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The Acting President (spoke in Spanish): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Kevin Rudd, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia.
Twelve months ago, we had no expectation of change in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya. But we did hope to see progress in the historic process to bring permanent peace to the peoples of Israel and Palestine. Sadly, there has been no progress. Australia remains committed to a negotiated two-State solution that allows a secure and independent Israel to live side by side with a secure and independent Palestinian State.
Over the past 10 months I have travelled three times to both Jerusalem and Ramallah, where I have met on each occasion with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. I have urged both parties to engage in direct negotiations. I have argued that they should be held on the basis of the 1967 boundaries plus appropriate land swaps. I have argued that the remaining final status issues — the right to return, the status of Jerusalem, the Holy Sites and the provision of external security — be resolved through such direct negotiations.
My fear is that if we do not see these matters concluded in the near term, the rapidly changing geo-politics of the region will make the prospects of a lasting settlement remote. We have already seen tension between Israel and Egypt. We have already seen the fracturing of the relationship between Israel and Turkey. We do not know how long the current framework of the Arab Peace Plan will remain on the table. We are fearful of a further intifada of the type we have seen before.
As a friend of Israel, we are fearful that in the absence of a negotiated settlement, Israel’s security situation will deteriorate rapidly in the year ahead. As a friend of the Palestinian people, we believe that the time has come for direct negotiations to establish a Palestinian State, one which also guarantees the security of Israel. If we fail to achieve this, I fear the gravity of the consequences as the ground continues to change across the wider Middle East. I note also that these views have been reflected today by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Australia therefore urges both parties to seize the day and to shape the future of a new Middle East. We await the outcome from the weeks that lie ahead in New York, before framing our response to any particular resolution before the United Nations.
The Acting President (spoke in Spanish): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Mr. Rassoul (Afghanistan): I am honoured to be here to read the statement of my President, His Excellency Hâmid Karzai, who had to return from New York to Kabul on an urgent basis, following the tragic assassination, through a terrorist plot, of Afghanistan’s former President and Chairman of the High Peace Council, Mr. Burhanuddin Rabbani.
The President’s message begins:
“The people of Afghanistan deeply sympathize with the plight of our brothers and sisters in Palestine. We reiterate our call for an immediate end to their suffering and the realization of their inalienable rights, including the right to an independent State. In this connection, we stand firmly behind the efforts aimed at Palestine’s admission as a full Member of the United Nations. I hope that this year we will witness, with pride, the inclusion of Palestine as the 194th Member of the United Nations.
The meeting rose at 9 p.m.