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Source:
29 November 2005
General Assembly
GA/10426

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

Sixtieth General Assembly
Plenary
56th & 57th Meetings (AM & PM)

REBUILDING WAR-TORN AFGHANISTAN, ACHIEVING PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT OF


PALESTINIAN QUESTION FOCUS OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEBATES

...


When the Assembly turned in the afternoon to the question of Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, described what he called a “tragic reality”:  the Palestinian people were still being denied their inalienable rights, particularly to self-determination and national independence, all as a result of Israel’s rejection of the will of the international community and of international law, and its continuous attempts to colonize Palestinian land.

In September, Israel had carried out its disengagement plan in the Gaza Strip and in parts of the northern West Bank.  Although that was an important development, the plan remained unilateral and during its implementation, Israel had caused vast destruction in the settlement areas and had left many issues unresolved.  He added that agreement had subsequently been reached on some points, including on the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.  The central task before the international community was the achievement of a real cessation of the colonization of Palestinian land, being carried out via the construction and expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation wall on Palestinian land, including in and around East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian people, and the Palestinian Authority, found themselves facing the responsibilities of fulfilling post-conflict tasks while still under foreign occupation and subject to colonization, he said.  In spite of that, the Authority was exerting efforts to build State institutions, to achieve the rule of law and to strengthen the social fabric of the people, ahead of legislative elections.  He hoped that recent developments in the Middle East would enhance the potential for a speedy return to negotiations and the actual implementation of the Road Map peace plan, towards the achievement of peace in two States, Israel and Palestine, between them, in the region, and the world as a whole.

Summing up both debates, Assembly President Jan Eliasson ( Sweden) reaffirmed the Organization’s commitment to supporting the people and Government of Afghanistan, as well as to working towards realizing the hopes of the Palestinian people.  As for Afghanistan, help from the international community in peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and the provision of funds was essential.

On the question of Palestine, he said that solidarity with the Palestinian people was an intrinsic part of supporting the Middle East peace process, a process that was defined by the vision of the region where two States, Palestine and Israel, lived side by side within secure and recognized borders.  The international community must spare no efforts in assisting Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach a solution.

...

Senegal’s representative, in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the four relevant draft resolutions before the Assembly.  The representative of Malta, in his capacity as Rapporteur, introduced the Committee’s report.

In addition, the Observer of Palestine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 30 November, to conclude its consideration of the situation in Afghanistan, as well as matters related to the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.

Background

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In the afternoon, the Assembly would begin its consideration of the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.

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The Assembly had before it the report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/60/35), which states that the year under review was marked by promise and hope, as well as by developments on the ground that complicated efforts to resume the peace process within the framework of the Road Map.  The Committee welcomed the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four small settlements in the northern West Bank as a rare opportunity to revive negotiations within the framework of the Road Map and restart the stalled political process.  It should be noted, however, that Israel remains in control of the borders of the Gaza Strip, including its territorial sea and airspace and the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, thus hampering any meaningful economic development.

The Committee, according to the report, is strongly opposed to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and is particularly alarmed by the Israeli Government’s intention to expand large settlement blocks that would separate East Jerusalem from the West Bank and the southern West Bank from its northern part.  Also opposing the construction of the wall on Palestinian land, the Committee reiterates its position of principle that construction of settlements and the wall are contrary to international humanitarian law, resolutions of the Security Council and the Assembly, as well as the provisions of the Road Map.

The Committee considers that its programme of international meetings and conferences contributes to focusing the attention of Governments, intergovernmental and civil society organizations and the general public on issues crucial for advancing a peaceful settlement of the conflict.  The special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information (DPI) has made an important contribution to informing the media and public opinion of the relevant issues.  Therefore, the Committee requests the programme’s continuation.

Wishing to make its contribution to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine, and in view of the many difficulties facing the Palestinian people and besetting the peace process, the Committee calls on all States to join in this endeavour and invites the Assembly again to recognize the importance of its role and to reconfirm its mandate with overwhelming support.

The report of the Secretary-General on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/60/539) contains replies received from the Security Council President, Israel and the Observer of Palestine in response to notes verbales requesting a statement of position on steps taken to implement resolutions on the question.  The report also contains the Secretary-General’s observations on the state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on international efforts to move the peace process forward during the period from September 2004 to September 2005.

In his observations, the Secretary-General notes that the “window of opportunity” to revitalize the Middle East peace process that had emerged in the past year had met with setbacks but remained open.  With regard to the Gaza disengagement by Israel that had occurred in October, the Special Envoy of the Quartet -- composed of the United Nations, European Union, United States and the Russian Federation, had identified three key areas for the Palestinian Authority to address with international support:  the Authority’s fiscal crisis and development of a fiscal stabilization plan for the 2006 budget; creation of a development plan for 2006-2008; and design of quick-impact economic programmes to ease the pressures for generating short-term employment.  Those were the elements of a foundation for economic recovery, good governance and eventually, statehood.

However, he states, the Palestinian Authority must push ahead with efforts to reform the Palestinian security services, which, in consultation with Palestinian security officials, had been determined to be divided, weak, overstaffed, badly motivated and under-armed.  Israel had to make progress on implementing core commitments under the Road Map and its continued construction of the West Bank barrier remained a concern.

The report adds that the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people remained grave.  Providing adequate funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would enable crucial services to be delivered.

The Assembly also had before it a draft resolution on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/60/L.28), by which it would request the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people.

A text on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (document A/60/L.29) would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to continue to provide that Division with the necessary resources, to ensure that it continues to carry out its programme of work, and to ensure the continued cooperation of the DPI and other units of the Secretariat in enabling the Division to perform its tasks and in covering adequately the various aspects of the question of Palestine.

A draft resolution on special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (document A/60/L.30) would have the Assembly request the DPI, in cooperation and coordination with the Committee, to continue its special information programme through 2006-2007, in particular, to disseminate information on all the activities of the United Nations system relating to the question of Palestine; to expand its collection of audio-visual material on the question of Palestine in all fields; and to organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupies Territories, including East Jerusalem.

A draft resolution on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/60/L.31) would have the Assembly, while welcoming the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank as a step towards the implementation of the Road Map, call on both parties to fulfil their obligations for such implementation by taking parallel and reciprocal steps, and stress the urgency of establishing a credible and effective third-party monitoring mechanism.  It would call on Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Furthermore, the Assembly would demand that Israel immediately cease its construction of the wall, and demand the complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan.  It would stress the need for the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 and for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination and to their independent State.  It would also stress the need for resolving the problem of Palestine refugees in conformity with its resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948.

Also before the Assembly is the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Middle East (document A/60/258), containing replies received from Colombia, Panama, Slovakia and Syria in response to the Secretary-General’s note verbale of 31 May concerning implementation of the relevant provisions of Assembly resolution 59/32, entitled "Jerusalem", and 59/33, entitled "The Syrian Golan", both of 1 December 2004.

In its reply, Syria states, among other things, that it condemns the decision of the Israeli Government to increase the number of settlements in the occupied Golan, as well as the announcement by the Israeli Settlements Council of a campaign aiming at attracting 300 families to the Golan.  Such practices show, according to the reply, Israel’s true intention to reject peace and disregard Security Council and Assembly resolutions.

A draft resolution on the Syrian Golan (document A/60/L.32) would have the Assembly declare that the Israeli decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void and has no validity whatsoever, and demand once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967.  The Assembly would also call on Israel to resume the talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to respect the commitments and undertakings reached during the previous talks.

By the provisions of a draft resolution on Jerusalem (document A/60/L.33), the Assembly would reiterate its determination that any action taken by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on Jerusalem are illegal and, therefore, null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and would deplore the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to that city.  It would stress that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and should include internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent and unhindered access to the holy places by the people of all religions and nationalities.

Action on Drafts

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Question of Palestine

The President of the Assembly, JAN ELIASSON ( Sweden) said that this morning, he had addressed the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  He had recalled the Organization’s permanent responsibility until the question of Palestine was resolved in all its aspects.  Solidarity with the Palestinian people was an intrinsic part of supporting the Middle East peace process, a process that was defined by the vision of the region where two States, Palestine and Israel, lived side by side within secure and recognized borders.  The international community must spare no efforts in assisting Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach a solution.  In a message to the commemoration this morning, the President of the Palestinian Authority had stated that the Authority had chosen peace and negotiations as the way forward.

He said this year had marked some progress.  The Palestinian people had democratically elected a President and the international community had welcomed the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank.  Last week, the President of the Palestinian Authority had formally opened the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.  The Road Map provided a solid basis for peace.  The international community must intensify efforts to pressure the parties to end the conflict.  It was crucial that the parties cooperated, and that acts of violence and terror be stopped.

PAUL BADJI ( Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced draft resolutions A/60/L.28, A/60/L.29, A/60/L.30 and A/60/L.31.  He said that in the past year, there had been promise and hope, but there had also been one complicating development in the implementation of the Road Map.  That was the passing of the Palestinians’ national leader, Yasser Arafat.  Since then, the transition had been democratic and peaceful.  The Sharm el-Sheikh Summit created new momentum for resuming the political process.

In September, he said, the Committee welcomed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and four settlements in the northern part of the West Bank, which it deemed one of the most significant political developments in recent years.  The Committee believed the withdrawal should be complete and irreversible, allowing the Palestinians to control their own border.  It also sought guarantees of unimpeded circulation of goods and people, which was crucial for Gaza’s economy.  The 15 November agreement regarding movements and access to and from Gaza must be scrupulously and promptly implemented.

He said the Committee remained profoundly concerned at the intensification of settlements in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and a speeding up of the construction of the wall.  There was disturbing information about plans to establish permanent links between several settlements, especially around Jerusalem.  All of those actions were a violation of international law and ran counter to Israel’s Road Map obligations.  There were also continuing incursions in Palestinian urban and rural centres, extrajudicial executions and destruction of houses, which provoked violence, including four suicide bombings, and jeopardized hope for a speedy return to political dialogue.

He called on Israel to refrain from any action that might further destabilize the situation.  Israel must give up its policy of developing settlements and halt construction of the wall.  He hoped Israel would facilitate the upcoming Palestinian elections in January so that the Palestinians of East Jerusalem would be able to fully participate.  Israel must also lift curfews and reduce restrictions on goods and people.  He welcomed the efforts of the Quartet to help the parties move forward in implementing the Road Map.

The Committee firmly believed that the United Nations should continue to exercise its responsibility with regard to the Palestinian question until it had been resolved in all respects.  The Committee was aware that some Member States questioned the reason for its existence and criticized its activities as imbalanced and partial.  The Committee was the only intergovernmental body of the United Nations that dealt with the political question of Palestine and promoted the Palestinians’ inalienable rights.  Unfortunately, progress had been very slow.

He added that, thanks to its interactions with other United Nations organs, Member States, intergovernmental organizations and civil society, the Committee believed it was doing a better job of raising international public awareness of all aspects of the question of Palestine.  It had given its full support to the Road Map.  At the same time, the Committee promoted the full exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and mobilized international assistance for the Palestinians.  He appealed to the Assembly to vote in favour of the resolutions and support the important objectives contained in them.

COLIN SCICLUNA ( Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the Committee’s report.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Palestinian Authority, said a few weeks ago, the Committee had commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of its establishment by the Assembly.  That occasion pointed to the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects.  It also pointed to the tragic reality that the Palestinian people were still being denied their inalienable rights, particularly their right to self-determination and national independence, all as a result of Israel’s rejection of the will of the international community and of international law and its continuous attempts to colonize the Palestinian land.

He said it was difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a similar case in which an entire people was either living in exile for 57 years or living under occupation for 38 years and subject to an effective colonial settlement campaign.  He called on Member States to continue their support in the face of Israel’s intransigence in order to solve the question of Palestine and achieve a real peace, based on two States on the basis of the 1949 Armistice Line or what is commonly referred to as the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.  The central task before the international community was the achievement of a real cessation of the colonization of Palestinian land, which was being carried out via the construction and expansion of settlements and the construction of the wall.

In September, Israel had carried out its disengagement plan in the Gaza Strip and in parts of the northern West Bank, he said.  Although it was an important development, the disengagement plan remained unilateral and Israel, while implementing it, had caused vast destruction in the settlement areas and had left many issues unresolved, including those of crossing points, the airport, the seaport and the connection between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  However, agreement had been reached on some points, including on the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.  It was important now to guarantee that things would not stop with the Gaza Strip.  There was a real opportunity to return to the Road Map, beginning with the implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, including the withdrawal from cities and areas to pre-September 2000 positions and the release of prisoners and detainees.  Under all circumstances, the cessation of settlement activities and the construction of the wall must be ensured.

He said the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership found themselves facing the responsibilities of fulfilling post-conflict tasks while they were still under foreign occupation and subject to colonization.  In spite of that, the Palestinian Authority was exerting efforts to build State institutions, to achieve the rule of law and to strengthen the social fabric of the people.  They were now in the process of holding legislative elections.  He emphasized his opposition to any interference by Israel or by any other party in the election.

The participation of all parties and groups would contribute to the enhancement of the democratic process, he said.  That should be followed by measures that would enhance the political system, including in the areas of weapons and other security issues.  Israel should not create obstacles to any of those important political processes, particularly with regard to the freedom of movement and the participation of Jerusalemites.

As part of the international community, Palestinians reaffirmed their condemnation of terrorism in all its forms, including the latest terrorist attacks in the fraternal capital of Amman.  Collective efforts to confront that phenomenon must be enhanced, and all must agree that any targeting of innocent civilians, anywhere, anytime and regardless of the reasons, constituted a condemnable terrorist act.  Everyone must also agree that, in accordance with existing international law, situations of armed conflict, including foreign occupation, were governed by international humanitarian law.

He said many unusual developments had occurred in the region, including in Palestine and in Israel.  He hoped that those developments would enhance the potential for a speedy return to negotiations and the actual implementation of the Road Map towards the achievement of peace in two States, Israel and Palestine, between them, in the region, and the world as a whole.

ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI ( United Arab Emirates) noted that in spite of positive developments since last September, including Israel’s military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the outcome of those developments had not been fully realized due to obstacles created by the Israeli forces, including illegal settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and continued daily violations against Palestinians.  Those Israeli policies, coupled with occupation and settlement activities in the Palestinian Territories, have impeded efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peaceful solution of the Palestinian question.  He reiterated his country’s strong condemnation of the Israeli practices, which constituted a unilateral attempt to change the demographic, political and legal nature of the Palestinian Territories, and emphasized the international community’s common responsibility to find a solution for the Palestinian cause.  The Security Council, and the Quartet, must pressure Israel to stop its hostile campaigns against the Palestinians.

In that context, he called on the international community to force Israel to coordinate with the Palestinian Authority regarding its full withdrawal from all territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to stop its illegal settlement activities in those territories and to dismantle the separation wall in accordance with the decision of the International Court of Justice.  He also called for, among other things, protection of the Palestinian people, their national institutions and sacred sites against Israeli attempts to change their religious identity, and the provision of political, financial and moral support to the Palestinian Authority, which had demonstrated its determination to fulfil its commitments under the Road Map by carrying out necessary institutional reforms.  The Israeli response to the fair demands of the Arab people would lead to security and stability for the Israeli people and the entire region.

ALI HACHANI ( Tunisia) said the question of Palestine remained the most important issue for peace and stability in the Middle East, the cradle of civilizations.  The entire international community must put an end to the cycle of violence and conflict, and return to dialogue and negotiation with a view to achieving a just, comprehensive solution that guaranteed liberation of all occupied territories and peaceful coexistence in the region.  Israel’s intransigence against Palestinian civilians and its expansionist policy and wall construction were all counter-productive and not in the region’s interest.  The Geneva Conventions had become ineffective.  Violence generated counter-violence, and there was no way to break the pattern unless genuine efforts were made towards a two-State solution.

He said peace in the region required the unconditional withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Syrian Golan and Lebanese territories occupied during the same conflict, in accordance with all resolutions.  The withdrawal from Gaza and the opening of Rafah crossing represented positive developments.  He hoped similar expeditious measures in the West Bank and other territories would follow.  The search for peace should not be delayed.  The parties must refrain from confrontational declarations that undermined the trust between them.  They must learn from past lessons and avoid those things that did not assist the peace process.  He said he wished to commend the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, as well as other committees and United Nations parties that worked for the establishment of peace in the region.  They should continue their work until they had fulfilled their mandates in accordance with relevant Assembly resolutions.

HAYATI ISMAIL ( Malaysia) said there had been too many deaths, too many injuries, too much destruction and indescribable suffering, especially among the Palestinians, as a result of repressive policies, practices and measures by Israel.  The international community must prevail upon Israel to respect its legal obligations just as other States were expected to do.  There was a duty at the United Nations to stop all the atrocities and abhorrent policies and practices committed by Israel against the Palestinian population.  The casualties and destruction on both sides should not be considered on the basis of numbers or percentages alone.  The life of each human being must be protected; any act of violence inflicted upon innocent civilians, be they Palestinians or Israelis, was unacceptable and deserved equal condemnation by all.

She said that the period under review had seen several efforts by both sides towards peace within the Road Map’s framework.  The difficult and complicated process could be surmounted by stronger political will among all parties concerned.  Resumption of dialogue at the highest level, as well as renewed efforts by the Quartet’s members, was very encouraging.  Withdrawal by Israel from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank last September was positive, but she strongly opposed the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, the historic reopening three days ago of the Rafah crossing provided 1.3 million mostly impoverished Palestinians in that area with access to various humanitarian services in neighbouring Egypt and the prospect for greater employment, as well as the regaining of an important part of their freedom and control of their borders after 38 years of Israeli occupation.

Israel’s ongoing construction of the separation wall seriously endangered the prospect for comprehensive peace in the region, she continued.  The impact of the wall on all aspects of Palestinian life in the areas concerned, as documented by the United Nations, had been overwhelming.  The wall threatened the territorial integrity of a future State of Palestine, and was one of the most visible signs of the transformation of the territory into “a vast open-air prison”, which was unprecedented in modern history.  The wall was also a visible and clear act of territorial annexation under the guise of self-defence and security.  She renewed the call on Israel to take all necessary measures to comply with the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice concerning the wall and with General Assembly resolution ES-10/15.  It was highly regrettable that the Security Council had been unable to look into the specific question of the wall, in accordance with its functions and powers under article 24 of the United Nations Charter.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said the Assembly had gathered once again to address an international question the global community had failed to address comprehensively for more than 50 years.  At a time when Member States were discussing ways to implement the reforms adopted by their political leaders at the 2005 World Summit, Egypt would stress that in order to establish a more capable United Nations that was able to uphold the principles on which it was based -- particularly upholding the rights of people under colonial rule -– the obligations emanating from the Outcome Document should extend to include resolutions annually adopted by the Assembly calling on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian lands and expressing support for the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination.

The Organization should strive to enhance justice and equality by deepening the wider understanding of Israel’s obligations, including the need to put an end to all aggression and inhumane practices towards the Palestinian people, among which were closures and checkpoints and the continued construction of the separation wall on Palestinian land.  He also called for enhanced support for the Palestinian Authority so that it could better carry out its important work.

He went on to say that the Palestinian people should be a major focus of the new Peacebuilding Commission that had been established at the World Summit, thus ensuring that their needs would finally be adequately and equitably addressed within an international framework.  He called upon all Member States to support the relevant draft resolutions before the Assembly.  Egypt supported the work of the diplomatic Quartet towards the completion of the principles for peace set out in the Road Map.  While he welcomed Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, he called on Israel to proceed further and to undertake all its obligations under the Road Map towards the creation of two States, living side by side in peace and security.

NIRUPAM SEN (India), recalling recent positive developments, said that with a renewed sense of optimism also came the hard reckoning of reality, as described in the Secretary-General’s report.  At the current critical stage, it became all the more important for the international community to take steps towards a smooth implementation of Palestinian trade and transit access both within its territories and with the outside world.  It was equally important for Israel to stop settlement activity, lift curfews and ease restrictions on the movement of persons and goods.  Israel’s actions should not result in prejudging final status issues.  Regarding the construction of the wall, he called on Israel to abide by its legal obligations as set forth in the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and Assembly resolution ES-10/15.  The Palestinian Authority also had to shoulder its responsibility by undertaking action to halt violence, and must push ahead with reform of the Palestinian security services.

He said renewed and redoubled efforts were necessary to move the peace process forward.  The international community must press for renewed action in parallel by both parties on their obligations under the Road Map.  It must also continue to assist the parties in simultaneously addressing economic, humanitarian, security and political issues.  The vision of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in secure and recognized borders remained valid, and was perhaps more attainable now than at any other time.  India had advocated a comprehensive solution to the situation in the Middle East as the logical next step in the resolution of the wider Israeli-Arab conflict, as envisaged in the Saudi Arabian peace initiative.  The principle of “land for peace” was equally valid in addressing the other tracks of the Middle East conflict.

ABDALLAH BAALI ( Algeria) said the report of the Palestinian Rights Committee was worrisome and showed how indispensable the work of the Committee was.  Its work should be pursued as long as Israel occupied Palestinian territories and persisted in flagrant violations of international law.  The past year was marked by Israel’s policy of colonization and repression, with its trail of atrocities, abuses and confiscations.  In such an atmosphere of death and destruction, a glimmer of hope appeared with Israel’s pullout from the Gaza strip.

For that to constitute a genuine break with the past, it would have to find its place within the context of the Road Map, and open a path to withdrawal and a thorough dismantlement of settlements around “al Kuds ah Sharif”.  The continued construction of the separation wall, the expansion of settlement activities and the continued isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank remained a source of grave preoccupation and gave rise to serious misgivings about Israel’s genuine intentions regarding the territory.  Israel was drawing a new map of occupied territories on the ground and thus severely compromising chances for a future independent Palestinian State.

He reiterated Algeria’s condemnation of the inhuman practices of the Israeli army against Palestinians, their property and institutions.  The time had come for the international community to shoulder its responsibility and end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.  The Security Council had recently shown uncommon speed and effectiveness in bringing about the withdrawal of foreign forces in the same region.  If it wished to maintain its credibility, the Council should act with the same resolve to ensure that Israel withdrew unconditionally and without further delay from the Occupied Territories.  The withdrawal should be paired with a total and unconditional freeze on settlements and with the cessation of the construction of the wall and the demolition of the parts that had already been erected.  A final settlement must be based on an end to occupation and withdrawal of the Israeli army from all Occupied Territories, including the Syrian Golan and the last remaining occupied enclaves in Lebanon, and a renunciation of all policies that tended to increase and inflame passions and mortgage the success of the peace process.

TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR ( Bahrain) said that in spite of efforts to distort or obfuscate facts, it was clear that the occupation was the real cause of the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  At the same time, the human rights of the Palestinian people were being further impinged because Israeli settlements continued to be built and construction of the illegal separation wall in the West Bank was progressing apace.  The International Court of Justice had called for the wall to be dismantled but the Israeli Government had flagrantly ignored that call.  No one could doubt that the situation was getting worse because of the continued occupation, as well as the continued flouting of international law and resolutions of the Security Council, he added.

Israel appeared to be continuing its expansionist aims within the Occupied Territories, while the construction of the wall wrecked the Palestinian economy and social fabric, and effectively undermined the objective of securing long-term development and stability for the Palestinian people.  He said the Quartet-backed Road Map peace plan remained the logical path to a just settlement of the matter.

ABDULLAH ALSAIDI ( Yemen) said the Palestinian issue was one with grave humanitarian and security implications.  It was a heap of injustices and suffering that had exceeded all limits.  The continued construction of the separation wall despite the legal opinion of the International Court of Justice had led to more Palestinian casualties and blocked freedom of movement.  Palestinians were forced to live in parts of destroyed territories or to become displaced as a result of continued military aggression; demolition of houses, trees, and farms; and the closure of roads and crossing points.  Israel targeted entire communities, depriving them of their livelihoods, education, health care and institutions, increasing poverty and leading to the deterioration of living conditions.

He said Israel sought to blot out all elements, which could compose a future united Palestine as a viable entity.  It was incumbent on the international community to spare no effort to end Israel’s practices against the unarmed Palestinian population.  International agreements and resolutions must be implemented.  Palestinians, including those living in East Jerusalem, must be allowed to participate in upcoming elections.  Blockades on the Palestinian people must be unconditionally lifted, and the racist separation wall dismantled.  Israel should withdraw from all Arab territories occupied in 1967.  It was incumbent on the international community to reject as null and void all resolutions and measures by Israel that ran counter to international legitimacy and all attempts to erode Palestinian sovereignty.  There must also be a just solution to the refugee problem.  The Palestinian people must establish an independent State on their territory.  He commended United States Secretary of State Rice for her successful negotiations on freedom of movement and opening the border crossing, as well as the efforts of the Quartet to advance the peace process in the region.

ILEANA NÚÑEZ MORDOCHE ( Cuba) said the ongoing situation of instability in the Middle East region was characterized by the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the foreign occupation of Iraq and the threats against Syria, taking advantage of the “flighty plots” that were concocted in the bosom of the Security Council.  From the facts compiled by the United Nations, it was obvious that a whole people was being massacred in a massive and systematic manner.  Despite withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israel continued to occupy in an illegal manner vast parts of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories, paying a deaf ear to a large number of Assembly and Security Council resolutions.  The Council had suffered under continued obstruction on the issue by the United States, especially during the last five years of the Republican administration.  The usual use of double standards and the exercise or threat of veto had led to a stagnation on the issue.

She said the recent unilateral Israeli troop withdrawal from the Gaza Strip should not confuse the international community.  Israel continued the construction of the illegal separation wall, which had left more than 20,000 Palestinians without any means of livelihood and had swept thousands of hectares of land and water wells in the West Bank, which would mean a de facto seizure of about 60 per cent of the territory, including East Jerusalem.  However, her country, subjected to a tight blockade by the United States for over 45 years, was convinced that there would be no wall, fence or repression, however violent and inhumane it might be, that could break the longing for sovereignty and independence of the heroic Palestinian people.

Mr. ABDELBARI ( Sudan) said the question of Palestine was a question for the entire world, and called for a firm stance against Israeli arrogance and intransigence.  Israel’s high-handed attitude towards international law combined with the leniency of the international community had led Israel to continue its unjust policies.  Homes were destroyed while the occupants remained inside, land was confiscated in direct violation of international humanitarian law, and the human rights of the Palestinian people continued to be abrogated.

Israel further flouted international law by ignoring the decision of the International Court of Justice to halt construction of the separation wall in the West Bank.  Israel’s actions spoke clearly of the Organization’s double standards, he said.  He called on the international community to urgently provide humanitarian and technical assistance to the Palestinian people in order to alleviate their suffering and allow them to rebuild their economy.

ROBERT O’BRIEN ( United States) said his country remained firmly committed to achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  Its efforts continued to focus on sustaining momentum on economic and security issues after disengagement in order to make progress in the context of the Road Map towards a two-State solution.  The United States would continue to work to maintain the momentum of disengagement.  All parties had obligations they must fulfil in order to achieve the objective of two democratic States living side by side in peace and security.  While the United States shared the concerns about the hardships facing the Palestinian people, the resolutions that the Assembly would consider reflected neither the complexities of the conflict nor the need for both parties to take steps to advance the goal of peace and security.  The Assembly was being asked to view events in the region through the distorted lens of one-sided perceptions.  Endorsing resolutions that condemned Israeli actions but that failed to address Palestinian actions or inactions had real consequences.  Such one-sided resolutions undermined the ability of the United Nations to play a constructive role in furthering peace.

Specifically, he said, the 1975 mandate establishing the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the 1977 mandate establishing the Division for Palestinian Rights within the Secretariat perpetuated a skewed and biased approach to the Middle East conflict.  Those bodies reflected a cold war era gone by and had long since outlived any usefulness.  Member States should eliminate those bodies and seek ways to reinvigorate the United Nations as an even-handed partner in seeking peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.  As the United Nations considered historic steps to reform itself and its institutions, it must examine old mandates such as this one with a critical eye and confront the reality that the time for those bodies had past.

He said the United States would welcome a draft resolution that reflected a balanced and pragmatic approach consistent with that of the Quartet.  Unfortunately, it appeared that the Assembly would be considering texts that put it in the position of attempting to prejudge the settlement of final status issues.  To achieve a just and lasting peace, those issues must be decided through negotiations between the parties, consistent with their past agreements and with relevant Security Council resolutions.  He would not support unbalanced resolutions that did nothing to further the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and urged other Member States to withhold their support as well.

ABDULLATIF SALLAM ( Saudi Arabia) said the reports before the Assembly reaffirmed the inhuman conditions under which the Palestinian people lived because of Israeli practices committed in violation of international law.  Israel continued to throw up obstacles to genuine peace negotiations, he said, adding that peace and security could not be achieved by arrogantly announcing lists of Palestinian activists the Israeli Government intended to assassinate.  Peace could not be achieved by flouting the Geneva Conventions and resolutions of the Security Council.  Peace could not be achieved with roadblocks, curfews and home demolitions.

He called on the entire international community to work together to overcome the selectivity and double standards that had stagnated the Middle East peace process for so long.  He also called on Israel to abide by international law, to release Palestinian detainees and to stop building the separation wall.  All nations should press for a negotiated settlement for peace throughout the Middle East.

Right of Reply

Riyad Mansour, Observer of Palestine, said he wished to respond to the delegation that had requested the elimination of two important committees and a re-examination of their mandate.  Those committees had been established pursuant to Assembly rules.  On the basis of democracy and accepting the will of Member States, programmes related to Palestine did receive evaluation in a democratic way by the entire Assembly membership.  The will of the Assembly had been decided every year to extend the mandates of those committees and programmes until a just solution to the Palestinian question had been reached on the basis of the will of the international community.

He said he was also surprised to hear that Assembly resolutions prejudiced and prejudged a settlement in the Middle East.  Such resolutions reflected international law.  If international legal principles prejudged the settlement, did not illegal settlements on the ground, a separation wall, and the oppressive and abhorrent actions of the occupying Power also prejudge such a settlement?  He left it up to the judgment of all countries and delegations to determine what was correct and fair, and what was one-sided and imbalanced.

He said the position of that one delegation was extremely political, a traditional position by which it had shielded Israel from the decisions of the international community and international law.  That delegation’s statement was anti-Palestinian.  His own delegation had been positive in its attitude and dialoguing in good faith with that country, in the spirit of implementing United Nations resolutions and the mandate of the Quartet.  He hoped that country would reconsider its position in future interventions.


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For information media • not an official record


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