The Permanent Observer of Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, in a statement to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning, urged the international community to support a special emergency session of the General Assembly that would recommend appropriate means to end the new Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem.
The action of the occupying Power endangered the Arab-Israeli peace process and constituted a threat to international peace and security, he warned. The new settlement, Jabal Abu Ghneim, was designed to bring in 25,000 Israeli settlers and would isolate the Arab neighbourhoods and Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
Speakers this morning expressed support for an emergency Assembly session. Committee Chairman, Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal), proposed that the draft resolution to be considered by the emergency session contain an appeal by the Assembly to the signatories of the peace accords to "protect and save the peace process".
Also this morning, the Committee elected George Saliba (Malta) as Rapporteur.
Statements were made by the representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cuba, Viet Nam, Syria, China, Mali, Indonesia and Guinea.
The Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met today to consider the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the proposed emergency special session of the General Assembly. It was also expected to elect its Rapporteur.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said all were aware of the seriousness of the situation in the Middle East and the peace process in particular. That situation had resulted from the actions of Israel, especially the plans for its illegal settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim, as well as its illegal activities in general in the occupied territories. The situation was continuously deteriorating. The peace process was in danger and that constituted a threat to international peace and security. The new Israeli settlement, located to the south of East Jerusalem, was designed to bring in 25,000 Israeli settlers. It would isolate the Arab neighbourhoods and the holy city from the rest of the West Bank.
He said Palestinians had tried through numerous avenues to halt construction. The Arab Group of States had brought the matter to the attention of the Security Council even before the Israelis had announced their decision to settle Jabal Abu Ghneim. The members of the Council had tried to reach a unanimous decision on a draft resolution regarding the settlement. Unfortunately, and regrettably, the United States had exercised its veto power, thus preventing the Council from shouldering its responsibilities.
The Assembly then met and called on Israel to desist from any further construction activity on the settlement, he said. In less than 24 hours, the Government of Israel responded by reaffirming its decision and began construction on the new settlement. All efforts to stop construction had failed because of the position of a permanent member of the Council. The United States then vetoed a second draft resolution. There remained one resort -- to call for a special emergency session of the General Assembly to recommend the necessary and appropriate means to end Israel's illegal actions and save the peace process.
He said that on 30 March, the Arab Group had submitted a request for an emergency session of the General Assembly. Following that action, the Secretary-General sent a memo to Member States requesting their views on the request. The ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement also decided in favour of an emergency session of the General Assembly.
He recalled that the 1980 seventh emergency special session had come about following a request of the Palestinian Rights Committee. That session had been an important event in the history of the question of Palestine and had prevented greater damage and harm to the Palestinian people than might have otherwise occurred. He reiterated the need for the Committee to take a positive stand regarding a special emergency meeting and he called on all the members of the Committee to positively respond to the request of the Secretary-General in an urgent manner.
The original plan was for the emergency session to begin tomorrow and end on Wednesday, but at last count, the necessary majority of 94 responses had not been received. If the meeting could not begin tomorrow, the holiday on Thursday -- Id al-Adha -- made it impractical to start such a meeting before Monday, 21 April.
The Arab Group had adopted and distributed a decision on a proposed resolution on 7 April that would: confirm the United Nations position on Jerusalem and the settlement; reconfirm support for the peace process and implementation of agreements reached; and adopt the necessary recommendations for collective measures and actions. An important aspect of the draft was that Member States should refrain from giving assistance to those that were directly involved in illegal activities in the territories. That measure, however, did not constitute sanctions. The draft was submitted for discussion and was subject to negotiation.
Recalling that a Palestinian delegation had visited Washington, D.C., in the last few days, he said that despite the importance of the meetings, no definitive results had come from the lengthy discussions. The Palestinians had communicated their position to the United States Government, which was based on the following: the parties should emphasize their commitment; construction of the settlements should stop immediately; and items agreed on in the peace process should be implemented immediately.
IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee, spoke on behalf of his delegation. He had followed with grave concern the situation in the territories of the Middle East. The situation was deteriorating to the extent that the peace process was "in jeopardy and under considerable threat". He was committed to doing everything possible to save the peace process and support it at such a critical phase.
He said that there had been several recent statements of position on the situation in the Middle East -- particularly concerning the occupied territories. Those included the recent adoption of a Special Declaration by the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement. Such documents, together with the statement by Yasser Arafat at the Non-Aligned Movement meeting, had in common an appeal to all Non-Aligned Movement members to react favourably to the convening of an emergency session of the General Assembly. His country had already responded favourably to that request.
He would add a fourth point to the draft resolution just proposed by the Permanent Observer of Palestine. It should contain an appeal, extended by the Assembly, to the co-presidents and co-signatories of the peace accords to "protect and save the peace process".
RAVAN A.G. FARHADI (Afghanistan) said that he, too, had observed the firm commitment to Palestine at the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in New Delhi. Mr. Arafat's statement was welcomed with considerable applause. Yet, there were practical issues to be resolved regarding the emergency session. As many members as possible should know about the "talking points". In addition, all delegations would welcome concise technical information on the recent developments and phases of the draft resolution. They would also like to be able to review the main points of a draft resolution. The Chairman's suggestion was an important addition.
MUHAMAD NAJM AKBAR (Pakistan) said his delegation had already taken the necessary steps regarding the written request for an emergency session. In order for the session to occur, Member States must understand that it was absolutely essential for them to submit individual requests.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ-PARILLA (Cuba) said the Committee had a special responsibility regarding the situation in Palestine. Given the unforgivable omission by the Security Council regarding the peace process, the Assembly and all of its Member States were obligated to shoulder specific responsibilities regarding that matter. The Assembly should use its powers to ensure compliance with commitments assumed in the peace process. His country would be prepared to co-sponsor the draft resolution.
He said he had attended the ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement and the meeting of the committee of nine, where President Yasser Arafat had spoken. The position adopted in New Delhi reflected the Non-Aligned Movement's unanimous support for a special emergency session of the Assembly. Cuba had already communicated to the Secretary-General its support for convening a special session. He encouraged other States to do the same.
NGO QUANG XUAN (Viet Nam) said his Government had already sent a letter to the Secretary-General in support of a special session. He noted that some missions felt that the letter of the Non-Aligned Movement would serve to represent their support. It should be made clear, however, that each individual mission must send a letter to the Secretary-General.
FAROUK AL-ATTAR (Syria) said that today's meeting was taking place in the context of the aggressive and provocative policies of Israel. The Palestinian Rights Committee had always regarded the situation in the territories as its special obligation. He called on Member States to show their support for a special session of the Assembly.
ZHANG QIYUE (China) said that her country had always supported the just cause of the Palestinian people. As such, her delegation had already sent a letter to the Secretary-General in support of an emergency session. She hoped that such a session would be convened shortly, given the deteriorating situation in the region.
ILLAKAMAR AG OUMAR (Mali) said that the issue before the Committee was a very important one, and was in keeping with the recommendations of the Non-Aligned Movement ministers, as well as the recommendation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Regarding the convening of an emergency session, his Government had already issued its support. He supported the draft resolution submitted by the Arab Group, adding that it should take into account the addition proposed by the Chairman.
MARTY MULIANA NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) would underline the views expressed by other delegations on the need to respond positively to the request for an emergency session. His country had taken such action, and as Chairman of the Islamic Group, had submitted a formal letter supporting the session's convening.
MAHAWA BANGOURA CAMARA (Guinea) announced that her delegation had already sent a letter to the Secretary-General, and firmly supported the convening of an emergency session.
Mr. AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said he appreciated the support for the convening of an emergency session. In addition, the Chairman's proposal was a good idea and should be included in the draft resolution.