UNISPAL Home

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


GA/PAL/849
29 November 2000



Committee on Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
255th Meeting (AM)

SECRETARY-GENERAL, NOTING RECENT TURMOIL, SAYS INTERNATIONAL
COMMUNITY MUST HELP PALESTINIANS, ISRAELIS IN ‘HISTORIC QUEST FOR PEACE’

Solidarity Observance Told of ‘Despair, Frustration’ in Occupied Territories;
PLO Chairman States Terms on Which Authority Still Committed to Peace Process


On the occasion of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, Secretary-General Kofi Annan this morning called on the international community to assist the Palestinians and the Israelis in their "historic quest" for peace.

Addressing a special meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Secretary-General underscored the “growing sense of despair, frustration and anger” among Palestinians. It was absolutely essential to restore calm as soon as possible and revive the peace negotiations, in order to restart the economy. He further called on both sides to preserve the achievements of the nine-year peace process and steadily progress along the path to peace and reconciliation.

In a statement read on his behalf, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President of the Palestinian Authority, said the expectation had been that today’s commemoration would be marked by the celebration of Palestine’s admission as a Member of the United Nations. Instead, the Palestinian people were being subjected to a “bloody military campaign” waged by the occupying Power in an apparent attempt to break the political will of the Palestinians and its leadership and impose on them unacceptable solutions. He called for a United Nations observer force to be deployed in all localities occupied by Israel since 1967. He said the Palestinian Authority remained committed to the peace process on the basis of Security Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace.

The Chairman of the Committee, Ibra Deguene Ka (Senegal) drew attention to the “brutal interruption” of the peace negotiations in September. He said a settlement of the conflict required the parties’ acceptance of and respect for all relevant United Nations resolutions. Only the full implementation of the recommendations produced at Sharm el-Sheikh and the immediate resumption of peace talks could end the crisis.

The President of the General Assembly, Harri Holkeri (Finland), said the year 2000 should have been special, in the sense that a final status agreement should have been reached. Instead, the situation had deteriorated sharply in recent weeks, challenging the very foundations of the peace process. He said the Assembly and the Security Council had responded with urgency and determination, and in accordance with the Assembly’s position, the United Nations should retain a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until it was effectively resolved in all its aspects, in accordance with international law and justice.

The President of the Security Council, Peter Van Walsum (Netherlands), stressed that the recent outbreak of violence was a grave concern and preoccupation of the Council, which had acted promptly in response to the situation on the ground. The parties should implement understandings swiftly and fully, and together confront the common problems associated with their unavoidable coexistence.

Statements were also made by the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; by the representative of South Africa on behalf of the Movement of Non-Aligned countries; by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia in his capacity as Chairman of the 27th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers; by the representative of Togo, on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and by a representative of the League of Arab States.

An additional statement was made by a representative of the International Network 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 Venezuela, Guinea, Brazil, Philippines, Afghanistan, Namibia, Cyprus, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Viet Nam, Tunisia, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Russian Federation, Cuba, Iran, Peru, and Turkey.

Messages were also sent by the heads of the Governments of Lesotho, Thailand, China, Mauritius, India, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Belarus. The observance was acknowledged by the Foreign Ministers of Oman, Hungary, Japan, Romania, Madagascar, Colombia, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and Argentina.

Messages were received from the Governments of Uruguay, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Yemen, Pakistan, and Guyana, and from the Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe to the United Nations.

The European Union, the OAU, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and several NGOs also sent messages.

The head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, also spoke.

The Chairman of the Committee announced that the Palestinian art exhibit presented by the Committee in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, would open at 6 p.m. today in the public lobby of the General Assembly building. The exhibit, entitled “The Land”, is composed of a collection of paintings by Palestinian artists. The Chairman also announced that immediately following the meeting, there would be a screening in the Trusteeship Council Chamber of two video films, entitled “The Land” (a joint United Arab Emirates/Palestinian Authority production) and “Against the Odds”, a film produced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to hold a solemn meeting in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The General Assembly, in its resolution 32/40 of 2 December 1977, and in subsequent resolutions, called for the annual observance of such a day, in recognition of the need to promote and support the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination, peace and independence.

Statements

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that in the course of this year the parties to the conflict had succeeded in surmounting certain obstacles and accomplishing some progress. In that regard, the Committee welcomed the different measures taken in follow-up to the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, particularly the release of Palestinian prisoners, the opening up of a safe passage way between the West Bank and the Gaza strip, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and the signing of an economic agreement and the opening of the factories in the port of Gaza.

While they were yet to become successful, he continued, the Camp David discussions under the auspices of United States President Clinton in July, and the resulting agreements of principle, had given rise to certain optimism.

However, he continued, at the end of September the peace negotiations were brutally interrupted, following the visit by Mr. Sharon to the place of the saint of Al-Haram al-Sharif and the explosion of violence that visit caused. The resumption of violence, which had led to some 300 deaths and thousands of injuries in two months, had sadly created a break between the parties. The international community had expressed its desire for an end to that violence and for the return of calm and for the parties to return to the negotiation table.

The Security Council and the General Assembly had adopted important resolutions in which they reaffirmed the rights of the Palestinian people and insisted on the obligations of the occupying power. They also underlined the necessity to put an end to the violence, so as to put the peace process back on track.

He said the only way for the parties to the Middle East conflict was to accept and to respect all the resolutions adopted by the United Nations. Unilateral acts and the use of force could never succeed. Only the full implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh recommendations and the immediate resumption of the peace talks could put an end to the crisis. The parties should cooperate fully with the United Nations and with the other sponsors of the peace process.

The President of the General Assembly, HARRI HOLKERI (Finland), noted that the question of Palestine had been on the United Nations agenda for more than 50 years. On 29 November 1947, he recalled, the Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning Palestine into two States -– one Arab and one Jewish -– with an economic union between them. Jerusalem was to be placed under a special international regime. The plan was never implemented, but it was interesting to note how proposals aimed at breaking the current impasse dated back to those or similar arrangements. The number of important agreements reached between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since 1991 had shown that it was indeed possible to overcome years of “animosity, mistrust and suspicion”.

This year should have been special, he said, in the sense that a final status agreement should have been reached. Instead, in recent weeks, there had been a sharp deterioration in the situation, which challenged the very foundations of the peace process. The United Nations had consistently upheld the principles enshrined in its Charter, the norms of international law and human rights, and relevant resolutions. In view of the recent outbreak of violence, the Assembly and the Security Council had responded with urgency and determination. The Assembly, in its resumed tenth emergency special session in October, condemned the violence and the excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians.

He said the Assembly had also reiterated the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and demanded that the occupying Power abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons. He said the Assembly supported the establishment of a mechanism of inquiry into the recent tragic events and called for the resumption of peace talks and the speedy conclusion of the final settlement agreement between the two sides. In accordance with the Assembly’s position, the United Nations should retain a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until it was effectively resolved in all its aspects, in accordance with international law and justice.

The Palestinian people, he continued, should be able to exercise their inalienable rights, as spelled out by the Assembly, and in particular: the right to self-determination without external interference; the right to national independence and sovereignty; and the right to return to their homes and properties or to receive compensation for those choosing not to return. For peace to take root and become viable, economic and social development was essential. In particular, it must accompany political agreements and arrangements. In that respect, the international community should step up their efforts at providing much-needed economic assistance to the Palestinian people.

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN, said the solemn occasion offered a time to renew the commitment to the goal of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine -- the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict
-- and to express solidarity with and support for the Palestinian people. Since November 1947, all of his predecessors had sought to find a fair, equitable and peaceful solution to that complex issue. He pledged to continue to pursue that objective with all the means and resources at his disposal.

He said that today's meeting was taking place at a very "sensitive and difficult" period in the peace process. During the past year, the parties had continued to make a determined effort to overcome decades of suspicion and animosity in order to build bridges of reconciliation and partnership. They had succeeded in narrowing gaps on some points and had reached agreements on a number of specific issues. In spite of the difficulties in reaching an agreement at Camp David last July, both sides had demonstrated determination to move forward. Their resolve had inspired hope that the negotiating momentum would not be lost.

Regrettably, following the September events in East Jerusalem, the situation on the ground began to escalate, rapidly reaching crisis proportions and putting on hold again the prospects of further negotiations. In the past two months, he went on, various parties had worked to persuade the two sides to end violence and breathe life into the negotiating process. Throughout his visit to the region, the situation on the ground in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip remained "extremely tense and volatile".

He said the understandings reached at Sharm el-Sheikh were a "critical first step" towards restoring the status quo ante, resuming the peace process and setting up a mechanism to inquire into the causes of violence. To achieve that, it was absolutely essential for the parties to implement those understandings in full and good faith. Earlier this month, he welcomed the appointment by United States President Clinton of a fact-finding committee, established in accordance with the understandings reached at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Continuing, the Secretary-General said he was also hopeful that the committee would carry out its duties with impartiality and thoroughness, and that it would thereby make an important contribution towards the search for a just and lasting peace. As the situation deteriorated, he appealed to the leadership of the two sides to refrain from making emotional public statements, and to weigh their words with great care. The same should apply to the wider international community. Everyone should do their best to assist the Palestinians and the Israelis in their historic quest for peace.

He called upon the parties, once again, to preserve the achievements of the past nine years of the peace process and steadily move ahead along the path of peace and reconciliation. He noted that one issue, in particular, was viewed by Palestinians and many others as a principal cause of the present crisis, and that was the continued confiscation and destruction of Palestinian property, and the construction and expansion of settlements and roads in the occupied territories. He said those actions seriously complicated the discussions by the parties of the permanent status issues.

The Secretary-General said the worsening of the situation on the ground in the past several weeks had had an extremely damaging effect on the Palestinian economy. Repeated border and internal closures had led to a dramatic deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinians, whose economy was largely dependent on that of Israel. As a result of the conflict, the unemployment and poverty rates had risen considerably after several years of improvement. There was a "growing sense of despair, frustration and anger" among Palestinians. That was why it was absolutely essential to restore calm as soon as possible, and to revive the peace negotiations, in order also to restart the economy.

For more than half a century, he continued, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) had provided humanitarian assistance and essential basic services to some 3.7 million Palestinians registered with the Agency. He called again on donors to provide the Agency with the resources it required to keep up with the rising needs of the refugee community. Donor assistance was especially vital now, at a time of crisis and economic hardship, he said.

The United Nations development system had brought extensive multilateral and bilateral assistance to the Palestinian people. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was involved in a wide range of development and rehabilitation projects. That work had included, among other things, poverty alleviation, capacity building, institutional development, healthcare, and agriculture and environment. The United Nations was also supporting the peace process through the efforts of Terje Rod-Larsen, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and his Personal Representative to the PLO and Palestinian Authority.

He also paid tribute to the Humanitarian Task Force for Emergency Needs in coordinating international assistance for urgent humanitarian needs. To date, the Task Force had coordinated more than $9 million in such assistance. He said the United Nations was fully committed to supporting the parties through the peace process. It would continue to provide the various forms of assistance to the Palestinian people until a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement was achieved and peace and prosperity prevailed. He commended the 25 years of "untiring and dedicated" work of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The President of the Security Council, PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands), said the members of the Council had been following closely the situation on the ground as well as developments in the peace process. They had been encouraged by the measure of progress achieved at Camp David last July, despite the inconclusive end of that summit. The Council had looked forward to a prompt and comprehensive agreement. The recent outbreak of violence remained a grave concern and preoccupation of the Council. It had acted promptly in response to that situation and the escalating violence by adopting resolution 1322 (2000) on 7 October.

He described the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings as a welcome step which provided an opportunity to end the vicious circle of violence and get the negotiations back on track. He expressed condolences, on behalf of the Council, to the families of all victims of the violence. Recent events had led to greater animosity, tragic loss of life, destruction of property and infrastructure and the dismantling of those psychological and symbolic bridges that the parties had been building over the last decade. The parties needed to abide by the understandings and to implement them swiftly and in full.

He said that the five-member fact-finding Committee, already appointed in consultation with the parties and the Secretary-General, should take up its responsibilities as soon as possible. He hoped the parties would soon return to the negotiating table, in the spirit of renewed confidence, so as to make up for lost time. That was the only way to achieve tangible and lasting results. Stirring up differences, mistrust and suspicion would only lead to the perpetuation of mutual misery and destruction. Bridges had to be rebuilt and a real sense of partnership established. Instead of confronting each other, the parties should join forces to confront common problems associated with their unavoidable coexistence

NASSER AL-KIDWA, the Permanent Observer for Palestine, read a message from Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian National Authority. Mr. Arafat said it had been expected that the International Day of Solidarity would arrive upon the celebration of Palestine's admission as a Member State of the United Nations and the achievement of peace between Palestine and Israel.

Instead, the sad reality was that the Palestinian people were being subjected to a "bloody military campaign" waged by the occupying Power for reasons that appeared to include an attempt to break the political will of the Palestinian people and its leadership, and impose on them unacceptable solutions. Since the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Haram al-Sharif on
28 September, and the resulting protest by the Palestinians, Israel had used its military machine, including heavy weapons like tanks and helicopters, and had inflicted terrible human and material loss on the Palestinians.

He said the number of Palestinian martyrs had exceeded 300 and there had been more than 10,000 wounded -- one third of them children, and large numbers of them still in serious condition. The occupation forces had also inflicted extensive damage on the cities, villages and camps and had imposed a military blockade that had prevented the movement of persons and goods. That, in turn, had exacerbated the suffering to an unbearable degree and inflicted far-reaching damage on a vulnerable Palestinian economy.

He said the world had condemned that Israeli aggression and had called for a halt to Israeli acts of repression and a return to the peace process. While the Authority appreciated the positions taken by the international community, its resolutions on the subject had yet to be implemented. What was required now was the demonstration of an ever greater solidarity with the Palestinian people and the adoption of an unequivocal international stance, so that Israel would comply with those resolutions and with international law, in particular, international humanitarian law.

Continuing, he urged full implementation of Security Council resolution 1322 (2000) and effective action by the international fact-finding committee with a view to determining the truth with respect to what happened, and is ensuring there was no recurrence. He also called for the provision of international protection to Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation. The proper way to achieve that objective was the establishment of a United Nations force of observers to be deployed in all localities occupied by Israel since 1967.

Those essential steps, he said, would undoubtedly help to halt the Israeli campaign against the Palestinians. That would restore calm to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and to the region in general. It would then be possible, given the necessary political will on the Israeli side, to resume the peace process, and to reach a final agreement between the two sides. The Authority remained committed to the peace process and to the endeavour for such an agreement, provided that there was a commitment to the basis for that process, namely Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the principle of land for peace.

He said that commitment was also subject to the realization of Palestinian rights, including their right to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. He continued, “We stress the importance of your solidarity -- as well as that of all brothers and friends and all those who cherish peace, freedom and justice -- with the Palestinian people in the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves and in the short period of time that remains to us to achieve independence to build our democratic society in Palestine." He said he hoped Palestine would participate actively alongside other States in the international system and contribute to strengthening global peace and the building of a better world for all the peoples of the planet.

The Palestinian Authority believed in the enduring responsibility of the United Nations with respect to the question of Palestine, he said. The United Nations would play an active and decisive role in the coming period. Also welcome were efforts made by many parties to support the peace process and work towards a solution. All of those parties should step up their efforts, in coordination with the co-sponsors of the peace process and the United Nations, so as to ensure the wide participation that would inevitably help advance the peace process.

JOHN DE SARAM, (Sri Lanka) Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said the people in the territories were subjected to a comprehensive and elaborate system of laws, regulations and administrative measures in place that affected all aspects of their lives and infringed significantly and substantially on their human rights in a manner that was not in accord with accepted international standards of human rights and humanitarian values. He said tragic events had taken place in the occupied territories since the end of September. The Special Committee was profoundly distressed at the magnitude of force used by the Israeli authorities, the disproportionately large number of Palestinians killed and wounded, the nature of weaponry utilized by the Israeli authorities, and the closures and restrictions that affected Palestinian areas and the movement of Palestinians.

Where there had been hope, he went on, there was now death and destruction and a turning away from endeavours of peace. He expressed the hope that the process of peace would soon prevail and that steps would resume along the path which all must tread in order for a comprehensive and lasting peace to be satisfactorily concluded.

DUMISANI SHADRACK KUMALO (South Africa) read a message from Thabo Mbeki, Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement. He conveyed deepest sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of victims of the recent violence. The Non-Aligned Movement, he said, decried the “excessive and disproportionate” use of force by the Israeli army. Having been filled with hope for a promising Middle East future, the Movement was saddened that it had to commemorate this important day amid violent conflict. It was a situation far removed from last year’s expectations.

He said a just and lasting peace could be achieved only through peaceful negotiations. The first priority should be an end to the violence, which could be achieved through concrete steps that included the withdrawal of Israeli troops at least to the positions that they had occupied before 28 September, the day of Mr. Sharon’s fateful and provocative visit to Haram al-Sharif. Furthermore, the illegal measures of collective punishment against the Palestinian people, such as the blockade of the Palestinian territories and the economic embargo placed on Palestine, should be ended immediately.

He said the international community could contribute meaningfully to the restoration of calm and the rebuilding of trust, which had been shattered in the past two months. He said he renewed the call of the Non-Aligned Movement for the immediate stationing, in the occupied Palestinian territories, of an international observer force under United Nations auspices. Good faith negotiations between the two sides must resume, once calm had returned to the region.

Clearly, the Oslo process, which had been carried forth for more than seven years prior to the recent outbreak of violence, was seriously flawed, he said. That related to the manner in which Palestinians “on the street” experienced the results of the peace process; it had resulted in visible improvement in the Palestinian infrastructure, but it had brought a much more “intrusive” Israeli security presence into the lives of ordinary Palestinians by requiring them to cross interminable checkpoints that had sprung up around every Palestinian urban centre. For the Palestinians there was no longer any tangible evidence of a peace dividend.

It was unlikely that the Oslo process could be resumed without considerable amendment. The United Nations should play a central role in future negotiations. Those negotiations should be about the modalities for the implementation of the existing international consensus, enshrined in relevant Security Council resolutions, which called for Israeli withdrawal from the Arab territories occupied since the 1967 war. The Council had recognized the principle of the self-determination of the Palestinians people, and had also provided for Arab recognition of the right of Israel to exist within secure borders. Land for peace, he said, was the only viable option. The Palestinian struggle was legitimate.

It was an affront to all humanity, he said, that while the world was addressing the challenges and aspirations of the new millennium, the Palestinian people were still “hankering for their basic human right” and, as a nation, for the realization of their right to self-determination

DATUK SERI SYED HAMID ALBAR, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, and Chairman of the 27th Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, said it was regrettable that the observance was taking place against the backdrop of escalating violence and a gravely deteriorating situation on the ground. He said Malaysia rejected and condemned the excessive use of force by Israel against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem. The international community could not afford to remain silent in the face of continued flagrant violations of the rights of the Palestinian people living under occupation. The current onslaught against them was a clear manifestation of a consistent policy of harassment, intimidation and suppression pursued for decades by Israel, the occupying power.

He said Israel should rein in the high-handed actions of its security forces, and bring to justice those directly and wilfully responsible for the tragic deaths in the region. Those actions constituted grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention relating to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which was applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The United Nations had a clear responsibility to put an end to the violations of the Convention as well as to ensure the safety and protection of civilians, especially children.

The international community should ensure the protection of innocent civilians –- hence the importance and urgent need for the establishment of the United Nations Protection Force, which was now being considered by the Security Council.

He said that a just and lasting peace could be achieved only with the complete withdrawal of Israeli armed forces and illegal settlers from Arab and Palestinian lands occupied since 1967, including the City of Al-Quds Al-Sharif and occupied Syrian Golan. The people of Palestine had an inalienable right to establish an independent and sovereign State of their own, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its undisputed capital.

ROLAND KPOTSRA (Togo) read a message from President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, current Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) who said today’s observance was of particular significance to the OAU and to African States. Since its creation, the pan-African organization had shown unswerving solidarity with the Palestinians, and had constantly supported their aspiration towards self-determination. Despite recent progress, obstructions to the peace process had been profoundly disquieting; the move towards self-determination was once again deadlocked.

He said the appalling resurgence of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had hardened positions on all sides. Parties should strive, unconditionally, to implement the ceasefire agreement, in order to end the hostilities and restore confidence between the leaders of both sides. Hopefully, the commission responsible for determining the cause of the recent outbreak of violence would fulfil its mission and report on its findings, as soon as possible. The efforts of the Secretary-General and the sponsors of the peace process were welcome. The parties must end the violence and return to the negotiating table. Lasting peace, security and stability would be possible only through concrete implementation of the peace process, and affirmation of a more resolute political will on the part of all concerned, according to the principle of land for peace.

He said the OAU once again urged President Arafat and Prime Minister Barak to be “unstinting” in their efforts to restart, as soon as possible, the discussions broken off because of the recent tragic events. The United Nations must bring its full authority to bear; neither side should be plunged back into despair, and the security of the Middle East region as a whole should not be undermined.

SAID KAMAL, Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the League of Arab States, in a message on behalf of the Secretary-General of the League, thanked the United Nations and its agencies for the political and material support they had provided to the Palestinian people. He said Israeli policies were inimical to peace in the occupied territories, where daily aggression was unleashed against the Palestinian people.

He said the bloody events that broke out in September had extended to the Palestinian territories and to Israel itself. There had been no religious reason for the provocative visit by Ariel Sharon which precipitated the violence. Rather, the visit had been designed for political manipulation and for domestic gains. The Israeli authorities might have taken a strategic decision to eliminate the Palestinian leadership and to discard the peace process.

He said Israeli forces had caused the deaths of hundreds and injuries to thousands more. The mass media and international human rights organizations had adequately conveyed the picture of those events. Even the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, had suffered aggression while performing her duty in Israel. That action, he continued, showed Israel’s cynical disregard for the will of the international community.

At their summit, he said, Arab leaders held Israel responsible for taking the region back into violence. The Israeli leadership failed to understand the clear political statement made by that Summit which was a message of clear warning. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit had also affirmed the solidarity of the Islamic world with the struggle of the Palestinian People.

He said the League of Arab States reiterated the call for an international fact-facing mission to the occupied territories, to identify the reasons for the serious deterioration in the region. That mission should be carried out on the basis of relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. The Council should also keep under review the developments in the Palestinian territories, since they had implications for international security. He said that the continuing “intifada” was in response to the war which Israel was trying to impose on the Palestinian people and on the region. Its essence was to send a message that the Palestinian people were fed up with waiting to obtain their rights, and could no longer tolerate occupation.

DON BETZ of the International Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Network on the Question of Palestine, said that international protection for the Palestinian nation should, at this time, be on the daily agenda of the United Nations and on the priority list of every Member State committed to peace and justice in the Middle East. The survival of the people of Palestine depended on the clear and focused attention of the world’s States, and the United Nations. The immediate issue should be saving lives so that parents and children could actually be able to live the peace that the world dreamt of. Today, peace was “an orphan”.

He said that for many years, NGOs had been speaking, writing, gathering, lobbying and demonstrating about the impact of injustice, and proclaiming support for the United Nations resolutions on peace and justice in the Middle East. They remained unswervingly committed to the United Nations and its relevant resolutions as the only effective pathway to peace. The collapse of the peace process, which conspicuously bypassed the United Nations, clearly confirmed the accuracy of the NGO vision that one nation alone, even a superpower, could not produce peace between the parties when its policies and relations were consistently and overwhelmingly biased in favour of one party.

Now was the time, he added, to return to the United Nations as the epicentre of any international search for peace and for the United Nations to step forward and fulfil the convener role. Although it was 26 years old, the land-for-peace formula squarely addressed the illegality of protracted occupation and reminded the international community that, despite sophistry to the contrary, whole sections of international law applied to the question of Palestine.

FAROUK KADDOUMI, head of the Political Department of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, expressed thanks to all those who participated in the observance of the International Day and for the messages of solidarity sent by heads of State and foreign ministers of various countries.

He said the work of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People had had great impact on the cause of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian situation had reached a boiling stage because of the failure of the peace process. Since the peace agreement was signed in Oslo, Israel had made promises which it had not kept.


* *** *
______________________________________________________________________
For information media - not an official record