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

Security Council
1997 Round-up
9 January 1998


Iraq/Kuwait Question, Situation in Former Yugoslavia,
Western Sahara, Cyprus, Middle East Remain Major Topics of Consideration


Failure by the Council to adopt a draft resolution calling upon Israel to refrain from building a new settlement in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area of East Jerusalem led to the convening of the tenth emergency session of the General Assembly, which met three times in 1997.


Middle East

Forty-nine speakers addressed the Council on 5 and 6 March during a debate in response to concerns of the Arab world over the Israeli Government's decision to begin construction of new housing in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area of East Jerusalem.

In a 23 February communiqué, the League of Arab States had urged the Council and the co-sponsors of the peace process, particularly the United States, to take prompt action to compel Israel to desist from those settlement activities in the occupied Arab territories, in general, and Al-Quds, in particular. In addition to expanding settlements, the Arab League recalled that, despite Council resolution 1073 (1996) on the subject, the Israeli authorities had kept open the tunnel situated within the Haram al-Sharif (the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock).

During the two-day debate, speakers called upon the Government of Israel to rescind its 26 February decision to build a new settlement in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area of East Jerusalem. A number of representatives urged Israel to refrain from any action that altered the facts on the ground or prejudged the final status negotiations on the city.

The following day, 7 March, the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution that would have called upon Israel to refrain from such settlement activities, due to a negative vote cast by a permanent member, the United States. Meeting again on 21 March, the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution on the same issue for the same reason. The United States representative, in explaining his opposition to the text, said neither the Council nor the Assembly should be inserting themselves into topics that the negotiating partners had decided would be addressed in their permanent status talks, adding that such interference could only harden the positions of both sides and make their work more difficult.

Following the Council's failure to act, an emergency session of the General Assembly was requested by the Group of Arab States and States members of the Non-Aligned Movement. The tenth emergency session convened on 24 April to discuss "Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories". At the close of the first segment of the session on 25 April, the Assembly condemned Israel's construction of a new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim in occupied East Jerusalem and demanded its immediate and full cessation. By a vote of 134 in favour to 3 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, United States), with 11 abstentions, the Assembly demanded an end to all other Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories, called for the end of all assistance and support for those Israeli activities, and reaffirmed that the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were an obstacle to peace.

After a resumption of the session in July, the Assembly reconvened the emergency session on 13 November. At that meeting, it adopted a resolution by which it condemned the Israeli Government's failure to comply with previous resolutions on the matter. By a vote of 139 in favour to 3 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, United States), with 13 abstentions, the Assembly called for re-injection of momentum into the stalled Middle East peace process and for the implementation of all agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It also recommended that the Government of Switzerland, as the depositor of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in times of war, convene a meeting of experts with a target date no later than February 1998.

In related matters, the Council maintained the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) through the year, twice extending its mandate for six-month periods, first on 28 January, then again on 31 July until 31 January 1998. On both occasions, the Council reiterated its strong support for Lebanon's territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence within its internationally recognized boundaries.

The UNIFIL was established in March 1978 for an initial six-month period to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, restore international peace and security, and assist the Lebanese Government in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area. Although through 1997 UNIFIL was still being prevented from implementing its mandate in southern Lebanon, it continued to make an important contribution to stability and to protection of the local population.

The Council also twice renewed the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), established in May 1974 to supervise the cease-fire and disengagement agreement between Israeli and Syrian forces. The Council first extended for six months its operations on 28 May and again for another six months on 21 November until 31 May 1998. When it took those decisions, the Council issued statements calling upon the parties concerned to implement immediately its resolution 338 (1973), which called upon the parties to arrive at a comprehensive and durable peace.


Security Council Membership

The Security Council has 15 members. The permanent five are China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States. The 10 rotating members in 1997 were Chile, Costa Rica, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Japan, Kenya, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea and Sweden.

On 1 January 1998, Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, Gambia and Slovenia replaced Chile, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Poland and Republic of Korea.

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For information media - not an official record