of the United States, Russian Federation, European Union and United Nations.

To this day, he said, the Road Map remained the primary internationally recognized framework for achieving a peace settlement on the question of Palestine, but it had been stillborn, due to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 14 reservations, followed by the 2004 five guarantees of United States President George W. Bush to Mr. Sharon.  The United States had impeded its own initiative; it had allowed Israel to proceed with its unilateral policy and considered the Palestinian leadership to be a non-partner.  The outcome of that negative approach had been the house arrest of late President Yasser Arafat prior to his death under suspicious circumstances, with no international body designated to investigate.

Furthermore, he said, by 2003, the year the Road Map was “created”, Israel was not initiating steps towards peace, but was instead intensifying the building of the “apartheid wall”, in grave violation of human rights and international law.  The International Court of Justice had rendered an advisory opinion on the matter and had called on Israel’s friends to consider it an “outlaw state” in case of non-compliance with its opinion.  Israel had continued building the wall, however, which, in 2004, was 185 kilometres in length, and two years later, was 388 kilometres long.  That had prompted human rights organizations to urge States to request the Secretary-General to convene a resumed tenth emergency special session of the Assembly to call for compliance with the Court’s advisory opinion.

Reviewing events of 2005 and conditions that had led to a worsening of the situation for the Palestinian people, he said that postponements and short-circuiting of the peace process had been reinforced by the dual policy of the United States, which, in its role as peace broker, on the one hand, encouraged peace initiatives, while also encouraging Israeli non-compliance with initiatives.  The results of the January legislative elections, which had been held at the insistence of the United States, had apparently landed a “severe blow to US dreams of finally dealing with a subservient new leadership”, he said.

The results of those elections, he said, had proved that the reading by the United States of the facts on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were completely erroneous.  Despite all warnings of international legitimacy in the first half of 2006 about an impending worsening humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, due to a policy of collective punishment imposed on an unarmed civilian population, Israel, the occupying Power, continued to impose a policy of voluntary starvation, punishing the Palestinians for simply having elected their chosen representatives; those happened not to be to the liking of either Israel or the United States.

Moreover, despite the worsening humanitarian situation, a horrendous terrorist massacre had been perpetrated by the Israeli military forces against unarmed besieged Palestinian civilians on the Gaza beach on 9 June, decimating a whole Palestinian family, except for one young survivor, he said.  There had been no logical reason for the violence, except to rekindle the fires of war in the impoverished Gaza, leading to its reoccupation.  Other similar events had included Israel’s actions in Lebanon and the culmination in Beit Hanoun of a massacre on 8 November, prompting the resumption of the Assembly’s tenth emergency special session, after the United States again blocked action in the Security Council.

He said there was a basic flaw in the logic that failure of the peace process and the continued violence in the Territory was the implied responsibility of the present democratically elected Palestinian National Authority Government, which had been elected under the Quartet’s supervision.  The Quartet needed to recognize the role played by the fact that the West Bank and Gaza were still occupied, and that Israel, the occupying Power, still used violent and repressive actions against an unarmed civilian population.

It was time to hold an international conference and to actually implement practical measures to end the occupation in a process that had so far been stalled because no real pressure had been exerted on Israel to implement its commitments, he emphasized.  It was not necessary for the international community to concentrate so much effort on pressuring the Palestinian Government with its local and limited powers, rather than applying all energies to solving the crux of the problem by calling for the withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces and relieving the Palestinian population of all their pain.

ILEANA NUÑEZ MORDOCHE (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People reaffirmed support for Palestinian efforts to exercise self-determination and achieve independence.  She awaited the results of the fact-finding mission to investigate the 8 November violence in Beit Hanoun, in which 19 Palestinians had died, and stressed the need to fulfil the relevant General Assembly resolution, which called on Israel to immediately withdraw from the Gaza Strip to pre-28 June 2006 positions.  Expressing grave concern at the deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially resulting from Israel’s disproportionate use of force, she said the Movement condemned the illegal policies against Palestinians.

She urged Israel to stop construction of the Wall, immediately withdraw from the Gaza Strip, repair damaged infrastructure, and immediately release all Palestinian officials detained since 28 June.  The Security Council must fulfil its resolutions and press Israel to respect international law.  Israel’s unilateral measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, were a serious threat to achieving a two-State negotiated solution.  Noting that the Movement would continue to support the Palestinian people, she reaffirmed its commitment to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict; one that embodied Palestinians’ right to self-determination and sovereignty in an independent State, with Jerusalem as its capital.

TOM GRÖNBERG (Finland), on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the Gaza mutual ceasefire agreement as a promising first step towards a sustainable peace.  He urged the Palestinians to work towards national unity and to form a government that reflected Quartet principles; such a government of national unity would also be a partner to the international community in re-launching the peace process.  The deterioration of the humanitarian, economic and financial situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was a cause for serious concern, and it was important for both sides to implement the Agreement of Movement and Access of November 2005.  Israel should also respect previous agreements and fulfil its obligations, including the opening of border crossings.  Transfers of Palestinian tax and customs revenues should also be resumed.

He reiterated the Union’s intention to actively contribute to the work of the Quartet.  Progress on the basis of the Road Map should be achieved in close collaboration with Arab partners and with the full support of the international community.  The Union would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders, other than those that had been agreed to by both parties.  The Union remained committed to the two-State solution -- as laid out in the Road Map -- resulting in a Palestinian State existing side-by-side in peace with Israel.

ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) reiterated his country’s support and solidarity with the Palestinian people.  Anyone who had followed the history of the Palestinian question had to be disappointed by the obstructionist policies of successive Israeli Governments.  Deep regret and confusion must also be felt regarding the escalation of Israeli aggression and gross violations of human rights, including crimes of genocide.  Such illegal measures clearly demonstrated Israel’s expansionist designs, which coincided with its Government’s decision to obstruct peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

He was concerned that the international community’s inability to see to it that United Nations resolutions, aimed at addressing Israeli violations, were implemented.  It was the permanent responsibility of the United Nations, and particularly the Security Council, to address the Palestinian cause.  Several elements deserved primacy, such as a special mechanism for investigating recent Israeli crimes; a call upon Israel to lift all restrictions on movements throughout Palestinian Territory; international condemnation of all settlement activities, and abolition by Israel of all laws imposed over Jerusalem.  He was optimistic about the armistice agreement declared by the Palestinian President and the Israeli Prime Minister, which he hoped would include the West Bank.  The next phase required the Security Council and Quartet to urgently respond to the League of Arab States initiative, calling for their more effective role in reinvigorating Arab-Israeli peace talks.

TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR (Bahrain) said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was catastrophic, as shown in reports by the international media and United Nations bodies.  The situation was deteriorating as Israel’s military activities intensified, day-by-day.  There was no doubt that the present military aggression was just one phase, which started with the 1967 occupation of the territory by Israel.  The situation had created grave consequences for all and that was complicated by measures and massacres committed by the occupying forces, without regard to international law.

He said that Israel thought it was above the law.  Its aggressive acts had led to deteriorating conditions and escalating tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, all in violation of the rights of Palestinian civilians.  He asked why Israel was defying the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion by continuing to build the wall.  This wall was in contradiction to international law and would further isolate the Territory and its people.

The issue of Palestine was at the heart of the Middle East conflict, he said.  A solution must be found that stressed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and worked to create a just and lasting peace throughout the world.  Peace was a strategic choice.  He urged the full implementation of all United Nations resolutions and agreements, and the honouring of all commitments.  He supported the principle of land for peace, the implementation of the Road Map, and the creation of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

MAGED ABDEL AZIA (Egypt) said that today’s session reaffirmed the support of the Assembly -– the United Nation’s most democratic organ -- of the rights of the Palestinian people and their legitimate demand for a peaceful and just settlement on the question of Palestine, by ending the occupation and ensuring international protection of Palestinian civilians.  On that basis, he underlined the importance of enhancing the role and mandate of the Assembly in dealing with the Palestinian question.  Egypt stressed the importance of implementing a number of confidence-building measures, with the support of the international community, in order to reach a new political horizon, culminating in final status negotiations.  He called upon Israel to abandon its policy of unilateral withdrawal, under the pretext of a lack of peace partners.  He also called upon the Quartet to enhance its role and create a clear vision for the creation of an independent Palestinian State.

He said that, in addition to efforts by the international community and regional partners, the Israelis and Palestinians bore the responsibility to support steps to restore confidence and return to the negotiating table.  He looked forward to measures that would break the cycle of violence and counter-violence.  Egypt would not spare any effort to support endeavours to move the peace process ahead and would participate in all efforts to help the Palestinians form a Government of national unity that served the aspirations of its people in the realization of peace and development.  Egypt also supported international and regional efforts to end the stagnation of the peace process and called on the leading international powers to take serious steps in that direction.  Egypt was deeply concerned by the continuing lack of a solution to the Palestinian question over the years, urging the international community to extend its commitment to international peace and security to the realization of the two-State solution, the implementation of all United Nations resolutions and the Road Map, without bias.

ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said the annual discussion of the question of Palestine was particularly important because of the dangerous situation that had prevailed in the Middle East region and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular, during the past year.  In recent months, the Occupied Territory had become a “military theatre”, in which the occupying forces had exercised repeated acts of aggression, costing many Palestinian lives.  Those actions had also contravened various international humanitarian treaties, including the Fourth Geneva Convention on the treatment of civilians during wartime.

At the same time, he welcomed the recent ceasefire between the two sides, and hoped that both would scrupulously abide by the decision to end the hostilities.  In the interim, he hoped that Israel and the Palestinian side could work towards a just settlement.  Tunisia was convinced that the Palestinian cause was just.  His country would continue to work to see that the Palestinian people lived in peace and were able to exercise their inalienable rights.  He called on the Security Council to play its role to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security, and especially to protect the disadvantaged Palestinian people.

He also called on the parties to the conflict, as well as the Quartet, to ensure that the principles of the Road Map and all related international decisions and resolutions were fully implemented.  The United Nations, and the Assembly in particular, also had a responsibility to the Palestinian people, largely because the Organization’s universal membership made it the international community’s most legitimate body.  In that context, he called on the Assembly to strongly reaffirm its support for the Palestinian people and to extend the mandates of the United Nations panels and committees working for the Palestinian cause.

ABDULLAH AL-MURAD (Kuwait) said that, despite its vitality and importance, the Middle East had not enjoyed stability for decades.  One major challenge to that stability remained the persistence of the Israeli Government’s illegal practices and policies of aggression.  Indeed, Israel continued to occupy territories, which further fed feelings of hatred and instability.  Israeli practices had reached an intolerable level:  incursions had become routine.  Those actions contradicted international law and norms, and he, therefore, called for their immediate cessation.

Condemning the military offensive at Beit Hanoun, he said his delegation wondered how civilized nations -- the defenders of human rights -- could accept assassinations, the indiscriminate use of force, continued policies of seizure and collective punishment and arbitrary arrests, to name a few.  All those practices were clear and flagrant violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Contracting States, therefore, needed to take tangible measures to enforce those provisions and pressure Israel to heed that Convention.  Reiterating his Government’s commitment to the Palestinian people and to the restoration of their full rights, he called upon the international community, including the Quartet, to pressure Israel’s Government.  Furthermore, no military solution existed to the crisis and he hoped that a ceasefire would be a prelude to the resumption of negotiations for a comprehensive and peaceful settlement.

AHMED ABDELRAHMAN MOHAMED SWAR-ALDAHAB (the Sudan) said that the increased suffering of the Palestinian people and the developments since the 8 November Beit Hanoun massacre showed the need for international intervention.  He also noted the Security Council’s inaction because of the exercise of the right of veto by a certain permanent member, despite the Assembly’s decision to dispatch an international investigative team within one month.

Since the elections, he said, the Palestinian people and Government had been exposed to measures by the Israeli occupation, which undermined the Palestinian Government’s authority while entrenching Israeli control of East Jerusalem.  He criticized Israel’s numerous arbitrary actions, such as the construction of the wall, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.  Since the Palestinian elections in January, Israel’s withholding of customs taxes had led to a deteriorating fiscal and social situation for the Palestinians, which included worsening food security and declining agricultural exports.  The financial crisis had also forced the League of Arab States to extend emergency financial aid.  He urged all donor entities to review their positions on financial assistance and pressure Israel to release the funds.

He also criticized Israel’s detention of Palestinian officials, who had been democratically elected, and he asked the international community to pressure Israel to revoke all measures that ran counter to agreements and United Nations resolutions.  Appealing to all parties to continue to focus on the region, he said that the issue of Palestine remained at the core of the Middle East conflict.  He urged the Security Council to take immediate measures to force Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

YOUSEF S.M. ALGAHRAH (Saudi Arabia), reaffirming his solidarity with the Palestinian people, rejected the actions of all those who purported to be working towards a comprehensive settlement, but were actually trying to redraw well-established maps and sow discord.  The Israeli Government was able to continue its hostile practices and exercise its disdain for international law, particularly the Geneva Conventions, because of the passivity of the international community and the Security Council.  Israel’s claim that it had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip was a rouse, as was its claim of support for the principles of the Road Map and the Arab Peace initiative.

He said that Israel’s recalcitrance and arrogance had shaken the international community’s faith in the organizations that were supposed to be working for peace in the Middle East.  The international community must play its role.  Pressure must be brought to bear on Israel, so that United Nations resolutions were implemented and respected.  The King of Saudi Arabia had invited all parties to discuss peace and to search for ways to end the terrorism exercised by Israel, which appeared to have no limits.

Turning to the situation in Lebanon, he called on all parties in that country to work to ensure unity and to reject all terrorist acts, which threatened to destabilize the country.  Saudi Arabia also regretted all acts of violence in Iraq, due to matters of religion, faith or religious intolerance and called on all parties to work for unity and to stop any actions that might inflame the situation.  At the same time, he reiterated the importance of the State’s sovereignty and integrity, as well as the need to preserve and promote the “Iraqi identity”.  Future initiatives on Iraq must be internally developed and driven, he added.

HAMIDON ALI (Malaysia) said that the desire of the Palestinian people for an independent and sovereign State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, remained blocked by Israel, the occupying Power, as it had been for nearly four decades.  The Palestinian people had experienced unimaginable suffering for far too long, including extrajudicial killings, illegal confiscation of lands by Israel and its State terrorism apparatus and extensive damage to Palestinian infrastructure.  The construction of the separation wall, contrary to international law, had turned the Occupied Palestinian Territory into a “vast open-air prison”.  Malaysia strongly condemned all inhumane and brutal actions by Israel and demanded, once again, that those actions immediately cease.

He said that it appeared that the Road Map had been “deliberately asphyxiated” by Israel, clearly a mightier Power than the Quarter members combined.  It would seem that putting Israel in the driver’s seat had ensured that the Road Map had led to nowhere.  He supported the call by the League of Arab States for a new Middle East conference, with the United Nations playing a central role.  An international mechanism to protect the civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be established.

Malaysia would continue to work for a lasting solution to the question of Palestine, he pledged.  In that connection, it would host the United Nations meeting in support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the United Nations Forum of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People in December.  The Assembly remained the “last bastion of hope” for the Palestinian people.  The United Nations must shoulder a permanent responsibility in resolving the question of Palestine and protecting the lives of its defenceless population from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, perpetrated by Israel and in ending Israeli occupation.


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For information media • not an official record

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