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

Fifty-ninth General Assembly
General Committee
5th Meeting (AM)
27 October 2004


The General Committee this morning decided to recommend the inclusion of three additional items on the General Assembly’s current agenda, and decided to split its joint debate on the situation in the Middle East and the question of Palestine.

The Committee, by a show of hands vote of nine in favour with none against and 14 abstentions, recommended the inclusion of an item on the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.  The request was contained in a letter from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan (document A/59/236), annexed to which was an explanatory memorandum stating that the ongoing conflict in the Nagorno Karabakh region had resulted in the occupation of a significant part of Azerbaijan’s territory, the expulsion of a large portion of its population and severe damage to the national economy.

The memorandum noted that the process for the peaceful settlement of the conflict on the basis of the norms and principles of international law was being carried out by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), through the Minsk Group.  But as of yet, no results had been achieved. In the meantime, according to the memorandum, illegal activities were currently being carried out in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, in particular by transfer of settlers to artificially create a new demographic situation in those territories.

Azerbaijan’s representative said his country had made the request due to the lack of effective response to the obvious threats to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Azerbaijan would not tolerate colonization of its territory.  It truly regretted that numerous warnings about dangerous new realities in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan had gone ignored and, therefore, had been forced to come to the Assembly in an effort to stop blatant violation of international and humanitarian law.

He stressed that the request was not an attempt to replace the OSCE peace process but to facilitate it.  The Assembly was the chief deliberative, policy making organ of the United Nations, he said, and it was Azerbaijan’s Charter-based right to raise the issue.

France’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Co-Chairmanship of the Minsk Group, which also includes the Russian Federation and the United States, said the OSCE had been actively dealing with this situation for quite some time in a professional-minded spirit, chiefly through the Minsk Group.  Part of that process had already yielded discussions between the parties and the Group had proposed further talks on the situation.

With that in mind, the request for the introduction of a new item could have negative consequences, he said, such as harming efforts to bring about a just and lasting settlement.  While the Group had no doubts about the sincerity of Azerbaijan’s request, it did not believe that the current session of the Assembly was the proper forum to discuss the matter.

Armenia’s Ambassador said that there was no urgent situation surrounding Nagorno Karabagh today.  According to rule 15 of the Assembly’s rules of procedure, only an item of “an important and urgent character” justified a request to include a new item on the Assembly’s current agenda.  The reasons offered to justify Azerbaijan’s request misrepresented the situation on the ground.

He explained that first, there was the former autonomous region of Nagorno Karabagh, which had always and continued to be Armenian-populated.  Then, there were the territories surrounding Nagorno Karabagh, which had come under the control of Nagorno Karabagh Armenians as a result of the war unleashed by Azerbaijan in an attempt to stifle the peaceful drive of the people of those territories for self-determination.

It was obvious, he said, that there were no settlements outside of Nagorno Karabagh proper, in territories controlled by Armenian forces.  Nor was there a policy to settle those lands.  He wondered what new demographic situation Azerbaijan had been referring to.  The conflict had created refugees on both sides.  By initiating the request, Azerbaijan relied on the sensitivities towards its country from members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).  He stressed that the conflict had no religious connotations, but was closely related to the security environment in the South Caucuses.  He urged the Committee not to take action on the request.

Speaking in favour of the inclusion of the item on, before the vote, were the representatives of Gambia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Djibouti, and Turkey (on behalf of the OIC).  The representatives of Belgium and Australia spoke against its inclusion.

The representatives of Kazakhstan and China hoped the situation could be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

At the top of the meeting, the Committee recommended the inclusion of two other items on its current agenda.  The first, entitled “Andean Zone of Peace,” was introduced by Peru’s representative.  Speaking on behalf of the Andean Community (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela), he said that the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and anti-personnel mines constituted a concrete contribution to the strengthening of international peace, security and trust, as well as to the principles of the Charter and international law.  It was also recommended that the item be considered directly in the plenary meeting.

The second item, entitled “Observer status for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in the General Assembly”, was introduced by Pakistan’s representative, who said the Association worked to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life.  It also hoped to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region, providing individuals with the opportunity to live in dignity and realize their potential.  The Committee also decided to allocate that item to its Sixth Committee (Legal).

Acting on a request from the Secretary-General, the Committee also added a new sub-item to its agenda in order to elect a member of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  In document A/59/237, the Secretary-General informed the Committee that a vacancy in the Court would occur effective 11 February 2005, due to the resignation of Judge and Former President Gilbert Guillaume.

Lastly, acting on a proposal by the representative of Syria, the Committee decided to recommend that the Assembly split its consideration of agenda item 36, on the Situation in the Middle East, and item 37, the Question of Palestine, which was scheduled to be considered jointly.

The General Committee will meet again at a time to be announced.
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For information media - not an official record