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UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


GA/9773
19 September 2000

Fifty-fifth General Assembly
Plenary
22nd Meeting (AM)

ASSEMBLY HEARS RANGE OF SPEAKERS AS GENERAL DEBATE CONTINUES


Palestine, Panama, Indonesia among Issues Surveyed;
Contradiction between National Sovereignty, Humanitarian Intervention Stressed


"Let this year be the year of bringing an end to the historic injustice that has befallen our people, and let it be a new beginning for life in the Middle East for all its States and all its peoples and all future generations", the Permanent Observer of Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, told the General Assembly this morning as it continued its formal debate.

He said the Palestine Central Council had decided to delay the establishment of the Palestinian State, and had at the same time mandated the Executive Committee, the Presidency of the Palestinian National Council and the Legislative Council to take the necessary steps in that regard, including completion of the constitutional declaration and the submission of application for membership of the State of Palestine in the United Nations.

The Palestinian side had accepted that West Jerusalem be under Israeli sovereignty and the capital of Israel, he said. It had demanded the end of the occupation of East Jerusalem so that it could be under Palestinian sovereignty and serve as the capital of Palestine. It had accepted that the city be open, with guarantees for freedom of conscience, worship and access to all holy places under Palestinian sovereignty. In return for that flexibility, Israel had challenged Palestinian sovereignty over Al-Haram Al-Sharif and sought to maintain some form of sovereignty over it, something “which will not be accepted by any Palestinian, Arab or Muslim leader, not now, not in the future”.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, Permanent Representative of Qatar, said Arabs considered peace in the Middle East a valid strategic option, yet a comprehensive peace was still beyond reach owing to Israeli intransigence, inflexibility and disregard of the basic rights of the Arab nation. His Government was also concerned at covert intrigues aimed at dismembering Indonesia in the name of human rights and under other transparently deceptive pretexts.

Alwi Shihab, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said the plight of refugees must continue to hold a prominent position on the global agenda, and the integrity of humanitarian missions must be ensured. The murder of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff in West Timor had shocked and saddened the world, nowhere more than Indonesia. That humanitarian workers should become victims in the performance of their work was unacceptable. The tragedy should not, however, result in a withdrawal of humanitarian assistance.

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Assembly Work Programme

The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly met this morning to continue its general debate.

It was expected to hear from representatives of the Republic of Moldova, the Republic of Korea, Panama, Indonesia, Mali, Qatar and Nigeria. The Permanent Observer of Palestine was also expected to make a statement.

Statements

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ALWI SHIHAB, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said that a major issue confronting the international community was the lack of progress on the elimination of nuclear weapons. He was concerned to see a new rationalization for their continued use, coupled with repeat assertions of their legitimacy and necessity. That lack of progress increased the prospects of a new nuclear arms race which would threaten existing arms control agreements and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Ridding the world of the dangers posed by nuclear weapons was the greatest challenge of our time.

In the Middle East, he continued, attention must remain focused on the core of the conflict, namely, the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people to secure their inalienable rights to self-determination and sovereign statehood in their own homeland, with Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinian leaders must be commended on their statesmanlike approach. They had demonstrated their commitment to peace through their decision to share the city of Jerusalem, hence it now behove Israel to make a similar compromise. His delegation hoped for a resumption of the Israeli-Syrian peace talks based on the Madrid peace formula and trusted that the spirit of humanitarian compromise would prevail in easing the impact of sanctions on the people of Iraq.

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NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER, Permanent Representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said that ... The Arabs considered peace in the Middle East a valid strategic option, he said, yet a comprehensive peace was still beyond reach owing to Israeli intransigence, inflexibility and disregard of the basic rights of the Arab nation. He called on the United States of America, whose efforts in the peace process were appreciated, to exert pressure on Israel to respond to the challenges of peace.

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NASSER AL-KIDWA, representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, said the Palestine Central Council had decided to delay the establishment of the Palestinian State, and had at the same time mandated the Executive Committee, the Presidency of the Palestinian National Council and the Legislative Council to take the necessary steps in that regard. Those would include completion of the constitutional declaration and the submission of application for membership of the State of Palestine in the United Nations.He believed that no one would want to see the perpetuation of the present, unbearable transitional situation.

In the wake of the Camp David Summit, the other side claimed that it had made real concessions with regard to Jerusalem, while the Palestinian side had not done so and had not shown enough sensitivity to sites sacred to the Jewish religion. That was incorrect. The Palestinian side had accepted that West Jerusalem be under Israeli sovereignty and administered as the capital of Israel. It had demanded the end of the occupation of East Jerusalem so that it could be under Palestinian sovereignty and the capital of Palestine. It had accepted that the city be open and had accepted all kinds of guarantees for freedom of conscience, worship and access to all holy places under Palestinian sovereignty.

The Palestinian side fully respected the sacredness of the Jewish holy places. It had shown every flexibility, even with regard to those places on lands in occupied East Jerusalem, to which resolution 242 was applicable. In return for that flexibility, Israel had challenged Palestinian sovereignty over Al-Haram Al-Sharif and sought to maintain some form of sovereignty over it -- something “which will not be accepted by any Palestinian, Arab or Muslim leader, not now, not in the future”. The Palestinian side had indicated its readiness to accept Muslim sovereignty over Al-Haram Al-Sharif through the Al-Quds Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

“We have not lost hope yet. We are still committed to the peace process and the serious and continuous negotiations during the coming weeks”, he said. Yet this morning, to his surprise, the spokesperson for the Israeli Government had announced that negotiations were suspended. He wanted to believe that the Israeli positions were tactical positions, and that the Israeli side would in the end abide by the agreed basis of the peace process. "Let this year be the year of bringing an end to the historic injustice that has befallen our people, and let it be a new beginning for life in the Middle East for all its States and all its peoples and all future generations”, he concluded.

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