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


Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
274th Meeting (AM)
GA/PAL/932
9 October 2003


BUILDING OF SEPARATION WALL, CONTINUING SETTLEMENT ACTIVITIES HARMFUL TO CHANCES OF ACHIEVING PEACE, PALESTINE RIGHTS COMMITTEE TOLD

Palestine Observer Says Recent Quartet Statement
Not Reflective of Tense, Serious Nature of Discussion


Noting that the international community was approaching a moment of truth, the Permanent Observer for Palestine warned the Palestinian Rights Committee today that the building of the separation wall and the continuation of settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories would harm the chances of achieving a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Updating the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on recent developments in the occupied Palestinian territory, Nasser Al-Kidwa said it was an “either-or” situation:  either a two-State solution or perpetual conflict.  Responding to the “latest Israeli insanity” regarding the threat to remove the elected President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, the Permanent Observer Mission had requested a meeting of the Security Council.  However, given the use of the veto by the United States, the Council had been unable to fulfil its responsibilities in the maintenance of international peace and security.

As a result, the Arab Group had invoked the Tenth Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly, he said.  The resolution adopted by the Assembly on the matter by a large majority demanded, among other things, that Israel cease any threats to the safety of the President of the Palestinian Authority. 

Describing the outcome of the latest meeting of the Quartet, held in New York as unbalanced, he believed the Quartet’s statement did not reflect the tense and serious nature of the discussion.  The formation of a new Palestinian cabinet, which would go before the Legislative Council, would open the way for a renewal of possible steps in the Middle East peace process.  Although the situation was bleak, he had not lost hope that it could begin to change.

In other business this morning, the Committee adopted its draft report to the General Assembly on its activities during the past year.  The report was introduced by the representative of Malta.

Briefing the Committee on last month’s United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, the Committee Chairman said that the plan of action adopted by the participants at the closure of the conference had focused on the mobilization of worldwide action against the construction of the separation wall by Israel.

Before concluding the meeting, the Chairman announced that the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People would take place on Monday, 1 December 2003 in the Trusteeship Council chamber.  Also, at the Committee’s next meeting, it was expected to consider four draft resolutions for submission to the Assembly under the agenda item entitled, “Question of Palestine”.

The Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.

Background

As the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning, it was expected to consider developments in the Middle East peace process and the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.  It was also expected to hear a report by the Chairman on the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, held from 4 to 5 September 2003 in New York.  The Committee was also expected to take up its draft report to the General Assembly.

Statements

Mr. FALL (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee, briefed members on developments since the Committee’s last meeting.  He noted that the Security Council had met on 16 September to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.  The Sudan had introduced a draft resolution, by which the Council, among other things, would have demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, desist from any act of deportation and cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority.  The resolution had not been adopted owing to the negative vote of one permanent member of the Council. 

The resumed Tenth Emergency special session of the General Assembly had been convened on 19 September he continued.  A draft resolution, introduced by the Sudan, had repeated the demand stated in the draft resolution tabled in the Council, regarding the safety of President Arafat.  The Assembly adopted a resolution entitled, “Illegal Israeli actions in the Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory” by a vote of 133 in favour to four against with 15 abstentions.

As part of the Committee’s 2003 training programme for staff of the Palestinian Authority, he said, one staff member from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had started working in the Division for Palestinian Rights and a second was awaiting an entry visa.  The two Palestinian professionals would be with the Division for the Assembly’s current session.

Mr. FALL (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee, reported on the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People held on 4 and 5 September.  He said the conference had been a major event at a time when, despite all the efforts by the parties and the international community, confrontation and violence had reigned on the ground, bringing the political process set in motion by the Road Map, to a halt.

He said the Plan of Action, adopted by the participants at the closure of the conference, focused on the mobilization of worldwide action against the construction of the separation wall by Israel.  Participating civil society organizations had also sent a letter, in that regard, to the Secretary-General and the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council.

Among those attending the conference, were representatives of 350 Non-Governmental organizations, 140 civil society organizations, 64 government delegations, three intergovernmental organizations, 10 United Nations system entities, students and representatives from the media, he said.  All participants were in agreement that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land had to end.

He commended the members of the Steering Committee for an exceptional job and noted that regular conference sessions had been accompanied by a number of concurrent events such as the screening of two documentaries, powerpoint presentations and the installation of a special exhibit on the repercussions of the separation wall on the lives of Palestinians.

Introducing the Committee’s draft report, (document A/AC.183/2003/CRP.2), Committee Rapporteur VICTOR CAMILLERI (Malta) said the report provided an update of developments on the ground and efforts since 11 October 2002 to resume a political process.

Chapter I, he said, outlined the Committee’s objectives and its general perspective on the events that had taken place during the year.  Chapters II and III summarized the General Assembly mandates of the Committee, the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Department of Public Information as well as information on the organization of the Committee’s work during the year.  Chapter IV reviewed the situation relating to the question of Palestine and the relevant political developments, as monitored by the Committee during the year and Chapter V reviewed the action taken by the Committee on the promotion of Palestinian rights in the United Nations.

The report, he added, also mentioned the Committee’s concern over the lack of serious headway in the political process, its intention to continue to promote support for the Road Map and the work of the Quartet and its opposition to the illegal construction by the occupying Power of the wall in the Occupied West Bank. 

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that at the beginning of the General Assembly’s session, the Chairman of the Palestine Observer Mission had encountered a serious delay in obtaining the necessary United States visa to attend the general debate.  The Observer Mission had objected to that situation, and had considered it a serious violation of the Headquarters agreement between the United States and the United Nations.  They were assured, however, that the delay had not been political, but technical in nature.  Following an official complaint, the visa had been promptly issued.

Before the beginning of the Assembly’s session, the Palestine Observer delegation had sent personal letters to all permanent representatives and observers explaining its line of thinking regarding actions to be taken by the session, he said.  The priorities outlined by the Observer Mission, which were also reflected in the ministerial statements of the Non-Aligned Movement and Organization of the Islamic Conference, included the need to preserve and update the usual package of resolutions. 

New ideas for Assembly action had also been raised, he said, including the need to deal with Israeli credentials in a way that was consistent with international law.  The need for the Assembly to deal in a more serious and comprehensive way with Israeli war crimes had been raised, as had the expansionist conquest wall being built in the occupied territory and the need to demand its immediate dismantling.

The Permanent Observer Mission had also requested an immediate meeting of the Security Council to consider the latest “Israeli insanity”, the threat to remove the elected President of the Palestine Authority, Yasser Arafat.  The Council had not been allowed to fulfil its responsibilities in the maintenance of international peace and security due to the exercise of the veto by one of its permanent members.  The United States had prevented the Council from adopting the draft resolution before it.

The Arab Group had then invoked the Tenth Emergency Special Session, he said.  The General Assembly had adopted a resolution on the matter, demanding that Israel cease any threats to the safety of the President of the Palestinian Authority.  A large majority had adopted the resolution, reflecting the international community’s real position on the matter.

Today, the Chairman of the Arab Group had sent a letter to the President of the Council requesting an immediate meeting on the issue of the separation wall, he said.  A draft resolution, adopted by the Group, was attached to the letter.  The same subject would be brought before the Non-Aligned Movement coordinating board.  He hoped the Council would meet on the matter tomorrow, and take action on the draft at the beginning of next week. 

It was an extremely important issue, and the international community was approaching the moment of truth, he said.  Either, the building of the wall and settlement activities ceased, thereby preserving the existence of the State of Palestine, and the possibility of achieving a final settlement, or Israel would be allowed to continue with its war crimes against the Palestinian people, thus ending the two-State solution and necessitating a more radical solution or a perpetual conflict.  It was an “either-or” situation and he hoped the Council would rise to the challenge before it.

Regarding the last meeting of the Quartet, which took place in New York, he believed the Quartet’s statement was not balanced and reflected and reflected the position of one member.  The statement, he understood, did not reflect the serious and tense nature of the discussion during the meeting on issues such as the need to implement the Road Map.  The Secretary-General had made an important statement following the Quartet’s meeting, in which he called for bold steps, after the obvious fact that small steps had not worked.  He had specific proposals in mind, including one related to an international Council-mandated force under Chapter VII.  During the Quartet’s meeting, the idea of a Council resolution to support the Road Map had also been raised.

In other developments, he noted the formation of a new Palestinian cabinet, and expected that the cabinet would be presented to the Legislative Council for a vote.  He believed the matter would be positively resolved, opening the way for a renewal of possible steps for the Middle East peace process.

The situation was bleak, he said, there was currently no cause for optimism.  Nevertheless, he had not lost hope.  With more time, he believed, the situation would start to change.

Mr. FALL (Senegal), the Committee Chairman, called for concrete action to be taken, regarding the wall of separation being built by Israel and the threat to the physical security of the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat.

Quoting from an article by Abraham Burg, former president of the Israeli Knesset and a current Member of Parliament, which noted that it was time for Israel to give up its settlements and withdraw from the occupied territories, he said that indeed the time for action had come and that the article reflected the fact that the discussions of this committee echoed in Israel.

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