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


GA/PAL/769
28 November 1997

ASSEMBLY TO BE ASKED TO UPGRADE UN STANDING OF PALESTINE,
TO BE ON FOOTING WITH MEMBER STATES, EXCEPT FOR VOTING

Observer Says Status Should Match That in Security Council;
Rights Committee Approves Drafts on Other Aspects of Palestinians' Situation

By the terms of a draft resolution introduced this morning to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the General Assembly would decide to grant Palestine the same rights and privileges of participation enjoyed by Member States, except for voting and candidature.

The Permanent Observer for Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said the aim of the draft was to upgrade Palestine's standing in the Assembly so that it would be similar to that which it enjoyed in the Security Council. On numerous occasions, the Council had invited Palestine to participate, without a vote, in the debate on the situation in the Middle East. Any postponement of the matter was unacceptable to the Palestinian and Arab side, although they would consider amendments to the text.

Mr. Al-Kidwa also introduced a draft on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. By its terms, the Assembly would stress the need for the commitment to the principle of land for peace and the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which form the basis of the Middle East peace process and the need for the immediate and scrupulous implementation of the agreements reached between the parties, including the redeployment of Israeli forces from the West Bank and the commencement of negotiations on the final settlement.

He said the draft, with minor changes to the language of the text adopted last year by the Assembly, reflected recent developments and the real situation on the ground.

The Committee this morning approved three draft resolutions dealing with its mandates. By one of them the Assembly would request the Department of Public Information (DPI), in cooperation and coordination with the Palestinian Rights Committee, to continue its special information programme on the question of Palestine for the biennium 1998-1999, with particular emphasis on public opinion in Europe and North America.

By the terms of another draft, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to provide the Division for Palestinian Rights with the necessary resources, including for the further development of the United Nations information system on the Question of Palestine.

Under the third draft text approved by the Committee today, the Assembly would authorize the Committee to mobilize support and assistance for the Palestinian people. It would request the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine and other relevant United Nations bodies to cooperate fully with the Committee.

Also this morning, the Chairman announced that the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People would take place on Monday, 4 December, in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

The permanent representative of Egypt said his country would host a symposium on solidarity with the Palestinian people in Cairo in 1998, similar to the one that had been held in 1996.

The Chief of the Division for Palestinian Rights announced that a conference on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people would be held on 24 and 25 February in Brussels. It would be followed by a one-day event for European non-governmental organizations on 26 February.

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to consider five draft resolutions on the question of Palestine.

The Committee had before it two draft resolutions on its programme of work, a third on the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) a fourth on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine and another on full participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations.

By the terms of a draft on the full participation of Palestine, the Committee would have the General Assembly decide to confer on Palestine the same rights and privileges of participation as those conferred on Member States, except for voting and candidature, in Assembly sessions and work, and United Nations international conferences. It would have the Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to implement the provisions of the draft as expeditiously as possible.

By a text on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Assembly would endorse the Committee's recommendations contained in chapter VII of its report (document A/52/35).

It would have the Assembly authorize the Committee to continue to exert efforts to promote the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, to make appropriate adjustments in its approved programme of work in the light of developments. The Committee would also be authorized to mobilize support and assistance for the Palestinian people.

By further terms of the text, the Assembly would request the Committee to keep the question of Palestine under review and to report and make suggestions accordingly to the Assembly or the Security Council. It would also ask the Assembly to extend its cooperation to non-governmental organizations for heightening international awareness of the facts relating to the question of Palestine and promoting support and assistance to meet the needs of the Palestinian people and to take steps to involve additional non-governmental organizations in its work.

The Assembly would request the United Nations Reconciliation Commission for Palestine and other relevant United Nations bodies to cooperate fully with the Committee. The Secretary-General would be requested to circulate the Committee's report to all competent United Nations bodies, and to urge them to take appropriate, necessary action.

By the terms of a second draft resolution on the Committee's programme of work, focusing on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, the Secretary-General would be asked to provide the Division with the necessary resources, including for the further development of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine, and to ensure that the Committee discharges the tasks detailed in previous Assembly resolutions. The Secretary-General would also be asked to ensure the cooperation of DPI and other Secretariat units in enabling the Division to perform its tasks and in covering the various aspects of Palestine.

By the text, all governments and organizations would be invited to cooperate with the Committee and the Division in the performance of their tasks. The draft would have the Assembly note with appreciation the action by Member States to annually observe on 29 November the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and to continue giving it the widest possible observance.

By the terms of the draft resolution on the Department of Public Information (DPI), the Assembly would note with appreciation the action taken by the DPI of the Secretariat in compliance with its resolution 51/25 last year. It would consider the DPI special information programme on the question of Palestine is useful in raising the international awareness concerning the complexities of the question and the Middle East situation in general, including achievements of the peace process. It would also consider that the programme is contributing effectively to an atmosphere conducive to dialogue and supportive of the peace process.

Further, it would have the Assembly request DPI, in cooperation and coordination with the Palestinian Rights Committee, to continue its special information programme on the question of Palestine for the biennium 1998-1999, with particular emphasis on public opinion in Europe and North America.

The Assembly would also request DPI to disseminate information on United Nations system activities relating to the question, including reports on work by relevant United Nations organizations; continue to issue and update publications on the various aspects of the question of Palestine in all fields, including those concerning recent peace prospects; to expand and continue production of its audiovisual material on the question; and to organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the area, including the territories under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and the occupied territories.

It would further request DPI to organize international, regional and national seminars/encounters for journalists; and to continue to provide assistance to the Palestinian people in the field of media development, particularly to strengthen the training programme for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists initiated in 1995.

By the terms of draft resolution on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, the Assembly would call on the concerned parties, the co-sponsors of the peace process, interested parties and the international community to exert all the necessary efforts and initiatives to bring the peace process back on track and ensure its success.

The Assembly would also urge Member States to provide economic and technical assistance to the Palestinian people during this critical period. It would express its full support for the peace process, which began in Madrid, and the subsequent 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, as well as the implementation agreements, including the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It would emphasize the importance for the United Nations to play a more active, expanded role in the peace process and in the implementation of the Declaration of Principles.

In adopting the resolution, the Assembly would stress the need for commitment to the land for peace principle and the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which are the basis of the Middle East peace process, and the need for immediate, scrupulous implementation of the agreements, including the redeployment of Israeli forces from the West Bank and the start of negotiations on the final settlement. Finally, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue his efforts for the promotion of peace in the region and to submit progress reports on developments.

Introduction of Drafts

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on Palestinian Rights, introduced the five draft resolutions.

He said it was understood that provision for the programme of work entailed by the first three texts -- on the mandates of the Committee, the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Department of Public Information -- had been made in the 1998-99 programme budget of the Organization.

He said the text of the two drafts covering the programme of work of the Committee and the Division for Palestinian Rights were the same as last year's, with some minor updating. In the draft on the programme of work of the Committee, in preambular paragraph 3, the word "welcoming" had been replaced by "recalling" and the words "the agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, signed at Cairo on 4 May 1994 and" had been deleted.

In the draft on the Department of Public Information, operative paragraph 1 had been replaced by the following operative paragraph: "Notes with appreciation the action taken by the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat in compliance with resolution 51/25."

Subparagraph (b) of the resolution had also been amended. The words at the end "the achievements of the peace process" had been replaced by "prospects for peace".

Subparagraph (f) of operative paragraph 3 had been amended to read as follows: "To continue to provide assistance to the Palestinian people in the field of media development, in particular to strengthen the training programmes for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists initiated in 1995."

M. NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, introduced the remaining two draft resolutions -- on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine and another on the full participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations.

He said the language of the first was similar to the one adopted last year by the Assembly. The minimum changes to the text reflected recent developments and the actual situation on the ground.

Reviewing the language of the draft, he said the first preambular paragraph contained the words "including resolutions of the tenth emergency special session" and a new third preambular paragraph marked the 50 years since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947 and the 30 years since the occupation of Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.

By the fourth preambular paragraph, he said, the Assembly would consider the Secretary-General's report submitted pursuant to the request made in its resolution 51/26 of 4 December 1996. In the tenth preambular paragraph, the word "welcoming" had been replaced by "recalling", which he said was consistent with changes to another draft resolution introduced this morning. In the next preambular paragraph, the year "1995" had been added to the second line and at the end.

The twelfth preambular paragraph noted the successful holding of the first Palestinian general elections, and the thirteenth preambular paragraph noted the work of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the occupied territories, instead of, as last year, the establishment of the Coordinator's office.

In the fourteenth preambular paragraph, which referred to the 1993 Washington conference to support Middle East peace, the words "as well as .... international mechanisms established to provide assistance to the Palestinian people" had been added to make more sense. The last preambular paragraph added the line "including the lack of implementation of the agreements reached". This was to reflect the situation on the ground.

Operative paragraph 3 now included the words, "for commitment to the principle of land for peace and the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which form the basis of the Middle East peace process, and the need..." and also the words, "including the redeployment of Israeli forces from the West Bank and". That language reflected what had become the central issue in negotiations which Israel consistently refused to implement.

Operative paragraph 4 now included the words, "and other interested parties, as well as" and also the words, "and initiatives to bring the peace process back on track and to ensure its continuity and success;".

Turning to the final draft, on the full participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations, he said this was a new text whose aim was spelled out in its preambular paragraphs. The second and third preambular paragraphs recalled the granting of observer status to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1974 and the Assembly decision in 1988 that the PLO was entitled to have its communications issued and circulated as official documents of the United Nations. The next preambular paragraph recalled that the Assembly acknowledged the proclamation of the State of Palestine and decided that the designation "Palestine" should be used in place of "Palestine Liberation Organization" in the United Nations system.

The fifth preambular paragraph recalled that in 1977 the Security Council, in inviting the PLO to participate in the debate on the situation in the Middle East, conferred on it the same rights of participation as those of a Member State invited to participate under rule 37 of the provisional rules of procedure. That invitation had often been repeated and since 1994 Palestine had been invited, without a vote, to participate accordingly. The paragraph made it clear, he said, that what Palestine enjoyed in the Council was more advanced than what it enjoyed in the Assembly. The draft was attempting to upgrade Palestine's rights and privileges and make its standing in the Assembly similar to the one it enjoyed in the Council.

He said the sixth preambular paragraph of the draft recalled that Palestine was a full member of the Asian Group of States and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). In the seventh paragraph its full membership in the League of Arab States, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Group of 77 and China was acknowledged.

He said it was important to note that the "dangerous deterioration" in the Middle East peace process was because of the Israeli action. In discussions, the European Union had proposed three operative paragraphs as an amendment to the draft resolution, including one requesting the Secretary-General to report on the matter. However, any postponement was unacceptable to the Palestinian and Arab side, although they would consider amendments to the text. The draft resolution might not be acceptable to some Member States, but it would be acceptable to those groups of States of which Palestine was a member. He hoped the Committee would approve the draft text.

The CHAIRMAN informed the Committee that the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People would take place on Monday, 1 December, at 10:30 a.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

HOSSAM ZAKI (Egypt) said his country fully agreed to host a symposium on solidarity with the Palestinian people in Cairo in 1998, similar to the one that had been held in 1996.

The CHAIRMAN said he was certain the symposium would be successful, considering all that Egypt had contributed, including the organization of seminars.

Mr. AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, expressed thanks to Egypt's Government for its agreement to host the conference. Israeli participation in the fifty-second session of the General Assembly should be consistent with international law. He called on Member States to support an amendment to the report of the Credentials Committee to make sure that Israeli credentials did not cover the occupied territories and Jerusalem. He said the report, which was amended to take into consideration concerns raised by Member States, referred clearly to Security Council resolutions on the definition of territory occupied since 1967. His delegation intended to pursue the amendment and hoped United Nations Member States would support it.

He said it was extremely important to comply with the General Assembly rules of procedure and established practices with regard to credentials of delegations. Gross violations to serve tactical purposes were unacceptable. Some were considering not presenting the report of the Credentials Committee; that would greatly harm the General Assembly, undermine the credibility of due process and subject the Organization's general interest to tactical consideration of a specific case. That was unacceptable regardless of the position on the amendment, which was a separate matter. Compliance with the rules should occur without exception.

The Committee CHAIRMAN made clarifications on regular work the Committee would carry out next year. He said it would organize a conference in Brussels on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The conference would be supported by the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Conference.

LAURA REANDA, Chief of the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights, said the planning mission of the Secretariat visited Brussels in early November and had the complete support of the Government and officials. The conference would be followed by a one-day event for European non-governmental organizations on 26 February. The Division was preparing invitations to high-level personalities, governments and intergovernmental bodies. The programme would be determined in the next couple of weeks.


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