Question of Palestine home
18 April 2002
STATEMENT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL
THURSDAY, 18 APRIL 2002
Once again, we meet to consider the situation in the Middle East, in particular the sharply escalated conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Today the Commissioner General of UNRWA Peter Hansen and my Special Coordinator Terje Roed-Larsen visited the Jenin refugee camp. I have received initial reports from them and am deeply disturbed at what they have said. They have described the situation there as horrific. They witnessed people digging out corpses from the rubble with bare hands. Meanwhile no major emergency rescue operation has been allowed to begin. The destruction is massive and the impact on the civilian population is devastating.
Many questions have been raised about what occurred in the Jenin camp and more will be raised. For the moment, I am calling on the Government of Israel urgently to lift the curfew imposed on the camp and to comply fully with its obligations under international humanitarian law to provide full and unimpeded access to humanitarian agencies. I will continue to monitor the situation closely and will keep the Council apprised.
The international community, including the Security Council and the Quartet, has been working with an exceptional level of cooperation and common purpose. Secretary Powell’s mission to the region, to which I have given my full support, has succeeded in slowing, at least temporarily, the spiralling violence that has beset the region in recent months. He has provided focussed attention on the need for a strategic framework encompassing security, political and economic dimensions, and has emphasized that security cannot be achieved without peace, and that peace cannot be achieved without security. His mission gives us hope that the peace process, so long delayed and so frayed, could be resumed.
However, I believe that unless the international community assumes a direct and effective role on the ground, this progress is unlikely to continue.be sustained. On the contrary, my fear is that the dynamics of the situation are such that we may well see the resumption of the cycle of attacks and reprisals between Israelis and Palestinians, with an intensification of violence, and a continuing disregard for international law, including Security Council resolutions and accepted norms of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Tragically, the logic of war, to which I referred when we last met, has taken hold. Previously understood “red lines” have been crossed. Today, there are, effectively,it appears that there are no red lines left in this conflict. The demands of the Council in resolutions
have largely gone unheeded.
Amid the rage, despair and hopelessness that are felt on both sides, it is all too easy for the people of the region to lose sight of one fundamental truth: there is no military solution to this conflict. Whatever the outcome of the current Israeli military operation, Israel cannot achieve long-term security through force of arms, no matter how overwhelming that force may be. The Palestinians, it is equally evident, will never be able to establish their own state by force of arms, let alone by terrorist acts. On the contrary, every suicide bomb widens and deepens the suspicion among Israelis across the political spectrum that their very existence as a state is at risk. Only through a political settlement can the legitimate aspirations of both sides to live in peace within secure and recognized borders be achieved. That, Mr. President is why the international community must act to move both of the parties away from their current self-defeating course and to bring them back to agreement on the only possible basis for a political settlement – the implementation of Security Council resolutions
, and the principle of land for peace.
As the Council is well aware, considerable tensions have developed along the Blue Line in particular in the Shab'a farms area of the Golan Heights, though these have eased somewhat in recent days. It is clear that the situation there cannot be separated from the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Repeated breaches of the Blue Line emanating from Lebanese territory raise the possibility of a full-scale conflict along that frontier. I am deeply concerned that a single incident could too easily bring about a rapid deterioration, drawing in several parties. In addition, civil unrest in neighbouring countries poses a possibility of further destabilization in the region.
In responding to the crisis, the Council has not shied away from its responsibilities. Through three recent resolutions, 1397, 1402, 1403, and the Presidential Statement of 10 April, you have clearly outlined a vision of a final settlement and the steps that should be taken to enable political negotiations to resume. The Quartet meeting in Madrid last week affirmed that there must be immediate, parallel and accelerated action to achieve early and tangible political progress, and that there must be a defined series of steps leading to permanent peace – including recognition, normal relations and security between the two sides, and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Saudi peace initiative has shown the way to ending the broader Arab-Israeli conflict as well, through provided a powerful incentive to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement in the Middle East. That is the goal that we have rightly set ourselves. However, we still lack effective means to ensure that these resolutions and peace initiatives are implemented. It is this issue that I would like to address today.
It has been increasingly recognized for some time that, left alone, the parties will not be able to extricate themselves from the current impasse. Moreover, the events of the past weeks have led to a complete breakdown in mutual trust.
parties will need help to restore their security. It is this analysis that leads me to the conclusion that we need to consider possible courses of action that are bolder than have hitherto been considered practicable.
In the political arena, many of us had been calling for some time for a more intensive mediation effort that tackled the various aspects of the issue in parallel and offered a realistic bridge back to the negotiating table. This is precisely what Secretary Powell, backed by the Quartet and the Council, has initiated. Many of us have also held the view that a third party mechanism would be required on the ground to see that Security Council resolutions and agreements between the parties – such as Tenet,
and possibly others to come – would be implemented, paving the way for progress on political issues.
The primary purpose of any third party mechanism on the ground would be to bring confidence to both sides so that any undertakings made, agreements signed and commitments offered, will be respected and implemented. As I suggested in Geneva last week, such a mechanism should help establish a secure environment for both parties, thereby creating the conditions for the resumption of political negotiations towards a final settlement.
Until now, the discussion has focussed on the desirability of sending a limited number of international observers to help achieve these ends. The deployment of such unarmed observers could still be useful, but given the present circumstances, it is doubtful whether their safety and security could be assured. Moreover, their symbolic presence would probably not be sufficient to help consolidate and monitor the ceasefire that Secretary Powell has and others have been working so hard to achieve, and that the Security Council has repeatedly called for. It is for these reasons that I believe the deployment of a multi-national force deserves serious consideration.
Last Friday, Kieran Prendergast, at my instruction, briefed you on the key considerations for the deployment of a multi-national force. Let me emphasize that my thinking regarding such a force is still at an early stage. Today, I can offer only my initial views. Today, I offer my views directly on the nature and functions of such a force. I do not pretend to have all the answers, some of which must be provided by those Member States who would participate in it.
Before proceeding, I must stress that I do not contemplate a United Nations force, but rather a multi-national force formed by a coalition of the willing. The Security Council could, however,should, I believe, authorize such a force under Chapter VII of the Charter. The force must be impartial and capable of taking decisive action. It must have a robust mandate, credible strength and be large enough to carry it out.
The objectives of a multi-national force in the area would be four-fold. First, it would have a mandate to halt the violence between the parties.work with the parties to end the cycle of violence. This would entail monitoring the withdrawal and redeployment of the IDF to positions held before 28 September 2000, in accordance with the Tenet security work plan; establishing a communications and liaison mechanism in all areas of the occupied Palestinian territory; facilitating the exchange of security information, including early warning of flashpoints and potential ceasefire violations; and monitoring the parties’ adherence to a ceasefire.
Second, it would gradually create secure conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory for the resumption of normal economic activity and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian and development assistance.
Third, cooperating with the international donor community, a multi-national force would also create conditions to allow the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, including those dealing with law and order, to be re-built. As has been widely reported, many of the basic institutions of the Palestinian Authority have been damaged and destroyed in the current military campaign. The multi-national force would monitor the Palestinian Authority’s development of a unified command chain for its security and police forces, and help to establish conditions for these same forces to restore the rule of law. The multi-national force would also monitor and assist the Palestinian Authority’s implementation of all other commitments related to security and enhance their capacity to ensure the full compliance of all Palestinian groups with a cease-fire.
Fourth, it would work to create a stable environment to permit the resumption of negotiations aimed at achieving a political settlement.
I would expect the parties to cooperate fully with such a force and to facilitate its deployment. It is in their interest to do so. This force would, of course, not provide an absolute guarantee of security for either side, but I would expect its deployment to have a substantial positive psychological and concrete impact. Both parties would benefit from the presence of a force that would act as a liaison and help build the trust that has been so badly damaged by recent events.
For Israel, the force, if adequately deployed and sufficiently mobile, would create conditions on the ground that would place an international spotlight on any extremist Palestinian groups that try to undermine a cease-fire by continuing to engage in terrorism. The freedom of movement of such groups would be restricted, and support for their operations, would likely be diminished.
For the Palestinians, the force would increase security and create conditions for the resumption of humanitarian and development assistance, especially in the rebuilding and reordering of the Palestinian Authority’s security and law enforcement institutions.
Of course, further discussion would be necessary to define not only what the force would do, but also what it would not do. Clarity on these points is essential to prevent the development of unrealistic expectations on the part of either side so as to safeguard the effectiveness of the force. For example, the force’s position would soon become untenable if it appeared to be freezing the political and territorial status quo. It could succeed only if Israelis saw it as part of a process leading to long-term security and if Palestinians saw it as part of a process I am aware that such an operation would not be risk-free. However, the situation is so dangerous, that the international community has an obligation to provide this assistance.
It is time for the international community to pursue such an option in a pro-active way, rather than waiting for the parties to arrive at this conclusion on their own. A multi-national force is essential to a gradual restoration of trust between the two sides, which is so vital if further steps toward a broad framework for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace are to be taken.
I would emphasize, however, that such a multi-national force could only be successfully deployed if the parties re-commit themselves to the peace process. Indeed, the force must operate in parallel with the direct and urgent political engagement of the international community and the parties to realize the vision outlined in Security Council resolution 1397: the vision of two states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security. For example, the force’s position would soon become untenable if it appeared to be freezing the political and territorial status quo. It could succeed only if Israelis saw it as part of a process leading to long-term security and if Palestinians saw it as part of a process leading to the end of the occupation and the withdrawal of Israeli settlements.
All of the necessary elements of a vision of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace are in place, known. They have been spelled out in Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1397, in the Madrid statement of the Quartet, and in the Saudi initiative as endorsed by the Arab League. The partial achievements of Camp David and Taba should not be neglected in this context. What is needed now is to bring these elements of a vision together, and to translate them into concrete reality.
I urge the Security Council and the wider international community to consider this proposal in the spirit in which it is intended. – as a means to halt the tragic and terrifying descent into bloodletting that we have all been watching over the past few months. I believe that only through united, firm action can the international community help these two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, so bloodied and wearied by years of strife, to achieve a just and lasting peace.
Thank you, Mr. President