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


Fifty-fourth General Assembly
Plenary
66th Meeting (AM)
GA/9672
30 November 1999



SPEAKERS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR DEVELOPMENTS
ON PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI TRACKS,

URGE OCCUPYING POWER TO HONOUR ALL COMMITMENTS


Concluding Debate on Question of Palestine,
Assembly Turns Attention to Situation in Middle East


Although it was incumbent on all Member States to work together to help the Middle East peace process, it was the parties themselves that shouldered the major responsibility for achieving a permanent and lasting solution, the representative of India told the General Assembly this morning as it concluded its consideration of the question of Palestine.

The spirit of accommodation and political will shown by the Parties in reviving the peace process, he said, was a reflection of the desire of the people of the region to achieve a comprehensive peace. Political support for the peace process needed to be reinforced by support for the multifaceted tasks of nation building, and the efforts of the Palestinian Authority, particularly in the fields of health, education and employment, needed to be encouraged and assisted.

Despite wide support for positive developments on the Palestinian-Israeli tracks, such as the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum and the resumption of permanent status talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a number of speakers still assailed Israeli actions on the ground as impediments to the success of the peace process. Citing Palestine as the crux of the Middle East conflict, speakers called for cessation of Israel's settler activities, its withdrawal from occupied territories to the line of 4 June 1967, and the creation of an independent Palestinian State, inclusive of the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The representative of Burkina Faso said all the parties must respect their obligations under international law. Israel must therefore put an end to the various deprivations inflicted on the Palestinians. The right of the Palestinians to have and live in an independent State could not be negotiated. The international community had a duty to support the two parties in their efforts to end the conflict. Its obligations basically entailed economic, financial and technical assistance to the Palestinians.

As the Assembly went on to consideration of the situation in the Middle East, the representative of Finland (on behalf of the European Union) expressed support for right of Israel to live within secure and recognized borders, and strongly condemned terrorism. The Union stressed its determination to fight terrorist actions wherever they occurred. She urged all the parties in the peace process to do their utmost to forestall extremist actions, and to deny success to extremists and others seeking to frustrate the peace process through provocation.

Introducing two draft resolutions, one on Jerusalem and the other on the Syrian Golan, the representative of Egypt said that Security Council resolution 242 (1967) was the main axis of the negotiating process in the Middle East. The peace between Egypt and Israel was based on implementation of that text. It had thus set a precedent for peaceful resolution of the situation between Arabs and Israelis.

Implementation of resolution 242, however, was a whole process; it could not be approached piecemeal, he said. The claims made about the application of the resolution to some tracks and not to others, or to certain Arab Territories and not to others, lacked a sound understanding of a resolution that made no distinction among the territories occupied by force since 1967. All occupied territories should be evacuated, he stressed.

Despite positive developments in the peace process, negotiations on the text of a resolution supporting the process had been unsuccessful, said the representative of the United States. His Government regretted that the Assembly had been deprived of the opportunity to take official note of the progress already made. He said the resolution on the Syrian Golan, like so many other texts dealing with the Arab-Israeli dispute, sought to interject the Assembly into negotiations.

Syria and Israel, he continued, had both publicly supported the principle of a negotiating process to resolve their differences; and resolutions such as the one before the Assembly did not contribute to that goal. The United States would abstain on the resolution on Jerusalem, consistent with its belief that the future of the city should be decided through permanent status negotiations.

Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Bangladesh, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Pakistan, Namibia, Indonesia, Botswana, United Republic of Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Nigeria and Kuwait.

The Assembly was also informed this morning that: the Causes of Conflict in Africa would be taken up on 8 December in the morning. In addition, plenary consultations on the Millennium Assembly would take place on the morning of 14 December in conference room 1. Delegations were also told that consultations on equitable representation in the Security Council were ongoing and that they would be informed about development at a later date by the President.

The Assembly is expected to take action on the draft resolutions on Palestine, introduced yesterday afternoon, tomorrow morning.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its consideration of the Situation in the Middle East.

Assembly Work Programme

The Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of the question of Palestine (for further information, see Press Release GA/9671 of 29 November).

MOHAMMAD SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said that despite the fact that the partition of Palestine into two States, one Arab and one Jewish, was carried out some 50 years ago, the international community still faced the challenge of tackling different Israeli policies aimed at preventing the establishment of Palestine.

The United Arab Emirates had followed the development of the peace process with interest, and considered that all the measures taken so far by Israeli Governments did not meet the bare minimum of the requirements for improving the social and political situation of the Palestinian people. Despite Israeli declarations of good intention, his country believed that these measures were inadequate, and were characterized by selectivity and a lack on legal commitment. If this were not so the international community would not now be concerned at the building of more illegal settlements by the Israeli Government, and the absence of basic amenities like water resources.

The United Arab Emirates was dissatisfied with the way things had been going over the years: 75 per cent of Palestinian territory had been seized by Israel and more than 2,500 Palestinian identity cards had been confiscated in an attempt to prevent freedom of movement and deprive Palestinians of their right to live on their land. He believed that Israel had taken all those measures in an effort to achieve a fait accompli which would affect the outcome of any final settlement.

All those difficult challenges led his country to renew its assertion that the United Nations was still the only organization with the international legitimacy to handle the question of Palestine. He commended the positive role played by the Organization's agencies in the peace process. He called on Israel to commit itself to the principle of finding a lasting and just peace in the region.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said that solving the problem of Palestine was a prerequisite for achieving lasting peace in the Middle East. All resolutions on the question adopted by the General Assembly were still relevant. In that regard, on 15 July 1999, for the first time, in response to recommendations contained in various of those resolutions, a conference had been held to consider the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied Palestinian territories. Moreover, the 1991 Madrid Conference and the 1993 signature between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were historical steps on the road to lasting peace.

However, there had been many obstacles, including the building of new settlements, the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and Unilateral suspension by Israel of the Wye River arrangements. However, the signing of the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum by Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak had revived hopes for progress to a lasting peace. He was concerned, though, about the fact that Palestinians' human rights were still violated. Cuba reaffirmed the right of the Palestinians to build an independent State with Jerusalem as capital, and the right to return to their homes. To that end, the Palestinians needed the support of the international community, the General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole.

KAMALESH SHARMA (India) reaffirmed his country's solidarity with the Palestinian people, who had striven over the past decades for the restoration of their legitimate rights. India had consistently supported a peaceful solution to all disputes, and admired the courage of the parties in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Political support for the peace process needed to be reinforced by support for the multi-faceted tasks of nation-building. The efforts of the Palestinian Authority, particularly in the fields of health, education and employment, needed to be encouraged and assisted.

He said that India was ready to give material and technical assistance and help to the Palestinian people through scholarships and exchange programmes. A Memorandum of Understanding on Bilateral Cooperation between the Indian Government and the Palestinian Authority was signed in 1997 during a visit to India by Yasser Arafat. India had also pledged $1 million as assistance to the Palestinians at the first Washington Donors Conference in 1995, and pledged further similar sums in 1996 and 1998.

He stressed that although it was incumbent on all Member States to work together to help the Middle East peace process, it was the parties themselves that shouldered the major responsibility for achieving a permanent and lasting solution. The spirit of accommodation and political will shown by the parties in reviving the peace process was a reflection of the desire of the people of the region to achieve a comprehensive peace.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) expressed support for the Palestinians who, under the aegis of the PLO, were fighting vigorously to regain their rights. Despite the many obstacles encountered, Palestinian and Israeli peoples were clearly taking the path to peace. The signing of the Wye River Memorandum constituted an encouraging step, as did the more recent Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum. All those initiatives were essential for a peaceful solution of the question of Palestine.

All the parties must respect their obligations under international law, he said. In that regard, Israel must put an end to all sorts of depravation inflicted on the Palestinians. Their right to have and live in an independent State could not be negotiated. The international community had a duty to support the two parties in their efforts to end the conflict. The international community's obligations basically entailed economic, financial and technical assistance to the Palestinians. He hailed the work of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Bethlehem 2000 initiative.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other Arab territories was an utter violation and a persistent disregard for international law. Nothing short of a peaceful settlement of the Palestine question would help in the resolution of the continuing crisis in the Middle East. Israeli settlements in the occupied territories had always been a source of tension. He expressed disappointment that out of 194 Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, as many as 67 had been expanded or built since the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993.

He said it was regrettable that instead of continuing the process of freezing settlement activities, Israel had authorized the building of new settlements, including the one at Jabal Abu Ghneim/Har Homa in East Jerusalem. Completion of the latter project would eventually have a significant effect on the demography of East Jerusalem. He was disturbed to learn that Israeli authorities had recently invited tenders for the actual construction of housing units there. He was also concerned at the Israeli decision to earmark its settlement activities as "national priority". That was another deliberate provocation to the sentiment of the people of the occupied territories. Such actions were in no way favourable to the Middle East peace process.

He said Bangladesh utterly condemned the Israeli policy of systematic violation of the basic human rights of the occupied territories. The Security Council, in 25 of its resolutions adopted over the years, had reconfirmed its recognition of the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the territories, including Jerusalem. There was no scope for unilateral refusal. The Wye River Memorandum of October 1998 and the Sharm-el- Sheikh Memorandum of September 1999 were to be implemented to the letter and spirit to facilitate the peace process. His country strongly favoured the idea that the fate of Jerusalem must be a factor in the Palestinian-Israeli talks on the final status of the Palestinian territories. The active involvement of the United Nations and the international community was also essential for a successful outcome to the peace efforts.

ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said that, like the majority of Member States, his country had expressed concern at the deterioration of the peace process over the years and was, therefore, particularly pleased that, thanks to the efforts of the PLO, Israel and the international community, the peace process had been rekindled by the signing of the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum.

He welcomed that development, and hoped that the parties concerned would continue to adopt a flexible approach to advancing the peace process on the basis of United Nations resolutions. That was the only way to a just solution of the Palestinian problem. The question of Palestine was the thorniest issue of our time, but he believed that the problem could be resolved provided the parties concerned had the political will.

He called on the international community to do all in its power to resolve the problem because Palestinians had suffered for too long. The road to peace was not easy because it was strewn with obstacles, but it was possible for the peoples of the region to live together in peaceful cooperation. He reaffirmed his country's unwavering support for the Palestinian people under the leadership of the PLO, and said he looked forward with optimism to the creation of a Palestinian State in accordance with the General Assembly's wishes.

JOHN DE SARAM (Sri Lanka) said the question of Palestine had been on the agenda of the United Nations for the past 50 years. It had been one of the principal responsibilities of the United Nations to keep the world's attention focused on the Palestinian people's quest for the realization of its inalienable rights.

Turning to the report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, he said they, in conjunction with the General Assembly's discussions of the reports -- might contribute to the evolution of a more enlightened and sensitive perspective on the part of Israeli authorities responsible for the administration of the occupied territories. That perspective appeared to have been present in the recent decision, by the Supreme Court of Israel to prohibit extreme coercive methods of interrogation, and in the Israeli decision, a few weeks ago, to cease the residency restrictions on Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

However, there were passages in the Committee's report that pointed to Israeli actions which were disruptive of the peace process. Those activities included continued settlement building and other actions inconsistent with the occupied status of East Jerusalem in terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

CHERUB NICHOLLS (Guyana) said it was unacceptable that in an era of democratization, a population of some 3.6 million people was still without its own land. That uncertain situation could only breed discontentment and despair, which would inevitably lead to conflict. For every step taken towards progress in the Israel-Palestine conflict, it appeared two were taken backwards.

Nevertheless, she said, Guyana however remained convinced that the peace process could and would work if all the parties were prepared to negotiate seriously and in good faith. She welcomed the resumption of negotiations between the parties and urged vigilance on the part of the United Nations, in particular, the General Assembly and the Security Council, to ensure that negotiations were conducted in good faith.

She urged the parties concerned to expand the bilateral cooperation and new prospects for improved relations which had begun with the creation of the Palestinian Authority. Such opportunities for joint Palestinian-Israeli development cooperation were significant, because they could help to pave the way for political cooperation.

BURHANUL ISLAM (Pakistan) said though the question of Palestine had been debated in the General Assembly for over 51 years, there remained many road-blocks in the way of a comprehensive and final settlement. No lasting peace in the Middle East would be possible without achieving a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. The realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territory, were essential for any meaningful progress in the peace process.

There had been some progress, he said, in particular in the implementation of commitments concerning the opening of passage between the West Bank and Gaza and the partial release of prisoners. However, despite those acts, Israel continued with its illegal settlement activities, including the construction on expansion of new and existing settlements, carried out in disregard of the concerns expressed by the international community. Moreover, a large number of Palestinian prisoners still remained in Israeli jails, and continued to receive harsh treatment by the Israeli authorities. He therefore called upon the international community, in particular the guarantors of the peace process, to use their influence and good offices to ensure full Israeli compliance with the peace agreements.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said while it was fitting to commend the negotiating parties in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it was also necessary to be cautious because of the complexity and sensitivity of the outstanding issues. It was for the international community to sustain efforts to promote the cause of peace until the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine, as well as peace and stability in the entire region.

He commended the courageous and important initiatives of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which had been at the forefront in campaigning for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. The convening of such international events as the African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People had played an invaluable role in heightening international awareness of the question of Palestine.

He ended by welcoming the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum between Palestine and Israel, and said he hoped that the spirit of cooperation behind the agreement would contribute to the full implementation of pervious accords between the two parties.

MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said the Palestinian people had reached a decisive moment in their history with the resumption of the peace process. That process could not only transform their lives and their land, but also profoundly impact on the whole region. Indonesia was gratified by the signing of the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum, but it remained crucial for commitments to be carried out in good faith and in accordance with the agreed timetable.

He said that for peace to flourish and grow it was necessary to surmount decades of occupation and injustices, which had gravely undermined the socio-economic fabric of Palestinian society. In that regard, he added, the United Nations, its agencies and the donor community had a central role to play in extending support for the challenging tasks of nation building. Indonesia was therefore gratified by the appointment of a United Nations Special Coordinator of the Occupied Territories.

He maintained that a durable and just solution to the intractable problem could only be achieved if the Palestinian people were allowed to regain their legitimate national rights, including the right of refugees to return to their independent homeland, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. He expressed the hope that peace and security would be permanently anchored in the Middle East and in its people, particularly the Palestinian people who had endured so much pain and suffering.

LEGWAILA J. LEGWAILA (Botswana) said the alternative to realization of the objectives of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was beyond conjecture. Failure by either side to sustain the peace process and infuse it with new zeal would play into the hands of those in the region who were allergic to peaceful coexistence.

He hoped that there would be no more wars in the Middle East as the Arab nation and the Jewish people came to realize that they were chained together by a common destiny in a common ancestral land. It was in their interest to ensure that those in the region who sought change through violence, or were fanatically opposed to the normalization of relations between the Arabs and the Jews, did not succeed in their evil designs.

He concluded by reiterating Botswana's support for the struggle for peace and reconciliation between the people of Israel and Palestine, and urged them to bring closure to the peace process.

DAUDI N. MWAKAWAGO (Tanzania) said the key solution to the Middle East problem lay in the restoration of the legitimate and inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people. Only that outcome could bring stability, development and the achievement of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. Since the last session of the General Assembly on the subject, the peace process had moved forward. He expressed the hope that with the advent of a new administration in Israel, headed by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, there would be a change of attitude on the part of the Israeli Government. He noted that the new administration had so far demonstrated willingness to work towards a fair and permanent solution of the Palestinian question.

Questions had always been raised as to the role of the United Nations in the peace process. The question of Palestine in particular, and the Middle East in general, had always been on the agenda since the inception of the Organization. Tanzania supported continued United Nations involvement, which represented an exhortation rather than an obstruction to the parties to proceed with the peace process.

The Situation in the Middle East

MARJATTA RASI (Finland) spoke on behalf of the European Union and the associated States of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

She said there was now real momentum towards peace in the Middle East. The Sharm-el- Sheikh Memorandum, and the resumption of the permanent status talks between Israel and the Palestinians, were steps that had created a positive atmosphere which should be further nurtured on all tracks. The European Union hoped that progress on the Palestinian issue would have positive effects on the Middle East as a whole. It was also high time to reinvigorate the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, with a view to achieving a comprehensive peace based on the principle of Land for Peace and relevant Security Council resolutions. Regarding South Lebanon, the security of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) must be guaranteed by the parties concerned under all circumstances, she stressed.

She said the Union strongly supported the right of Israel to live within secure and recognized borders. It strongly condemned terrorism, and stressed its determination to fight terrorist actions wherever they occurred. She urged all the parties in the peace process to do their utmost to forestall extremist actions, and to deny success to extremists and others seeking to frustrate the peace process through provocation. The Union called upon the parties to avoid all unilateral acts which could prejudge the outcome of bilateral negotiations. It would also continue its efforts to help restore negotiations on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, and remained determined to help re-launch as soon as possible the multilateral track of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. The Union would also continue its considerable economic and technical assistance to the Middle East region, and would seek to make progress in its vision of a Euro-Mediterranean area of shared prosperity and free trade.

FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said his country supported the peace process because it believed peace was a strategic choice. He called on Israel to respect its commitments, as well as the basis on which the peace process was founded. That would require complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and a cessation of repeated Israeli attacks on Southern Lebanon. Israel must also withdraw unconditionally from Southern Lebanon. Israel was also the only State in the region which had weapons of mass destruction; yet it had refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he continued. All other States in the region agreed with collective efforts to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction.

Turning to the issue of problems between Iran and the United Arab Emirates, he hoped that with the new Iranian Government, new policies would be adopted to deal with the situation. He called for serious negotiations on the matter, including submitting the issue for consideration to the International Court of Justice. That would open a new chapter between Iran and the rest of the countries of the Gulf.

On the question of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, he said that his country had continued to ask Iraq to respect the relevant Security Council resolution; but it also recognized that the Iraqi people were suffering because of sanctions imposed on their country. He supported the call by certain Member States in the Security Council for the lifting of some sanctions.

PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum set out a timetable for future progress in the peace process. Nevertheless, progress had already been made. The safe passage route between Gaza and the West Bank was operating, the Gaza seaport had been approved, further redeployments had been carried out, additional prisoners had been released, and the parties had begun talks on the framework agreement for permanent status. Despite those positive developments in the peace process, negotiations on the text of a resolution supporting the process had been unsuccessful. His Government regretted that the Assembly had been deprived of the opportunity to take official notice of the progress already made. He said the draft resolution on the Syrian Golan, like so many other texts dealing with the Arab-Israeli dispute, sought to draw the Assembly into negotiations. Syria and Israel had both publicly supported the principle of a negotiating process to resolve their differences, and resolutions such as the one before the Assembly did not contribute to that goal. The United States would abstain on the draft resolution on Jerusalem, consistent with its belief that the future of the city should be decided through permanent status negotiations.

JASMI MOHAMED YUSOFF (Malaysia) said the question of Palestine, the core issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict, had yet to reach its final and peaceful settlement. The limited progress achieved in implementation of the various agreements negotiated had dampened prospects for an early resolution of the Palestine issue, and prolonged the agony of the people living under Israeli occupation. A just and comprehensive settlement of the question of Palestine was the only way to the attainment of lasting peace in the region.

There was also very little progress in the other related issues in the Middle East. The peace talks between Syria and Israel, suspended in 1996, had not been resumed since. There should be immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Southern Lebanon and the Syrian Golan. The renewal by the Security Council earlier this month of the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) underlined the still-tense situation between the two countries. He called on the parties concerned to revive the installed peace process in the interests of bringing about a comprehensive settlement. Turning to the situation in Lebanon, he called on the Israeli Government to withdraw its forces from Lebanon as soon as possible.

There were, however, glimmers of hope that some progress could be made to further the peace progress. The Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum was an encouraging step. The issues that remained to be resolved were difficult and sensitive, and there might be some who would like to derail the process. It was important to refrain from activities prejudiced to the outcome of the final status negotiations and from any activity contrary to international law, including settlement activities.

A.G. ABDULLAHI (Nigeria) reminded all parties concerned with the Middle East peace process that peace was not divisible, nor could it be compartmentalized. The geography and history of the region made it imperative for a peaceful resolution of the dispute between Israel and other parties. That was the surest way of ensuring that the peace accord between Israel and Palestine would have the desired effect of easing tension in the whole region. Economic development, in particular trade and investment, could only flourish in an atmosphere of peace and stability.

He believed that the time had come for the parties in the region to return to the negotiating table, and called on States in the region to shed the use of force as a means of resolving disputes. He urged all parties to deploy their best efforts towards peace, so that the peoples of a region that had not known peace for decades could put the hostilities and bitterness of the past behind them in the new millennium.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) introduced the two draft resolutions on Jerusalem (document A/54/L.40) and the Syrian Golan (document A/54/L.41). He said Palestine was the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the key to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The important elements of the peace process were: total Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories, including East Jerusalem; the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, including the West Bank and Gaza; the establishment of normal relations of neighbourliness between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Israel must also refrain from taking any unilateral action on the ground, including settler activity. Arab participation in the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference and subsequent steps were based on Security Council resolution 242 (1967), the main axis of the negotiating process. The peace between Egypt and Israel, established more than 20 years ago, was based on the implementation of resolution 242. It had thus set a precedent for the peaceful resolution of the situation between Arabs and Israelis.

He said total withdrawal to the line of June 4 1967, the cessation of Israeli settlement activity, the establishment of mutual security measures with the agreement of all parties, and the establishment of normal relations between States, were the formulas of Land for Peace. The Implementation of resolution 242 was a whole process; it could not be approached piecemeal. The claims made every now and again about the application of the resolution to some tracks and not to others, or to certain Arab Territories and not others, lacked a sound understanding of a resolution that made no distinction between the territories occupied by force since 1967. All those occupied territories should be evacuated, he stressed. The Israeli side still resisted recognizing the important progress achieved between Syria and Israel up until 1995. That attitude hindered resumption of negotiations on the Syria-Israel track.

Addressing Lebanon, he said Israeli withdrawal from the Western Beqaa would contribute to stability and pave the way for peace between Lebanon and Israel. Establishment of comprehensive peace in the Middle East was the genuine basis for security for all the parties of the region. He called for the removal of all nuclear weapons from the Middle East, while recalling the continuous Israeli rejection of measures aimed at inspecting its nuclear facilities. That refusal was just another element adding to tensions in a region where already extremely tense. He expressed appreciation for the positive role played by the United States, the European Union and other States in enhancing the peace process.

BADER MOHAMMAD AL-AWDI (Kuwait) said he hoped the new millennium would witness not only the dawning of the twenty-first century but also celebrations of a final solution to the long-standing Arab-Israeli conflict. Kuwait remained supportive of the constant calls for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and believed that the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum was a positive step in the right direction.

He called on Israel to return to the framework of peace, as agreed at the Madrid conference, which supported the restoration of legitimate Arab rights and the implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions. Kuwait had followed with keen interest negotiations on the permanent settlements, and supported calls on Israel to stop unilateral measures to change the demographic composition of Jerusalem, which were against international law and international legitimacy. Israel should also stop building settlements, and should respect the demand of the Palestinian people to have Jerusalem as the capital city of a Palestinian State.

He rejected all Israeli proposals for settling Palestinian refugees away from the homeland, and called on Israel to withdraw from all Arab territories occupied in 1967. He was also concerned that Israel had reneged on all its agreements, reiterating that the only solution to a just and comprehensive peace, full Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territory.

In accordance with Security Council resolutions, he called on Israel to stop acts of aggression against Lebanon. He supported the Lebanese people and looked forward to the day Beirut could return to its previous status as the centre of Arab culture. He hoped that the United States and the European Union would continue to support the Middle East peace process at all levels.



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