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


GA/PAL/787
12 November 1998

PALESTINIAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE APPROVES
FOUR TEXTS ON QUESTION OF PALESTINE


The General Assembly would support the ongoing peace process and express the hope that it would lead to the establishment of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, by the terms of one of five draft resolutions approved this morning without a vote by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Furthermore, the Assembly would call on all concerned to work towards bringing the peace process back on track. It would also stress the need for the realization of Palestinian rights, primarily the right to self-determination; the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967; and the need for resolving the problem of Palestine refugees.

In a related resolution, the Assembly would consider that the Committee could continue to contribute to the implementation of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian People during the transitional period. It would also request the Committee to cooperate with and support Palestinian and other non-governmental organizations to mobilize international solidarity for Palestinian rights and for a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question.

By a further draft, the Assembly would request the Department of Public Information (DPI) to continue its special information programme for the biennium 1998-1999. The DPI would also be requested to disseminate information on all the activities of the United Nations system relating to the question of Palestine and to continue to update publications on the question of Palestine and recent developments in that regard and on the prospects for peace.

By the terms of the other draft, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to ensure that the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat continued to carry out its programme of work, such as the organization of regional meetings, and the development and expansion of the documents collection of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine.

Under another draft, the Assembly would express support for the Bethlehem 2000 Project and commend the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in that regard.

Speaking on other matters, the Permanent Observer for Palestine, who also made a statement after the approval of the draft texts, said the Israeli Government's approval of the Wye River Memorandum yesterday could be considered a positive step. However, it was unfortunate that Israel had attached several conditions to the agreement, which represented a unilateral attempt by Israel to move ahead with the peace process. In another unfortunate development, Israel today had invited a tender to begin construction in an area to the south of occupied East Jerusalem. That could be an extremely dangerous development, as well as being against international law, relevant Security Council resolutions and the Wye River Memorandum itself.

Both the Chairman, M. Ibra Deguène Ka (Senegal) and Vice Chairman, Ravar A.G. Farhadi (Afghanistan) of the Committee introduced the draft resolutions. The Chairman announced that the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People would take place at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, 30 November, in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, which would then be followed by a general debate on the Question of Palestine.

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to consider five draft resolutions to be submitted to the General Assembly under two agenda items: Bethlehem 2000 and Question of Palestine.

Bethlehem 2000

Under the draft entitled Bethlehem 2000, which will be submitted to the Assembly under agenda item 157, the Assembly would welcome the impending celebration in Bethlehem of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. It would express support for the Bethlehem 2000 Project and commend the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in that regard. The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to mobilize the pertinent organizations and agencies of the United Nations system towards the success of the Project.

Question of Palestine

The drafts on the Question of Palestine will be submitted to the Assembly under agenda item 39.

The draft resolution on the Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine would have the Assembly support the ongoing peace process and express the hope that it would lead to the establishment of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The Assembly would stress the need for commitment to the principle of land for peace and the implementation of Security Council resolutions on which the Middle East peace process is based, and the implementation of agreements reached between the parties including the redeployment of Israeli forces from the West Bank and the commencement of negotiations on the final settlement.

Under other terms of the draft, the Assembly would call on all concerned to work towards bringing the peace process back on track. It would stress the need for the realization of Palestinian rights, primarily the right to self-determination; the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967; and the need for resolving the problem of Palestinian refugees.

The draft resolution on the work of the Palestinian Rights Committee would have the Assembly endorse the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Committee's report to the Assembly. The Assembly would also consider that the Committee could continue to contribute to the implementation of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people during the transitional period. It would authorize the Committee to adjust its programme of work as appropriate in the light of developments.

Also under the draft, the Assembly would request the Committee to cooperate with and support Palestinian and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to mobilize international solidarity and support for the achievement of Palestinian rights and a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. It would request the Committee to involve an additional NGO in its work.

Under the draft resolution on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to ensure that the Division continues to carry out its programme of work, such as the organization of regional meetings; the development and expansion of the documents collection of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine; the preparation and dissemination of publications and information materials on various aspects of the question of Palestine; assistance in completing the modernization of the existing records of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine and the annual training programme for staff of the Palestinian Authority.

By the draft concerning the Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information (DPI) of the Secretariat, the Assembly would request DPI to continue its special information programme for the biennium 1998-1999; disseminate information on all the activities of the United Nations system relating to the question of Palestine; issue and update publications on the question of Palestine including materials concerning recent developments and in particular the prospects for peace; expand its collection of audiovisual material and continue the production of such material, including updating the Exhibit in the Secretariat; organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the area; organize international, regional and national seminars or encounters for journalists; and continue to assist Palestinians in the field of media development, in particular to strengthen the programme for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists initiated in 1995.

Programme of work for 1999

Also before the Committee are the recommendations by the Bureau of the Committee for its Programme of Work for 1999. In light of its other initiatives and commitments during a period of rapid developments on the ground, the Bureau recommends that fewer meetings be held in 1999, but that more resources be devoted to their preparation. The meetings should be structured for maximum impact on public opinion, high-level participation and concrete usefulness.

The Bureau also recommends emphasizing large-scale thematic events in 1999 and encouraging the involvement of additional countries and organizations. Three such meetings should be held -- in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The Committee has decided to devote one major activity to support the Bethlehem 2000 Project -- the International Forum Bethlehem 2000 to be held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, from 23 to 24 February 1999.

It has also decided that the African regional meeting to be held in Windhoek in April 1999 will be called the "African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People". This reflects the Bureau's intention to update terminology used to describe meetings. Remaining meetings for which provision was made in the budget, should be replaced by one major event to be held in the Middle East in late May or June. The purpose will be to mobilize international support for the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own State with its capital at Jerusalem.

The Bureau requests the Division to develop new and more flexible ways of communicating and cooperating with NGOs on an individual basis, making maximum use of existing electronic technologies, giving priority to key actors and exercising flexibility in inviting to its meetings those that have the most to contribute. As some of the non-governmental meetings will not be held in 1999, it is proposed that the resulting savings be used for participation by a representative of the Committee or the Division in significant conferences, meetings or other events organized by NGOs; assistance to Palestinian organizations in sending representatives to meetings held under the auspices of the Committee and providing speakers for meetings organized by other NGOs.

The Bureau also proposes that the Division prepare and publish, in cooperation with DPI, documentation aimed at the general public that can be reproduced and made available in large quantities. It further recommends periodic visits by members of the Bureau and the Division to the territory under the Palestinian Authority to brief local NGOs and institutions on the work of the Committee and to assess their needs that can be met through the Division's programme of work.

The Bureau considers that the Division should continue to prepare and issue its periodic publications which include a monthly bulletin on action by the United Nations system relevant to the Question of Palestine; a periodic bulletin on developments in the peace process; a monthly chronological summary of events relating to the Question of Palestine; an annual compilation of Assembly and Council resolutions; reports of meetings held under the auspices of the Committee; and an annual bulletin on the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity.

Action on Draft Resolutions

RAVAN A. G. FARHADI (Afghanistan), Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced four of the five draft resolutions before the Committee.

He first turned to the draft on Bethlehem 2000 which was approved without a vote.

The first two draft resolutions submitted under the agenda item "Question of Palestine", had been the same for a number of years and the Bureau of the Committee had agreed they should be amended to reflect recent development, he said.

In the text on the work of the Committee, he noted that the main change was in the paragraph on cooperation with NGOs.

That draft was then approved without a vote.

In the draft on the Division for Palestinian Rights, he noted that operative paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 had been amended.

That draft was then approved without a vote.

The fourth draft resolution dealt with the Department of Public Information's Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, he said. Two changes from last year's text had been made in consultation with the DPI.

That draft was then approved without a vote.

M. IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee, introduced the final resolution, which concerned the peaceful Settlement of the question of Palestine.

The draft was approved without a vote.

He said the resolutions represented a realistic and sensible outcome of the Committee, and hoped it would receive the support of the General Assembly. He also appealed to all delegations to speak on the issue of Bethlehem 2000 because of its importance.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, expressed satisfaction at the approval of the five draft resolutions. He considered them extremely important. For example, the draft resolution on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine was the main political resolution on the problem, and it provided the basis for a just solution. The other texts, dealing with the work of the Committee, the Division for Palestinian Rights and the DPI were extremely important as well. Also important was the new resolution on Bethlehem 2000. He proposed, as a practical matter, that the Committee table those resolutions by the end of the day tomorrow. That would allow additional time to include Member States which were not members of the Committee to co-sponsor the drafts.

In discussion with the various political and legal groups on the Bethlehem 2000 resolution he had noted that the resolution already enjoyed broad support, he said. The European Union was ready to lend support. However, discussions had not revealed the total agreement that would ensure adoption by consensus. He believed the draft as it stood should be enough for consensus, and would continue to try to reach understanding with one delegation -- that of the United States. As someone had said, the draft screamed for consensus, and it was only fair that all Member States accept such a result. The Committee and its Bureau had done their part of the job.

He wanted to draw the Committee's attention to the vote in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) next Monday on the draft resolution of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, he said. Until now, it had been co-sponsored by 67 Member States. He called on any Committee members who had not done so to join in sponsoring that draft resolution.

Other Matters

Mr. AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said he wanted to speak about recent political developments and the status of the Wye River Memorandum. The Israeli Government's approval of the Memorandum yesterday could be considered a positive step. However, it was unfortunate that Israel had attached several conditions to the agreement that were not acceptable, and which represented a unilateral attempt by Israel to move ahead with the peace process. That was not acceptable to the Palestinian side. Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority hoped the implementation would proceed in accordance with the provisions found in the Wye River Memorandum and in a timely manner.

In another unfortunate development, he said, Israel today had invited a tender to begin construction in an area to the south of occupied East Jerusalem. That could be an extremely dangerous development, as well as being against international law, relevant Security Council resolutions and the Wye River Memorandum itself. He hoped that such developments represented posturing on the part of the Israeli Government. If not, it would be necessary to react with all seriousness, especially at the United Nations.


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