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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
15 December 2006


General Assembly
GA/PAL/1027

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


AT UN ASIAN MEETING ON PALESTINE, SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS
 
SITUATION DIRE, URGES UNBIASED PEACE EFFORT
 
(Reissued as received from a UN Information officer.)


KUALA LUMPUR, 15 December -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the opening session of the United Nations Asian Meeting on the Question of Palestine in Kuala Lumpur, this morning, that the situation in the West Bank was dire.

In a statement, read on his behalf by the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Angela Kane, he said, “Palestinians are deeply dismayed at continued settlement and barrier construction activity, and by the heavy presence of the Israeli Defense Forces.  Israelis continue to live in fear of terrorism due to inadequate Palestinian efforts to halt rocket attacks into southern Israel.”

Palestinian “despair only grows, as does their determination to resist it,” he said.

Annan also criticized the Palestinian Authority Government for a lack of commitment to a real peace process.  “The PA government remains at best ambivalent about a two-State solution and, at worst, refuses to renounce violence and rejects the basic tenets of the approach to the conflict favoured by a majority of Palestinians and enshrined in the Oslo accords.”

He also warned that, in a context of escalating mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians, the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People must ensure its efforts to make a positive difference.

“The work of the United Nations system is often dismissed as reflexively biased against Israel, which limits its ability to help the suffering Palestinian people on the ground,” Annan said.

“It hurts both Palestinians and Israelis if the United Nations is perceived as too one-sided to be allowed a significant role in the Middle East peace process,” he said.

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Palestinian Authority and representative of Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, responded.  “The UN cannot, in my opinion, be neutral or even-handed, because it cannot compare between the occupier and the occupied people,” he said.  The United Nations must play a central role in the peace process and it must “remain honest and act as the embodiment of international law.”

“All of us, and especially the UN, must uphold international law, including the cessation of Israeli settlement and wall expansion, and an end to violence and terrorism,” he cautioned.

“We need fresh thinking and a new beginning.  More of the same will not take us anywhere, especially to a comprehensive peace in the region,” Al-Kidwa said.

“The Palestinian people remain under active occupation,” he said.  “We need to agree on a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders.  This is vital to any solution of the conflict.”

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, Seri Syed Hamid Albar, opened the Asian Meeting and warned that the peace process relied on the cessation of Israeli “extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, destruction of civilian infrastructure and systematic undermining of the Palestinian administrative and security apparatus,” because these measures only increased the resolve of fringe elements, he said.

Palestinians, he said, must achieve a unity government in a step toward the ultimate goal of Palestinian statehood, “the pinnacle of the aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

The Chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People Paul Badji spoke of the continued suffering of the Palestinian people, but also of Israeli society.

In his opening statement, he said the Occupied Palestinian Territory was experiencing raids, assassinations and continued expansion of Israeli settlements and the West Bank separation wall.  Israeli population centres were being hit with rockets by Palestinian militants.  He said the capacity of military force to resolve what is essentially a political conflict, was limited, and called for a resuscitation of the Road Map.

He stressed that the Committee was holding meetings not for the sake of holding meetings, but to raise worldwide awareness of the inalienable rights of the Palestinians, as mandated by the General Assembly.

He pointed to the humanitarian crisis experienced this year by Palestinians, after such a promising exercise of democracy, and thanked the Asia-Pacific region for its support for both a negotiated solution to the conflict, and for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.

He expressed concern at the violent incident on 14 December, when the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s convoy was fired at, after passing the checkpoint at the Rafah border.

The meeting is convened in different regions under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and will be divided into three sessions.

Plenary I, to be held this afternoon, will take up the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  It will cover the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; action and strategies of the occupying Power and the state of the Palestinian economy and the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Palestinian refugee camps.

Plenary II, which will meet tomorrow morning, will explore the possibility of a “shared vision of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians”, covering such topics as ending the occupation – a key prerequisite for achieving peace; preserving and building on prior achievements in the peace process; current approaches to encouraging dialogue and negotiations and strategies to garner public support for renouncing violence and returning to political dialogue.

The theme of Plenary III is “International efforts at salvaging peace in the Middle East -- Support of the countries of Asia and the Pacific for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people”.  Specific issues to be explored are supporting the voices of reason and peace — the Arab Peace Initiative, the efforts of the Quartet; supporting international peace efforts through the United Nations — the central role of the Security Council; action by Asian and Pacific States within the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations, and the role of parliaments in promoting support by Governments for a peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Invited to the meeting are eminent personalities, including high level officials from the Host Government and the Palestinian Authority, international experts, including Israelis and Palestinians, representatives of United Nations Member States and United Nations Observers.  Also invited are parliamentarians, representatives of the United Nations system and other organizations, academics, non-governmental organizations and the media.

On Sunday, 17 December, the United Nations Forum of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People will be held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.  It will look into initiatives by civil society in Asia and the Pacific in solidarity with the Palestinian people, with a particular focus on the Malaysian experience, and meet with the experts invited to the Asian Meeting.  Participants will discuss legislative and political advocacy; efforts by non-governmental organizations, religious groups and the media aimed at mobilizing public opinion in support of the Palestinian people; and the impact and educational responsibility of academic institutions and think tanks.

Statements

The representative of Kenya called on Israel to put an end to violence to civilians.  The United Nations was an important forum for the international community to promote a solution to eternal peace in the Middle East.

The representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference condemned the systematic destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, and their attacks, including the Beit Hanoun attack in Gaza.  He encouraged the actions of the Human Rights Council to investigate that massacre against the Palestinian people.  The international community must put pressure on Israel to abide by international law.  The Palestinian people were subjected, on a daily basis, to killing, collective punishment, continuing building of the wall and the growing expansion of Israeli colonies.  The economic and financial blockade on the Palestinian people was causing starvation.  He encouraged the international community to lift the blockade.  He renewed a call for an international conference based on the Arab Peace Initiative. He supported the establishment of the Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of refugees to their homes.

The representative of Morocco said the Palestinian people had suffered greatly in spite of United Nations resolutions supporting their rights.  The international community must help put a stop to the Israeli attacks.  Unilateral Israeli measures cannot achieve peace, and a negotiated peace was the only viable option.  He urged the resumption of the peace process for the establishment of a Palestinian State based on the United Nations resolutions and the Road Map.   Morocco appealed for the establishment of a clear vision for peace between the Arabs and the Israelis.

The representative of Saudi Arabia underscored the position of his country in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people for peace and statehood.  He called for protection of the Palestinian people against Israeli terrorism and violence.  No one doubted the ability of Israel to justify violence and its stark violation of international law, believing it is an entity above international law.  The Government of Israel would not have continued its defiance of international law if the Security Council had not encouraged Israel’s aggressive path with its lack of enforcement of resolutions.  Israeli control of sea and land space in Gaza made the Palestinian people virtual prisoners.  He called on Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinian people, to return to the original 1967 borders and agree to the return of refugees.

The representative of Cuba considered the occupation of Palestinian land as illegal.  The situation had deteriorated due to indeterminate and excessive use of force by Israel.   Israel continued to build a wall in flagrant violation of the International Court of Justice rulings and United Nations resolutions.  He considered the current deadlock in the Security Council unacceptable.  There would be no peaceful solution if the Israeli occupation of territories occupied since 1967 was not ended.   Israel must observe the Geneva Conventions.

The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic said both sides needed to exercise maximum restraint and work together on the Road Map for peace.  He believed a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the conflict could only be resolved within United Nations resolutions.  He called on the international community to continue intensifying efforts to support and promote peace efforts between Palestinians and Israelis.  He reaffirmed support to the Palestinian people for their right to self-determination and an independent State of Palestine.  There should be no room for confrontation.  The question of Palestine could only be resolved by peaceful means within international law.

The representative of Qatar said that violence by Israel was continuing.  The Israeli military’s bombing and killing of civilians in civilian areas, like the Beit Hanoun attack in Gaza, was clear evidence of Israeli insistence on violating human rights and international law, including the Geneva Conventions.  Illegal killings, harsh restriction of movement, kidnapping of ministers and other democratically-elected parliamentary representatives occurred in the pretext of Israeli self-defence.  The wall being constructed by Israel contravened international law.  The international community must promote Palestinian capacity in administration and delivery of government services in preparation for statehood.

The representative of Namibia extended his solidarity with the Palestinian people and assured them of Namibia’s unwavering support in their struggle for independence, freedom, peace and justice.  For too long, the Palestinian people have suffered at the hands of the Israeli Government.  The Beit Hanoun attack in Gaza last November, where 19 civilians died, including 13 from the same family, was one of the many Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians.  He reminded Israel of its obligation in accordance with international humanitarian law.  He noted that the Human Rights Council had agreed to dispatch a fact finding mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and demanded Israel ceased military operations in the occupied land.

The representative of Afghanistan expressed support for the right of the Palestinian people to independence and self-determination.  40 years of illegal military occupation has come at a heavy price for both sides.  The occupation must end.  The occupation is the root cause of conflict in the Middle East.  Israeli military operations have further poisoned the atmosphere in the Middle East.  The occupying Power does not stand to gain by refusing to observe international humanitarian law, or by expanding the wall.

The representative of Algeria said United Nations resolutions were the basis upon which a just and comprehensive peace could be established in the Middle East.  Israeli forces continued to violate international laws.  The economic siege imposed by Israel had paralysed life, and led to the destruction of the Palestinian economy.  The international community could no longer ignore the flagrant violations of human rights committed by the Israeli Government in the occupied territory, and its failure to assume responsibility to protect innocent civilians and deal with the humanitarian crisis.

The representative of Indonesia said his country was committed to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence.  Contrary to the legitimate expectations of the Palestinian people, the elections earlier this year had led to the well-known fiscal and institutional crisis within the Palestinian Authority.  The loss of income caused by Israel’s withholding of Palestinian taxes had seriously undermined the ability of the Palestinian institutions to function.

The representative of Timor-Leste gave his delegation’s unconditional support to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence.  He urged all parties to refrain from violent measures that caused additional harm to the civilian population.  He called upon the international community to continue their assistance to the Palestinians to help them overcome the current crisis.

The representative of Pakistan expressed support for the right of the Palestinian people to independence and self-determination, saying the Palestinian people had suffered a serial tragedy over decades.


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For information media • not an official record

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