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UNITED
NATIONS
A S

        General Assembly
        Security Council
Distr.
GENERAL
A/51/678
S/1996/953

18 November 1996

Original: ENGLISH

GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Fifty-first session
Agenda items 33 and 35
SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST
QUESTION OF PALESTINE
SECURITY COUNCIL
Fifty-first year


Report of the Secretary-General


1. The present report is submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 50/84 D of 15 December 1995 on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.

2. On 30 August 1996, the Secretary-General, pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 8 of that resolution, addressed the following letter to the President of the Security Council:

3. On 4 October 1996, the following reply was received from the Security Council:

4. In a note verbale dated 30 August 1996 to the parties concerned, the Secretary-General sought the positions of the Governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization, regarding any steps taken by them to implement the relevant provisions of the resolution. As at 22 October 1996, the following replies had been received:


Note verbale dated 30 September 1996 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations
addressed to the Secretary-General


Note verbale dated 30 September 1996 from the Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations
addressed to the Secretary-General


Observations

5. During the past year, the Middle East peace process has been challenged by a series of tragic incidents, by the urgency of translating the signed agreements into peace and security for all and by the need to find solutions to outstanding issues acceptable to the parties concerned.

6. In accordance with the Interim Agreement of 28 September 1995 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Israeli troops were withdrawn from the major West Bank cities, with the exception of Hebron, paving the way for the holding of the first Palestinian general election on 20 January 1996. Negotiations on a permanent status were formally launched in May 1996, raising hopes that tangible results would soon follow. However, these promising developments were compromised by a series of acts of violence in Israel, such as the bomb attacks of February and March 1996 by extremists. These acts of violence have had a negative effect on the peace talks, while the prolonged closure of the occupied territories imposed by Israel to prevent further terrorist attacks has severely affected the Palestinian economy and resulted in an increased level of unemployment.

7. The absence of progress in the peace process in the second half of this year caused frustration and disappointment. These in turn have led, to the Secretary-General's deep regret and concern, to the tragic events of September 1996 in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which threatened to unravel the negotiating process and brought about a crisis of confidence between its parties, namely the Israelis and the Palestinians. In response to those events, the Security Council adopted resolution 1073 (1996) on 28 September 1996.

8. A few days later, on 2 October 1996, the Prime Minister of Israel and the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization took the reassuring decision to resume negotiations aimed at solving outstanding issues and implementing the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (A/48/486-S/26560, annex).

9. It was expected from the outset of the negotiation process that the road to peace would not be easy. However, the only alternative to that process is a return to instability, endemic violence, regional tensions and uncertain economic prospects. This imposes on all the participants in the peace talks a duty to listen to reason and to show the determination and flexibility needed to carry out the negotiations in earnest, in accordance with the principles agreed at the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 and other agreements already reached, until a permanent settlement is achieved on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967)and 338 (1973). In addition, it is clear that for the Middle East peace process to produce truly comprehensive and lasting results, progress must be made also on the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese tracks of negotiation.

10. For its part, the United Nations will continue to support the peace process and to respond in an integrated way to the economic, social and other needs of the population in the West Bank and Gaza. The coordinated approach to the delivery of assistance to the Palestinians implemented by the then United Nations Special Coordinator, Mr. Terje Roed Larsen, has proved effective, particularly in times of crisis. The relocation of the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees from Vienna to Gaza City has resulted in closer contact between the Agency and the Palestine refugees and helped to create additional jobs in Gaza. However, economic and social conditions in the West Bank and Gaza remain dire and it is to be hoped that ways will be found to improve them in the near future, including by further easing and eventual lifting of the closure.

11. Following the departure of Mr. Larsen, who returned in October 1996 to Norway to join the new Government there, the Secretary-General has asked the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Mr. Peter Hansen, to assume temporarily the functions of United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories. The Secretary-General would like to thank Mr. Larsen for his valuable work in the service of the United Nations and the parties.

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