Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

1 February 1963


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Office of Public Information
United Nations, N.Y.

(For use of information media - not an official record)

Not to be made public before
12:30 p.m. (EST), 1 February 1963
Press Release PAL/925
1 February 1963


The Conciliation Commission for Palestine announced today that it had accepted with deep regret the resignation as its Special Representative of Dr. Joseph E. Johnson, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Dr. Johnson was first appointed by the Commission in August 1961 to explore with the Arab host Governments and with Israel practical means of seeking progress on the Palestine Arab refugee problem pursuant to resolution 1604 (XX) of the General Assembly. After the adoption on 20 December 1961 of resolution 1725 (XVI), which requested the Commission to intensify its efforts for the implementation of paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III), the Commission decided once again to name a Special Representative and on 2 March 1962 reappointed Dr. Johnson.

The texts of the exchange of letters between Dr. Johnson and the Chairman of the Commission, Vahap Asiroglu (Turkey), follow:

Letter from Dr. Johnson to Mr. Asiroglu
28 January 1963

Dear Mr. Asiroglu,

I have the honour to ask the Conciliation Commission for Palestine to accept my resignation as its Special Representative, to take effect on 1 February 1963.

The Commission will recall that I was first appointed Special Representative on 21 August 1961 with instructions to explore with the Arab host Governments and with Israel practical means of seeking progress on the Palestine Arab refugee problem pursuant to resolution 1604 (XV). In that resolution the General Assembly had noted with regret to it in resolution 1456 (XIV), of securing the implementation of paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III), and requested the Commission to make further efforts to that end.

Paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III), adopted on 11 December 1948, formed therefore the basis of my assignment. It reads as follows:

"The General Assembly...

"11. Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

"Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;"

After my September 1961 trip to the Middle East and further conversations at United Nations Headquarters with representatives of the Governments concerned, I submitted a report which was published as an addendum to the Commission's Nineteenth Progress Report (A/4921/Add.1). In that report, I stated that in the time available I had been unable to explore all possible avenues towards progress and suggested that the experiment of a Special Representative be continued, provided that the qualified and cautious optimism expressed in the report continued to be justified. I added that certain considerations set forth in my Conclusions, particularly those endeavours by a Special Representative.

The Commission, to my great satisfaction, warmly endorsed by Conclusions, and within a month the General Assembly adopted resolution 1725 (XVI) which requested the Commission to intensify its efforts for the implementation of paragraph 11 and urged the Arab host Governments and Israel to co-operate in that regard. In March 1962 the Commission reappointed me. In asking me to assist it in its further efforts, the Chairman pointed out that, while the responsibilities of the Commission remained all those assigned to it by the General Assembly in its relevant resolutions, my own related entirely to paragraph 11 and the responsibilities assigned to the Commission in connexion therewith by resolution 1725 (XVI).

After careful examination of all aspects of the enormously complex problem of implementation of paragraph 11 and preliminary conversations at United Nations Headquarters, I had detailed talks in the Middle East with the highest officials of the Governments of the four Arab host countries and of Israel. Subsequent to my return to New York, I drafted certain proposals. These I submitted to the Commission in late August and while it was studying them, presented them, with its authorization to the governments of Israel and the four Arab host States for their concurrent consideration.

Before the seventeenth session of the General Assembly had begun debate on the report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency it had become evident that the five States directly concerned were not at that time prepared to accept the plan outlined in my proposals. Under the circumstances it was decided not to publish the proposals, the Commission limiting itself in the Twentieth Progress Report of 7 December 1962 to the simple statement that it intended "to carry forward its initiative on this question".

Needless to say I was gratified that the Commission expressed its intention to continue work on the question and that the Assembly requested it to do so. I do not know how the Commission intends to carry out that request, but I feel I owe it to the Commission to state that because of compelling personal commitments I shall not be able to continue as Special Representative.

I appreciate deeply the opportunity that the Commission has afforded me to attempt to continue to a solution of the problem of the Arab refugees whose tragedy has become so increasingly apparent during these past fifteen years.

It may be appropriate to state now that the experiment of a Special Representative of the Commission has, in my view, proved a worthwhile method for beginning a new effort to facilitate implementation of paragraph 11. As Special Representative I as free to study afresh and in depth this paragraph first adopted in 1948, and to examine and evaluate the attitudes of all concerned. I sought to isolate and develop some basic considerations and specific elements that I believe require consideration in any approach to the implementation of that paragraph in the 1960's. There is reason to think, however, that the role a single individual representing the Conciliation Commission can play in trying to move beyond analysis into the actual achievement of progress on this complex problem has at least for the time being been carried as far as is practicable.

I believe, as I have suggested, that certain ideas I have developed should be of use to the Commission as it continues its endeavours. Accordingly, while I see no present utility in formally presenting a report, I have arranged to deposit with the Commission's Secretariat a full record of my mission.

In closing I wish to state for the record that I share the view, implicit in repeating resolutions of the General Assembly, that paragraph 11 remains a proper basis for an equitable resolution of the tragic human problem of the Arab refugee. I have a deep concern for the welfare of the refugees and believe that the urgency for action in their behalf grows rather than lessens with the passing of time. I also have an abiding interest in all aspects of the United Nations efforts on their behalf -- notably though the Conciliation Commission and though the United Nations Relief and Work Agency. I shall therefore follow keenly the Commission's continuing endeavours to help them.

Respectfully submitted,

Joseph E. Johnson (signed)
Special Representative

Letter from Mr. Asirogly to Dr. Johnson
31 January 1963

Dear Dr. Johnson,

I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of resignation dated 28 January.

All members of the Conciliation Commission for Palestine have observed with great respect during the past eighteen months the sincere devotion with which you have pursued your role of special Representative and sought to find practical means in behalf of the Arab refugees for making progress in the implementation of paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III). The careful study, the understanding, the intelligent imagination and the energy with which you have explored this most complex task has confirmed for us the initial confidence with which the Commission requested you to assure the role of Special Representative.

As you point out in your letter, the five States directly concerned have not, in the present circumstances, proved receptive to the proposals that you have been in vain and that the studies in depth that you have undertaken and the numerous contacts that you have made will mark an important milestone in the search for a solution of the tragic human problem to which you have so generously devoted your efforts.

The Commission accepts your resignation with great regret and with sincere appreciation for your dedicated service. While we understand your personal reasons for laying down your active role at this time, the Commission hopes that it may feel free to call upon you for counsel or further assistance as it continues its endeavours with the Member States directly concerned to find a way to achieve progress on the Palestine Arab refugee problem.

Sincerely yours,

Vahap Asiroglu (signed)
Conciliation Commission for Palestine
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