Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service ·
25 August 1997
SECRETARY-GENERAL, REGRETTING ACTIONS WHICH IMPEDE MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS, CALLS FOR
MAINTENANCE OF HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
Geneva Symposium on Question of Palestine Is Told Development Must Continue,
to Provide Environment for Resumption of Negotiations
A four-day symposium on the question of Palestine, convened under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestine People, in accordance with General Assembly resolutions
of 4 December 1996, and being attended by representatives of non- governmental organizations, opened today in Geneva. This is the statement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, delivered at the meeting on his behalf by the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Vladimir Petrovsky:
It is an honour for me to speak on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, at this International NGO Meeting/European NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. In asking me to deliver the following remarks, the Secretary-General also conveys his warm greetings to all participants and wishes you every success in your deliberations. In my capacity as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, I would also like to welcome you once again to the Palais for this annual event.
The Secretary-General is firmly committed to strengthening partnerships between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, for its part, is to be commended for having recognized, since its inception, the important role that can be played by non-governmental organizations. The meetings organized under its auspices have provided a unique forum where Palestinian and Israeli non-governmental organizations have been able to develop mutual understanding and common activities, together with their counterparts from all regions. The meetings have also been useful in bringing non-governmental organizations together with Palestinian Authority officials, donor countries and United Nations entities, contributing to a better assessment of the needs on the ground.
As you know, the Palestine question is the oldest conflict on the United Nations agenda. Well before the establishment of the Committee, non-governmental organizations were active in supporting the humanitarian and other work of the United Nations, in particular that of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In the current circumstances of a deteriorating situation on the ground and great difficulties in the resumption of negotiations, non-governmental organizations will certainly be called upon to make an even greater contribution.
Since the singing of the Declaration of Principle by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in September 1993, the United Nations has been involved in providing a significant level of assistance for the economic and social development of the Palestinian territories. This is in addition to the established social services and other programmes for refugees administered by UNRWA. Altogether, more than 20 United Nations agencies and programmes are currently active in West Bank and the Gaza Strip within the framework of the integrated programme of assistance adopted in 1995, demonstrating the breadth and depth of the commitment made by the international community to assist the Palestinian people during this transitional phase.
The Secretary-General shares the grave concern of the international community over the setbacks in the peace process. It is regrettable that the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have been deadlocked for several months now, for reasons of which the international community is well aware. As you may recall, the situation was discussed twice by the Security Council, as well as by the General Assembly in its resumed regular and Tenth Emergency Special sessions. On 25 April, in its resolution
, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit a report, in particular on the issue of the Israeli settlement construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim and on all other illegal actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.
In his report, prepared pursuant to this request, the Secretary-General drew attention to the deteriorating political and security situation, as well as the negative impact of the Israeli settlement activities and the various Israeli measures affecting the rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory.
Last month, at its resumed emergency special session, the General Assembly considered the report and adopted resolution
, in which, among other things, it emphasized the responsibilities, including personal, arising from persistent violations and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949. The Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to present another report, within three months, on efforts to convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention on measures to enforce it in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.
The Secretary-General has repeatedly condemned in the strongest possible terms all acts of terrorism aimed at innocent civilians, of which the bombing in Jerusalem is the most recent. This cowardly act undermines and derails the peace process. He has also underlined the need for a commitment by the Israeli Government to eschew unilateral acts which have the effect of pre-empting the outcome of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authority. Measures that can be perceived as collective punishment against the Palestinian people are not conductive to understanding between negotiating partners. Cooperation between the two parties would build trust and confidence upon which progress in the peace process can be built. The Secretary-General has, on a number of occasions, appealed to both sides to put the process back on track, with the goal of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East based on Security Council resolutions
The current economic and social situation throughout the occupied territories is very serious, particularly in light of the restrictions imposed following the recent bombing. The Secretary-General believes that the erosion of living standards and uncertainty over the future undermine prospects for peace in the area. It is essential for the humanitarian and development assistance work of the United Nations and the international donor community to continue unimpeded, in order to help establish the necessary environment for the resumption of negotiations. The Secretary-General will continue to do his utmost to mobilize the resources of the United Nations system to meet the humanitarian and development needs of the Palestinians, in support of the objective of achieving a just and lasting peace.
The Secretary-General hopes that meetings such as this, in bringing these issues to the attention of larger constituencies, will have a positive effect in further enabling the United Nations to carry out its work. In conclusion, on his behalf and on my own, I would like again to wish you all success in your deliberations.
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