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UNITED
NATIONS
A

        General Assembly
A/51/PV.63
21 November 1996

General Assembly
Official Records
Fifty-first Session
63rd plenary meeting
Thursday, 21 November 1996, 3 p.m.
New York




President
: Mr. Razali Ismail ..........................(Malaysia)

The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.

Agenda item 21 (continued)

Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance

(a) Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations

Report of the Secretary-General (A/51/172)

(b) Special economic assistance to individual countries or regions

Reports of the Secretary-General (A/51/213, A/51/303, A/51/315, A/51/326, A/51/353, A/51/356, A/51/464, A/51/528, A/51/560)

Draft resolutions (A/51/L.22 and A/51/L.24)

(d) Assistance to the Palestinian people

Report of the Secretary-General (A/51/171)

Mr. Ahmad (Malaysia): ...

/...

My delegation would now like to talk in some detail on sub-item (d), which relates to the question of assistance to the people of Palestine. Malaysia would like to express its appreciation for the Secretary-General's report (A/51/171). My delegation feels that the report provides a comprehensive background to activities that have already been undertaken and are being planned for the development of Palestine and the social and economic improvement of the Palestinian people. We particularly applaud the efforts that have been made towards meeting the needs of the Palestinian people in the fields of education, employment generation, health, infrastructure, institution-building and the development of the private sector.

My delegation is also gratified that, as a result of the Paris Ministerial Conference on Economic Assistance to the Palestinian People, approximately $805 million has been pledged by donors for investment projects. The report also informs us that an additional $72.5 million has been pledged towards the 1996 Palestinian Authority recurring budget deficit, projected at $75 million. My delegation, however, believes that these pledges are not sufficient. We take this opportunity to urge the international community to continue to contribute the much needed funding to assist the Palestinian people in rebuilding their economy and their nation.

Even as we welcome these projects, we must remind ourselves of the reality of the situation on the ground. The Secretary-General, in his report, commented on the severe setback to peace and development brought about by the suicide attacks in February, and on the devastating effect the attacks had on the Palestinian economy. As a result, domestic unemployment has risen sharply because business, trade and commerce have no access to external markets. An estimated 70,000 Palestinians who were working in Israel at that time were unable to enter the State owing to the closure of the occupied territories by the Israeli regime.

In September of this year, the world witnessed the eruption of yet another spate of violence; this time brought about by Israel's blatant act of provocation in opening a tunnel in the immediate vicinity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This deeply upset and angered the Palestinians, as well as the Muslim world. Malaysia and other Muslim countries have condemned what happened, which was born out of Israeli insensitivity towards Palestinian and Muslim feelings.

The grim reality is that all the planning and projections will come to naught if the situation on the ground does not permit the quick and effective implementation of the development projects defined by the United Nations and its agencies. All the monetary resources at our disposal will also mean nothing if these resources cannot be put to good use to help the Palestinians.

I would once again like to stress that it is imperative that the momentum towards a successful conclusion of the peace process in the Middle East should not merely be maintained, but should be genuinely pursued by all sides. Any attempt to disrupt the peace process would only aggravate instability and bring about renewed violence and further unrest, maybe even a bigger or unlimited escalation. This can only be to the detriment of the development of Palestine and consequently to overall peace and stability in the region.

Israel, too, could not escape those consequences, so it is to its advantage to implement the Middle East peace process scrupulously and immediately. I repeat: the present Israeli Government must honour all peace agreements that Israel has made with the Palestinian Authority. Any departure by the Israeli Government from these agreements would dash all hopes of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arab and Muslim world.

Malaysia would like to reaffirm its total commitment to and solidarity with the Palestinian people and its leadership in the attainment of its inalienable right to self-determination and to exist in peace as an independent and sovereign State.

The strengthening of the economy and the improvement of the living conditions of the Palestinians is a critical element and a prerequisite - a condition for a lasting peace and security. The people of Palestine must be assisted, to enable them to stand on their own feet. This is a commitment which the international community must strive to fulfil as quickly as possible.

/...

Mr. Awaad (Egypt) (interpretation from Arabic): Under this agenda item, the statement of the Egyptian delegation will relate to the assistance provided by donors in the United Nations to the Palestinian people. I do not believe I am stating anything new when I draw the attention of this Assembly to the range of assistance and support that the Palestinian people has received from the Government and people of Egypt.

The Madrid Conference in 1991 and the Oslo negotiations in 1993, as well as all the subsequent conventions that were signed thereafter, represented important milestones along the path of the Palestinian people towards self-determination. This has required Egypt to contribute to the extent of its possibilities to improve the fraternal Palestinian people's ability to manage its internal affairs and control the economic situation to the benefit of that people, which has suffered and continues to suffer the negative consequences of foreign occupation. This assistance and support are particularly necessary because of the situation in the West Bank and Gaza as a result of the breakdown of the peace process and the arbitrary action taken by Israel - the blockade and the blockage of the circulation of workers and business people imposed in that area. This further deepens the tragedy of the Palestinian people.

After the election of the Palestinian Authority, Egypt offered its support to permit that Authority to take office. President Mubarak helped in setting up a committee to determine how each Egyptian Government ministry could help in promoting the work of each part of the Palestinian Authority. A number of agreements were signed with the Palestinian Authority, such as those relating to transport, communication, postal services and so forth. Agreements were also drawn up to establish institutional links between the organs of that new and young State and their counterparts in Egypt, which in practice is reflected in the assistance provided by Egypt in the areas in which the agreements have been signed. Egypt has also helped to train some high-level Palestinian police officers who now form the core of the Palestinian police. They carry out their national duties with great competence and on the basis of strict discipline. In addition, Egypt has offered its services to those senior staff chosen as spokespersons abroad to promote the cause of Palestine and represent it in international bodies.

Egypt has also taken part, along with other parties, in a range of tripartite cooperation arrangements, providing technical expertise to the Palestinian people. Here I would like to refer to the agreement between Norway and the Palestinian Authority with a view to training nursing managers for the medical services to help meet the great shortage among the Palestinian people.

We have also worked on the development of the Port of Gaza in order to make it an important outlet, enabling Palestine to have communications with the outside world. Throughout, Egypt has been participating in various economic projects to enhance the performance of the Palestinian economy and to save it from the arbitrary restrictions imposed by Israel, which could have very damaging effects if they continue.

Egypt's role is not confined to providing moral or physical assistance or assistance in kind. Egypt is doing its utmost to prompt all other friendly countries to increase their assistance and their commitment with a view to helping the Palestinian Authority so that the Palestinian leaders may realize their dreams that the Palestinian people, who have so long suffered oppression and displacement, might enjoy the fruits of peace.

I should like to express my appreciation to the Secretary-General, the Department of Humanitarian Affairs and all other relevant bodies and specialized agencies of the United Nations system for providing the requisite support to the Palestinian people. I should like also to pay tribute to Mr. Larsen, the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, for the integrated and targeted programme that was adopted in June 1995. It is important for coordination to be strengthened among all the bodies of the United Nations system, and among them, the donor countries and the Palestinian Authority. During the Ministerial Conference on Economic Assistance to the Palestinian People, held on 9 January 1996 in Paris, all the parties concerned reaffirmed their commitment to increasing assistance to the Palestinian people on the basis of the priorities established for development activities. The role of the Special Coordinator, who has already done praiseworthy work, should be enhanced so as to minimize the negative effects of decisions taken with regard to the closure of the borders and the blockade.

We should also like to pay tribute to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the initiatives taken by its Commissioner-General, and the international coordination that it is providing in terms of organizing assistance to the Palestinian people. We believe that, as a result of our efforts and assistance, the Palestinian people will be able to take their first steps along the road to economic development. We should like to pay tribute to all the countries of the world that are committed to providing such assistance. We urge them to fulfil their promises. We also appeal to all countries that have not yet provided assistance in this regard to do so in order to achieve this lofty objective, which will promote peace in the Middle East as a whole and will be of particular benefit to the Palestinian people, who are courageously trying to establish their own state in their own territory.

Mr. Manor (Israel): ...

/...

The State of Israel is fully aware of the importance of economic growth and prosperity to the political stability of the Middle East. Israel therefore supports the provision of substantial economic assistance to the Palestinians, which will help to achieve a greater measure of peace and stability in our region. It should be noted that Israel has taken active steps to contribute to the improvement of the economic and social conditions of the Palestinians. In fact, the donor countries are meeting in Paris this week, with Israel's active participation, to review the state of contributions to the Palestinians. We welcome the concerted efforts of Member States, international financial institutions and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to aid the development of the West Bank and Gaza.

For many years, Israel has been cooperating fully with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as well as with other international organizations, in implementing programmes aimed at improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is our view that the United Nations should increase its efforts and funding to assist the Palestinians in the territories, thereby facilitating the successful implementation of the agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians.

The State of Israel is fully committed to the implementation of all the agreements signed between Israel and its neighbouring countries and with the Palestinians. The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement and the Israel-Jordan peace treaty are momentous achievements on the road to peace. They open new opportunities for economic and social progress, cooperation, prosperity and peace for our region. The Middle East peace process deserves the support of the international community.

Mr. Samhan (United Arab Emirates) (interpretation from Arabic): ...

/...

Statistics show clearly the recession of the base economy of Palestine since the Oslo negotiations. This is a result of the coercive measures that the Israeli occupation authorities have taken against the Palestinians. These include the closing off and sequestration of the occupied Palestinian territories, the imposition of severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from the cities of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the erection of obstacles to the implementation of the assistance programmes of international humanitarian agencies. These measures have led to the spread of poverty, hunger and disease among the Palestinians and their impact is reflected in the fact that Palestine's gross national product has been reduced by more than 50 per cent and its level of unemployment has risen to more than 63 per cent. These figures are the greatest indicators of the deterioration of Palestinian society under the Israeli occupation. The Israeli measures constitute a blatant violation of the peace accords and of all relevant international norms and instruments.

The United Arab Emirates attaches great importance to the strengthening of international development assistance for the Palestinian people so as to enable it to establish its national structures and to develop its technical skills and capacities in order to promote economic and social development. We call upon the international community and the donor States to honour the commitments they have made so as to secure a decent life for the Palestinian people and to enable it to achieve its aspirations to self-determination and to establish an independent state on its national soil, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The President: In accordance with resolutions 3237 (XXIX) of 22 November 1974, and 43/177 of 15 December 1988, I call on the observer of Palestine.

Mr. Jilani (Palestine) (interpretation from Arabic): At the outset, I would mention that, as regards a procedural problem we have faced, we will continue to work towards a solution of all such problems in full cooperation with the President of the General Assembly.

The economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the living conditions of the Palestinian people there have actually worsened over the last two years. In fact, the economic situation and living conditions are in many respects worse now than they were before the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993. The gross domestic product dropped by about 9 per cent in 1995 and projections indicate that it will likely fall by about 15 per cent this year. The per capita income of Palestinians has dropped from $2,600 to $1,800, while in Israel, for instance, the per capita income is approximately $16,000. The Palestinian unemployment rate has reached the unprecedented and dangerously high level of 50 per cent. Furthermore, Palestinian exports have also dropped, the budget deficit of the Palestinian Authority is increasing and accompanying social and political problems are on the rise.

Donor countries have delivered some of their pledged contributions, which stood at $2.4 billion at the Washington summit in October 1993 and were to be disbursed over a five-year period. The distribution of the aid, however, has been slow and marred by all types of problems. Furthermore, even this amount of international assistance has been offset by Israeli policies and measures, which have been the main cause of the deterioration of the situation and have practically precluded - in fact, strangled - any economic improvement and growth.

At the forefront of these Israeli policies and measures is the closure of the Palestinian territory, which in reality has meant the obstruction of the freedom of movement of persons and goods within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Jerusalem, and between the West Bank and Gaza, in addition to the restriction of movement to and from Israel and the outside world. This closing off has also prevented Palestinian workers from taking any jobs in Israel, even though, as part of Israel and Palestine's economic agreement, this arrangement was accepted in exchange for others. The financial losses caused by the closure are estimated to be $7 million per day.

The Israeli authorities have also caused various problems and created impediments, preventing any progress or the completion of any important infrastructure projects related to trade and other sectors of the economy, including the agreed industrial parks and the construction of the seaport and airport in Gaza. Moreover, the Israelis have waged a campaign to obstruct any independent Palestinian franchising rights for foreign companies, essentially obstructing possible Palestinian joint ventures with foreign capital. The Israelis have also repeatedly failed to meet their responsibilities under the agreement with regard to the reimbursement of collected customs and value added tax on goods imported by the Palestinian side.

Such dangerous policies and practices not only violate the agreements reached so far, but they are unjustifiable under any security pretext, and are illogical regardless of the political goals or orientation of any Israeli Government. Some such measures can only be perceived as emanating from an ill desire for collective punishment and for vindictive control of the Palestinian market and economy.

It is time for the Israeli side to understand that these policies must be immediately halted and reversed. Closures and seizures must stop immediately. Clearly, it is impossible to speak of regional cooperation or to achieve meaningful results at economic regional summits while the Palestinian economy is being destroyed. In fact, we cannot even speak of peace while such an economic situation prevails. The obstruction of development and rehabilitation is an obstruction of the peace process in its entirety.

In spite of all the above, the Palestinian Authority has been trying very hard to improve the living conditions of our people and to build our institutions and economy. For this to succeed, however, we need both a completely different Israeli attitude - in compliance with international law and the agreements reached - and international assistance. Only yesterday the Palestinian side at the highest level presented our national investment plan for the year 1997 to a donor meeting in Paris. We hope that the international community will provide its full support for this plan.

The Palestinian people greatly appreciates the efforts of the international community to assist it in its new and challenging task of building our country and its institutions during this critical period of transition. In this context, we would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to all those countries and organizations that have generously provided assistance to the Palestinian people. It is our strong hope that the international community will fulfil its pledges to help us to repair our devastated economy and thus alleviate the worsening living conditions of our people.

We also continue to believe that the United Nations has an important and essential role to play in assisting the Palestinian people. At this time, we would like to express our appreciation for the thorough and detailed report presented by the Secretary-General under this item. We would also like to express our appreciation of the efforts of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories and of the significant role of his Office in facilitating the organization of the work of the United Nations agencies by means of an effective coordinating mechanism on the ground. These efforts have greatly enhanced United Nations activities in the Palestinian territory. In particular, we should like to mention the programmes carried out by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

We believe that the draft resolution on this item does not accurately reflect either the realities of the situation on the ground or the difficult and worsening conditions faced by the Palestinian people and the state of the peace process at this stage. However, we understand the importance of maintaining a consensus on this issue, and we are ready at this session to maintain the consensus text.

/...

The meeting rose at 4.25 p.m.


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