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


Fifty-third General Assembly
Third Committee
47th Meeting (PM)
GA/SHC/3509
16 November 1998



ASSEMBLY WOULD REAFFIRM RIGHT OF PALESTINIAN PEOPLE TO SELF-DETERMINATION,

WITHOUT EXCLUDING OPTION OF STATE, BY THIRD COMMITTEE TEXT

Committee Takes Action on Five Texts, Hears Introduction of 11 Drafts

The General Assembly would reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination, without excluding the option of a state, under the provisions of one of five draft resolutions approved by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon.

By a recorded vote of 146 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 7 abstentions (Fiji, Georgia, Kenya, Nicaragua, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Uruguay), the Assembly would express its hope that the Palestinian people would soon be exercising their right to self-determination in the current peace process, and urge all States and organizations to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination. (For details of the vote, see Annex I.)

Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Israel said the resolution was an outdated relic that ignored the positive developments on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians, and threatened the very progress it claimed to support.

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Drafts for Action

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A draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/53/L.26) would have the Assembly express deep concern over the difficulties facing the Middle East peace process. The Assembly would also reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and would express the hope that the Palestinian people would soon be exercising that right. The Assembly would also urge all States and all parts of the United Nations system to continue supporting and assisting the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination.

The draft is sponsored by Algeria, Andorra, Austria, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Monaco, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam and Yemen.

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Introduction of Drafts

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The Committee took up the draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/53/L.26).

As the main sponsor of the draft resolution, the representative of Egypt said the following countries had joined as co-sponsors: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Hungary, Guinea- Bissau, Malta, Niger and Mozambique.

Speaking before action, the representative of the United States said his Government opposed that resolution because, like many others before it, the text again injected the United Nations into the Middle East peace process, and referred to a final status issue that was the subject of direct negotiations among the parties to the conflict.

The United States also opposed the draft because it singled out one group of people for self-determination, even though the Committee last week had adopted a separate resolution on the subject of universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, he said. There were numerous other groups of people throughout the world that regarded themselves as being under foreign occupation. Yet, no resolution singled them out for special treatment. The adoption of that politicized resolution would not contribute to a reinvigoration of the peace process. His Government believed it could have the opposite effect and for that reason would vote against it.

The representative of Israel said his Government's vote against the resolution was precisely to preserve the progress made in that direction. At best, the resolution was an outdated relic, ignoring the positive developments on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians. At worst, it threatened the very progress it claimed to support.

The issue belonged at the negotiating table, he said. Direct negotiations had been the key to every diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East, from the Camp David Accords with Egypt to the Treaty of Peace with Jordan. Those pacts ended decades of hostility and bloodshed, and brought prosperity to their peoples. But because the parties had worked together, not unilaterally. Thus, it was only direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians that paved the way for the Madrid Conference, and later, for the Oslo Agreements. It was only through hours of face to face negotiations that the historic Wye Memorandum had been hammered out last month, setting the conditions for continuing the peace process.

If the resolution was adopted, the Third Committee would be participating in a process that completely undermined the Israeli-Palestinian commitments, he said. In both the Oslo and Hebron Accords, as well as in the Wye Memorandum, the two sides had expressly committed themselves to direct negotiations -- as the only legitimate way to determine their final settlement.

Moreover, the Wye Memorandum specifically stated that neither side would initiate or take any step to change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. That language, concerning any change in the legal status of the disputed territory, was directly taken from the Oslo II Interim Agreement. Thus, advancing that resolution, here or in any other forum, constituted a direct violation of Oslo and the Wye Memorandum, and the cooperative spirit behind them.

Further, he said, the draft resolution was irrelevant because 98 per cent of the Palestinians in the territories today were under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. They elected their own officials and were administered by Palestinian police and had all the freedom of individual and communal expression that their leaders allowed. Thus, it was somewhat disingenuous that the Third Committee should now call for self-determination that, to all intents and purposes, the Palestinians already had.

The draft on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/53/L.26) was approved by a recorded vote of 146 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 7 abstentions (Fiji, Georgia, Kenya, Nicaragua, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Uruguay). (See Annex I.)

Speaking in explanation of the vote after the vote, the representative of Syria said his delegation welcomed the approval of the resolution by a majority of States. That marked the resolve of the international community to work towards the end of the suffering of the Palestinian people. The negotiations that had begun with the Madrid Conference should lead to a just solution. On the land-for-peace negotiations, Israel was responsible for the obstacles in the peace process, as it would not withdraw from occupied areas, nor would it implement the agreements and commitments it had entered into.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation had voted for the resolution as a sponsor of the Middle East peace process, and called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, which was the only way to bring about the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and to ensure the legitimate right of Israel to exist in security.

The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said she warmly welcomed the signing of the Wye River Memorandum in October. That breakthrough had opened the door to the early resumption of the negotiations on permanent status as foreseen in the Oslo Accords, as well as to the implementation of outstanding commitments under the Interim Agreement. The European Union called on the parties to complete negotiations as soon as possible on those remaining issues under the Interim Agreement still not settled, to start negotiations without delay on final status, and meanwhile to avoid all unilateral acts which could prejudice the final outcome, thus building confidence which was essential for a lasting peace in the region. The Union had therefore co-sponsored the draft.

The Permanent Observer for Palestine said the adoption of that resolution was an important development. The General Assembly had previously adopted resolutions supporting the rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to establish their State. Nevertheless, the resolution was important because it was linked with the principle of self-determination and the absolute right of the Palestinian people to exercise that principle.

Second, it was significant because of the intense and broad support it had received, both in terms of sponsorship and positive votes, he said. The overwhelming vote in favour of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, without excluding the option of a State, represented a very important step towards achievement of the main national goal of the Palestinian people -- the establishment of their own independent State. It was unfortunate that the United States once again chose to oppose this resolution.

The real problem remained the Israeli position in that regard and its claim about that resolution in the context of the Middle East peace process, he said. By opposing the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, Israel was violating the crux of the agreements, namely the mutual recognition between the two sides. Israeli policies were seriously threatening the foundations of the peace process. If Israel believed that process was the vehicle for continued occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people, they were seriously mistaken. The peace process was the vehicle for the achievement of a real peace and co-existence based on parity and respect for the right to self-determination.

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ANNEX I

Vote on Right of Palestinian People to Self-Determination


The draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination (document A/C.3/53/L.26) was approved by a recorded vote of 146 in favour to 2 against, with 7 abstentions, as follows:
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