The observer of Palestine said the Palestinian National Authority had worked to improve the living conditions of its people, despite the difficulties imposed by Israel. He expressed appreciation for international assistance to the Palestinian people, welcoming in particular the work of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Ukraine, Malaysia, Argentina, Egypt, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 25 November, to consider efforts to strengthen the United Nations system.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its consideration of efforts to strengthen the coordination of United Nations humanitarian and disaster-relief assistance. It had before it a related report by the Secretary-General (document A/51/172), as well as reports on assistance to Mozambique, the southern Africa front-line States, Liberia, States affected by Security Council sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the Palestinian people.
ABDULLAH AHMAD (Malaysia) said that despite the pledges of economic assistance for the Palestinian people, the situation on the ground must be kept in mind. Domestic unemployment had risen sharply because business, trade and commerce had no access to external markets. Early in September, the world had witnessed yet another spate of violence, brought about by Israel's provocative opening of a tunnel in the immediate vicinity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. All planning would come to naught if the situation on the ground did not permit the quick and effective implementation of development projects.
The momentum towards a successful conclusion of the peace process in the Middle East must be maintained and pursued by all sides, he said. Any attempts to disrupt the peace process would only aggravate instability, to the detriment of Palestinian development and overall peace and stability of the region. Israel, too could not escape that; immediate implementation of the Middle East peace process was to Israel's advantage.
SOLIMAN AWAAD (Egypt) said his country's assistance to the Palestinian people was necessary because of the situation in the West Bank. After the election of the Palestinian Authority, Egypt had helped train the police officers who now formed the core of the Palestinian police. It had taken part in a wide range of activities involving the areas of nursing, medical services, and all kinds of economic projects. However, Egypt's role was not confined to assistance in kind. It was also prompting others to help the Palestinian Authority, so that people might realize its many dreams, including the dream of peace. He praised the role of such bodies such as the Department for Humanitarian Affairs, but stressed that coordination must be strengthened and coordinated. All the parties concerned had reaffirmed their commitment to Palestinian development efforts. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had taken commendable initiatives. The Palestinian people were now taking the first steps on the road to development. He urged the international community to fulfil their promises of assistance, for the achievement of that lofty objective.
EVIATAR MANOR (Israel) said that Israel was fully aware of the importance of economic growth and prosperity to the political stability of the Middle East. It therefore supported the provision of substantial economic assistance to the Palestinians, which would help achieve a greater measure of peace and stability in the region. Israel had taken active steps to improve the economic and social conditions of the Palestinians. Donor countries were meeting this week in Paris, with Israel's active participation, to review the state of contributions to the Palestinians. He said Israel had been cooperating fully with various United Nations and other international organizations for many years, in implementing of programmes aimed at improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The United Nations should increase its efforts and funding to assist the Palestinians in the territories, thus facilitating implementation of the agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians.
MOHAMMED JASSIM SAMHAN AL-NUAIMI (United Arab Emirates) ...
... On the question of Palestine, he said that statistical reports had shown a clear recession in the Palestine economy as a result of coercive measures taken by Israel. The Palestinian people were suffering from what constituted a blatant violation of the peace accords.
MARWAN JILANI, observer for Palestine, said the economic situation and living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, had worsened over the past two years. The gross domestic product (GDP) dropped by nearly 9 per cent in 1995, and a 15 per cent drop was anticipated for 1996. While the per capita income of Palestinians had dropped from $2,600 to $1,800, it was approximately $16,000 in Israel. The Palestinian unemployment rate had reached 50 per cent, exports had dropped by 50 per cent, and the budget deficit of the Palestinian National Authority was increasing. International assistance had been offset by the Israeli policies and measures that had been the main cause of the deterioration of the situation.
He said Israel's closure of the Palestinian territory had obstructed freedom of movement of both persons and goods, and led to a dramatic fall in the number of Palestinians working in Israel, at a cost of some $7 million per day. The Israelis had also waged a campaign to obstruct any independent Palestinian franchising rights with foreign companies, essentially obstructing possible Palestinian joint ventures with foreign capital.
In spite of all difficulties, the Palestinian National Authority had been working very hard to improve the living conditions of its people, he said. The assistance efforts of the international community were greatly appreciated. In particular, the work of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories had greatly enhanced the activities of the United Nations in the Palestinian territory.