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


GA/PAL/785
4 August 1998

PALESTINIAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE HEARS REPORTS ON
OUTCOMES OF SEMINAR AND SYMPOSIA ON QUESTION
OF PALESTINE IN LATIN AMERICA AND NORTH AMERICA

Permanent Observer for Palestine Briefs Committee on
Latest Developments in Middle East Peace Process


The state of the Middle East peace process -- or "what was left of it" -- was "bad", as well as the situation of the Palestinian people on the ground, the Permanent Observer for Palestine told the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning.

Nasser Al-Kidwa said that it was beyond any dispute that Israel was the party responsible for that situation. The Israeli Government had "run out of tricks, run out of any possible justifications of its positions". Its basic position remained its refusal to implement agreements and to adhere to the principle of "land for peace". The additional rights and privileges, recently granted Palestine by the General Assembly, had been "a small victory" on the path to the real one, namely Palestine's attainment of full State membership in the United Nations, he added.

Also this morning, the Committee was briefed on the outcomes of the Latin American and Caribbean Seminar and NGO Symposium held in Santiago, Chile, in May, and on the North American NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine held in New York, in June.

A final document of the Santiago symposium distributed by the Secretariat emphasized that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean could advance the peace process and Palestinian nation-building, in view of their experience in the struggle for political and economic independence and development and their tradition of harmonious relations between Palestinian and Jewish communities.

In a statement to the meeting, the Committee Chairman said the North American NGO Symposium, the last event organized by the Committee for the year, reflected in its theme the serious concern over the continuing lack of solution of the question of Palestine. The theme, "50 years of dispossession of the Palestinian people", was intended not only to commemorate the anniversary of the events of 1948, but also to serve as a mobilization tool for the future.

In other business, the Director, Promotion and Public Services Division, Department of Public Information (DPI), provided an update on the Department's activities in support of the Committee, including recent seminars for journalists from the Asian and European regions.

The Palestinian Rights Committee will meet again at a date to be announced in the Journal.

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to review the outcomes of recent meetings relating to the Palestinian cause. Those included the Latin American and Caribbean Seminar and NGO Symposium held in Santiago, Chile, from 26 to 29 May, and the North American NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine held in New York from 15 to 17 June. It had before it a report of its Chairman outlining the results of those meetings.

The Committee was also expected to review developments in the Middle East peace process and the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.

Statements

RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan), Vice-Chairman of the Committee, read out, on behalf of its Chairman, Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal), a report on the two symposia recently organized by the Committee -- the Latin American and Caribbean Seminar and NGO Symposium, which was held from 26 to 29 May, at Santiago, Chile, and the North American NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine, which took place in New York, from 15 to 17 June.

He said the theme of the Santiago seminar was "Achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine - the role of Latin America and the Caribbean". Prominent and knowledgeable experts from the region and from Israel and the Palestinian territory made presentations. The Committee's delegation, which was led by its Chairman, included Bruno Rodriguez Parilla (Cuba), George Saliba (Malta), Sotirios Zackheos (Cyprus) and Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer for Palestine.

Juan Martabit, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, addressed the opening session on behalf of the host country, he went on. A message from the Secretary-General was read by his representative, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Fathi Arafat, a member of the Palestine National Council and President of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, made a statement on behalf of Palestine. The regional non-governmental organizations were represented by Jose Felix Ferreyra, outgoing Chairman of the Coordinating Committee, and Jose Elias, who represented the communities of Palestinian descent.

He said the regional event in Chile was particularly gratifying because of the presence of a large community of people of Palestinian descent, and the Chilean Government's support for Palestinian rights, as demonstrated most recently by the opening of a consular office in the territory under the Palestinian Authority.

A final document of the symposium was made available by the Secretariat to delegations at today's meeting.

According to the document, countries of Latin America and the Caribbean could contribute to advance the peace process and to Palestinian nation-building, in view of their experience in the struggle for political and economic independence and development and their tradition of harmonious relations between the Palestinian and Jewish communities.

The participants called upon the Latin American and Caribbean Governments to play an important role in promoting Palestinian efforts to achieve independence and sovereignty, in particular by establishing diplomatic representation in the areas under the Palestinian Authority and by supporting the upgrading of the status of Palestine at the United Nations, he stated. According to the final document, "The NGOs reaffirmed that 1999 was the year of the State of Palestine and pledged to work with their constituencies and the public to prepare them for the declaration of the independent State by the Palestinian Authority."

Continuing to read the Chairman's statement, Mr. FARHADI (Afghanistan) said the North American NGO Symposium, the last event organized by the Committee for the year, reflected in its theme the serious concern over the continuing lack of solution of the question of Palestine. The theme, "50 years of dispossession of the Palestinian people", was intended not only to commemorate the anniversary of the events of 1948, but also to serve as a mobilization tool for the future. The symposium was opened by him, as Vice-Chairman of the Committee. Statements were also made by Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer for Palestine, and by David Graybeal, Chairman of the North American Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine. Many useful proposals were made and the Committee counted on non-governmental organizations in Canada and the United States, through their coordinating committees to carry them through in the coming months.

The statement said the reports on the seminars would be issued, in accordance with established practice, as publications of the Division for Palestinian Rights. A summary of the proceedings would be included in the report of the Committee to the fifty-third session of the General Assembly. A copy of the Final Document of the Santiago seminar and the action proposals of the NGOs would be posted on the Internet.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that the adoption by the General Assembly on 7 July of resolution 52/250 on the participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations was "a small victory on the path to the real big victory", namely the attainment by the State of Palestine of full membership in the United Nations. It might be appropriate, in light of the adoption of that resolution, for Committee members to consider the possibility of seating Palestine among the observers of the Committee in alphabetical manner.

Regarding the follow up of the recommendation of the Assembly at its tenth special emergency session to convene a conference on enforcement measures of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, he recalled the July note of the Swiss Government, in its capacity as depository of the Geneva Conventions, to the High Contracting Parties to the Convention. In that note, the Swiss Government had proposed the convening of a meeting of experts in Geneva from 27 to 29 October to consider problems of a general nature facing the Convention, particularly concerning the occupied territories, and to seek remedies for those problems.

The Swiss proposal, as the note explained, came as part of an earlier package that was presented to the Palestinian and Israeli sides, he said. It proposed a meeting in Canada between representatives of both sides, as well as of representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), under the chairmanship of the Swiss Government. The meeting did take place, as expected, with the participation of the Palestinian side. There were "no great results" since the occupying Power had refused application of the Convention and insisted on a policy which violated it.

He said that the Palestinian response to the Swiss note indicated a willingness to participate in the expert meeting in October and also indicated an insistence on the need to convene the Conference on the enforcement measures of the Convention. The High Contracting Parties were called upon to indicate to the Swiss Government their willingness to participate in the October meeting, as well as to convene a conference, as recommended by the General Assembly at its tenth special emergency session.

He said that the Arab Group responded collectively and positively to the Swiss note, and yesterday, during a coordinating bureau meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, it was decided that it would indicate a similar position in a letter to the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations. Committee members should be ready to pursue a similar path. The convening of the conference would be a step towards ensuring respect for the Geneva Convention, and would hopefully represent a new beginning.

Turning to the Middle East peace process, or "what was left of it", he said the situation had worsened in the light of the Israeli position towards the United States proposals, namely the withdrawal of Israel from an additional 13.1 per cent of the West Bank. Such a withdrawal would constitute the second redeployment in the three agreed redeployments of Israel from the occupied Palestinian territory during the transitional period. Instead, the Israeli Government had insisted on rejecting those American proposals, had tried to escape its responsibilities, and, as usual, had pursued some tricks. Those included an attempt to trade off any acceptance of any proposals on the one hand, and the cancellation of the agreed third Israeli withdrawal, on the other hand. It also had attempted to create a new category of Palestinian land, which would make it more difficult to ensure future withdrawal by Israel.

He said he had the strong feeling that the Israeli Government had "run out of tricks, run out of any possible justifications of its positions". It had become increasingly clear that the basic position of that Government remained its refusal to implement agreements, as well as a refusal to adhere to the principle of "land for peace" and to implement the Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

There had been some recent meetings between the two sides, he said. The Palestinian side stood ready to explore, probably for the last round, the final Israeli position with regard to the United States proposals. However, it probably would not be of any help or any meaning to continue with those meetings. He had been unable to get a "sense" of the final Palestinian position following the last meeting, held yesterday, but that position would become clear in a few days. In short, the situation was bad, on the political and economic levels, as well as on the ground. It was beyond any dispute that Israel remained the sole responsible party for such a situation.

Other Matters

MIAN QADRUD-DIN, Director, Promotion and Public Services Division, Department of Public Information (DPI), provided an update on the Department's activities in support of the Committee. A media seminar was organized last February by the Department for the Asia region in New Delhi, attended by 40 journalists. There were participants from the Palestinian Authority, Israel and from neighbouring States. Among the panellists were experts from Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the United States. Representatives of Member States based in India and non-governmental organizations also attended the seminar. The opening session was addressed by the Foreign Secretary of India. The Government of India had provided facilities for the seminar, which was successful.

Another seminar organized by DPI took place last June in Prague. Forty-two journalists from the European region, along with a few from the Palestinian Authority and Israel attended. The 11 panellists were drawn from Israel, United States, Egypt and Jordan. The seminar was opened by the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, which also provided the facilities, he said. That seminar was also successful, he added. Details of the seminars, including articles written by participants, would be published.

A training programme was organized by the Department last year for journalists who were brought to Headquarters to observe the work of the General Assembly, he said. A similar programme was planned for this year and the Committee would be informed accordingly, he added.

The Acting Chairman of the Committee commended DPI for its activities and noted that the training programmes were very useful.


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