Question of Palestine home
14 September 2000
Thursday, 14 September 2000, 10 a.m.
The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m.
Agenda item 9
I now call on His Excellency Mr. Selim El-Hoss, President of the Council of Ministers and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lebanese Republic.
(spoke in Arabic):
In the second half of May this year, Lebanon and the United Nations witnessed a historic event when my country recovered most of its occupied territories in the south and in western Bekaa. Thanks to the resistance and steadfastness of the Lebanese people and the support of the international community, Israel had to withdraw from these territories after a ferocious occupation that lasted more than 22 years. It left behind a trail of devastation and destruction of infrastructure, private property and the environment, as well as a collapse in local production centres. Lebanon has paid dearly for its liberation. Thousands fell as martyrs on the road to victory and thousands more were injured or disabled.
Human and material losses were not confined to the areas that were immediately under occupation. For 30 years, the Israeli arm of aggression has stretched far to reach all Lebanese territories. Repeated Israeli strikes terrorized our civilian population, destroyed civilian and vital establishments and wreaked havoc on our economic and service sectors. The Israeli withdrawal came in the wake of 22 years of continued refusal to comply with Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), which called upon Israel to withdraw immediately and unconditionally from Southern Lebanon and the western Bekaa to the internationally recognized borders, with strict respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon.
For the first time since 1978, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was allowed to fulfil its mandate under resolution 425 (1978). To do this, the United Nations had to identify a line for the purpose of confirming the Israeli withdrawal. Regrettably, in three locations, this line did not conform to the internationally recognized boundary line demarcated in 1923 between Palestine and Lebanon under the French and British Mandates. The United Nations border line also leaves the Shabaa farmlands outside UNIFIL’s area of operation in Southern Lebanon.
Lebanon has seriously cooperated with the United Nations to fulfil the requirements for the implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978). Despite Israel’s repeated violations of the withdrawal line and its obstructive practices, which hindered the deployment of the international work force for weeks, the force was at long last able to deploy, accompanied by the Lebanese armed forces.
At this juncture, I see it fit to recall Lebanon’s civilized stance and the wisdom and tolerance graciously shown by its valiant people after its victory and the withdrawal of the Israeli forces. Contrary to dire predictions, no mayhem or acts of vengeance ensued. This has earned us the appreciation and admiration of the international community.
On this occasion, allow me to pay tribute to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, to his assistants and to the officers and soldiers of UNIFIL for the tireless and unswerving efforts they have been making in fulfilment of their noble task and in compliance with the resolutions of international legitimacy.
In this context, I would like to underline the importance of the following points. First, Lebanon insists that its internationally recognized borders remain intact. They are the borders demarcated in accordance with the 1923 Paulet-Newcomb maps, and reaffirmed later in the 1949 Israeli-Lebanese General Armistice Agreement. Second, Lebanon confirms its reservations on three locations on the blue line of withdrawal adopted by the United Nations as the withdrawal line. This reservation is included in the report submitted by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on 16 June 2000.
Third, Lebanon insists on its right to sovereignty over the Shaba’a farmlands, which are an integral part of Lebanese territories. Fourth, Lebanon insists on its sovereignty and authority over the locations set by the United Nations inside the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) line in the Mount Hermon area.
Fifth, Lebanon demands the immediate release of all Lebanese detainees from Israeli prisons. They are kept as hostages in violation of the terms of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, of the relevant Protocols and of the Hague Convention of 1907. Lebanon believes that the release of the detainees will be a completion of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and will therefore be a fulfilment of Security Council resolution 425 (1978).
Sixth, the liberation of Lebanese territories from Israeli occupation shall remain compromised unless a just solution is found to the problem of Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon. The solution lies in allowing these refugees to return to their homeland, as provided for in the resolutions of international legitimacy.
Israel must compensate Lebanon for the human, material and economic losses sustained as a result of Israeli occupation and other acts of aggression, in accordance with international and customary laws and with the principles of the United Nations Charter. In this regard, we recall Security Council resolution 262 (1968), which entitled Lebanon to appropriate redress for the enormous destruction it suffered when Israel attacked Beirut’s International Airport in late 1968. In that attack, Israel destroyed 13 civilian Lebanese aircraft. The Lebanese firmly believe in their right to receive adequate and fair reparations for the substantial loss and devastation inflicted upon them after many long years of occupation and repeated acts of aggression. Those acts have been perpetrated by Israel since 1978 in stark defiance of the will of the United Nations.
Lebanon will therefore resort to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is the proper organ to which to address its claims. We hope that the ICJ will be able to endorse our request for adequate reparations and we appeal to the international community to support our just and fair demands.
The question of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Lebanese liberated territories enjoys a high priority on the Lebanese agenda. It also enjoys tangible international support. In this context, I would like to recall the preparatory meeting of the donor community, held in Beirut on 27 July in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the support of the World Bank and the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan. This meeting was attended by representatives of 40 States and international financial institutions. The participants discussed the question of providing urgent financial assistance to help restore normalcy to the liberated territories. The preliminary deliberations were promising and we hope to see them materialize at the donors’ conference to be held at the ministerial level in October.
The Lebanese feel that the international community did not exert adequate efforts to compel Israel to comply with Security Council resolution 425 (1978), which called upon Israel to end its occupation a long time ago. Due to this delay, Lebanon as a whole had to suffer the dire consequences of occupation. Our resources plummeted, our economy crumbled and our people endured untold suffering. From this rostrum, I appeal to the donor countries, to international financial institutions and to the United Nations specialized agencies to provide sufficient assistance for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of South Lebanon. This will be a token of solidarity on behalf of the international community.
We thought that the prospects for the realization of a just and comprehensive peace in the region were real following the recent rounds of negotiations. Regrettably, the results were disappointing. The negotiations for peace floundered and the process was derailed on all tracks. This was due to the fact that the Israeli leaders gave the logic of “No’s” precedence over the principles of right and justice. This is particularly unfortunate in the light of the many achievements made in bringing the negotiations so close to an optimal solution, especially on the Syrian track.
The prerogatives of peace are not commensurate with the Israeli “No’s”. These “No’s” run counter to the resolutions of international legitimacy that provided for the return to Syria of the entire Golan up to the line of 4 June 1967. These resolutions also recognized the need to enable the Palestinian people to recover their inalienable rights, including their right to self-determination, the establishment of their independent State on their own national soil, with Jerusalem as its capital, and their right to return to their homeland in Palestine.
The liberation of most of the Lebanese territories from Israeli occupation will not affect Lebanon’s commitment to the process of peaceful settlement of the Middle East question. Lebanon upholds its position with regard to the inseparability of the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. We believe that the opportunity for a just and comprehensive peace remains, provided that Israel complies with the resolutions of international legitimacy and the Madrid terms of reference.
Lebanon believes that Israel has forfeited the achievements made in its negotiations with the Arab side due to the conflicting domestic agendas of various Israeli political groups. This will hinder the settlement process in the region, and will further compromise our protracted pursuit of peace. Lebanon calls on the co-sponsors of the peace process — the United States and the Russian Federation — and the European Union to renew their efforts to relaunch the peace process from the point where it left off in 1996.
Lebanon cannot fail to stress once again that in order to achieve a peaceful settlement, the Palestinian refugees, particularly those hosted by Lebanon, must be allowed to return to their homeland. Ignoring their problem or attempting to resettle them in Lebanon will further exacerbate the tension and the volatility of the region. This would in turn threaten the prospects of a just and lasting peace.
More than 10 years have passed since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Nevertheless, the question of the release of the Kuwaiti detainees and prisoners of war still awaits a solution. We in Lebanon have condemned this invasion. We believe that, in addition to other measures required of Iraq, the release of prisoners will be an important step towards improving relations with that country. Lebanon calls for lifting the sanctions imposed on Iraq in order to alleviate the suffering of the brotherly Iraqi people and to allow them to restore their security, stability and prosperity.
There is a favourable trend in the relationship between Iran and the Gulf States. That trend must be an incentive to settle the dispute over three islands that has been going on between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United Arab Emirates for over three decades. It should be settled in the context of good-neighbourliness and the common interests promoted by the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
In conclusion, Lebanon is a founding Member of the United Nations and has contributed to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, Lebanon looks forward to playing a distinct role in the regional and international arenas. We are anxious to reconstruct and rehabilitate our vital and civil institutions and productive sectors after the liberation of our land from the Israeli occupation. We in Lebanon are striving for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East that will bring back stability to our region and allow us to play a positive role in building a new world in which we aspire to live.
I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Abdurrahman Shalghem, the Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
(Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)
(spoke in Arabic)
No solution has yet been found to the Palestinian question because the essence of this problem has been ignored. My country emphasizes once again that there is no solution to the Palestinian problem other than the return of the Palestinian people to their homeland and the establishment of their State on the land of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital. On this occasion, as we salute the people of Lebanon who, thanks to their steadfastness, were able to defeat the enemy and liberate their occupied land, we once again stress the need for an end to the occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights. ...
I now call on His Excellency Mr. Farouk Al-Shara’, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Mr. Farouk Al-Shara’
(spoke in Arabic
The peace process launched in Madrid has been losing its momentum, incentive and compass, day after day and year after year. The Security Council, which has the authority and international legitimacy to enforce its own resolutions, has been kept out of the Middle East peace process. It has become a silent witness to the fact that the peace process in the Middle East has reached a dead end.
It has become quite obvious to all those involved in the peace process, both inside and outside our region, that continued Israeli occupation of Arab territories — which is sometimes explained by Israel’s psychological need for security and at other times by superstitious myths — is the major obstacle on the road to peace. Those futile claims, which have no foundation in reality whatsoever, have caused the peace process to become an endless negotiating process with neither end nor resolution in sight.
At any rate, the serious and carefully considered negotiations that Syria has conducted have proven to the international community at large, and to Arabs in particular, two main things: first, that Israel is neither desirous of, nor serious about, pursuing a just and comprehensive peace in accordance with United Nations resolutions; and, secondly, that Syria has the right to a full return of the entire Golan, to the 4 June 1967 line, without concessions or compromises.
We would like to mention another fact known to our foes and friends alike. That fact is that Syria has unreservedly supported every Arab and Palestinian right during every stage of the peace talks. It did not take those positions to embarrass anyone or to negotiate on their behalf. As a matter of principle, Syria has been, and continues to be, committed to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to return to their lands, to self-determination, and to establish their independent State on their national soil. On that basis, Syria presented its position clearly and firmly at the meeting of the Jerusalem Committee that was convened in Morocco at the end of last month in support of the rights of Muslims and Arabs to full and uncompromised Palestinian sovereignty over Al-Quds Al-Sharif.
The Arabs are an ancient and time-honoured nation known for its religious tolerance. But tolerance is one thing and conceding one’s rights is something else. Territory and sovereignty are matters of national dignity that can never be forfeited or compromised.
At the Millennium Summit, the countries of the world expressed their belief that we live today in an age of international law and under the United Nations Charter, international legitimacy and human rights, and not in an age of the law of the jungle and futile religious claims to justify the usurpation of other peoples’ land by force. This requires from the international community and the United Nations a more firm and non-selective stand in defending the Charter and international law and in prompting Israel to respect international legitimacy and international conventions and to implement the resolutions of the United Nations.
The brotherly Lebanese people have achieved a historic milestone, thanks to their solidarity and that of their State, in strongly resisting Israeli occupation. Syria stood by Lebanon firmly in order to ensure the full implementation of resolution 425 (1978). Syria will always stand by Lebanon and support all its national issues, especially the ones concerning the return of all its territory and the return of its hostages held in Israeli jails. In this regard, we urge the donor countries to fulfil their commitments to help Lebanon rebuild what Israel has destroyed, particularly the damage it caused during its occupation of southern Lebanon.
The meeting rose at 1 p.m.