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


Committee on Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
245th Meeting (AM)
GA/PAL/803
2 June 1999



COMMITTEE ON EXERCISE OF INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
CONSIDERS DEVELOPMENTS IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY

Committee Also Hears Chairman's Report on Windhoek Meeting; Takes Up
Programme for International Meeting on Fourth Geneva Convention Conference


The relief felt by the Palestinian side, following the Israeli elections, had more to do with the person who had lost than with the one who had won, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was told this morning, as it considered developments in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.

Ehud Barak's policies remained to be seen, the Observer for Palestine told the Committee. The four things needed from the new Israeli Government to ensure progress were: reaffirmation of compliance with existing agreements; total cessation of settlement activities; immediate implementation of the Wye River Agreement; and engagementin final status negotiations, with the understanding that it should be concluded within six months to a year.

Also this morning, the Committee took note of its Chairman's report on the African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which was held in Windhoek, Namibia, from 20 to 22 April this year. The Meeting had demonstrated the determination of African States to contribute to the international efforts towards restarting the peace process to allow the parties to proceed to the crucial stage of the permanent status negotiations, Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal), Committee Chairman, said.

The Committee also approved the programme for the United Nations International Meeting on the Convening of the Conference on Measures to Enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. Organized by the Committee, the meeting will be held on 14 and 15 June in Cairo, Egypt. It would address such issues as the violations by Israel of the provisions of the Convention, its enforcement in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the goals, procedures and possible outcomes of the upcoming conference in Geneva.

The Chairman informed delegates that, following consultations with Palestine, the Committee's delegation to the Cairo meeting would then visit Gaza for a meeting with the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat.

The representative of Egypt also made a statement this morning.

The 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 hear the report of its Chairman on an African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which was held in Windhoek, Namibia, in April. It was also expected to consider a working paper outlining the programme for the United Nations International Meeting on the Convening of the Conference on Measures to Enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including Jerusalem, to be held from 14 to 15 June in Cairo, Egypt.

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


Statements

At the opening of the meeting, IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee, welcomed the new Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations, Ahmede Aboul Gheit, and wished him every success in his important assignment in New York. He also expressed appreciation for the work of his predecessor, Ambassador Nabil Elaraby.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) thanked the Chairman for his kind words addressed both to him and to his predecessor. He then reaffirmed Egypt's long-standing support of the case of the Palestinian people and pointed out the daily intense coordination between Egypt and Palestine at all levels. He also stated that Egypt, in that context, was happy to host the United Nations International Meeting on the Convening of the Conference on Measures to Enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. His Government was working in coordination with the Secretariat in preparation for that meeting, which would take place on 14 and 15 June.

Reporting on the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which took place in Windhoek, from 20 to 22 April, Mr. KA (Senegal), Committee Chairman, said that in the months prior to the meeting, the Committee had repeatedly expressed its concern at the breakdown of the peace process following the freezing of the implementation of the Wye River agreements and the increased hardship and hopelessness of the Palestinian people living in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. The Meeting had been convened to address the most pressing issues in that regard and to promote intensified political and other action by African and other countries in support of the attainment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and for the success of the peace efforts.

The Meeting had ended with the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration, by which participants welcomed the recommendation by the Tenth Emergency special session of the General Assembly to convene a conference on measures to enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention, he said. The Meeting had demonstrated broad support by African States for the exercise by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and the establishment of a State. The participants had emphasized that that remained a key element for the successful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the core of which was the question of Palestine.

The Meeting had also demonstrated the determination of African States to contribute to the international efforts towards restarting the peace process to allow the parties to proceed to the crucial stage of the permanent status negotiations, he continued. In that context, the participants had reviewed action taken by African States at various levels, including within the United Nations system, the Organization of African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement.

The Committee then took note of the report of the Windhoek Meeting.

Turning to the provisional programme of the United Nations International Meeting on the Convening of the Conference on Measures to Enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, he said that the General Assembly, in its resolution A/ES-10/6, adopted on 9 February 1999 at its tenth emergency special session, had reiterated its recommendation that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention [relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war] convene a conference on measures to enforce it in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure respect thereof. It had also recommended that the conference be held on 15 July 1999 at the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Attaching utmost importance to the implementation of that resolution, the Committee was convening the meeting in Cairo in an effort to provide an opportunity for governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and international experts on the subject to discuss the Fourth Geneva Convention and its enforcement, as well as the forthcoming Conference on the High Contracting Parties. It would provide an opportunity to exchange views and perspectives in advance of the Geneva conference. It was envisaged that the Meeting would address such issues as the violations by Israel of the provisions of the Convention, its enforcement in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the goals, procedures and possible outcomes of the upcoming conference in Geneva.

Following consultations with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, the bureau of the Committee had decided that the delegation to the Cairo meeting would then visit Gaza for a meeting with the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Authority, Yasser Arafat, and other Palestinian officials.

The Committee then approved the programme for the International Meeting on the Convening of the Conference on Measures to Enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said that regarding the visit by the Committee's bureau to Gaza, while the Palestinian side was looking forward to that visit, it would not be possible to hold it on 16 June. That was due to the fact that Mr. Arafat would be in Pretoria on that day to attend the celebrations for Nelson Mandela. They were now working to ensure that meeting could take place on 18 June.

Elaborating on recent political developments, he said that, since the Committee's last meeting, the Palestinian Central Council had convened on 23 April to consider the situation relating to the conclusion of the five-year transitional period, and to decide on the next steps to be taken by the Palestinian leadership. The Council had decided to postpone their final decision, to leave their options open and to meet again at the end of June. In the meantime, the Council had affirmed that the Palestinian state already existed based on the natural rights of the Palestinian people. It had also created working committees to take on the work of Palestinian institutions, including a committee on the constitution.

Turning to the Israeli elections of 4 May, he said that the relief felt by the Palestinian side following the elections had more to do with the person who had lost, rather than with the person who had won -- Ehud Barak's policies remained to be seen. There had been some extremely dangerous activities with regard to settlements in and around occupied Jerusalem. He had written to the Security Council and the Secretary- General informing them of actual building in Jabal Abu Ghneim, the site which had prompted the General Assembly's tenth emergency special session. Actual building had started in that area, as well as in other areas of East Jerusalem. In his opinion, those steps could not have taken place without the tacit agreement of the new Prime Minister. In addition, the new Prime Minister had not said anything about settlement activities, which could block further progress.

The Palestinian side needed four things from the new Israeli Government to ensure progress, he said. They were the reaffirmation of compliance with existing agreements; total cessation of settlement activities; immediate implementation of the Wye River Agreement; and engagement in final status negotiations, with the understanding that it should be concluded within six months to a year. A clear and pressing position by the international community on the basis of international law was needed to ensure serious progress.

Turning to efforts to convene the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, he said that Switzerland had decided to move consultations from New York to Geneva, and to have a group of friends consisting of 26 members. It had also started to raise questions which he thought had already been decided, such as the principle of convening such a conference. The Non-Aligned Movement had adopted a detailed position to complement its basic positions. The new one adopted by the coordinating bureau of the Non- Aligned Movement had been conveyed to the Permanent Observer for Switzerland. Then Switzerland had presented a non-paper which stated that the Movement's position did not reflect the Swiss position. That was problematic and ignored the positions of the High Contracting Parties. Switzerland had also raised the issue of the participation of Palestine and the form of its participation. On a positive note, they had made it clear that a broad majority of the Parties did agree to have the conference as recommended, on 15 July.

He stated that the Palestinian position was as follows. First, the principle of convening the conference and its date had already been decided and was not subject to discussion. Second, he did not accept any attempt to transform the conference into an informal meeting. Third, the Palestinian side was ready to show flexibility regarding the results of the conference, which would also depend on what had happened on the ground until 15 July. Fourth, broad bilateral and multilateral discussions should take place on the issue of the results of the conference. Finally, the participation of Palestine had already been ensured.

In conclusion, he mentioned a new Web sit created by the Permanent Observer Mission to facilitate work on Palestine -- that could be found at: www.palestine-un.org.

Mr. KA (Senegal), Committee Chairman, urged strong participation in the Cairo and Geneva meetings, for they were of utmost importance. He also thanked the Organization of Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States for their participation in the preparatory work for the conferences.


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For information media - not an official record