According to the representative of Tunisia, it was only natural for the United Nations to be following the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He called on the United Nations to continue its assistance to the Palestinians in the phase of reconstruction and requested the donors to fulfil their promises to the Palestinian people. A call was made by the representative of Yemen for the United Nations to continue to provide generous aid to the Palestinian Authority so that social and economic development might take place.
During their darkest hour, said the representative of Qatar, the only succour for the Palestinians had been provided by the United Nations in the form of its many resolutions. He added that the United Nations must take the lead in the coordination of international efforts aimed at institution building and the rehabilitation of the Palestinian infrastructure. The representative of Viet Nam stressed the importance of the United Nations maintaining its permanent responsibility with respect to the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects.
Also taking part in the discussion were the representatives of Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Mauritania, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Yemen, Cuba, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.
The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 1 December, to begin its consideration of the situation in the Middle East.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of the item on the question of Palestine. Before the Assembly were two reports: the report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/50/35) and the report of the Secretary-General (document A/50/725-S/1995/930).
The report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/50/35) reviews the situation relating to the question of Palestine and provides detailed information on the activities of the Committee, such as the seminars and symposia it sponsored in Rio de Janeiro, New York and Vienna over the past year.
During the year under review, the Committee noted with satisfaction that the peace process initiated in 1991 in Madrid had continued despite many difficulties and that the parties had affirmed its irreversibility and their determination to continue that process. The Committee emphasized that the transitional period had reached a crucial stage which required the full and effective implementation of the agreements reached, as well as confidence building measures, particularly an end to the policy of settlements, land confiscation and closures, as well as an end to acts of violence aimed at jeopardizing the peace process. The Committee expressed its firm belief that it could make a valuable contribution to the United Nations endeavours during the transitional period by continuing to promote dialogue and to educate and mobilize international action for the successful outcome of the agreements reached by the parties until a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement is achieved.
The report of the Secretary-General on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East (document A/50/725-S/1995/930) states that the past year has been important for progress in the Middle East peace process. The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip signed on 28 September 1995, represented a significant step forward in the implementation of the declaration of principles. The Secretary-General hopes that those developments, along with the ongoing implementation of the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese tracks of the Middle East peace talks, would lead to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
(For more detailed background on the two reports see Press Release GA/9016 of 29 November.)
ARTURO LACLAUSTRA (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union was committed to playing an active, constructive and balanced role to the Middle East peace process and would lend its material and political support for that purpose. The members of the Union had agreed to participate in the observation of elections to the Palestinian Council. The Union was the major donor to Palestinian causes. It aimed to assist in establishing the Palestinian Council and improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people. Next week, the second conference on aid to the Palestinian people would be held to identify the macroeconomic needs of the Palestinians and to adopt a tripartite plan of action which would define the responsibilities of the Israelis, the Palestinians and the international community.
Great success had been achieved in the peace process, he said. "This course of events, though slow, must not be halted by the enemies of peace through violent opposition." Rather, the peace process must be allowed to develop in accordance with the principles which had made the Madrid Conference possible. That should lead to a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict in general and to the question of Palestine in particular.
HAMOUD OULD ELY (Mauritania) said the peace process had come so far thanks to the tenacious efforts of the Palestinians and Israelis who, in the face of numerous obstacles, had persisted in their quest for peace. The tragic and sudden death of one of the main authors of the peace process, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, had, far from weakening that determination, only served to reaffirm the commitment to peace. Mauritania continued to support the realization of a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the total withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied Arab territories, including Al Quds Al-Sharif.
He welcomed the accord reached last year between Jordan and Israel, as well as the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip signed on 28 September in Washington which envisaged the holding of general Palestinian elections next January. It was hoped that progress would also be achieved in the negotiations between Israel and Syria as well as those between Israel and Lebanon. The United Nations must continue to play an active role in the peace process, especially through the provision of economic and social assistance to the Palestinians in all occupied territories.
H.L. DE SILVA (Sri Lanka) said the peace process had been rendered more vulnerable by the tragic assassination of one of its principle architects, the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin. "It is imperative that, notwithstanding this shocking and deplorable event, all parties involved continue to maintain the momentum generated by these agreements in order to ensure the smooth progress of the peace process." While the efforts of those working to move the peace process forward were welcome, the United Nations retained permanent responsibility for the question of Palestine until a comprehensive and lasting solution is reached. In the construction of their state, the Palestinian people would require international assistance. The United Nations should mobilize resources for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of lands that become self-governing and free.
He went on to say that frequent travel restrictions imposed on Palestinians had caused immense hardship. Although the closures were proclaimed for reasons of security, the Israeli authorities should do their utmost to minimize the economic hardships incurred. The continued pursuit of land confiscation and settlements had run contrary to Israel's obligations and adversely affected the peace process. At the same time, there had been acts of violence aimed at disrupting the peace process. "The groups that remain outside the peace negotiations on Palestine should be urged to recognize the wishes of the Palestinian people for a peaceful solution to the complex issues of the Palestinian question."
HOANG THI CU (Viet Nam) said it was noteworthy that the peace process initiated in Madrid in 1991 had continued despite many difficulties. The realization of the several agreements signed between Israel and the PLO required great effort by all parties concerned. It was of great importance for the United Nations to maintain its permanent responsibility with respect to the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects. A satisfactory final settlement of the question of Palestine should be based on Security Council resolutions.
The United Nations assistance to Palestine was now required more than ever in the process of building up self-government institutions and in the technical and economic fields, she added.
WILMA ZAFRA TURBAY (Colombia) said that at the recent summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, held in Cartegena in October, particular attention had been paid to the question of Palestine. The summit's final document had expressed unreserved support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and had reiterated the call for Israel to withdraw from all occupied territories including Jerusalem. The summit had stressed the essential role of the United Nations in dealing with the question of Palestine until a permanent state was established in the region and the problem of refugees had been resolved. The confiscation by Israel of Palestinian lands in Jerusalem, as well as its attempts to alter the religious and historical character of that city had been condemned. Serious concern had been expressed about obstacles to the peace process. Any attempt to Judaize the Holy City of Jerusalem had been rejected.
The heads of State or government had expressed the view that the arrangements for establishing a self-governing Palestinian authority must be extended rapidly throughout the occupied territory with a view to establishing a Palestinian State, she said. They had welcomed the recent signing of an agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an essential part of fulfilling the rights of the Palestinian people. Energetic action must be taken to complete the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from territory occupied since 1967 so that peace could prevail. The economic and social development of the occupied Palestinian territories had been viewed as vital.
ABDALLA SALEH AL-ASHTAL (Yemen) said the Palestinian question was at the heart of the conflict in the region. Therefore, Yemen welcomed the steps towards the resolution of the conflict, in particular the interim agreement on West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli forces should withdraw from territories occupied in 1967 and the Israeli settlements after 1967 ought to be dismantled. The Security Council resolutions on Syrian Golan and Lebanon must also be implemented. Yemen called on the United Nations to continue to provide generous aid to the Palestinian authority so that social and economic development might take place.
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said a crucial moment in history had been reached. It was vital to secure recognition of the right of the Palestinians to their own state with Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli occupation of the occupied territories must end, and all relevant agreements and international instruments must be respected and implemented. The United Nations must provide legal and moral support for the cause of the Palestinian people as well as all of the people in the occupied territories.
A climate of détente with respect to the question of Palestine would serve as a catalyst for other peace initiatives in the region. He welcomed the agreement reached between Israel and Jordan and called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Syrian Golan. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was carrying out critical work which merited support. The Palestinian people needed a United Nations which was truly committed to the peace process. For its part, Cuba would exert its utmost efforts towards that end.
SLAHEDDINE ABDELLAH (Tunisia) said it was natural for the United Nations to be following the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The signing of the agreement on the extension of self-rule in September this year was a welcome step toward a full implementation of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people which included their right to return to their homeland with its capital in Jerusalem. The annexation of Jerusalem was illegal and the measure to move embassies to Jerusalem ran counter to Security Council resolutions on the matter. Tunisia welcomed the stance of the United States Administration in this regard.
He stressed that Israel should withdraw from all the Arab territories occupied since 1967. He expressed appreciation for the role of the United Nations in general and for the efforts of Department of Public Information in particular, to provide information about developments on Palestine. He called on the United Nations to continue its assistance to the Palestinians in the phase of reconstruction and requested the donors to fulfil their promises to the Palestinian people. He declared that Tunisia would continue to support Palestinians in their reconstruction phase.
NABIL ELARABY (Egypt) said the question of Palestine had been the subject of extensive deliberations at the United Nations over time. Despite the fact that the United Nations had not been able to achieve a just and lasting peace, it had contributed to a climate conducive to peace which was now serving the peace process. The Assembly had laid down the foundations for any settlement, which included the non-acquisition of territory and the illegality of any measure that would change the character of the occupied territories such as the establishment of settlements. The various resolutions adopted by the United Nations had served to mobilize world public opinion. In addition, the Organization had extended critical assistance to Palestinians in need.
He said it was essential to maintain international support for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people at the current critical stage. The Security Council's resolution on the illegality of Israeli attempts to annex Jerusalem must be respected. That resolution called on States not to move their embassies to Jerusalem, and most countries had adhered to that call. He called on the United States to refrain from moving its Embassy to Jerusalem, which would be a flagrant violation of international law and the Security Council resolutions and would constitute a serious threat to peace.
More than ever before, the international community must support the Palestinian people, he continued. There was no doubt that the United Nations shouldered special responsibility towards the question of Palestine. The Palestinian Rights Committee was particularly important in that regard.
MOSES M. DLAMINI (Swaziland) expressed support for the efforts of the United Nations to bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement in the Middle East and urged all parties to support initiatives towards that end. The parties must engage in dialogue and must put aside the weapons of war. "We hold the view that this noble and golden principle -- peace -- can only be attained with the support of all the Member States of the United Nations." Peace could not be won through confrontation, but only through dialogue. Those who did not realize that were enemies of peace.
He expressed the hope that the peace agreements reached so far would give rise to further accords. The United Nations must encourage the parties and support all efforts that would stabilize peaceful measures. Member States must refrain from condemning any of the parties. Credit should be given to what had been achieved so far. Resolutions on the matter should be far different from the past, when there had been no avenue for dialogue.
HASSAN ALI HUSSAIN AL-NI'MAH (Qatar) said the Palestinians had long been subject to a bitter struggle, burying numerous martyrs and beseeching the world for deliverance with no relief in sight. But throughout the tragedy, they had never lost hope or heart. With constant sacrifices, they had borne their pain with dignity. The only light in their days and years of darkness had been the succour provided by the United Nations in the form of its many resolutions which had supported the Palestinian people and consecrated their rights. Indeed, the United Nations had turned the rights of the Palestinian people into a part of the conscience of mankind, and the conscience of the Palestinians into part of human rights.
The United Nations had contributed to the creation of an atmosphere conducive to the reaping of the desired fruit of peace, he said. The resolutions of the United Nations had clearly outlined the foundations on which any peace must be based, including prohibition of all settlement activities. Today more than ever before the United Nations must work to ensure full compliance with its resolutions. It must take the lead in the coordination of international efforts aimed at institution-building and the rehabilitation of the Palestinian infrastructure.
Despite the achievements made so far, numerous and thorny questions remained, demanding clear political will, understanding, moderation and wisdom on the part of the parties. All States, particularly the United States, must continue to work for peace. The United Nations must continue its efforts until the establishment of a just and lasting settlement to the question of Palestine. "These are the hopes in the hearts of the people in the region. These are the hopes that are supported by all the noble values in the United Nations Charter. Millions of peace-loving people need support for strength when hard times hit them." They need support in order to reread human civilization's first alphabet which was created in the Middle East and whose vocabulary was based on peace, tolerance and goodwill towards men.
P.L. KASANDA (Zambia) said Zambia, as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement's Committee of Nine, would like to urge all parties to effectively implement the agreement signed on 28 September 1995. Also, the living conditions of the inhabitants of the occupied territories ought to be improved. Zambia welcomed the withdrawal of Israel's security forces from Jenin and hoped that greater progress would be made in the remaining regions.
The matter of Palestinian refugees scattered all over the Middle East required urgent attention, he said. He commended the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) but expressed concern about its dwindling finances.
NGONI FRANCIS SENGWE (Zimbabwe) said the historic 1993 Declaration of Principles had opened a wide vista of opportunities in the Middle East peace process, which had gathered unprecedented momentum since then. On 28 September, the accord extending Palestinian authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had been signed. It was hoped that elections would soon be held in those areas.
The positive developments notwithstanding, Zimbabwe had been alarmed by the actions of the enemies of peace, he said. The assassination of one of the main authors of the peace process, the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, had been shocking and tragic. However, Zimbabwe took heart that despite setbacks, the Palestinians and Israelis, through their respective leaderships, had declared their full commitment to seeing the peace process through to the end. "It is our earnest hope that the Palestinian and the Israeli people will today draw more inspiration and commitment from the encouragement and the political and moral support we all offer them."
AHMET ENGIN ANSAY, observer for the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), said the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Jenin was heartening. The Palestinians now faced the task of reviving and modernizing national institutions, designing and developing both the human and physical infra-structure and rebuilding the economy.
He stressed that UNRWA had a very significant role to play in the consolidation of Palestine. Some of the bureaucratic formalities designed by Israel to deal with the population of the occupied territories were still enforced even after the conclusion of the peace agreements, and constraints in promotion of Palestinian trade were being experienced, he said.
He said, the OIC supported the inalienable national rights of the Palestinians to return, to self-determination, to establish their independent state on their national soil, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. It also called on Israel to stop Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories. The United Nations resolutions on the Syrian Golan and occupied Lebanese territories ought to be implemented.