UNISPAL Home

French text: French.pdf
Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Fifty-eighth General Assembly
Plenary
65th Meeting (PM)
GA/10211
1 December 2003

SPEAKERS IN GENERAL ASSEMBLY REAFFIRM SUPPORT FOR MIDDLE EAST ROAD MAP, REGRET LACK OF PROGRESS IN ITS IMPLEMENTATION


Reaffirming the unanimous international commitment to the “Road Map” for Middle East peace as the basis for the resolution of the question of Palestine, speakers in the General Assembly this afternoon deplored the lack of progress in its implementation and emphasized the need for the United Nations to remain seized of the situation. 

The Road Map, presented by the “Quartet” – the United States, Russian Federation, European Union and the United Nations – calls on both sides to take a series of reciprocal steps leading to the establishment of two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security. 

Introducing the four draft resolutions before the Assembly, Papa Louis Fall (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted that there had been hardly any progress in the implementation of the Road Map and that, despite years of efforts, the occupying Power – Israel – had persisted in its illegal actions in the occupied territory.

Twice in the past three months, he added, the Assembly had reconvened its tenth emergency special session to address illegal actions in the occupied territories.  The international community must remain at the forefront of the search for a solution and the United Nations must maintain its permanent responsibility towards all aspects of the question of Palestine until it was resolved satisfactorily.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Italy’s representative reiterated his commitment to the creation of two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security, as called for in the Road Map.  Urging all sides in the region to immediately implement policies conducive to dialogue and negotiation, he also called on all States to actively cooperate in the fight against terrorism and to abstain from supporting terrorist organizations.

Expressing special concern over the route marked out for the so-called security fence in the occupied West Bank, he said the envisaged departure from the “Green Line” could prejudice future negotiations and make it physically impossible to implement the two-State solution.  It would also exacerbate the Palestinians’ humanitarian and economic hardship.  Israel should stop its settlement policy and withdraw from Palestinian cities to pre-September 2000 positions.

The Observer for Palestine stated that Israel had obstructed all international initiatives to calm the situation and had damaged all political developments in its construction of the separation wall.  Although, in order to reassure the international community, the Prime Minister of Israel had declared his willingness to accept a Palestinian State, he had only envisaged that State on a percentage of the occupied territories.  The Palestinian resistance was the affirmation of the political presence of a people under occupation, and as long as the occupation continued, so too would the opposition.

Also taking United States policy to task, the Observer said that Palestinians had waited for the super-Power to help deter Israel from its terrorist actions, in the hope that an environment conducive to the peace process would be established.  Instead, the United States had encouraged terrorism and Israel’s aggression in the Middle East.

Victor Camilleri (Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the report of the Committee.

Also addressing the Assembly were the representatives of Algeria, Iran, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Egypt and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 2 December, to continue its consideration of the question of Palestine and take up its consideration of the situation in the Middle East.

Background

The General Assembly met this afternoon to begin its consideration of the question of Palestine.

The report of the Secretary-General on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/58/416-S/2003/947) notes that the past year witnessed the emergence of some hope of a turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as for the first time since September 2000, both parties – with the active assistance of the international community – committed themselves to serious and meaningful negotiations to halt the violence and reach a peaceful settlement.  However, renewed violence in the latter half of August 2003 signalled the breakdown of the ceasefire and a reversal in progress.  Consequently, the implementation of the Road Map has been frozen, and some steps have actually been reversed.

The members of the Quartet – the Russian Federation, United States, European Union and the United Nations – had called on the Palestinian Authority to make all possible efforts to halt the activities of groups and individuals planning and conducting terror attacks against Israelis.  Also, while recognizing Israel’s right to self-defence, it called on that State to respect international humanitarian law, to exert maximum efforts to avoid civilian casualties among the Palestinians and pointed out that steps must be taken to improve the humanitarian situation and to normalize the daily lives of the Palestinian people.

While there had been notable progress in reforming the Palestinian Authority in 2003 – including the creation of the post of Prime Minister, the report states that during the same period, Israel persisted in its efforts to confine Mr. Arafat to his headquarters in the West Bank.  Moreover, on 11 September 2003, the Israeli security cabinet agreed in principle on the removal of Mr. Arafat from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  The Israeli security cabinet has been strongly urged to reconsider that decision, as the forcible transfer of Mr. Arafat would be dangerous and counterproductive, given the instability in the region.

Also emphasizing the importance of parallelism – the principle upon which the Road Map is based – the report notes that previous attempts to bring peace to the region have failed because of their reliance on sequentialism.  The international community has a crucial role to play in assisting the parties to address security, economic, humanitarian and political issues at the same time.

The number of casualties in the past three years speaks eloquently to the need to persevere in achieving a lasting resolution to the conflict – since September 2000, more than 2,800 Palestinians and 800 Israelis have been killed.  Moreover, during the period covered by the report, Israel continued its policy of demolishing houses as a reaction to security incidents.  Continued Israeli settlement construction activity and the building of a separation wall are two key challenges to the fulfilment of the Road Map’s goal of the two-State solution.

The humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinian people also continued to deteriorate in the past year, the report adds, as a direct result of the policy of systematic closures and curfews and its impact on Palestinian social and economic life.  Unprecedented movement restrictions imposed on United Nations and non-governmental organization personnel also worsened the humanitarian situation.

The inter-agency United Nations humanitarian action plan, released in November 2002, includes activities to reinforce existing relief programmes and to provide temporary assistance to the affected population in priority sectors.  Up to mid-September, donor governments had provided a total of $106,467,347, or 37.4 per cent of the amount needed to cover all activities outlined in the action plan.  Thus, calling on the international community to provide the resources necessary, the Secretary-General says the United Nations will continue to support the peace process and will remain at the forefront of efforts to alleviate the severe social and economic hardships of the Palestinian people.

According to its report (document A/58/35), the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People remains concerned about the lack of serious headway made in the political process, as well as by the absence of any tangible improvement in the security area.  Remaining hopeful that the situation could be redressed through the efforts of the Quartet, its individual members and other regional and international players, the Committee feels that the United Nations should maintain its permanent responsibility with respect to all aspects of the question of Palestine, until it is resolved in a satisfactory manner.

The Security Council could, and should, encourage steps towards creating an effective mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the Road Map and for the protection of the Palestinian population, including through authorizing the deployment of international observers.  Among other recommendations, the report notes the Committee’s strong opposition to the illegal construction by the occupying Power of the wall in the occupied West Bank and in areas close to East Jerusalem and calls on the international community to attach the necessary importance to the issue, with a view to stopping the de facto annexation of Palestinian land and the construction of the wall.

In addition to commending the contributions made by the Division of Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat and the special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information, the report notes that the Committee’s programme of international and regional meetings and conferences helps to promote a constructive analysis and discussion of the various aspects of the question of Palestine, to mobilize international assistance to the Palestinian people and to raise awareness as to the root causes of the conflict.  Appreciation for the involvement of governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society in those meetings is expressed and proposed themes for future meetings provided.

The Assembly also had before it a draft resolution entitled Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/58/L.23), by the terms of which it would request the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people.  The Assembly would also authorize the Committee to make such adjustments to the approved programme of work, as it may consider appropriate and necessary in light of developments and to report thereon to the Assembly at its fifty-ninth session and thereafter.

By the terms of the draft resolution on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (document A/58/L.24), the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to provide the Division with the necessary resources and to ensure that it continues to carry out its work as detailed in relevant earlier resolutions.  It would also request the Secretary-General to ensure the continued cooperation of the Department of Public Information and other units of the Secretariat in enabling the Division to perform its tasks and request the Committee on Palestinian Rights and the Division to continue to organize an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The draft resolution on the special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (document A/58/L.25) would have the Assembly request the Department, in full cooperation and coordination with the Committee on Palestinian Rights, to continue, with the necessary flexibility as may be required by developments affecting the question of Palestine, its special information programme for the biennium 2003-2004, including through disseminating information on all the activities of the United Nations system relating to the question of Palestine; organizing international, regional and national seminars or encounters for journalists, aiming at sensitizing public opinion to the question of Palestine; and continuing to provide assistance to the Palestinian people in the field of media development.

By the terms of the draft resolution on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/58/L.26/Rev.1), the Assembly would call on both parties to fulfil their obligations in implementation of the Road Map by taking parallel and reciprocal steps, and stress the importance and urgency of establishing a credible and effective third-party monitoring mechanism, including all members of the Quartet. 

The Assembly would also call on the concerned parties, the Quartet and other interested parties to exert all efforts and undertake initiatives to halt the deterioration of the situation, to reverse all measures taken on the ground since 28 September 2000 and to ensure a successful and speedy resumption of the peace process and the conclusion of a final peaceful settlement.  Also, it would urge Member States to expedite the provision of economic, humanitarian and technical assistance to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority. 

Statements

PAPA LOUIS FALL (Senegal), Chairman, Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that there had hardly been any progress in implementation of the Quartet’s Road Map.  Despite years of efforts, the occupying Power had persisted in its illegal actions in the occupied territory.  Palestinians had long suffered the effects of closures and curfews – a particularly harsh form of collective punishment, affecting their livelihood and hindering access to their work, schools and families.  The international community observed with great alarm the developments, including obstruction in the delivery of humanitarian services to the needy, especially in the refugee camps, and extrajudicial killings.

He recalled that, in the past three months, the Assembly had reconvened its Tenth Emergency Special Session twice to address such actions.  Tired of the escalating violence and frustrated by the lack of process in peace negotiations, prominent Israelis and Palestinians from civil society had reached out to each other, in order to explore other possible paths that might end the impasse.  While those initiatives could not take the place of official negotiations between the parties’ leaderships, the civil society groups deserved praise and encouragement for their courageous work.

Referring to other positive developments, he welcomed the confirmation last month of Ahmed Qurei as Prime Minister, as well as confirmation of the new Cabinet.  Also, negotiations were continuing among various Palestinian organizations for a possible renewal of a ceasefire with Israel.  Israeli Prime Minister Sharon recently reiterated his Government’s acceptance of the Road Map, although he still referred to 14 so-called “clarifications”.  Meanwhile, the Committee called on Israel to cease all acts of intimidation and harassment of Palestinians everywhere, to lift closures and curfews, and to immediately put a stop to construction of the separation wall and expansionist settlements.  The Committee expected that a ceasefire would be worked out and implemented as soon as possible.

The international community must remain at the forefront of the search for a solution, he said. The United Nations should maintain its permanent responsibility towards all aspects of the question of Palestine until it was resolved satisfactorily.  In that context, he introduced the four draft resolutions approved by the Committee (documents A/58/L.23, L.24, L.25 and L.26/Rev.1).  The first three related, respectively, to the work of the Committee, the work of the Division for Palestinian Rights, and the work of the Department of Public Information.  The fourth, entitled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”, reflected the Assembly’s position with regard to the essential elements of a settlement and included references to the developments of the past year and recent weeks.

VICTOR CAMILLERI (Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the report of the Committee, which covered developments related to the question of Palestine, the peace process and the activities of the Committee during the past year.  The report’s fourth chapter provided a review of the situation, with special emphasis on various specific aspects, including Israeli actions in response to the intifada; settlement activity; implications of the construction of the wall in the West Bank; the situation with respect to Palestinian prisoners; the humanitarian situation and the state of the Palestinian economy; the situation with respect to water resources available to the Palestinians; action by the United Nations system; and the continuing difficulties faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The report’s fifth chapter, he continued, provided a review of the action taken by the Committee, including action aimed at promoting Palestinian rights in the United Nations and a detailed account of the implementation of the programme of work of the Committee and of the Division for Palestinian Rights.  The report’s sixth chapter provided an overview of the work done by the Department of Public Information, while the final chapter contained the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations.

In addition to expressing the Committee’s concern over the lack of serious headway in the political process and the absence of any tangible improvement in the area of security, he said the final section emphasized the United Nations’ permanent responsibility with respect to all aspects of the question of Palestine until its satisfactory resolution.  Furthermore, the critical peacemaking role of the Security Council was stressed.  Among other things, the Council was urged to take steps to create an effective mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the Road Map and for the protection of the Palestinian population, including through the deployment of international observers.

Finally, having affirmed the Committee’s support for the Road Map and its strong opposition to the illegal construction of the separation wall, the report also commended the involvement of governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society in its programme of work, as well as the essential contributions of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat and the Department of Public Information.

FAROUK KADDOUMI, Observer for Palestine, said that during the past three years of the Palestinian intifada, Israel had worked hard to destroy all the symbols and achievements of the Oslo Agreement.  The Israeli escalation had reached its peak with the siege of Palestinian President Arafat, with which Israel had set a precedent in taking a formal and public decision to liquidate Mr. Arafat.  Israel had also obstructed all international initiatives to calm the situation and had damaged all political developments in its construction of the separation wall.  Israel had also endorsed a law preventing the return of refugees to areas occupied in 1948.  However, the most important of Israel’s actions remained its success in imposing its own agenda on all peace initiatives.

Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, had claimed, upon his ascension to power, to work towards security for Israel, he noted.  Yet, three years later, he had failed to make good on that promise.  In truth, Mr. Sharon had wished only to seize Palestinian land to satisfy his greedy desire.  He had seized land for settlements and built the racist wall and, instead of being opposed, he had been supported by the United States, whose President had declared that Israel had the right to defend itself.

He recalled that from the same podium, one year earlier, Israeli Ambassador, Yehuda Lancry had announced his Government’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian State.  However, Mr. Sharon, who envisaged only a military solution to the situation, had quickly repudiated Mr. Lancry.  And although, in order to reassure the international community, Mr. Sharon had declared his willingness to accept a Palestinian State, he had only envisaged that State on a percentage of the occupied territories.  In that regard, the Palestinian intifada had refuted Sharon’s statements as to the need for more force to resolve the situation.  The lesson one could derive from the past three years was that a solution would not be imposed by force, but guaranteed by diplomacy and politics.  The Palestinian resistance was the affirmation of the political presence of a people under occupation, and as long as the occupation continued, so too would the opposition.

The Palestinians, he concluded, had waited for the United States to help deter Israel from its terrorist actions, in the hope that an environment conducive to the peace process would be established.  Instead, the United States had encouraged terrorism and Israel’s aggression in the Middle East.  How could a super-Power, which had embarked on a policy of combating terrorism, at the same time encourage a State – Israel – that had usurped Palestinian land and continued its aggressive behaviour against other neighbouring countries?  How could the United States wonder at the lack of success of its campaign against terrorism and the hate its policies engendered internationally?  What was President Bush’s goal in agreeing to exile President Arafat, the elected leader of the Palestinian Authority, or in refusing to limit Israel’s right to “defend” itself?

ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union was committed to the creation of two States – Israel and a viable, democratic Palestine – living side by side in peace and security, as called for in the Road Map.  He urged all sides in the region to immediately implement policies conducive to dialogue and negotiations; strongly condemned the suicide attacks and other acts of violence in the last few months; and called on all countries to actively cooperate in the fight against terrorism and to abstain from supporting terrorist organizations.

He was particularly concerned with the route marked out for the so-called security fence in the occupied West Bank, saying that the envisaged departure of the route from the “Green Line” could prejudice future negotiations and make it physically impossible to implement the two-State solution.  It would exacerbate the Palestinians’ humanitarian and economic hardship.  Thousands of Palestinians west of the fence were being cut off from essential West Bank services, while Palestinians east of the fence would be denied access to land and water resources.

He called on Israel to stop its settlement policy and to immediately dismantle settlements built after March 2001, as well as to lift the blockade on the occupied territories and withdraw from Palestinian cities to pre-September 2000 positions.  Moreover, Israel must provide humanitarian personnel with full, safe and unfettered access to the occupied territories, in accordance with international humanitarian law.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that in the past year, the Israeli army had relentlessly pursued its policy of extrajudicial killings, the pounding of refugee camps, and the destruction of property and houses.  It systematically blocked access to humanitarian organizations, choking all socio-economic life and radically obstructing the functioning of what remained of the Palestinian Authority.  That policy of making the worst of things against a population wounded in body and soul could only further diminish all chances of peace, while fuelling despair and rendering the Palestinians unable to satisfy their most elementary needs, ever fearing for their lives and security.

He said he had followed with deep concern the deterioration of the situation in the occupied territory and reiterated his firm condemnation of the inhumane practices perpetrated against the Palestinians.  He also reiterated his firm support for the heroic struggle being waged by that proud people to fulfil their inalienable national rights.  Israel was committing the worst acts, in order to deprive Palestinians of minimal security.  It was also imposing security demands on the Palestinian Authority, which was virtually destroyed.  President Arafat was now the object of a decision of expulsion, both scandalous and illegal.  Israel was pursuing a policy of occupation and territorial expansion and denying the existence of Palestinian institutions, in deliberate contravention of its obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

In fact, he continued, Israel was redrawing on the ground a new map of the occupied territories and appropriating more lands to satisfy its “territorial voraciousness”.  By constructing the “wall of shame”, Israel was committing one further crime, which was totally unjust and depriving tens of thousands of Palestinians of their livelihoods and annexing vast expanses of occupied Palestinian land.  That threatened to further impoverish and isolate the refugees and further destroy the integrity of the territory.  Furthermore, building the wall directly threatened peace and negated the Road Map, which the Security Council had finally endorsed.  The report before the Assembly had established that Israel had not complied with the demands in the last Assembly resolution.  Thus, the international community should take measures to “make it conform” with international legality.

By rejecting Security Council resolution 1515, Israel had turned its back on peace, with the confidence of its impunity, he said.  Faced with that situation, the international community must act without delay.  Any delay in implementing the Road Map could only increase the distress of the Palestinians and encourage Israel to pursue new “fait accompli” and reduce to nothing every chance of settlement.  It fell to the Quartet, in particular, to shoulder its responsibilities.  At the same time, the Council should be called on to set up a mechanism to ensure the Road Map’s implementation, according to a specific timetable.  That mechanism could take the form of a multinational force, with a view to ensuring stability and calm in the region.

MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) said aggression and violence by Israel in 2003 had taken a heavy toll on Palestinian lives and properties.  Since September 2000, more than 2,800 Palestinians had been killed and more than 46,600 wounded.  At a time when Palestinians struggled for their basic rights, it was unfair and unacceptable that the daily criminal practices of the occupying regime enjoyed outside support.  During the review period, the occupying Power continued territorial expansion, building illegal settlements and road networks.  It had also continued closures and curfews; severely restricted the movement of Palestinians and access to medical centres, schools and work places; and continued construction of the “separation wall” despite strong international opposition.

In the past year, Israel’s formal, targeted assassination policy claimed the lives of more than 50 Palestinians, he continued.  Such killings were a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, and a clear manifestation of Israeli State terrorism, which the world body should oppose in unison.  The Palestinians’ legitimate right to defend their dignity and liberate their homeland should not be equated with terrorism.  Their resistance against foreign occupation and brutal oppression was self-defence aimed at self-determination.  Their right to self-determination and the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland were of particular importance.  It was time for the international community to end Israel’s policy of aggression and occupation.  He appealed to all Member States to join in solidarity with the Palestinian people as they strive to regain their homeland and establish an independent State.

TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR (Bahrain) said that, despite all attempts to establish a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, Israel had continued to create a volatile security situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, using weak pretexts to forward its occupationist policies.  Among other worrying aspects of the situation were the imposition of a curfew and the use of excessive and indiscriminate force, including the use of certain ammunitions that many believed should be banned.  Moreover, instead of freezing settlement activities to create confidence, Israel had continued its settlement activities, in contradiction to Road Map stipulations relevant to the removal of settlements established since March 2000.

The geographic distribution of those settlements continued to undermine Palestinian growth and development, he added.  Moreover, in continuing to build the illegal separation wall, Israel’s actions would have repercussions directly affecting the lives of more than 200,000 Palestinians.  If the wall was not removed, and if it prevented access to clean water sources, it would lead to the ruin of Palestinian agricultural land and damage the flow of social resources.  Israel had, furthermore, confiscated Palestinian land to build the “Jerusalem” barrier.  The report of the Secretary-General on the question of Palestine had noted the quick expansion of settlements around East Jerusalem, which effectively separated East Jerusalem from West Bank territories, in contradiction of relevant United Nations resolutions.

A simple analysis of Israel’s policies led to the conclusion that they completely contradicted international standards, including international law, he concluded.  And as the question of Palestine lay at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the solution of that conflict necessitated the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions and of the Road Map.  It also required supporting the efforts of the Quartet and the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories, as well as enabling the Palestinian people to practise their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination.

ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that, despite the success achieved by the United Nations during the past five decades in the field of decolonization, the granting of independence to oppressed people and ensuring their exercise of the right of self-determination, the most prominent and dangerous case of colonization still existed, namely the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  That had had devastating effects on the Palestinian and Arab humanitarian, social, environmental and economic conditions, and “threatened to explode the security situation” in the region and the world. 

He said it had been an Israeli strategic policy to obstruct any solution to the Palestinian problem.  That was aimed at preventing the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, perpetuating the occupation and the illegal annexation of Palestine, and continuing its aggression against the indigenous Arabs by displacing them in dire refugee camps and stripping them of their legal connection to their homeland, Palestine.  The persistence and determination of the successive Israeli governments, including the present one, to adopt policies of colonization, expansion and illegal settlements-building, land confiscation and wide-ranging genocidal crimes, were war crimes and should not be “hushed up”. 

To ensure the establishment of a de facto situation of illegal expansionism and settlement plans in Palestinian land, the Israeli Government had exploited the international campaign against terrorism to divert attention from those practices and justify its aggression and repeated incursion of Palestinian cities, he said.  It had also launched a series of campaigns and false allegations against the Palestinian Authority, in order to justify the siege and aggression it imposed on it and its security institutions, aiming to weaken that and facilitate construction of what it called the “separation security wall”.  That was a racial wall in the heart of Palestinian lands, thus, unilaterally defining the borders of the “State of Great Israel” in the region and closing the road to any possibility towards implementing the Road Map.

He said that the international community must refrain from resorting to a policy of double standards.  It should take immediate measures to guarantee international protection for the Palestinian people and the release of all Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons.  It should also put an immediate end to Israeli crimes and aggression, and ensure the dismantlement of illegal Israeli settlements, and the full, unconditioned withdrawal from all Palestinian and Arab lands.  It should also ensure the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes, as well as the establishment of the independent Palestinian State with Al-Quds Al Sharif as its capital.  Otherwise, that strategically important region would remain in a state of escalating tension and instability, which would, in turn, affect regional and international peace and security.

Mr. BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said the international community must act resolutely to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions on the Middle East conflict, including that which reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to implementing the Road Map, as the framework for the resolution of the Palestinian question.  That resolution also set forth the need for both parties to abide by the goal of two States living in peace and security.  Moreover, the establishment of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace necessitated the complete withdrawal of Israel from the Syrian Golan.  It was also important that the international community draw lessons from the last decade to avoid factors that had in the past undermined the peace process.  That would create conditions conducive to the successful implementation of the Road Map.

The Quartet’s actions to ensure the implementation of the Road Map had been anticipated with hope, he added, and should include the building of trust between the two parties and the opening of negotiations for the realization of the rights of the Palestinians.  Furthermore, the international community bore a heightened responsibility to put to an end the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.  His country held that ensuring protection for the Palestinian people was of particular importance and fully consonant with the Road Map.  In that regard, the specialized agencies of the United Nations system were called on to continue to fulfil their essential role in support of the Palestinian people and administration.  Moreover, the reconstruction of the Palestinian infrastructure was an international responsibility.

SAMI KRONFOL (Lebanon) noted that the question of Palestine had been brought before the General Assembly every year, as the situation continued to grow and to worsen.  However, both the Assembly and the Security Council continued to adopt resolutions, which Israel continued to refuse to implement.  Israel continued to pursue its policy, which was based on the following aspects:  increasing the number of Jewish inhabitants by bringing them from the diaspora; increasing the number of settlements, including through the annexation of the greatest possible amounts of land and water sources; calling on the States of the West to provide material and military assistance in compensation for the victims of the Holocaust in order to build up the Israeli military apparatus; preventing the Palestinians from returning to their homeland; and preventing the establishment of the Palestinian State.

All Israeli Governments had pursued that expansionist policy, he said, although some had prevaricated more than others.  Thus, the question of Palestine remained unresolved, which led to other ramifications, including the destabilization of the regional situation.  However, during the 56 years that had elapsed since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Palestinians had proved their steadfast loyalty to the land in face of the tyranny imposed upon them by groups alien to the region and to its brave, resisting peoples.  Yet, it was alarming to note that the international community, because of its extreme commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts, had failed to stand up to Israel.  Instead, that State had been allowed to become an outlaw State, which did not respect international resolutions and pursued policies of embezzlement and terrorism.

RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) reaffirmed his country’s support to the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people in their struggle to achieve their inalienable rights.  Malaysia remained committed to assisting President Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Ahmed Quarei and his cabinet in their efforts to achieve peace and establish the State of Palestine.  It was highly regrettable that the General Assembly debate was taking place amid bloody and incessant military operations by Israel against innocent Palestinians, that had continued unabated for the past three years.  That Israeli campaign had resulted in horrific human and material losses, caused untold misery and destruction and had created a humanitarian emergency of an unprecedented scale in the occupied Palestinian territory.

He expressed deep regret that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory remained grave and volatile and Palestinians continued to suffer from the oppressive and inhuman policies of the occupying Power.  A real easing of tensions, despite the efforts of the Quartet and the international community, was yet to be witnessed.  Instead, Israel had intensified its military operations, which had resulted in further killing and injuring of innocent Palestinian civilians.  Illegal Israeli settlement activities had also increased.  All those actions, he noted, deserved the strongest condemnation.  He urged Israel to stop those actions without further delay and demonstrate instead to the international community that it was genuinely committed to a peaceful solution, rather than a military one.  Israel should not be allowed to employ the issues of security and protection of its citizens against terrorism as excuses to take oppressive and violent measures to justify its activities against the Palestinian people.

Continuing, he stated that the violence inflicted on innocent civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis, deserved equal condemnation.  But he believed such violence was due to Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.  Therefore, it was incumbent on Israel to realize that faithful acceptance and implementation of the Road Map leading to a permanent two-State solution was crucial to achieve peace.  That was the key to peace and security between both parties.  In that regard, he expressed the hope that Security Council resolution 1515 would encourage both sides to resume faithfully the peace process and lead to the implementation of the Road Map in earnest and without further delay.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Bangladesh reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian people.  It had seen the conditions under which they lived in the occupied territories, as well as the continued violation of fundamental human rights by the occupation forces.  Despite occasional glimmers of hope, the peace process remained stalled.  Activities by Israel, such as illegal settlement-building, seriously undermined international efforts for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

He called on the international community to act in unison with renewed vigour and a greater resolve.  He was convinced that a comprehensive peace in the Middle East could only be guaranteed through full and unconditional implementation of all relevant United Nations resolutions.  His country remained unflinchingly committed to achieving genuine peace in that region.  That would require concerted efforts by the parties and a cessation of violence by all sides.  The safety and security of President Arafat was also of paramount importance and must be guaranteed.  A yearning for peace was in the hearts of everyone in that region; they should follow the teachings of their faiths for peace, tolerance and harmony.

ANEIL MATHRANI (India) said that the situation between Israelis and Palestinians remained a matter of abiding and profound concern for the international community.  The renewed upsurge of violence since August had derailed the peace process.  Consequently, implementation of the Road Map had been frozen and some steps had, in fact, been reversed.  He was deeply dismayed and gravely concerned at the spiral of violence, revenge and escalation in the region.  The number of casualties spoke for itself.  Behind each and every one of those figures were stories of human loss and suffering.  Bombs had been set off in cafes and restaurants, and attacks had been carried out against public transport, including schools and buses, creating a climate of fear and watchfulness.

He said his country strongly condemned all acts of terrorism and violence and reiterated its position that there was no justification, whatsoever, for attacks against unarmed civilians, women and children.  Only an immediate and complete cessation of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction, could provide an environment conducive to dialogue.  The setbacks in the quest for peace had also had a deleterious effect on the humanitarian conditions in the occupied territories.  According to a World Bank report published in May, 92,000 Palestinians had lost their jobs in Israel and the Israeli settlements, while another 105,000 jobs had been lost in the occupied Palestinian territory.  Now, 60 percent of the Palestinian population was living below the poverty line.

Unfortunately, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had become a victim or target of continuing hostilities.  Six UNRWA staff members were killed during the past year.  The environment in which the Agency now had to carry out its operations continued to negatively affect its ability to deliver services.  Closures and blockades should be lifted, unhindered access should be allowed for humanitarian supplies and the finances should be released to the Palestinian Authority to alleviate the grave situation and avert further crises.  Continued Israeli settlement activity and the building of a wall further exacerbated an already aggravated situation, and should be halted.

AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said that the Road Map was a focal point which had received universal support and had given hope in overcoming the tragic situation facing the people of Palestine.  Egypt had continued to expend relentless efforts for a favourable climate for resumed negotiations, leading to the establishment of two neighbouring States.  There had been moments of hope, but others had been fraught with violence and confrontation.  In the face of that sad situation, there could be no tranquility or stability, except through commitment to the faithful implementation of the Road Map.  That should be based on, first, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State on all Palestinian territories occupied since the war of 1967, including East Jerusalem, as well as security for both States through agreed measures that commended the consent of both parties. 

He said that the entire international community had affirmed the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements, which must be renounced.  The continued building of the separation wall had had a devastating effect on the desired resolution of the conflict.  A necessary priority must be the rebuilding of confidence between the parties, in order to pave the way towards a solution.  That included halting settlement activities and the building of the wall, and ending all acts of violence.  The international community should “buckle down” and set up a mechanism that would enable implementation of the Road Map through serious negotiations.  In that context, he welcomed Security Council resolution 1515 (2003), and hoped it would be implemented and would enjoy universal compliance. 

ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said he was gravely concerned about the ongoing violence and disproportionate use of force that had brought great loss of lives, material and destruction on an unprecedented scale.  Both sides needed to exercise maximum restraint, persevere in negotiations and speed up on the road towards a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, based on the Quartet’s Road Map. 

He renewed his country’s call to the international community, especially the Quartet, to continue making political and diplomatic efforts that would support and promote negotiations between Israel and Palestine with the aim of finding a peaceful final settlement of the ongoing conflict.  That was the best way to end the violence before it spread even further.  He further reaffirmed support to the Palestinian people under the leadership of President Yasser Arafat in their struggle to exercise their inalienable rights to self-determination, including the right to create a Palestinian sovereign State living side by side and in peace with other countries in the region.  He also reaffirmed that only dialogue, rather than confrontation, would bring peace and security and that the question of Palestine could only be resolved by peaceful means, in accordance with the principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

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