Palestinian people were more than ever in need of continued and strengthened worldwide solidarity to help them make their Declaration of Independence a reality, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, said today, as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was observed.
In a statement read on his behalf at a special meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Mr. Arafat said that while he regarded the Israeli implementation of the first stage of the Wye River Memorandum as a step in the right direction, a halt to all unilateral measures was needed, particularly the expropriation of Palestinian land and settlement activities intended to Judaize occupied Al-Quds Al-Sharif. He hoped Israel would honour its obligations so that negotiations on the final status might be resumed in an atmosphere of trust, mutual understanding and respect.
The Chairman of the Committee, Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal), said there was increasing recognition that the dispossession and denial of the national rights of the Palestinian people could not continue if lasting peace were to be established. He expressed concern that the intensified settlement construction and other unilateral acts would gravely undermine reconciliation efforts.
The President of the General Assembly, Didier Opertti (Uruguay), said it was essential for the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements and Wye River Memorandum to be scrupulously respected. The United Nations family of organizations, in cooperation with donor countries and the international community as a whole, must intensify their efforts to enable the Palestinian people to begin enjoying the fruits of peace.
The parties must address not only the manifestations but also the causes of violence, said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette. A rapid improvement in the living conditions in the Palestinian territories was an essential accompaniment to the peace negotiations, she added. The steady decline of the Palestinian economy in recent years were largely due to the impact of security measures, the lack of freedom of movement of persons and goods between the West Bank and Gaza, and the Palestinians' lack of control over their natural resources.
Statements were also made by the President of the Security Council and the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People.
Also speaking were the representatives of Qatar, on behalf of the Chairman of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and of South Africa, on behalf of the Chairman of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.
A message was read from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, and there was also a statement on behalf of the Chairman of the International Coordinating Committee of Non-governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine.
Messages of support and solidarity, in observance of the occasion, were received from the Heads of State of Brunei Darussalam, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Russian Federation, Guinea, Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, People's Democratic Republic of Korea, Zimbabwe, Niger, Tunisia, Namibia, Viet Nam, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Tunisia.
Messages were also sent by the Heads of Government of Pakistan, Thailand, China, Malta, India, Turkey, Belarus, Lesotho, Belize and Bangladesh.
The Foreign Ministers of Syria, Japan, Ukraine, Oman, Ecuador, Argentina and Colombia also sent messages, as did the Government of Uruguay.
There were also messages from the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, as well as from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Non-governmental organizations which sent messages included the Federacion Palestina del Peru, General Union of Palestinian Women, Professionales Pro Paz Israel-Palestina en Mexico, Committee for Israeli- Palestinian Dialogue and Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amite entre les peuples.
The Chairman announced that the Palestinian cultural exhibit presented by the Palestine rights committee in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission for Palestine, would be opened at 6 p.m. in the Public Lobby of the General Assembly Building. The exhibit, entitled "Bethlehem 2000" is composed of a display of photographs and artifacts.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. (For background on the Day, see Press Release OBV/77-PAL/1862 of 24 November.)
IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Committee Chairman, said there was increasing recognition that the dispossession and denial of the national rights of the Palestinian people could not continue if lasting peace were to be established. The enhanced status accorded to Palestine during the current General Assembly session and Chairman Arafat's participation for the first time in the general debate, were positive steps toward full recognition of Palestinian rights and the full membership Palestinian people deserved. Today's commemoration should give further impetus to joint efforts to help the Palestinian people at a crucial time in their history. The peace process was at a crucial stage. Hopefully, all aspects of the Wye River Memorandum and earlier agreements would be implemented to restore hope in the peace process and mutual trust and a spirit of partnership.
He said he was seriously concerned over the intensified settlement construction and other unilateral acts which sought to establish advantage on the ground, in advance of the final status negotiations. Settlements embodied a policy of permanent occupation which was contrary to the spirit and letter of the peace process. Far from promoting Israeli security, as argued by the Government, the presence of settlements was a source of constant friction and insecurity and would gravely undermine reconciliation efforts.
Since 1967, he went on, the international community had been unanimous in opposing settlements construction and any other action taken by the occupying Power to change the legal status, physical character and demographic composition of occupied territory, including Jerusalem. The settlements would continue to be considered illegal, no matter how many of them were built, or how many settlers were installed in the occupied territory. Although only the parties themselves could make peace, the close involvement of the international community in defending international legitimacy, providing political and legal support, and in promoting regional cooperation would be of fundamental importance for a positive outcome for negotiations.
Deputy Secretary-General LOUISE FRECHETTE, said the anniversary provided the international community with an opportunity -- and an obligation -- to refocus its attention on the distressing fact that, after half a century, the issue of Palestine remained unresolved. The Secretary-General had made every effort to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize United Nations resources to help create an economic and social environment favourable to peace.
Regrettably, incidents of violence by elements opposed to the peace process had continued to cost lives and mar progress. The United Nations had repeatedly condemned such acts and had appealed to the parties not to be swayed by such incidents but, instead to redouble their efforts in pursuit of a lasting solution to the conflict. The parties must address not only the manifestations but also the causes of violence, to restore hope, mutual confidence and a spirit of partnership, and to work together for a future of peace, cooperation and good neighbourliness.
A rapid improvement in the living conditions in the Palestinian territories was an essential accompaniment to the peace negotiations, the Deputy Secretary-General said. There had been serious concern at the steady decline of the Palestinian economy in recent years, largely due to the impact of security measures, the lack of freedom of movement of persons and goods between the West Bank and Gaza, and the Palestinians' lack of control over their natural resources.
Real progress in employment, health, education, human rights and industrial and commercial development was urgently needed to strengthen support for the peace process, she continued. Despite the ongoing efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other programmes and agencies on the ground, much still needed to be done to alleviate existing conditions and lay a solid foundation for development. The international community could and should go further. In particular, UNRWA's serious financial situation required intensified efforts to ensure that the quality and level of services for Palestine refugees were maintained as an essential contribution to stability in the area.
DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay), President of the General Assembly, said that on 29 November 1947 the Assembly had adopted its resolution 181 (II) partitioning Palestine into two States, one Arab and one Jewish, with an economic union between them and a special international regime for the city of Jerusalem. Half a century later, that remained the oldest unresolved issue on the Organization's agenda. Some five years ago, the Israeli- Palestinian negotiations came to a dramatic turning point with the signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. Since then, the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations had seen many ups and downs but the signing of the Wye River Memorandum showed that both parties were committed to peace.
It was essential for those agreements to be scrupulously respected and for the parties to refrain from unilateral acts in pursuit of advantage on the ground, he said. At its Tenth Emergency Special Session, the Assembly demonstrated its serious concern at ongoing settlement construction, calling for a conference of contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to consider measures to ensure respect for its provisions.
He said the Assembly had continued to re-state the responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine, until it was resolved with fairness and justice. The United Nations family of organizations, in cooperation with donor countries and the international community as a whole, must intensify their efforts to enable the Palestinian people to begin enjoying the fruits of peace. He commended the Committee for its efforts in support of the Palestinian people and their initiative in introducing the new agenda item in the Assembly, "Bethlehem 2000". (For text of statement, see Press Release GA/SM/77-PAL/1864 of today's date.)
PETER BURLEIGH (United States), President of the Security Council, said the Council fully recognized that a solution to the question of Palestine was a key element in achieving a comprehensive settlement of the Arab- Israeli conflict within the framework of the Oslo accords. Positive developments had occurred in recent months, resulting in the promising resumption of the Middle East peace process. The Wye Memorandum represented a major step forward.
He said he shared the international community's overwhelming support for full implementation of the agreements reached. It was now the responsibility of the international community to assist in building momentum for that renewal of confidence. The Wye Memorandum called for a Ministerial Conference to seek enhanced donor support for economic development in the West Bank and Gaza. Today, United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was chairing that Ministerial Conference in Washington.
Soon the UNRWA would host a pledging conference of its own, he said. Many speakers today would speak of the need to support the Palestinian effort. Now was the time to make tangible that support. Extensive assistance to the Palestinians was needed as they created effective institutions of self- rule and sought to improve their quality of life. New opportunities for regional cooperation and development should begin with development of the Palestinian institutions and economy. The Security Council would continue to follow the peace process and the developments in the region, and would remain committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, for the benefit of all parties concerned, including the Palestinian people.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, read a message from the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat. He said the Palestinian people were more than ever in need of continued and strengthened worldwide solidarity, to assist them make the Declaration of Independence a reality and to implement it during the coming year after the end of the five-year interim period specified in the Declaration of Principles. He hoped the independent state of Palestine on Palestinian soil would be declared and made a tangible reality in an atmosphere of cooperation, trust and mutual respect for all agreements concluded with the Israeli side.
He said the Wye River Memorandum brought renewed hope to peoples of the region, and to the Palestinian people in particular, that the peace process would be revived and put back on course. It was hoped the process would continue to make progress on all tracks, including the Lebanese and Syrian tracks, towards a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East. "We are especially interested", he said, "in the application of the provisions to the Palestinian political and security prisoners, as this is a sensitive issue of great concern to our people".
He said while he was satisfied that the Israeli Government had begun implementation of the first stage of the Memorandum, as a step in the right direction, a halt to all unilateral measures was needed. Foremost among those, were the expropriation of Palestinian land and settlement activities in the occupied Al-Quds al-Sharif which were intended to Judaize the city. He said settlement activities were a threat and completely incompatible with peace. He said he hoped for friendly international endeavours to oblige the Israeli Government to honour its obligations pursuant to the Wye River Memorandum, so that peace might proceed and negotiations on the final status might be resumed in an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding and respect.
The Palestinian people were determined to declare independence, he continued. "God willing", the young Palestinian state, with Al-Quds al- Sharif as its capital, would be positive, prosperous, stable and flourishing, and continue as an equal partner in the consolidation of a just, equitable and comprehensive peace, made between courageous parties. It would strengthen cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding, and promote the peaceful coexistence of peoples of the region.
JOHN DE SARAM (Sri Lanka), Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said conditions in the occupied territories were troubling. The Israeli authorities had put into place a comprehensive and elaborate system of laws, regulations and administrative measures designed to meet their policy objectives, and to enhance control over the occupied territories and the Palestinian people within those territories. They were so framed that they vested in officials a considerable degree of authority and latitude. He said a rigorous implementation of those laws, particularly during periods of crisis, created a sense of fear, despondency and hopelessness among the Palestinians. During periods of violence, the exercise of such control made life in the territories even more unbearable.
He said he regretted that conditions had not improved as hoped, and recommended that the High Commissioner for Human Rights consult with Israeli authorities on the following subjects: permitting long-separated families in the occupied Palestinian territories to meet freely and often; the process of detention; the use of physical force and torture during interrogations, detention and imprisonment; the effect of occupation; facilitating access to educational centres; and ameliorating the conditions under which Palestinians in Gaza travel into Israel through Erez border crossings.
He stressed the importance of having the High Commissioner for Human Rights establish a system of continuous communication with Israeli authorities to relieve the difficult circumstances in which the Palestinians lived.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) read a message on behalf of his Foreign Minister, HAMED BIN KHALIFA AL-THANI, in his capacity as Chairman of the Islamic Conference (OIC) of Foreign Ministers. He said people around the world had come to realize the facts; they knew the stumbling blocks encountered in the peace process that threatened to undermine the whole process and squander achievements. They realized that was the consequences of the Israeli Government's intransigence, and its failure to honour obligations and commitments.
He said the Islamic Conference was gravely concerned with the fact that Israel had continued its settlement, expansionist policies in the city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the occupied Palestinian territories, and affirmed its categorical rejection of those policies. It also rejected illegitimate Israeli actions aimed at changing the legal status, geographical character and demographic composition of the city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif. It called on the international community to strive to safeguard and protect the holy places there.
He said implementation of the bilateral agreements between the Palestinian and Israeli sides and relevant United Nations resolutions, were the best way to settle the Palestinian question. The Islamic Conference called on the international community to support the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority so that they could establish their own homeland.
KHIPHUSIZI J. JELE (South Africa) delivered a message by South African President Nelson Mandela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. He said the only way of ending conflict and bringing peace and security to Palestine, to Israel and to the region was through negotiations and the faithful implementation of agreements reached so far. Hopefully, the Wye River Memorandum would bring hope and courage to all in the region and revitalize the Middle East peace process which had been deadlocked for so long. He trusted that the implementation of the Memorandum and the release of all Palestinian political prisoners would eliminate some of the obstacles and rebuild trust.
He said South Africans understood the suffering of the Palestinian people. He commended them for their commitment to peaceful negotiations and urged all parties to recommit to a negotiated settlement and to refrain from acts of violence. He also called on the Israeli Government to comply with its obligations to withdraw from Palestinian territory in a timely fashion so that further progress could be made. He appealed to the international community to remain faithful to the goal of achieving a comprehensive and just peace.
MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkino Faso), in a statement by the President of Burkino Faso and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), said the Organization had given unconditional support for the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian People to establish a sovereign state. It welcomed the signing of the Wye River Memorandum which opened the door to new prospects for peace. He urged both parties to redouble their efforts to implement the agreements signed so far.
He appealed to the United Nations and the international community for initiatives to realize the minimum political, social and economic conditions necessary for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. Those conditions included application of fundamental rights, and strict observance of relevant Security Council resolutions on the question of Palestine. The promotion of economic and social development was also necessary, particularly in Gaza where health, education and employment problems were acute. Hopefully, the goodwill of the protagonists enable progress in the peace process. Africa wished to reaffirm its solidarity with Palestinian people.
SAID KAMAL, representative of the League of Arab States, speaking for its Secretary-General, Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid, said the United Nations had played an important role in ensuring the presence of the question of Palestine in the international arena. He thanked the Secretary-General and the Chairman of the Palestine Rights Committee for their efforts and reiterated the readiness of the League to work with the United Nations for peace throughout the world. He said he applauded the General Assembly's decision to accord additional rights and privileges to Palestine in the Assembly, thus opening new opportunities for cooperation between the Arab States and the Organization and moving towards permanent membership for Palestine.
The Arab States supported the position of Palestine, he said. They stressed the importance of the resumption of Israel's negotiations with Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, and the observance of contractual commitments including the commencement of the final phase leading to the establishment of a Palestinian State. They also supported the positive position of the United States and urged Israel to respond positively.
He said the Wye River talks had achieved a Memorandum that took note of the Oslo accords with a view to creating the necessary medium for peace based on the restoration of land to its legitimate owners. Lands had been occupied by force and their restoration was the basis for peace. The Israelis were aware of the forces that stood in the way of peace. He said the true test was the international community's enthusiasm in support of the final phase which should include the exercise by the Palestinian people of their legitimate sovereignty over their lands, and the right to return to their lands. He hoped that by the next commemoration of the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Palestine would have had its rights restored and there would be peace in the Middle East.
DAVID M. GRAYBEAL, Chairman of the North American Coordinating Committee for non-governmental organizations (NGO) on the question of Palestine, spoke on behalf of Don Betz, Chairman of the International Coordinating Committee of NGOs on the question. He said the NGOs were dismayed by the fact that, while Security Council's resolutions on Iraq had been enforced by severe sanctions and the use of force, Israel's refusal to conform to similar resolutions had been accepted without penalty. The NGOs could not accept in silence, the unequal, unjust treatment the United Nations gave to those two States.
He said that in support of justice and peace, the NGOs favoured statehood for Palestine. They viewed events of the coming year with hope and anxiety and would continue their work in the fields of human rights and development. They asked the Committee to press the General Assembly and the Security Council to exert strong leadership in the establishment of peace and justice in the Middle East.
FAROUK KADDOUMI, head of the political department of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said international solidarity enabled the suppressed and colonized peoples of the world to exercise their self-determination. He cited various passages from the statement of the Deputy Secretary-General, noting the comment that if a United Nations resolution passed 51 years ago had been implemented, an Arab and a Jewish State would be living side-by-side in peaceful coexistence.
He said the Deputy Secretary-General had also stressed the importance of addressing not only the manifestations, but also the causes, of violence in the Middle East. She had said a rapid improvement in the living conditions in the Palestinian territories was an essential accompaniment to the peace negotiations. The steady decline in the Palestinian economy in recent years was largely due to the impact of security measures, the lack of free movement of persons and goods between the West Bank and Gaza and the Palestinians' lack of control over their own resources. He said those insightful opinions of the situation underlined the importance of the continued United Nations role.
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