Question of Palestine home
20 October 2000
th plenary meeting
Friday, 20 October 2000, 10 a.m.
The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m.
Agenda item 170
Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe
(United Kingdom): ...
There are four specific examples of the contribution the Council of Europe makes to the work of the United Nations to which I wish to draw the attention of the Assembly.
First, the important work of our North-South Centre in Lisbon, which raises awareness in Europe to the problems of poverty and depravation throughout the world.
Secondly, the solution we believe we have produced to one of the final status issues to be resolved in the Middle East peace process — that of the three and a quarter million displaced Palestine refugees, over one million of whom live in the 59 camps run by the United Nations through its Relief and Works Agency. We believe that the Council of Europe’s 1998 report on this issue offers a practical solution to this problem.
Thirdly, in the area of conflict prevention, the Council of Europe has delivered practical assistance to and support for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in accordance with Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), most recently in providing a mission to observe the Kosovo regional elections. It has also cooperated with the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina in providing human rights training to the judiciary and police and it contributes to the Stability Pact programme for South-Eastern Europe.
Fourthly, the forthcoming Council of Europe contribution to next year’s United Nations Year of the Volunteer, which our Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee is currently preparing.
(Council of Europe): ...
Let me finally mention our neighbouring region, the Middle East, which has been the scene of such horrific events in recent days. In particular, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, with which the Israeli Knesset has enjoyed observer status since 1957, has been very active in efforts to promote dialogue between the parties. It was, in fact, one of the first forums to bring Israeli legislators and Palestinian representatives together. We stand ready to make any contribution that may be deemed useful to facilitate the continuation of that dialogue following this week’s agreement at Sharm el-Sheikh.
We have heard the last speaker in the debate on this item. We shall now proceed to the consideration of draft resolution A/55/L.8.
Before the Assembly proceeds to take action on the draft resolution, I should like to announce that, since its introduction, the following countries have become sponsors of draft resolution A/55/L.8: Azerbaijan, Canada, Japan, Monaco and the United States of America.
May I take it that the Assembly decides to adopt draft resolution A/55/L.8?
Draft resolution A/55/L.8 was adopted
May I take it that it is the wish of the Assembly to conclude its consideration of agenda item 170?
It was so decided
Agenda item 181
Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
In accordance with the decision taken at its 37th plenary meeting, held on 19 October 2000, the General Assembly will now consider agenda item 181.
Mr. Nejad Hosseinian
(Islamic Republic of Iran): ...
The common objective of the two organizations — to achieve effective progress towards general and complete disarmament — will be widely promoted through the consolidation of their relationship. In this regard, securing universality, as one of the basic pillars upon which the Convention was founded, is a necessity. In the Middle East region in particular, there is still much to be done to secure the universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention. This will require the two organizations to utilize their available means of cooperation to guarantee universal adherence to the Convention.
(Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons): ...
Of the utmost concern is the situation in the Middle East, where Israel, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and, of course, Iraq still remain outside the CWC. This concern is further reinforced by the spiralling cycle of violence which once again threatens the fragile peace process, with dangerous ramifications for regional stability and security and possibly for stability and security outside that region as well. After all, it was in the Middle East that chemical weapons were most recently used against both combatants and civilians. Heightened tensions in the region are calling into question the strategy which calls for a peace settlement before other elements contributing to such a settlement can even be discussed. What is wrong with taking a series of steps which would help to generate a climate of confidence amongst the key players in that region and which would demonstrate the genuine willingness of all parties to seek such a comprehensive settlement in parallel with peace negotiations?
Perhaps the time has come for all of the countries I have just mentioned to review the approaches which they have been pursuing with regard to the Chemical Weapons Convention and to the regional security agenda in general. Would the security situation in the Middle East improve if all actors were confident that the sword of Damocles of the possible use of chemical weapons was no longer hanging over their heads? Would not an initiative to accede to the Convention, together with other steps, create a political momentum in which movement on other elements of the security equation would be forthcoming?
The fact that Yemen, Jordan and Sudan have already elected to subscribe to precisely this view indicates that such an approach is not unrealistic in the Middle East environment. Much now depends on the next steps to be taken by other key players. What is needed for the gradual establishment in this region of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, as proposed by Egypt? Would not accession to the CWC be one of these steps, and a fundamental one at that? I wholeheartedly trust the wisdom of the Egyptian leadership on this issue.
By virtue of signing the Convention, Israel has already, under article I, entered into an obligation, inter alia, not to develop, produce or stockpile chemical weapons. What, then, is preventing it from ratifying the Convention and codifying its political commitment in legal terms?
Equally, much depends on the active contribution of the United States and of other major Powers and groups of States which have made the pursuit of a Middle East peace settlement one of the cornerstones of their foreign policy. I, for one, am ready to visit the region at an appropriate time to explore with the leadership the security issues I have mentioned.
I also express the hope that the leaders of the future Palestinian State will not hesitate to set the record straight from the outset, and will accede to not merely the Chemical Weapons Convention, but also other global arms control and disarmament treaties. A public statement of their position in this regard would contribute significantly to progress on this issue.
spoke in Arabic):
My delegation listened to the statement by Mr. Bustani, the Director-General of the OPCW, and the unilateral view of Egypt included in the statement.
We wish to clarify certain facts regarding those paragraphs of Mr. Bustani’s statement that dealt with the situation in the Middle East.
First, it is clear that Egypt has not acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention — although we have adhered to its provisions — because of Israel’s non-adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), despite the continuous demand for it to do so, the last time being during the Sixth Review Conference of the NPT.
Secondly, Egypt is ready to accede to the Convention when Israel accedes to the NPT.
Thirdly, Egypt’s position, which is crystal clear, has been referred to in many forums. Since Mr. Bustani is aware of the facts, especially in the Middle East, he should have reflected this in an appropriate and balanced manner when addressing the Assembly, but unfortunately he has become accustomed to an incomplete view, which we saw last at the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly, when Egypt had to resort to the right of reply to set the record straight.
Fourthly, Egypt rejects chemical weapons as well as all weapons of mass destruction, as has been reflected clearly and at the highest level in President Mubarak’s initiative to free the Middle East of all weapons of mass destruction, I repeat, all weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, this has also been clearly reflected in the relevant resolutions put forward by Egypt in the First Committee.
In conclusion, we wish to confirm that genuine wisdom requires balanced and specific treatment of weapons of mass destruction and it is important to note that Mr. Bustani’s statement has not shown that.
spoke in Arabic
): We apologize for taking the floor at this late hour. However, my delegation was surprised to observe that the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has chosen to twist facts and to disregard the real situation in the Middle East in his remarks about armaments and the elimination of chemical weapons. We do not know on what principles Mr. Bustani bases his comments when he attacks some countries’ decisions regarding accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Does Mr. Bustani not know that decisions of this nature are based on the current state of affairs in various regions? Does he not know that Israel is armed to the teeth with chemical and nuclear weapons and the most advanced aircraft and tanks? Mr. Bustani is misled. Indeed, he has gone in the wrong direction in his statement. The stark reality before the General Assembly is that Israel has limited itself to signing the Convention; it has not ratified it and has therefore not acceded to it.
Addressing the General Assembly is a responsibility that must be assumed sincerely by representatives of international organizations. We do not believe Mr. Bustani has taken that approach. His statement was merely a simplistic analysis of the overall political situation in the Middle East and was in no way a reflection of the actual facts nor of the positions of the States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In fact, if his statement illustrates anything it is that Mr. Bustani is completely ignorant of the situation in the Middle East.
He has adopted a selective policy in making his statement. According to Mr. Bustani’s assertions, 34 countries have not ratified the Convention, while 19 States have yet to accede to it. This raises questions in our minds and indicates that the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should make additional efforts throughout the world, rather than focus on a single region. It is true that the situation in the Middle East is complex, but we should identify the source of the problem rather than address the situation in a suspicious way.
The one party responsible for dragging the Middle East into a spiral of violence is Israel. Mr. Bustani used silk gloves in describing the situation and Israel’s position, although he knows quite well that Israel has not genuinely adopted any practical, political or legal measures with regard to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. His statement does not differ from Israel’s statements or the positions it has taken. His statement reflects a complete bias in favour of Israel’s attitude. It does not behove an international official to mislead the international community in such a way.
The undeniable truth known to everyone is that Israel alone is responsible for the escalation of the arms race in the Middle East. Israel publicly refuses to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In fact, it is the only country in the region that has, under flimsy pretexts, not acceded to the NPT — to say nothing of other important conventions.
It is the Arabs who need reassurance and security. Their land is under occupation, and Israeli armed forces threaten them with nuclear and chemical weapons and all sorts of internationally prohibited arms — weapons that Israel has used against Lebanon and Palestine, among other places. What the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should do is to deal with the issues on the basis of facts, and not on the basis of its Director-General’s misguided accusations levelled at the wrong parties in total disregard of his role. That role is to prohibit all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, starting with nuclear weapons.
(Israel): I would first like to begin my short statement by thanking the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for his statement. Israel views the unique Chemical Weapons Convention — which has given global security a significant objective, namely, the total elimination of chemical weapons — as a very important Convention. However, I am surprised that some of the representatives here have chosen to try to deride the topic under discussion and to deal with issues that are not at all part of the debate in this meeting.
Our Foreign Minister, Mr. Shimon Peres, stated when Israel signed the Convention, in 1993, that there is no weapon against weapons of mass destruction, only political determination. The fact that Israeli citizens are obliged to be equipped with chemical-weapon-protection gear is itself proof of the degree of threat to our citizens, in particular of the threat from countries in the region that are notorious for their use and possession of chemical weapons.
It is not a coincidence that the two countries that have questioned the procedures for convening this meeting did not on the other hand even question the procedure for convening the tenth emergency special session. One might suspect that those objections emanate from a well-known position of Syria and Egypt, which has been reflected in their reluctance even to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention as they continue to possess those weapons.
Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in January 1993, and is obligated under international law to the moral principle of global chemical disarmament. At the signature ceremony, Israel expressed its hope that other countries in the region would follow suit; the reality, unfortunately, is in stark contrast to that. These circumstances certainly pose difficulties in terms of taking the decision whether to ratify the Convention or not. Israel hopes that the environment in the Middle East, in which hostility and non-recognition are still prevalent, will change soon in a manner that will enable Israel to take the decision to ratify the Convention.
(Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) (
spoke in Arabic
): My delegation listened carefully to the statement by Mr. Bustani, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and I took special note of what he said about the situation in the Middle East; he said that Libya was among several States in the region that had not yet acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Let me stress that my country is now a party to most international disarmament conventions, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), because Libya wishes to participate in international efforts to put an end to the production of weapons of mass destruction. My country has made clear in all international forums the reason why Libya has yet to join the Chemical Weapons Convention: the security imbalance in the Middle East resulting from the fact that Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads and has to date refused, in spite of constant international appeals, to accede to the NPT or to place its nuclear installations under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system.
Mr. Bustani addressed only part of the situation in the Middle East when he named several States and indicated that they were still outside the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. But he ought to have mentioned the reasons why those States have not yet adhered to the Convention. He is well acquainted with those reasons, because those States — including, as I have said, Libya — have explained why they have not acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. We have explained this in the General Assembly and in other international forums, and we might have hoped that Mr. Bustani would have mentioned the true reasons for those States not having acceded to the Convention.
(Syrian Arab Republic) (
spoke in Arabic
): I wish to respond to the statement of the representative of Israel a moment ago. After listening to his statement, everyone can see clearly that Israel does indeed possess chemical weapons and that it considers the possession and stockpiling of such weapons to be a means of providing security for its citizens. If every State in the world followed that obviously unacceptable Israeli logic, there would be no international conventions on the prohibition of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, because every country would offer the excuse that it had to protect the safety and security of its citizens.
This proves again that the Arabs are the Middle Eastern parties that actually need security and safety. The Arabs do not possess nuclear weapons with which to defend themselves; nor do they possess other categories of weapons that can counter the challenges laid down by Israel as it occupies Arab lands and suppresses Arab citizens in those occupied territories.
I was surprised to hear the Israeli representative’s fantastical comparison when two delegations objected to the procedures used to consider the item before us, and to the content of the statement of the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons: how could he compare this to the emergency special session on the massacres inflicted on the Palestinian people? That reflects Israel’s aggressive nature and its defiance of the international community. In fact, convening an emergency special session was the minimum we could do to put an end to the massacres inflicted upon the Palestinian people.
Once more, we come back to one constant fact: there can be no peace in the Middle East without a commitment by Israel to the resolutions adopted by the international community, and without Israel’s withdrawal from all the occupied territories to the borders of 4 June 1967. Israel must give up its dream of dominating the region by threatening to use or using weapons of mass destruction. The international community bears primary responsibility to pressure Israel to take genuine action to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and to enable us all to work towards the establishment of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons and chemical weapons.
(spoke in Arabic):
The representative of Israel criticized Egypt’s observation on the need to abide by the rules of procedure of the General Assembly. He linked that with the Assembly’s decision to resume the tenth emergency special session. We wonder about the connection between the two issues. The resumption by the General Assembly of the tenth emergency special session is a matter that has been decided upon, and the debate on this vital and important issue will resume this afternoon.
(Israel): I am sorry that I have to speak once again in exercise of the right of reply. I promise to be very brief.
I listened to the statement made by the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic in exercise of the right of reply, and I fail to understand the logic behind his words. The fact that Israeli citizens are obliged to be equipped with safety gear to protect themselves from chemical weapons does not indicate anything whatsoever about Israel’s capabilities of any kind. The fact is that Israeli citizens were, and still are, under the threat of chemical weapons, inter alia
from countries like his own.
The second point I wish to raise is that I would ask the Syrian representative, and even recommend to him, that he not lecture us about massacres and that he should not speak on behalf of the Palestinians. These issues are rather serious and are under consideration between us and the Palestinians. Nobody gave the Syrian representative a mandate to represent the Palestinians here, especially given his country’s record of massacres in this regard, which I would rather not mention in this forum.
The meeting rose at 1.45 p.m.