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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Fifty-eighth General Assembly
Plenary
75th Meeting (PM)
GA/10221
17 December 2003


GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLS ON ALL STATES TO ENSURE SAFETY,

SECURITY OF UN, OTHER HUMANITARIAN WORKERS

Adopts 15 Texts on Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance;
Assistance to Palestinians; Situations in Comoros, Djibouti, Somalia, Timor-Leste


As the General Assembly pushed to 22 December the recess date for its current session, it pressed ahead this afternoon on the final stages of its work, adopting 15 texts on a variety of issues, including resolutions on the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel, coordination of humanitarian assistance, assistance to the Palestinian people and several country-specific situations.

Expressing its deep concern over the dangers and security risks faced by United Nations and other humanitarian personnel in the field, the Assembly adopted, by consensus, a resolution on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and the protection of United Nations personnel.

By that text, the world body urged all States to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel and to ensure respect for the inviolability of United Nations premises. It also called upon all other parties involved in armed conflicts to ensure their safety and protection and to refrain from abducting or detaining them in violation of their immunity.

Strongly condemning any act or failure to act that obstructed or prevented United Nations and other humanitarian personnel from discharging their humanitarian functions, or that entailed their subjection to threats, the use of force or physical attack, the Assembly affirmed the need to hold to account those committing such acts. It also expressed its deep concern that threats against the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian workers have escalated at an unprecedented rate over the past decade.

However, prior to the text’s adoption, the Assembly had voted to retain its thirteenth preambular and tenth operative paragraphs of the text by a recorded vote of 149 in favour, to 1 against (United States), with 8 abstentions (Albania, Belarus, India, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia and Tuvalu)(see Annex II). Both paragraphs referred to the International Criminal Court, with operative paragraph 10 calling upon States to become parties to the Rome Statute.

The Assembly also adopted, by a recorded vote of 170 in favour, to none against, with 2 abstentions (Israel and Kenya) a resolution on assistance to the ber 2003 Palestinian people (see Annex I). By that text, Member States, international financial institutions and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations were urged to extend, as rapidly as possible, economic and social assistance to the Palestinian people, in close cooperation with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and through official Palestinian institutions. The convening of a 2004 United Nations-backed seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people was suggested.

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Finally, it adopted a resolution approving the report of the Credentials Committee, contained in the report of that body, but postponed action on a resolution related to the representation of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

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The Assembly also decided to defer its consideration of the agenda items related to the armed Israeli aggression against the Iraqi nuclear installations and to the launching of global negotiations on international economic cooperation for development to its fifty-ninth session.

Addressing the Assembly this afternoon were the representatives of Azerbaijan, Morocco (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), South Africa (on behalf of the African States), Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Sweden, Panama, Argentina, Russian Federation, Timor-Leste, Israel, Cuba, Japan, Rwanda, United States, Egypt, Iran and Malaysia.

The Observer for Palestine also addressed the Assembly this afternoon.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representative of Israel, as well as the Observer for Palestine.

The Assembly will next reconvene at a time and date to be announced.

Background
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By a text on Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/58/L.33/Rev.1), the Assembly would urge Member States, the United Nations financial institutions, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, among others, to extend, as rapidly as possible, economic and social assistance to the Palestinian people, in close cooperation with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and through official Palestinian institutions.

That text would also have the Assembly urge States to open their markets to Palestinian products on the most favourable terms, consistent with appropriate trading rules, and to implement fully existing trade and cooperation agreements. Besides suggesting the convening of a 2004 United Nations-backed seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people, the Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to submit a report during its fifty-ninth session that would include an assessment of the assistance actually received and the needs still unmet.

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The Assembly also had before it a report of the Credentials Committee on Credentials of representatives to the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly (document A/58/625), which states that at its meeting on 11 December 2003, the Committee accepted the credentials of the representatives of 191 Member States to the current session. The Assembly’s adoption of a draft resolution approving the Committee’s report is recommended.

By terms of a text relating to the report of the Credentials Committee, on the Representation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/58/L.48), the world body would reaffirm the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and affirm that the Observer delegation to the General Assembly represents the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and that the credentials of the delegation of Israel do not cover that territory.

Turning to the text on Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/58/L.33/Rev.1), he said the language stressed, among other things, the need for the full engagement of the United Nations in providing such assistance. The draft also contained a new element in its preamble, welcoming the Security Council’s unanimous support of the Road Map peace plan, which called for reciprocal actions from both sides towards the achievement of peace.


Statements in Explanation of Position

Before the Assembly turned to vote on the whole series of texts related to the strengthening of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, the representative of Israel, speaking in explanation of position on the draft related to assistance to the Palestinian people, said his country shared the concern over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the region. Violence and terrorism, by their nature, entailed hardship for civilian populations and both Israelis and Palestinians had suffered from the upsurge in violence of the last years. Bringing the violence to an end and providing for the security of all the region’s inhabitants were critical components of any peace initiative and objectives of Israeli policy.

Thus, Israel supported efforts to relieve the suffering of innocents and had done its utmost to facilitate international humanitarian work and to improve living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he said. Despite the threat of terrorism, the country had tried to permit the flow of food and other necessities to the greatest extent possible. However, Palestinian terrorists had consistently exploited any Israeli attempt to ease the conditions of the Palestinian people and had used increases in freedom of movement to infiltrate Israeli cities.

It was clear that terrorists posed a threat to those they targeted, as well as those they hid behind, he added. It was disingenuous to suggest that Israeli policies were the source of the hardships facing the Palestinian people. It had only been with the breakdown of the peace process, and the Palestinian resort to a deliberate terror campaign that living conditions had declined. And while it was useful to some to place the blame on Israel, it would do little to help Palestinian citizens who did not participate in acts of terror.

The international community, he continued, should insist that the Palestinian leadership end its campaign of violence and terror, as called for in signed agreements and the Road Map. Israel had, in previous years, joined the consensus, in spite of the use of language to refer to the West Bank and Gaza Strip that was inconsistent with the terms used in agreements between the parties and that did not reflect his country’s view on the legal status of those territories.

At the same time, the international community’s attention should not be devoted solely to the welfare of Palestinian citizens in the conflict, he said. Israeli citizens were no less deserving of attention. Israel would abstain on the draft this year due to new language unrelated to humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, including outright reference to Security Council resolution 1515, which was inappropriate. Regretting the use of the Assembly, once again, to further a partisan and political agenda, he said that Israel, for all its goodwill, did not feel in a position to support the draft.

Speaking in explanation of position on the draft related to strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, the representative of Cuba voiced concern over the use of inconcretely defined language in part of the text, but said his country supported the draft as a whole.

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Action on Drafts

The Assembly then adopted, by a recorded vote of 170 in favour, with two abstentions (Israel and Kenya), the resolution on Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/58/L.33/Rev.1). (See Annex I.)


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Explanation of Vote after the Vote
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In a general statement, the Observer for Palestine expressed deep thanks to all delegations that had supported the draft on assistance to the Palestinian people. He also thanked all agencies and groups that had provided humanitarian and other forms of assistance to the Palestinian people, living under extreme conditions that could be called a humanitarian tragedy. Israel’s position seemed to oppose relief that would allow genuine economic progress in the occupied territories. That position had only increased the importance of the Road Map and the need to pursue a diplomatic path to peace.

He also regretted Israel’s position on the text, which had serious connotations. That delegation had broken consensus; that position should be strongly condemned. He added that Israel’s statement in explanation of vote had been befitting of racist, oppressive occupiers and had been aimed at ending all peaceful negotiations. He particularly noted Israel’s decision today to refer to the occupied Palestinian territories as simply “disputed territories”, which was a blatant contravention of international law.

The Assembly then adopted a resolution on the Credentials of representatives to the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly, contained in the report of that Committee (document A/58/625).

Following that action, the representative of Iran said that his delegation would disassociate itself from references in the report construed as recognition of the State of Israel.

The representative of Malaysia then introduced the text on Representation of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/58/L.48). He said the text did not in any way intend to challenge the Report of the Credentials Committee, which had just been adopted. At the same time, the co-sponsors of the draft wished to stress that the representation of Israel to the (annexes follow) United Nations, including in the General Assembly, must be in conformity with international law.

He said the text would have the Assembly affirm that the Observer delegation of Palestine to the General Assembly represents the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and that the credentials of the delegation of Israel do not cover that territory. Another paragraph of the text would express the Assembly’s hope that the Palestinian people would soon exercise sovereignty in their State, Palestine, he added.

The draft should not be considered an attempt by the Assembly to enter territorial disputes, and adopting it would not have any bearing on the currently stalled efforts on final status negotiations between Israel and Palestine. But nevertheless, given the importance of the issue, Malaysia recognized the need to continue with informal consultations and did not insist that the Assembly take action today. The co-sponsors intended to revisit the issue in the immediate future, during the Assembly’s current session.

The Assembly subsequently deferred consideration of the text.

It then adopted, by acclamation, a decision on the Commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (document A/58/L.29) by the world body.

Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel expressed grave concern that the Palestinian Observer had once again attempted to further the political campaign against his country. The new language added to the text this year, under the pretext of defining Israel’s credentials, granted rights of territorial representation to an observer and was an attempt to politicize a wholly technical function of the United Nations.

Indeed, territorial issues should not have been included under the item. The draft text was rife with political assertions that sought to predetermine the outcome of a territorial dispute. Such a presumption was unprecedented. It represented a conspicuous act of discrimination, and might open a “Pandora’s Box” that could hamper negotiations on disputed territories around the world. Using the Assembly as a platform for scoring political points should be rejected, he added.

The Observer for Palestine said that his delegation did not quite understand Israel’s intervention, particularly since no statement had been made to which a right of reply had been warranted. Nevertheless, the case in question had nothing to do with technical aspect of the credentials process of Committee’s report. It was the case of one State –- Israel -- occupying the entire territory of another people –- Palestinians -- for nearly 40 years, annexing and confiscating Palestinian lands throughout that time. Further, Israel had been the only Member State defined as an occupying Power by United Nations resolutions. None had ever been complied with.

Israel’s statement had been a further rejection of a two-State solution for peace. The draft had always been necessary, but it had become more so now that Israel was building its expansionist wall inside the Palestinian occupied territories. That wall would end any hope for diplomatic negations. He hoped the matter could be dealt with in the very near future.
ANNEX I


Vote on Assistance to Palestinians

The draft resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/58/L.33/Rev.1) was adopted by a recorded vote of 170 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions, as follows:

Against: None.

Abstain: Israel, Kenya.



(END OF ANNEX I)

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