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        General Assembly
1 October 1999

Official Records

General Assembly
Fifty-fourth Session
21st plenary meeting
Friday, 1 October 1999, 3 p.m.
New York

President: Mr. Gurirab ........................................... (Namibia)

Agenda item 9 (continued)

General debate


The Acting President: I now give the floor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, His Excellency Mr. Somsavat Lengsavad.

Mr. Lengsavad (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) (spoke in Lao; French text furnished by the delegation): ...


Convinced of the importance of peace in the Middle East, my country is pleased that Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization have resumed serious negotiations, which led to the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum on 4 September 1999. It is essential for the parties directly concerned to continue those negotiations in order to settle their problems on the basis of existing resolutions and agreements. This would open the path to peace, cooperation and peaceful coexistence among the peoples of the region.


The Acting President: I call now on the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania, His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Ould Sid Ahmed.

Mr. Ould Sid Ahmed (Mauritania) (spoke in Arabic): ...


While reaffirming its whole-hearted support for the peace process, my country believes that no just, comprehensive and lasting peace can be brought about in the Middle East without the application of the principle of land for peace as agreed at the Madrid Conference, and the comprehensive implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978), which guarantee Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian territories, as well as from the Syrian Golan Heights, southern Lebanon and West Bekaa, and the restoration to the Palestinian people of all their legitimate rights, first and foremost their right to self-determination and to the creation of their independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.


The President: I next give the floor to the Minister of External Relations of Angola, His Excellency Mr. Joao Bernardo de Miranda.

Mr. Miranda (Angola) (spoke in Portuguese; English text provided by the delegation): ...


As to the Middle East, Angola welcomes the celebration of the Sharm el-Sheikh agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that have enabled the peace process to be relaunched. It is our view that the new agreements conform to the aspirations of the respective peoples to living in peace and security.


The President: We have heard the last speaker in the general debate for this meeting.

I shall now call on those representatives who wish to speak in exercise of the right of reply.

May I remind members that statements in exercise of the right of reply are limited to 10 minutes for the first intervention and to five minutes for the second intervention, and should be made by delegations from their seats.

Mr. Wehbe (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): First, the Assembly has heard, not for the first time, statements by the Israeli representative against peace —statements based on the falsification of facts and attempts to mislead the international community. The statement by the Israeli representative yesterday was but an expression of the policy of the previous Israeli Government, a policy that we hope will not be pursued by the new Government.

Secondly, the denial by the Israeli representative in his statement yesterday of the message transmitted by former Prime Minister Rabin to Syria in July 1994 through the United States, the sponsor of the peace process, shows either that the representative is ignorant of the existence of the message or that he has chosen purposely to ignore it because of his enmity for peace. That peace proceeds from relevant Security Council resolutions, the principle of land for peace and the formula of full withdrawal in return for comprehensive peace.

Thirdly, our intention now is not merely to rebut the statement by the Israeli representative. It is primarily, as I stated yesterday, to inform the international community, which supports the achievement of a just, comprehensive peace in the Middle East, of the developments on the Syrian track during the peace talks under the mandate of former Prime Minister Rabin.

The United States Secretary of State informed Syria at that time — in July 1994 — of Rabin's agreement to withdraw from the Golan Heights to the line of 4 June 1967 as an ineluctable commitment to proceed to a full treatment of the remaining elements of a full peace agreement. It must be stated in this context that President Hafez Al-Assad had put two questions to the former Secretary of State of the United States at the time, to ascertain the accuracy and correctness of the substance of this Israeli commitment as transmitted to Syria then.

The first question was: Does Rabin mean that Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights will include all the territories that were under Syrian sovereignty on 4 June 1967? The reply of the United States Secretary of State was “Yes”. The second question put by President Assad was: Is there any Israeli claim to any tract of land inside the 4 June 1967 line? The reply of the United States Secretary of State was that there was no such claim.

Fourthly, the statement of the Syrian Arab Republic made by Mr. Farouk Al-Shará, Foreign Minister of the Syrian Arab Republic before this session of the Assembly affirmed that the message does not in itself represent a peace agreement. It is, however, a fundamental part of that agreement, an agreement whose remaining parts that pertain to normal peaceful relations and to security arrangements, based on the principles and objectives set, with the sponsorship and participation of the United States of America, should be implemented.

Mr. Al-Shará also affirmed in his statement that Syria did not wish to let this opportunity for peace be lost. However, if it were indeed to be lost again, Israel alone would bear the responsibility.


Mr. Gold (Israel): I wish only to reiterate the determination of the people of Israel to reach peace with all of Israel’s neighbours, including peace with Syria. This is a commonly held wish and hope of all the people of Israel, to lead to a peace which will make Israel more secure tomorrow, not less secure. But what is required right now is to reiterate the clarification that I made yesterday in the name of the Government of Israel: that no commitment was provided in past negotiations to return specifically to a line of 4 June 1967, and that the basis of negotiations, as is well known by all States members of this body, is Security Council resolution 242 (1967) and the subsequent Council resolution 338 (1973). These have formed the basis of our negotiations since the time of the Madrid peace process.

The notion that no commitment was provided during 1994 or 1993, when we had an earlier Israeli-Syrian negotiation, is not only the policy that I stated just yesterday, but has been documented by those who were involved in those negotiations and who have written on them since, including our head negotiator in 1994, Israel’s then Ambassador to the United States, Itamar Rabinovich.

I think, rather than take selected portions of the negotiating record and try and turn them into binding agreements that never existed, that were never signed, what it is necessary for the parties to do now to finally put an end to the Arab-Israel conflict in the year ahead is for Israel and Syria to meet face to face and settle these issues once and for all. We should remember that during those previous negotiations the parties were guided by a principle: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. And if we sit together, face to face, the people of Israel and the Government of Israel are determined to reach peace with Syria, not in five years, not in three years, but this year. So let us sit down and get the negotiations under way.


The meeting rose at 8 p.m.

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