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


Committee on Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
257th Meeting (AM)
GA/PAL/872
25 July 2001




INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE MUST BE INTENSIFIED TO END SPIRAL OF VIOLENCE
IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN SAYS


International pressure must be intensified if the spiral of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories was to be ended and confidence-building measures and meaningful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority resumed, the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said this morning.

Ibra Deguène Ka (Senegal), Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee, said the situation in the region remained critical. The occupying Power continued to use excessive force, carried out extrajudicial killings of Palestinian activists, and pursued its stifling economic blockade. It had also refused to freeze settlement expansion, and in general, proceeded with its illegal policies in contravention of United Nations resolutions and other international legal instruments.

Marwan Jilani, Deputy Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said a Palestinian had been assassinated today by a ground-to-ground anti-tank missile fired at his car. Israel continued with its bloody campaign against Palestinian people despite the ceasefire, and also continued to mount incursions into Palestinian controlled areas. It was important to note that the recent G-8 summit had endorsed the need to deploy international monitors in the region, he said. That statement was clearly aimed at facilitating the implementation of the report of the Mitchell Commission, and there was now a global consensus for the dispatch of international observers to the region.

Earlier, the Chairman introduced reports of the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine which took place in Havana from 12 to 14 June, and the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine held in Madrid from 17 to 19 July. The Committee adopted the two reports.

The representatives of Cuba, Afghanistan, Malta, Pakistan, Mali, South Africa and Tunisia paid tribute to the Chairman of the Committee, who was leaving his post after five years as Permanent Representative of Senegal. The observers of Libya, Niger and Morocco also made statements.

Responding to the statements, Mr. Ka said he had been guided by his commitment to the cause of the Palestinian people. The Committee should build on its achievements, he added.


Background

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to hear reports from its Chairman on the recent meetings held in Cuba and Spain on the question of Palestine.

The Committee will also discuss developments in the Middle East peace process and the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. A representative of Palestine will make a statement on recent developments in the region.


Statement by Committee Chairman

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee, opening the meeting, said the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, remained critical. The occupying Power, he said, continued to use excessive force, carried out extrajudicial killings of Palestinian activists, and pursued its stifling economic blockade. The occupying Power also refused to freeze settlement expansion and, in general, proceeded with its illegal policies in contravention of United Nations resolutions and other international legal instruments.

The publication of the fact-finding Mitchell Committee Report had provided a way out of the impasse, and both parties had, in theory, accepted it. However, the Government of Israel had rendered the report ineffective in practice, through its insistence on a piecemeal implementation of the relevant recommendations, starting with a period of complete "quiet" -- of which it wanted to be the only judge.

The Chairman observed that efforts continued by the co-sponsors of the peace process, the European Union, and by Secretary-General Kofi Annan who visited the region last month. It was obvious, he went on, that international pressure had to be intensified and international monitoring of the Mitchell Report continued if the parties were ever to disentangle themselves from the spiral of violence and resume confidence-building measures and meaningful negotiations.

Mr. Ka then presented the report of the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine, held from 12 to 14 June. The theme of the Meeting was “Achieving the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people – a key to peace in the Middle East”. The Committee was grateful to the Government and people of Cuba, who had provided valuable insight and inspiration for the Palestinian people who had yet to fulfil their own aspirations for sovereignty and independence after 33 years of occupation.

The three plenary themes of the Meeting were the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem; the framework of international legitimacy within which a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine could be achieved; and the initiatives of regional and international, governmental and non-governmental actors in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The keynote address was given by Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Due to the closure imposed by Israel, two speakers from Ramallah and a number of non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives were not able to leave the territory to travel to Havana, he said. The delegation of the Committee to Havana issued a statement deploring their forced absence and denouncing the Israeli policy of closures, collective punishment and constant violations of the human rights of the Palestinians.

The panel presentations and the ensuing discussions helped everyone understand better the current situation in the region, the dynamic or lack of such in the peace process, the fundamental issues at stake, and the obstacles and complexities faced by the parties today. The panellists had also outlined the problems that might lie ahead and discussed the framework for an eventual solution.

The Chairman then presented the report of the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine and the United Nations NGO Meeting in Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which were held in Madrid from 17 to
19 July. The Committee was grateful to the Government and people of Spain for offering the opportunity to have the Meeting in the city where the Middle East peace process was officially launched 10 years ago. That gave participants the opportunity to reflect on the achievements and the shortcomings of the process, as well as its possible future course, in view of the ongoing crisis.

The three plenary themes of the International Meeting were the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts; the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem; and the road to peace. Among those who delivered opening remarks were Josep Piqué, Foreign Minister of Spain; Yasser Abed Rabbo, Minister for Information, Culture and the Arts of the Palestinian Authority; and Terje Rød-Larsen, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who read out a message from the Secretary-General.

Presentations in the three plenary sessions were made by 14 experts from Europe, North America and the Middle East, including Israelis and Palestinians. For the third time this year, Israeli travel restrictions did not allow a Palestinian speaker, Rawya Shawa, Member of the Palestinian Council, to attend a major Committee event. It was another manifestation of the Israeli policy of closures, collective punishment and violation of human rights, which has been repeatedly deplored by the Committee.

At the close of the Meeting, the Rapporteur presented general remarks, in which participants expressed, among other things, their strong conviction that the recommendations contained in the Mitchell Report and the subsequent United States-brokered ceasefire agreement should be swiftly implemented, as a whole. Also, the excessive use of force by Israel, the closures and the economic blockade of Palestinian population centres, the incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas, and all other illegal measures of collective punishment against the Palestinian people should be brought to an end immediately.

In addition, participants said that, in view of the excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians and continued Israeli illegal settlement activity, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention should expedite the reconvening of the Conference of the Parties. Also, an international presence must be established to protect innocent civilians and to monitor the implementation of agreements and understandings reached.


Statement by Palestine Representative

MARWAN JILANI, Deputy Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations, thanked the Governments of Cuba and Spain for their tremendous show of solidarity and support for the Palestinian people in playing host to the Committee.

Briefing the Committee on the latest developments in the region, he said a Palestinian had today been assassinated by a ground-to-ground anti-tank missile fired at his car. The assassination policies of Israel had been condemned by the Secretary-General and the international community.

He said Israel continued with its bloody campaign against Palestinian people despite the ceasefire. This included incursions into areas under Palestinian control; enforcement of a cordon around the Palestinian territory; and the destruction of Palestinian homes and farms. He recalled that on 19 July, Israeli settlers had killed three Palestinians, including a three-month old infant.

He said it was important to note that the recent G-8 summit endorsed the idea of deploying international monitors in the region. The G-8 statement was an important development and was clearly aimed at facilitating the implementation of the Mitchell Report addressing violence in the occupied territory.

There was now a global consensus for the dispatch of international observers, and it was now up to Israel to heed it. Within the region and globally, there was also growing consensus that the Sharon Government was not interested in peace process, he added. Sharon was seen as a man of war who was trying to plunge the region into war. The level of attendance at the two meetings of the Committee showed the growing support for the peace process and for an end to the cycle of violence.

He expressed regret that the Security Council had not supported the dispatch of international observers to monitor the ceasefire. Many lives would have been saved had it done so. The Palestine Authority would continue to pursue the idea at the United Nations. It was important for Security Council to endorse the report of the Mitchell Committee and its recommendations, as well as other initiatives concerning the region. The Council must act in accordance with its mandate.

He thanked the Committee Chairman, who was returning home after five years as Permanent Representative of Senegal, for his "wise leadership" and for his support of the Palestinian people. He said, under his leadership, the Committee achieved great successes.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) expressed support for the statement of the representative of Palestine and paid tribute to the Committee Chairman for his efforts supporting the Palestinian cause. Members of the bureau of the Committee commended him for the diplomatic skills and leadership in guiding the Committee's work.

RAVAN A.G. FARHADI (Afghanistan), a Vice-Chairman of the Committee, also noted the leadership the Chairman showed during his tenure in the resolution of difficult issues within the Committee's bureau. Also, there had been definite progress in contacts between the Committee and member States of the European Union on the Palestine question. There had been similar cooperation with the Organization of Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States.

WALTER BALZAN (Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee, also paid tribute to the qualities of the Chairman, particularly his "patience" which enabled the Committee to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems. He assured the Chairman that his successor would enjoy similar cooperation form the Committee.

AHMED A. EL ATRASH (Libya), an observer, reiterated the statements made before him about the leadership qualities and wisdom of the Committee Chairman on behalf of the Palestinian people. He said the Palestinians daily faced expulsion and destruction of their homes. He reaffirmed his heartfelt thanks for all that the Chairman had done for the Committee and the Palestinian people.

BOUBACAR TANKOANO (Niger) also an observer, paid tribute to the Chairman for his personal qualities and for his work on behalf of the Committee and for the recent special session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS.

IMRAN SIDDIQUI (Pakistan) thanked the Chairman for his dedication to the cause of Palestine and the Palestinian people. He expressed his best wishes for the Chairman in his future endeavours.

ISSOUF MAIGA (Mali) noted that the whole of Africa was proud of the Chairman and wished him all success.

LINDA MASO (South Africa) thanked the Chairman for the excellent leadership displayed in guiding the work of the Committee.

KARIM MEDREK (Morocco) said the Chairman’s professionalism and humility would be missed. He thanked him for his dedication to the sacred cause of the Palestinian people.

MOKHTAR CHAOUACHI (Tunisia) also paid tribute to the Chairman, who had led the Committee in a passionate and professional manner.

Mr. KA said that in any process there was an end. Firstly, he thanked God for allowing him to carry out his activities over the past 35 years and for allowing him to retire. He also thanked all the members of the Committee, especially the members of the bureau, for the support they had afforded him over the five and a half years that he had chaired the Committee. In addition, he expressed his gratitude to the Secretariat, as well as the Department of Public Information (DPI), which had launched a special programme for the Palestinian people.

He underscored that the Committee had achieved greater visibility within the United Nations system. It had grown with the inclusion of two new members -- South Africa and Namibia. He also recalled the Committee’s trip to Gaza, where it had received a warm welcome from Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian leadership. In addition, he noted the establishment of tripartite cooperation between the Committee, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Over the past five years, he had been motivated by his deep commitment and conviction concerning the plight of the Palestinian people. He was also strengthened by his country’s desire to always seek peaceful solutions so that peace would be established in the Middle East. He also believed that if Israel would have peace and security within safe and secure borders, Palestinians should also live in peace with dignity and respect of their national rights. All of that could only be achieved by bringing the occupation to an end. He still hoped that the peace process would be restarted as soon as possible. He exhorted the Committee to keep up the impetus created and to support his successor and build on the Committee’s achievements.


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For information media - not an official record