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Règlement pacifique de la question de Palestine - Rapport du Secrétaire général

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        General Assembly
        Security Council

23 November 2001

Original: English/French

General Assembly
Fifty-sixth session
Agenda items 41 and 42
Question of Palestine
The situation in the Middle East
Security Council
Fifty-sixth year

Report of the Secretary-General*

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted in pursuance of General Assembly resolution 55/55 of 1 December 2000 on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.

2. On 19 July 2001, the Secretary-General, pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 9 of the above-mentioned resolution, addressed the following letter to the President of the Security Council:

3. On 28 September 2001, the following reply was received from the Security Council:
4. In notes verbales dated 18 and 24 July 2001 to the parties concerned, the Secretary-General sought the positions of the Governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization, regarding any steps taken by them to implement the relevant provisions of the resolution. As at 15 November 2001, the following replies had been received:

Note verbale dated 26 September 2001 from the Permanent Representative of Israel
to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General

Note verbale dated 17 October 2001 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine
to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General

II. Observations

5. It is a matter of grave concern that the present Israeli-Palestinian crisis has entered its second year with an escalation of violence, while the peace process remains stalled despite many international efforts to revive it. Tensions have increased constantly in the past year, which has been marked by a vicious cycle of violence and retaliation. In fact, we are dealing with the worst crisis in the Middle East since the 1993 Oslo Agreement.

6. In view of the seriousness of the situation, I have devoted a great deal of personal attention to this issue. I have maintained close and regular contacts with the parties and other leaders in the region and the international community to find a way forward. In my previous report on the question of Palestine (A/55/639-S/2000/1113), I informed the members of the General Assembly and the Security Council of the Summit meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which was jointly chaired by Presidents Mubarak and Clinton on 16 and 17 October 2000.

7. Since the outbreak of the current Palestinian intifada at the end of September 2000, over 900 people have been killed and many thousands have been injured, the vast majority of them Palestinians. I have repeatedly expressed concern that Israel’s response to the violence has included a disproportionate use of military force and incursions into the areas under full Palestinian authority. I have condemned the practice of so-called “targeted assassinations” and attacks on civilians by settler groups. I have also strongly condemned acts of violence or terror from whatever quarter, especially indiscriminate suicide bombing attacks against Israelis by Palestinian groups, and called upon the Palestinian Authority to make a maximum effort to control violence. These tragic developments have greatly increased mutual distrust, hardened the positions of the two sides and strengthened extremist elements.

8. Since the beginning of the intifada, the level of poverty, misery and suffering among the Palestinians has increased dramatically. I have repeatedly called upon Israel to end the closures and economic blockade.

9. Over the past year, the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, has been the subject of extensive consultations and debates in the Security Council. Members of the Council held private meetings with Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, on 10 November 2000, with the Ministerial Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on 27 November 2000 and with Shimon Peres, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel on 14 March 2001. On 7 October 2000, the Security Council adopted resolution 1322 (2000).

10. On 20 December 2000, on the basis of the Camp David understandings and subsequent talks, President Clinton presented to the parties a plan outlining a set of proposals (“parameters”) for a final-status agreement. Both sides accepted those parameters with reservations. The plan was presented to the Israeli and Palestinian delegations at the resumed talks held in Washington from 19 to 23 December. In a further effort to reach an agreement before the prime ministerial elections in Israel, senior Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held talks in Taba, Egypt, from 21 to 27 January 2001. In a joint statement, the two sides declared that they had never been closer to reaching an agreement. Substantial progress was achieved in each of the issues discussed: refugees, security, borders and Jerusalem. However, given the circumstances and time constraints, it proved impossible to reach a final understanding on all issues.

11. As the parties remained deadlocked, further international efforts were made to revive the political process leading to a solution. In March, a serious discussion was generated by a joint Egyptian-Jordanian non-paper proposing steps to end the current crisis and to restart negotiations. It should be recalled in this connection that, prior to the submission of the paper, new circumstances had evolved, including the establishment of a national unity Government in Israel, headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The new Israeli Government declared that it would honour previous diplomatic agreements approved by the Knesset, but it would not conduct negotiations while the violence continued.

12. On 27 and 28 March 2001, I took part in the Summit of the League of Arab States in Amman. The crisis in the Middle East was a major topic of my discussions with heads of State and Foreign Ministers at the meeting. In my statement to the Summit I stressed that the international community and the Arab world had the right to criticize Israel for its continued occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory, and for its excessively harsh response to the intifada. But I argued that those points could be made more effectively if many Israelis did not believe that their existence was under threat: Israel had a right, enshrined in numerous United Nations resolutions, to exist in safety within internationally recognized borders. I emphasized that what was needed was movement towards an agreement that responded both to the legitimate desire of the Palestinians for national independence, and to the legitimate claims of the Israelis to recognition and security.

13. The report of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, known as the Mitchell report, which was released at the end of April, provided a viable basis for a return to the negotiating table, and I fully endorsed its recommendations. The Committee recommended a number of steps to end the violence by implementing an unconditional ceasefire and resuming security cooperation, rebuilding confidence by establishing a meaningful “cooling-off period” and implementing additional confidence-building measures, including a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, to be followed by the resumption of negotiations. The report was accepted by both parties and widely acknowledged at the international level as a good basis to break the impasse. As a follow-up to the report, the parties reached agreement upon a ceasefire on 13 June 2001, which was brokered by director of central intelligence George Tenet. I visited the region from 12 to 18 June 2001 to encourage the parties to consolidate the ceasefire and move towards full implementation of the Mitchell report.

14. It was encouraging that Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and President Yasser Arafat met on 26 September 2001 and agreed to resume full security cooperation and to exert maximum efforts to sustain the ceasefire. The meeting was made possible due in no small measure to painstaking international efforts, in particular involving the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations, with the full support of Jordan and Egypt. The level of violent incidents declined and Israel took several positive steps, including the lifting of some internal closures. There were also significant statements by Member States, including the United States, envisioning the creation of a Palestinian State provided that Israel’s right to exist was respected, which offered a new and important stimulus in the search for a lasting political solution.

15. Unfortunately, this progress was sharply disrupted when Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi was assassinated on 17 October 2001 by gunmen belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. I strongly condemned this terrorist act and called upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint. Following the assassination, Israeli forces launched a major incursion into Palestinian-controlled areas. The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority worked very closely with the representatives of the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and other countries in the region to de-escalate this dangerous situation. In this regard, the “Quartet” issued a joint statement on 25 October 2001, which was strongly supported in a statement to the press, also on 25 October 2001, by the President of the Security Council. It has also been supported by several Member States in their discussions with the parties.

16. On 11 November 2001, I met in New York with Secretary of State Colin Powell of the United States, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov of the Russian Federation and the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union, Javier Solana. The “Quartet” welcomed President George Bush’s statement to the General Assembly on the Middle East of 10 November 2001, in which he pledged to work towards the day when two States, Israel and Palestine, would live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders, as called for by Security Council resolutions. The “Quartet” encouraged their representatives in the field to continue working together to help the Israelis and the Palestinians find a way to resolve the current crisis in their relations.

17. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the five permanent members of the Security Council met with me on 12 November 2001 and issued a statement (see A/56/613-S/2001/1066, annex) strongly encouraging Israelis and Palestinians to take the necessary security, economic and political steps to move from confrontation to the resumption of a political process. The Ministers reiterated their condemnation of acts of terror and violence and their conviction that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem is through dialogue and negotiations. They called upon Israel to withdraw from all areas into which it had made incursions and to ensure greater restraint by the Israeli Defence Forces. They also called upon the Palestinian Authority to take all possible steps to put an end to violence. In that regard, they urged the parties to implement the Tenet plan and the recommendations of the Mitchell report, which the parties had accepted, as quickly as possible. The Ministers called upon the parties to create an environment in which the negotiations based upon Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the Madrid principles could resume.

18. I continue to believe that only a package solution based on the Mitchell report, including security and economic aspects but also a political component, can halt the cycle of violence, restore calm and create the right atmosphere for the resumption of sustainable peace talks. There is no alternative to a return to the negotiating table and to a peaceful settlement. However, the mutual distrust between the parties has reached such a level that without constant third-party involvement and encouragement they may not be able to break out of the current impasse. Therefore, at this critical juncture it is imperative to accelerate joint efforts with a view to generating new momentum towards a peaceful solution of the ongoing crisis.

19. The confrontation has had a devastating impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. Severe closures and blockades have resulted in large-scale losses to the Palestinian economy, wiping out more than three years of growth and increasing dramatically the level of unemployment and poverty. The fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority remains fragile. The drop in domestic tax revenue and the continued withholding of Palestinian tax revenues by Israeli authorities has led to a significant budget deficit in 2001. Generous support from the Arab States, as well as the European Union and Norway, have eased the crisis this year. However, new efforts will be urgently needed. Therefore, a well-coordinated and concerted international relief and assistance effort is essential to address the most pressing needs and gradually improve living conditions. Urgent measures are also needed to remove the restrictions placed on the movement of staff and goods related to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations remains at the forefront of efforts to alleviate the severe social and economic hardships of the Palestinian people. The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator, as well as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and many other bodies continue their work in the region, adjusting the focus of their activities as required by the current humanitarian emergency. I should like to use this occasion to call once again upon the international donor community to provide adequate funding to UNRWA so that it can continue to deliver the necessary services to the Palestinian refugees. Donor assistance is especially vital at a time when the humanitarian situation is so critical.

20. As the General Assembly has underscored on many occasions, achieving a final and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, the core issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict, is imperative for the attainment of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. I hope that there will also be movement on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks so that peace, security and stability may be achieved for all peoples in the region on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

21. For its part, the United Nations will continue to support the resumption of the peace process and to respond in a coherent and integrated way to the economic, social, humanitarian and other needs of the population in the West Bank and Gaza. I call upon the international community to provide the necessary resources in support of the United Nations programmes to address the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people.

22. I should like to pay special tribute to Terje Roed-Larsen, United Nations Special Coordinator and my Personal Representative, and to the staff of the Office of the Special Coordinator, as well as to the staff of UNRWA and other United Nations agencies, all of whom have rendered sterling service while working under increasingly demanding and difficult circumstances.

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