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Fifty-fourth General Assembly
12 December 1999
GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT HIGHLIGHTS ATMOSPHERE OF COOPERATION, RESPECT
DURING FIFTY-FOURTH SESSION, DESPITE POLITICAL DIFFERENCES
The President of the fifty-fourth General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), in his closing statement before suspending the Assembly today, highlighted the atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect that had prevailed during the session, despite the divergence of views and political differences on a wide variety of agenda items, including Security Council reform, implementation of the outcome of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development and the causes of conflict and the promotion of a durable peace and sustainable development in Africa.
Summaries of Plenary and Committee action follow.
Addressing the issues of the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, the Assembly reaffirmed the necessity of achieving a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, which it identified once more as the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict; and declared Israel's jurisdiction over Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan null and void. During the debates broad support was expressed for the Sharm-el-Sheikh Memorandum and the Wye River Memorandum. The conclusion of the Final Status Talks was also urged.
In a recorded vote, the Assembly adopted a draft resolution on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian People in the occupied Palestinian territory. Once again, it called on Israel, the occupying Power, not to exploit, to cause loss or depletion of, or to endanger the natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.
Much attention was paid during the session to the resumption of the Middle East peace process following the signing on 4 September of the Sharm el-Sheikh memorandum. Taking up the related issues of Israeli practices and the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Committee stressed that the positive momentum of the peace process must be maintained. It reaffirmed that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were illegal and demanded complete cessation of all such activities. It called upon Israel to prevent violence and guarantee the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians.
There was widespread agreement that the work of UNRWA, which has just marked its fiftieth anniversary, must continue, as more than 3.5 million Palestinian refugees remain displaced. Those refugees had borne the brunt of cost-cutting measures necessitated by the Agency's financial crisis. Most speakers welcomed UNRWA's new unified budget structure and expressed hope that the changes would result in greater transparency and efficiency.
Among Middle East-related draft resolutions approved by the Committee were texts on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories, and Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories. Others involved: temporary emergency humanitarian assistance to displaced persons; offers by Member States of grants and scholarships for higher education, including vocational training, for Palestine refugees; Palestine refugees' properties and their revenues; and the proposed University of Jerusalem "Al Quds" for Palestine refugees.
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