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Question de Palestine - débat de l'AG - Communiqué de presse (30 novembre 2007) Français
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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
30 November 2007




General Assembly
GA/10664

          Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly
Plenary
59th & 60th Meetings (AM & PM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPEAKERS SAY ANNAPOLIS MEETING MARKS NEW PHASE IN MIDDLE EAST PEACE,

BUT CAUTION EARLIER INITIATIVES ALSO RAISED HOPES, FAILED TO BRING ABOUT AGREEMENT

Member States Stress Importance of Follow-up Meetings in Paris, Moscow;
Emphasize Progress Must Develop on All Tracks, including Syrian Golan, Lebanon


While this week’s meeting at Annapolis marked a “new phase” in the Arab-Israeli peace process and a turning point for broader stability in the Middle East, Lebanon’s representative today urged the General Assembly to examine why the protracted process had stumbled since 1991.

As the Assembly continued its debate of the question of Palestine, and initiated discussion on the situation in the Middle East, he recalled that a peace conference in Madrid, Spain, which had brought together Israel, the Palestinians and other Arab nations, ultimately failed to produce agreement.  A peace process that created yet another maze of “procrastination and delay” was not needed.

He recounted the harsh realities under which Palestinians continued to suffer, noting that great swaths of the West Bank were being “swallowed whole” by Israeli settlements.  Those settlements and the land attached to them, along with settlement outposts and roads, occupied 38 per cent of the area.

The continued construction of a wall throughout parts of the Territory now separated families from their lands, while the erection of checkpoints and roadblocks only exacerbated the situation.  He described such events, “not to take the Assembly’s time”, but rather to instil hope that States had learned a lesson and would be more actively involved the current Israeli-Palestinian effort.

The Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation and Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs agreed that the “stop-start” peace negotiations and ongoing cycle of violence in the Middle East had only increased frustrations all around.  Nonetheless, the success of Annapolis had given new hope to the region’s people and provided a springboard for work ahead.  Leaders would now need to directly address outstanding issues, such as borders between Israel and Palestine, the right of return and status of Jerusalem.  It would also be crucial to carry out confidence-building measures, as outlined in the first phase of the Quartet-backed Road Map.  Such steps were vital in the run-up to the upcoming donors conference in Paris, and the proposed Annapolis follow-up conference in Moscow.

He also believed that Syria and Lebanon should actively participate in the overall process, as regional peace could not be guaranteed without their involvement.  Pressing ahead with a dialogue on those core tracks, including on the Syrian Golan and the Lebanese Shebaa Farms region, would give credibility to the new talks, particularly now that there was a sound international legal basis for settlement.

Taking issue with that point, the representative of Iran said that, while settlement of the Palestinian issue was indispensable for attaining comprehensive stability in the Middle East, peace could not be achieved through so-called initiatives or conferences that pursued politically motivated goals.  The global community should not be misled by moves, such as the recent meeting in Annapolis, that were intended to legitimize forces of occupation and aggression.

He rejected as baseless accusations made against his country by the Israeli regime a day earlier, saying also that unqualified support extended from a permanent member of the Security Council to the Israeli regime had only made it more brazen in violating and defying a host of resolutions.  Among other things, a durable peace would only be possible through justice, full restoration of Palestinians’ rights, an end to occupation, the return of all Palestinian refugees, and a democratic mechanism through which all inhabitants of Palestine and Palestinians driven from their homeland would be able to determine their future.

Focusing on that road ahead, Portugal’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that to consolidate progress, parties must take additional steps to meet previous commitments, such as those under the Road Map and the Agreement on Movement and Access.  He reaffirmed the Union’s determination to help reach a comprehensive Middle East peace through a lasting and just settlement of the conflict, based on the land-for-peace principle, relevant Security Council resolutions, the Road Map, and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Moreover, the Union would support development of the Palestinian security sector through the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian territories, and the financial development of a future Palestinian State through continued assistance.  In that context, he stressed that the Paris donors conference represented an essential complement for the political process launched at Annapolis.

Opening discussion on the situation in the Middle East, Israel’s representative said the Middle East reality had been best articulated by a Syrian parliamentarian late last week, who said there was an “alliance stretching from Teheran to Gaza”.  Today, Iran’s “long arm and shadow” could be seen behind almost every Middle East conflict, from Hizbullah in Lebanon, to Hamas in the Palestinian areas to insurgents in Iraq.  Indeed, Iran had long funded global terrorism and its calls for Israel’s destruction added “rhetorical flair” to its murderous operations around the globe.

The regional situation had led to two wholly contradictory conclusions, he explained.  On one hand, there had never before been such potential for peace and harmony.  On the other, there had never been such potential for instability and tragedy.  The choices between those two fates could only be made by the region’s peoples and leaders.  Today’s realities showed that the time was ripe for agreement between the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Egypt’s representative introduced two draft resolutions:  a text on Jerusalem (document A/62/L.22), which confirmed that any just solution to the question of the holy city must take into account the legitimate concerns of both Palestinians and Israelis, and a draft on the Syrian Golan (document A/62/L.23), which renewed calls for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights to the 1967 borders.

In other business, the Assembly agreed to extend the work of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial) through next Friday, 7 December.

Also speaking on the “question of Palestine” was the Minister of State for External Affairs of India, as well as the representatives of Viet Nam, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Mauritania, China, Algeria, Sudan, Libya, Guinea, Venezuela, Djibouti, Canada, South Africa, Lesotho, Malaysia, Nicaragua and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Participating in the debate on “the situation in the Middle East” were the representatives of Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Turkey, Mauritania, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Indonesia, Iceland, Japan, and the Sudan.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Background

The General Assembly met today to continue its discussion of the question of Palestine and begin consideration of the situation in the Middle East.

Before the Assembly was the Secretary-General’s report on the Situation in the Middle East (document A/62/327), which contains replies from Italy, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates to the Secretary-General’s note verbale of 8 June 2007 concerning implementation of the relevant provisions of General Assembly resolutions 61/26, entitled “Jerusalem”, and 61/27, entitled “The Syrian Golan”.

The Assembly also had before it two draft resolutions.  By a text on Jerusalem (document A/62/L.22), the Assembly would reiterate its determination that any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and, therefore, null and void.  The Assembly would call upon Israel to cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.  It would also welcome the decision of those States with diplomatic missions in Jerusalem to withdraw their missions from the city, in compliance with Security Council resolution 478 (1980).

Further to the text, the Assembly would stress that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and include internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and conscience of its inhabitants.  Such a solution should also ensure permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by the people of all religions and nationalities.  The Secretary-General would also be requested to report to the General Assembly on the implementation of the present resolution at its sixty-third session.

The draft resolution on the Syrian Golan (document A/62/L.23) would have the Assembly declare that Israel has failed to comply with Security Council resolution 497 (1981).  It would also declare that the Israeli decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void and has no validity whatsoever, as confirmed by the Security Council in resolution 497, and would call on Israel to rescind it.  Further, the Assembly would also reaffirm its determination that all relevant provisions of the 1907 Hague Convention and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War continue to apply to the Syrian territory occupied since 1976, and would call on those parties to respect and ensure respect for their obligations under those instruments.

By the text, the Assembly would also determine the occupation of the Syrian Golan was a stumbling block in achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region and call on Israel to resume talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to resume the commitments reached during previous talks.  It would further demand that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the 1967 lines and call upon the parties concerned, the co-sponsors of the peace process and the entire international community to exert all necessary efforts to ensure the resumption of the peace process and its success by implementing Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).  The Secretary-General would also be requested to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-third session on the resolution’s implementation.

Question of Palestine

Statements

E. AHAMED, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, said his country had watched with concern as border restrictions, economic sanctions and a restrictive access regime had brought the Palestinian economy to the verge of collapse.  It had also regarded with alarm the vicious circle of attacks, reprisals and counter-attacks, the worsening humanitarian and security situation in Gaza following the June events, and the continued violence on innocent civilians.  The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and the “relentless” construction of the separation wall threatened to create new facts on the ground and fresh grievances in an old conflict.  In addition, the unresolved issues of last year’s war in Lebanon and the long-pending question of the occupied Syrian Golan added to a sense of frustration and desperation.

All those issues had the potential to exact an immediate and long-term impact on the lives of the Palestinian, he said, contributing more fuel to an already combustible situation.  Thus, India had consistently urged all concerned to eschew violence and exercise restraint.  It was in the interest of the entire international community that a comprehensive and peaceful situation was found to the problems in the Middle East.

India’s solidarity with the Palestinian people was inspired by its own freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi, he continued.  India had voted against the partition of Palestine in 1947, and as early as 1975 had recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.  Its empathy with the Palestinian cause constituted an integral and time-tested part of its foreign policy.  He saluted the indomitable spirit of the Palestinian people.

He said it was widely recognized that the Middle East conflict was essentially political in nature and could not, therefore, be resolved by force.  India had supported the resumption of direct negotiations between the leaders of Palestine and Israel and the establishment through peaceful negotiations of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine, living side by side and in the shadow of peace with the State of Israel.  While supporting the Quartet’s Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative, it had also supported the early resumption of a dialogue on the Israel-Lebanon and Israel-Syria tracks.  Those issues should equally be addressed moving forward.

India, therefore, welcomed the joint understanding reached by the President of Palestine and the Prime Minister of Israel in Annapolis, he said.  It particularly welcomed the direct dialogue between the leaders of Palestine and Israel and looked forward to an early and peaceful resolution of all issues between the two States and peoples.  The Arab Peace Initiative further provided a constructive framework to achieve a comprehensive peace.  Given the complexity of achieving peace, unprecedented determination, goodwill and capacity to offer and accept compromise and concessions were needed on all sides.  In this effort, the international community had a collective duty to help in creating a favourable environment within which the principals could make progress in negotiations.

JOAO SALGUEIRO (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union and candidate countries, said hope for the peace process had been renewed by the “historic results of the Annapolis conference”.  He commended Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for their commitment to a two-State solution, which would result in an independent and democratic Palestine, and their decision to immediately launch meaningful talks on all outstanding issues.  The conference was a “turning point” for regional and international partners to support a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

He reaffirmed the European Union’s determination to help reach a comprehensive Middle East peace through a lasting and just settlement of the conflict, based on the land-for-peace principle, relevant Security Council resolutions, the Road Map, and the Arab Peace Initiative.  Further, to consolidate progress, the parties must take additional steps to meet previous commitments, such as those under the Road Map and the Agreement on Movement and Access, and desist from actions that threatened the viability of a just settlement.

As stressed in the joint understanding adopted at Annapolis, stopping violence and terror was of the utmost importance, he continued, adding that the Union strongly condemned the firing of rockets by Palestinian militias into Israeli territory.  While recognizing Israel’s right to self-defence, he also called on Israel to exercise restraint, underlining that action should not contradict international law.  He urged the immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldier and for Palestinian legislators detained in Israel.  He reiterated the Union’s full commitment to supporting the parties in their efforts towards peace, including support for developing the Palestinian security sector through the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories.  His delegation would continue to support the economic and financial development of the future Palestinian State through the continuation of assistance, and in close cooperation with the Quartet representative.  In that context, he emphasized the importance of the Paris donor’s conference, which represented an essential complement for the political process launched at Annapolis.

ALEXANDER SULTANOV, Special representative of the President of the Russian Federation and Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that Arab-Israeli conflict had caused tension and suffering on all sides -– and throughout the international community -- for decades.  The history of stop-start peace negotiations and the ongoing cycle of violence in the Middle East had not helped matters and had only increased frustrations all around.  Through the years, it had become clear that the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict was the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

But the international conference in Annapolis, which wrapped up earlier this week, had given new impetus to the peace process and new hope to the people of the region.  There was now on the table a framework for steps to end the conflict, and peace was very real possibility for the first time in years.  The historic steps that were being taken were due, in large part, to the courage of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  There was hope that a negotiated, comprehensive, two-State solution could finally be reached.

His country, for its own part, and as a member of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process, had always favoured and promoted solving the issue based on the co-existence of the two States.  The Russian Federation had been in broad consultations with the parties and regional players for some time, in that regard.  With the success of Annapolis as a springboard, the Israeli and Palestinian sides had hard work ahead.  They would have to search for compromise and “responsible steps” would have to be taken by both sides to achieve peace for both Israel and Palestine.  The leaders would have to directly address outstanding issues, such as borders between Israel and Palestine, the right of return and the status of Jerusalem.

He went on to say that it would also be crucial for the parties to carry out confidence-building measures, as outlined in the first phase of the Quartet-backed Road Map peace plan.  Such steps would be critical in the run-up to the December donors’ conference in Paris, and the proposed Annapolis follow-up conference in Moscow, which, he was pleased to say, had received broad support.  Among other steps, it would also be necessary to restore unity among Palestinian political parties.

The Russian Federation also believed -- and had supported the principle -- that Syria and Lebanon should be active participants in the overall process.  Without such involvement by those two States, peace and stabilization in the Middle East could not be guaranteed.  Pressing ahead with a dialogue on those core tracks, including on the Syrian Golan and Lebanese Shebaa Farms region, would give momentum and credibility to the new talks.  Finally, he stressed that there was now a sound international legal basis for a comprehensive settlement, based on the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, along with the Madrid principles, the Road Map and the revived Arab Peace Initiative.

LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam), associating himself with Cuba’s statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said 60 years after the General Assembly had passed resolution 181 (1947) on the partition plan, and 40 years after the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 242 (1967) on the Arab-Israel conflict, Middle East peace remained elusive.  Indeed, the Palestinians’ plight continued, as a result of the recent indiscriminate use of force in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  At the same time, he was concerned by attacks targeting Israeli civilians.

Recalling that neither Palestinians nor Israelis could achieve their demands for freedom without settling the conflict, he called for efforts this year to reverse last year’s trend, which had taken the parties further from the goal shared by most of creating two States living side by side, in peace and security.  Realizing the urgent need for the resumption of talks for a comprehensive solution based on relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, and in line with the land-for peace principle, he hailed efforts by the Quartet and the 27 November meeting held in Annapolis, Maryland.  That conference -- and the participation of more than 40 countries, including many Arab countries whose role was indispensable for any solution -- was a “praiseworthy development”.  He welcomed the intentions of France and Russia to hold similar events.

He was deeply encouraged by the joint understanding achieved at the Conference to conclude an agreement by the end of 2008, and urged both Israelis and Palestinians to build on that momentum to move the Middle East peace process forward.  He called on Israel to immediately end all military operations and incursions into Palestinian Territories, and efforts to complete the separation wall on Palestinian land.  He urged Palestine to “take courageous steps” conducive to resuming peaceful political dialogue with sections of the Palestinian society, and with Israel to negotiate a two-State solution.  He reiterated Viet Nam’s support for the creation of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) reiterated his country’s solidarity with the people of Palestine.  He said the United Nations reports on the question of Palestine bore witness to the unfortunate reality that, in the last year, the Zionist regime had continued with its crimes against the defenceless Palestinian people and had been “systematically altering the Palestinian land through unlawful policies and practices, including settlement construction and the construction of the wall in the West Bank”.

As the report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People indicated, the Israeli regime had continued its criminal practices against Palestinians through unlawful measures, such as extrajudicial killings, house demolitions, detention of Palestinian authorities, humiliating checkpoint systems, expanding illegal settlements, construction of the unlawful wall, periodic closures and sealing off of Gaza, and the destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructure and agricultural lands.  Those actions had resulted in unspeakable suffering and losses and caused an unprecedented crisis in Palestinian society.

The report of the Special Rapporteur also revealed other shocking aspects of the Israeli regime’s policies and practices in violating the most basic principles of international law and human rights in the Palestinian Territories, he said. Events in Beit Hanoun were a clear example of Israeli brutality.  Moreover, according to those reports, “poverty and unemployment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories had reached their highest level, health and education were undermined… and the entire social fabric of society was threatened”.

He said the continuation of the unlawful Israeli policies and practices in the occupied Syrian Golan not only was a source of regional tension, it was also a matter of grave concern for the international community.  The Israeli regime had made repeated attempts to alter the area’s demographic and legal character.  Also, the regime’s constant, continuous threats against Lebanon and its occupation of Lebanese lands, daily violations of Lebanese airspace, and harassment of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) forces were clear infringements of Security Council resolution 1701.  While the United Nations had protested those airspace violations and called on the Israeli regime to stop them, the regime’s response had been complete defiance and contempt.  Undoubtedly, the unqualified support extended from a permanent member of the Security Council to the Israeli regime had emboldened that regime to continue its crimes against the Palestinians and other peoples of the region and had made it more brazen in violating and defying a host of resolutions from the Security Council and other United Nations organs.

He stressed that the settlement of the Palestinian issue was imperative and indispensable for the attainment of a comprehensive and lasting pace and stability in the Middle East.  Yet, peace could not be achieved through aggression, State terrorism, intimidation and occupation.  Nor could it be attained through so-called initiatives or conferences that pursued politically motivated goals, rather than realizing the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Indeed, the international community should not be misled by politically motivated moves, such as the recent meeting in Annapolis, that were intended to give legitimacy to the forces of occupation and aggression.  A durable peace would only be possible through justice, full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people, an end to discrimination and occupation, the return of all Palestinian refugees, and a democratic mechanism through which all inhabitants of Palestine and Palestinians driven out of their homeland would have the possibility to determine their future.

In conclusions, he placed on record that his country rejected the baseless accusations made against his country by the Israeli regime during the debate the day before.  That regime represented the most potent threat to the region and the world and should be countered by the international community.  That regime had brought nothing but misery and bloodshed to the region.  The various United Nations reports testified to that reality, he added.

AHMED AL-JARMAN ( United Arab Emirates) said that there had been critical negative and positive developments regarding the Palestinian question.  The main objective of the peace process was to bring Israel into full compliance with international law and end its illegal occupation of all Arab territories by withdrawal to its June 1967 borders.  He rejected Israeli expansion activities, and noted the effects on the Palestinian people of such Israeli practices as the expansion of the separation wall, building of settlements on Palestinian Territory and in the Syrian Golan, collective punitive measures against Palestinians, incursions into Palestinian cities and villages, excessive violence, arbitrary arrests, large-scale demolition of Palestinian homes and infrastructure, restrictions on movement, and the isolation of Gaza which denied residents there the basics for survival.

He called the Annapolis conference a positive step that required international and regional support through the Annapolis mechanism and other existing mechanisms, and in accordance with international resolutions, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.  He demanded that Israel take the following actions, among others:  cease offensive policies against the Palestinians, release Palestinian prisoners and end the siege of Gaza; end settlement activities in, and remove existing settlements and the separation wall from, the Palestinian Territories; withdraw from all Palestinian cities occupied in September 2000; comply with all international legal resolutions and resolve the dispute over Jerusalem; negotiate with the Syrian Government on the return of the Golan Heights; withdraw from Shebaa Farms and Al Ajar in Lebanon; and cease violation of Lebanese airspace.

NAWAF A. SALAM ( Lebanon) said that this year the Assembly’s consideration of the question of Palestine, as well as the Organization’s observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, had taken place in conjunction with a new international push for a solution to the years-long struggle to achieve self-determination for the people of Palestine.  It was time to heal an infected wound that was affecting the Middle East and the entire world.  And while the Annapolis conference marked a new phase in the Arab-Israeli peace process, the international community should take the opportunity to look closely at why the peace process had stumbled after Madrid and to acknowledge what had happened, and was continuing to happen, on the ground in the intervening years -- in that absence of honest and sincere efforts to end the world’s last and most brutal occupation.

Lebanon believed that recent events were a warning bell that it was time for concerted international action to end the suffering of the Palestinian people.  One had only to look at the situation in the Occupied Territories to see that grave breaches of international law were being carried out.  Indeed, great swaths of the West Bank were being “swallowed whole” by Israeli settlements that were “dismembering and transforming” the area into isolated cantons.  The settlements and the land attached to them, settlement outposts and roads occupied 38 per cent of the area of the West Bank -- at the expense of Palestinian land and water resources, and leading to the utter devastation of the Palestinian peoples’ social and economic fabric.  There was no other way to describe the situation other than as an “abominable apartheid”.

Meanwhile, under those conditions, what could explain the continued construction of a wall throughout parts of the Territory?  That wall now separated farmers from their livelihoods and families from their lands.  He pointed out that Israel had never stopped building the wall –- “not even for one single day” -- even after the International Court of Justice advisory opinion had declared it illegal.  All that was being exacerbated by the erection of more checkpoints and roadblocks, and the imposition of curfews.  Military incursions into Palestinian population centres continued, as did the destruction of infrastructure and closure of Palestinian administrative office.  Poverty and hunger were everywhere, and education was at an all time low.  Daily life in the Occupied Territories had been turned into a “living hell”, he declared.

He stressed that he was not recounting those events just to take up the Assembly’s time.  He hoped that the world would learn a lesson, and that by hearing about the harsh realities on the ground the international community would get behind the new Israeli-Palestinian peace effort.  Indeed, the Palestinians could not afford any more delays, he said, calling for an immediate end to all settlement expansion, the removal of all checkpoints and roadblocks, and the reopening of all Palestinian operations.

He also called for an end to Israeli military operations and the release of 10,000 prisoners.  He added that, if the aim was a comprehensive peace, “we cannot ignore the reality that refugees are one of the main issues”.  There were some 1 million displaced Palestinians now living in limbo.  Those refugees needed to be settled in their own homeland and not in other Arab lands, which would threaten the fabric and identity of those lands, as well as the identity of the refugees themselves.  He said that Israel must withdraw from all Arab lands, including the Syrian Golan Heights and the Shebaa Farms area.  While he welcomed the outcome of the Annapolis meeting, he stressed that a “new” peace process that actually led to another maze of procrastination and delays was not needed.

A.L. ABDUL AZEEZ ( Sri Lanka) said his country’s position on the question of Palestine had remained unchanged through the years, and had been reaffirmed by Sri Lanka’ President on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians.  The illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory remained the main issue of the Palestinian question, he continued.  The situation in the occupied Territory had continued to deteriorate, due to Israeli military activities and restrictions imposed on Palestinians, while escalating violence on both sides contributed to a further deterioration of the situation.  He was concerned that the Israeli settlement activities and the building of a wall posed a grave threat to peace prospects.

The inalienable rights of Palestinians must be respected.  A solution should be achieved on the basis of relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, Israel’s withdrawal from the Occupied Territory, and respect for the right of all to live in peace and security.  He reiterated Sri Lanka’s strong support for Palestinian efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace, saying that Palestinian unity was a prerequisite for finding a durable solution.  He supported the PLO, the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Abbas.  It was important that the Authority’s national and democratic institutions be maintained and protected, as they would constitute the vital foundation of the future independent Palestinian State.

ABDERRAHIM OULD HADRAMI ( Mauritania), aligning his country with the statements made by Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, noted that the Palestinian people were still under the yoke of the occupying Power, despite partition voted for in this body 60 years before.  His delegation believed that the suffering of the Palestinian people should be put to an end through the establishment of a two-State solution.  He expressed regret that, due to the history of the occupation, the current situation had been brought to a stalemate.

Noting that the holding of the Annapolis conference had fostered a strong will on the part of the relevant parties to resume dialogue, he said it had created “a glimmer of hope” that a just and permanent settlement could be reached.  Mauritania valued the preliminary results of the conference and hoped that all parties would be held to the timetable that had been created.  It also had a firm policy of supporting its Palestinian brothers and, because of that, it extended thanks to the United States for holding the conference.  He also extended thanks to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and United States President George W. Bush and hoped that the negotiations resulting from the conference would end in a just and lasting solution.  His country would spare no effort in bringing about that solution, in accordance with the Arab peace initiative.

WANG GUANGYA ( China) said that the Middle East was at a crossroads, with a rare window of opportunity to revive the peace process.  The determination of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to immediately launch negotiations on all core issues, with a view to concluding a peace treaty before the end of 2008, declared before representatives from over 40 countries at the recently concluded Annapolis conference, gave rise to hope.  He said that it was necessary to build an independent Palestinian State so that two States, Palestine and Israel, could live side by side in peace.  He warned, however, that the challenge presented by the negotiations must not be underestimated.  Both sides should negotiate in good faith and maintain confidence-building measures.

Further, he said that both sides should implement their obligations under the first phase of the Quartet Road Map and that Israel should respond to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people, including by facilitating the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  He called upon the international community to support negotiations and to increase humanitarian and development aid to the Palestinian people.  He further noted that, while the Palestinian question lay at the core of the Middle East question, negotiations between Israel and both Syria and Lebanon were necessary to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  He expressed concern at the unabated tensions in Lebanon over the past year and urged all parties to settle their differences through political consultation.

YOUCEF YOUSFI (Algeria), associating himself with the statements of Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Pakistan on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries, recalled that “in remembrance there is hope”, as the past shed light on the present and future.  The “wounds” of historical injustice were awakened each time a new formula or initiative failed, and Palestinians, disillusioned by broken promises, hoped for something tangible.  A “new hope” had been born in Annapolis, where parties agreed to achieve by the end of 2008 a comprehensive peace agreement that would lead to a viable and sovereign Palestinian State.

The global community had moral duty to turn that dialogue into a genuine momentum towards peace, he continued.  Efforts must be mobilized around a vision articulated by the Security Council, and include a solution that would involve the creation of Israel and Palestinian States existing within clear and recognized borders.  To achieve that goal, the full participation of parties was of “capital importance”.

He said Algeria supported a peace process that would establish viable Palestinian State, with al Quds as its capital.  Settlement to the Palestinian question would be a driving force for peace in the region, and anything but a just peace would fuel the frustration of public opinion in Arab and Muslim States.  Implementation of confidence-building measures, including the lifting of restrictions on the circulation of goods and persons in and among Palestinian Territories, would be a “token of good will”.  The conference at Annapolis had underlined the seminal importance of that gesture towards a lasting, just agreement.  What was most needed was a visionary initiative rooted in resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1515 (2003), among other relevant resolutions.  That would create new hope.

ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD ( Sudan), aligning his country with the statements made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, highlighted the work done by the Palestinian Rights Committee in investigating and preparing its report.  He hoped those efforts would continue to raise the awareness of the international community and ring the alarm bells over the gravity of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

He expressed gratitude for the humanitarian workers who made constant sacrifices -– sometimes even of their lives -- in their work in the Palestinian Territory.  He also saluted the work done by UNRWA.  However, he was alarmed over the violent scenes of the occupation that were broadcast daily.  The occupying Power had accelerated its campaign against the Palestinian people and, ignoring a number of United Nations resolutions, was expanding its settlements and its military manoeuvres in the West Bank.  It had also prevented humanitarian and aid workers from reaching the affected populations.  Despite the Assembly’s adoption of a resolution against the separation wall and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which had found the wall illegal, Israel had ignored those findings and had expressed belligerence regarding those matters.

As for the situation in Gaza, he said that the Israeli authorities had carried out strikes against Gaza’s population, effectively establishing a siege there.  Its actions had also included, among other things, unlawful assassinations.  In that light, he reaffirmed the Palestinian people’s right to self-defence.  The Israeli refusal to release tax and revenues had affected the Palestinian Authority’s ability to operate and carry out its duties.  That was happening before the eyes of the world, and yet no one had lifted a finger.  The violence and conflict followed from the continued occupation.  It was the responsibility of the international community to seek a solution to the conflict, and the Sudan was waiting for the international community to act.

Towards that end, the international community should hold Israel responsible by forcing it to honour its obligations under all relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the initiatives of the Arab League, the most recent of which was the Arab Peace Initiative.  Any action that did not hold Israel accountable would not succeed; nor would any initiative that did not lead to the Israel’s full withdrawal of the Territories and end the occupation be successful.  Finally, he called for the establishment of two States.

ABAD ALATEEF ( Libya) said the continued presence of the Palestinian question on the United Nations’ agenda for more than 50 years had clearly demonstrated the global community’s failure to bring about peace and security in the Middle East, and to implement international law.  Indeed, Palestinians had lived in “real tragedy”, with their land usurped and half the population displaced.  Those left in Palestine had been subjected to brutal Israeli aggression, which contradicted international law and clearly showed an “evil” intention to establish a racist, Jewish State on Palestinian land.  The United Nations’ inability to provide protection and assistance had prevented peace and security in the broader region.  It was high time to deal with the question in a serious manner, and steer clear of “fait accompli” policies.  The only situation that would bring about peace was one which safeguarded refugees’ return and the establishment of a land for Palestine.

The question of Palestine was at the core of the Middle East struggle, which had resulted in the occupation of Syria, he continued, calling also for implementation of resolutions on the Golan and the return of that land to Syria.  Moreover, Israel must withdraw from the Shebaa Farms, and compensate Syria and Lebanon for harm done.  Turning to Iraq, he said the situation had resulted in millions of people killed and displaced.  The United Nations’ initiative was urgently required to stop the bloodletting and foster independence for that country, so that Iraqis could freely determine their fate.  He wished to see peace and prosperity in Iraq.

ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW ( Guinea) said that the launch by United States President George W. Bush of efforts to renew the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks was a source of hope that there might finally be an end in sight to the long-running tensions and conflict.  Guinea believed that peace could be achieved if both sides, with the help of the international community, acted in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and adhered to the principles of the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet-backed Road Map.

He said that the overall aim must be a peaceful, negotiated settlement leading to a two-State solution.  It should also include a withdrawal of all Israeli military forces, an end to the wall’s construction, a comprehensive solution to the situation of Palestinian refugees, and Palestinian political unity.  Every effort must be brought to bear to achieve those objectives.  Finally, he welcomed the report of the Committee, which had been introduced yesterday, and called on the Assembly to continue providing that body with the adequate resources and funds to carry out its important work.

AURA MAHUAMPI RODRIGUEZ DE ORTIZ (Venezuela), aligning her country with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said her country supported efforts to reach a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the question of Palestine.  In that light, it recognized the efforts of the Palestinian Rights Committee.  Strict adherence to the United Nations Charter and to provisions of international law, as well as the principles of non-intervention, non-interference in the internal affairs of States and prohibitions against the use of force, was fundamental to the stability of international peace and the peaceful coexistence of States.  Only thePalestinian people could determine their own future.  Further, there could be no peace under foreign occupation.  On the contrary, such a situation would only result in violence and conflict.

Thus, she said her country supported the establishment of a two-State solution, as well as all efforts to bring about a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the question of Palestine, which was at the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict.  Venezuela rejected the constant lockdown of Gaza, as well as Israeli incursions into Palestinian Territory, which had harmed civilians.  Only a negotiated solution could achieve the objective of a comprehensive and lasting solution.  Such a solution must be based on United Nations resolutions and must guarantee the effective self-determination of the Palestinian people, who had the right to return to their homes and property from which they were uprooted.

ROBIE OLHAYE ( Djibouti) said that, seen against the backdrop of mounting bloodshed, destruction, misery and almost no direct settlement negotiations in the Middle East, the talks, which had just concluded in Annapolis, assumed enormous proportions.  He applauded United States President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for bringing Palestinian and Israeli leaders together in Maryland to launch serious discussions on a framework for peace.  Djibouti saw no reason why the Joint Understanding announced by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should not lead to a settlement, especially after 60 years of hostilities compounded by 40 years of occupation.

He went to say that recent developments “could not have come at a better time”, particularly as the living conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had become “intolerably deplorable”.  Most importantly, poverty rates were unacceptably high, affecting 70 per cent of the households in Gaza, 56 per cent in the West Bank, and 19 per cent in East Jerusalem.  Moreover, the education sector had been under increasing pressure since Israel halted aid to the Palestinian Authority, and Israel’s “infamous” wall and other restrictions had severely impaired student and teacher access to schools, as well as universities.  In addition, total water supplies had decreased by 10 per cent in the West Bank in the past year and by over 40 per cent in Gaza.

He said virtually any tension or conflict in the Middle East could be traced back to Palestine and Israeli actions.  The situation had not been improving, making it clear that no effort should be spared to bring about peace.  That was why the Annapolis conference’s commitment to negotiations leading to a 2008 settlement, promising independence and dignity for the Palestinians, and recognition and security for Israel, should be taken very seriously.  He said that such a settlement must be based on recognized international standards, including relevant Security Council resolutions, and the recommendations and suggestions of other bodies such as the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East.  The Arab Peace Initiative should also be taken into consideration.

JOHN MCNEE (Canada)said that his country remained strongly committed to a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East and maintained its long-standing support for a two-state solution recognizing Israel’s right to live within secure borders and including the establishment of a democratic, independent and viable Palestinian State.  The progress that was achieved during this week’s Annapolis conference brought renewed hope.  Canada was especially encouraged by the robust presence and support of the international community, notably from the Arab world, whose commitment was vital for a comprehensive peace agreement.  Arab States needed to continue to support those efforts, including through the Arab Peace Initiative and by constructively engaging in the peace process.  Canada was prepared to do all it could to help the parties.

Canada supported initiatives towards creating the necessary conditions for peace, he went on.  The Israeli decision to freeze the expansion of settlements was key in that regard.  The primary precursor to any form of lasting peace was the cessation of all forms of violence.  Those included an end to the campaign of rocket attacks and the return of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit to his family in Israel.  At the same time, while Canada recognized Israel’s security concerns and its right to defend itself, its actions needed to be measured.  Israel must exercise the utmost restraint and meet its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.  All parties had a responsibility to avoid civilian casualties.  The United Nations and its Member States needed to play a more constructive role in supporting peace.

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said Palestinians in the Occupied Territory faced policies that violated international humanitarian law.  Their daily hardships were compounded by checkpoints that restricted their movement, while violent incursions by the Israeli army into Palestinian areas continued unabated.  Such actions, and the building of settlements and a separation wall, undermined positive movements towards peace.  The only way to achieve peace in the Middle East was through a comprehensive and unconditional negotiated settlement to end the occupation of the Palestinian Territory and the Syrian Golan Heights.

South Africa welcomed the convening of the Annapolis conference and the Joint Understanding reached by the parties, he said, adding that the global community now had a duty to support the parties to ensure that political progress would be coupled with a “change for the better” in the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.  In that regard, he commended previous efforts, including the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map.

Successful conflict resolution would be based on the willingness by parties to negotiate without preconditions, he continued, citing South Africa’s own experience with negotiating an end to a conflict at home that, at times, seemed “unsolvable”.  Such a settlement was possible in the Middle East.  Despite the violence, a negotiated solution was the only alternative, and, for that reason, he supported the launch of the process at Annapolis, aimed at resolving all issues.

He said the political undertakings of Annapolis must be underpinned by the international community’s capacity-building and financial support for Palestine.  South Africa would work within the India-Brazil-South Africa framework to assist sustainable economic development and capacity-building efforts.  Those efforts must result in meaningful steps forward. In the end, there must -– and would be -- peace between Israel and Palestine.

LEBOHANG F. MAEMA (Lesotho), associating his country with the statements made by Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country was disheartened that once again reports of escalating Israeli violence and disproportionate use of force against the Palestinian people had been presented to the General Assembly.  He reiterated Lesotho’s deep concern that the struggle by the Palestinian people for self-determination, national independence and sovereignty was ongoing, and the cost in terms of human lives continued to escalate.  The time had come for the international community to unequivocally denounce the atrocities and the violations of human rights that the Palestinian people, particularly the civilian population, had had to endure for decades.

Lesotho firmly believed that all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should adhere to the principles of international law, he said.  He underscored the view that a just, comprehensive and long-lasting settlement to the conflict could only be achieved by observing international law and by implementing, among others, Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and other relevant United Nations resolutions.  He stressed his delegation’s view that a lack of respect for international and humanitarian law and a failure to implement the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions were the driving forces behind the continuing high levels of violence that affected unarmed civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Noting the recent deterioration in the humanitarian, economic, social, political and security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, he reiterated his delegation’s appeal to the international donors that suspended assistance programmes to the Palestinian people to consider adopting measures that would not increase the tension and have a collective punitive effect.  Also, his country was hopeful that the Annapolis conference would achieve its desired results.  A comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine could be attained only through a negotiated solution.  The withdrawal of Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, would be the cornerstone for bringing the question to a final, true and sustainable settlement.  He called for the vision of a Palestinian State, based on the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in secure border, to be realized at last.

KAMILAN MAKSOM ( Malaysia), associating his country with the statements made by Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, noted that discussions on the question of Palestine continued for the simple reason that a just solution to the problem had not been found.  For the last 40 years, the Palestinian people had continued to live under constant harassment and in dire hardship, fearful for their lives, their property, livelihood and, above all, their future.  They suffered countless human rights violations, while impunity by the occupying Power continued unabated.

Although opportunities for peace and a just solution to the question of Palestine existed, he said “hopes to achieve it were dashed every time”.  On many occasions, the blame and burden were laid on the Palestinians to make more concessions in the pursuit of peace.  Surely, the international community could not expect people who had suffered for so long to offer concessions when there were almost none to give, he stressed.  Meanwhile, the failure to arrive at a just solution had directly and indirectly affected regional and global peace, with adverse and far-reaching consequences.  The prospect of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East had been thwarted, while in large populations around the globe, particularly in the Muslim world, feelings had hardened and passions had been ignited.

Finding a lasting and durable solution to the problem on the basis of justice and humanity was imperative, he said.  The necessary tools for achieving that objective already existed.  They included the various General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, particularly resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the Quartet Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.  Those tools, however, would remain as just that, if the most important component to make them more effective in the quest for conflict resolution was not there -- a sincere, strong and committed political will by all the parties concerned.  Without a political solution, nothing could be achieved.  A just and comprehensive conclusion, including a two-State solution, was feasible and achievable provided the two parties concerned continued to be focused, committed and determined to resolve all the core and fundamental issues.

While efforts were under way to find a solution to the Middle East conflict, he urged all countries to cease any actions that could jeopardize such endeavours, including military or economic attacks on civilian populations.  The occupying Power must also comply with its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and international law.  It should further cease any action that violated the human dignity, as well as economic livelihood, of the Palestinian people and altered the composition of the land by constructing settlements and the illegal construction wall.  While the current plenary session should send a clear message condemning those actions, the Assembly as a whole should also play a stronger role in efforts to stop the occupation.  Yesterday’s celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People should remind the international community of its collective failure to those people.  Finally, he welcomed the convening of the recent Annapolis conference, which his country viewed as paving the way for a just and lasting solution to the conflict.

MARIO H. CASTELLON DUARTE ( Nicaragua), associating his country with the statements made by Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country considered the continued illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territory to be the cause of the larger, regional Israeli-Arab conflict.  For that reason, his country supported efforts to achieve a solution to the question of Palestine.  To that end, he reaffirmed Nicaragua’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and expressed support for their right to establish an independent and sovereign State.

The Palestinian people had suffered for decades and its greatest aspiration was to attain a free and viable State, he said.  Yet, the situation in Palestine had been deteriorating for years as a result of Israel’s continued violations of humanitarian and international law and human rights standards.  Those violations had led to an extremely difficult economic and humanitarian situation, which had worsened further once the construction of the illegal separation wall began.  The wall separated and isolated Palestinian communities to devastating effect.   Israel’s restrictions on energy and natural resources to the Palestinian population were a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

He said it was necessary to undertake measures to promote trust between the two sides.  Because the problem of Palestine was at the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the solution should be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the Arab peace plan.  Nicaragua supported the Palestinian people as a matter of principle and considered it a duty to support all efforts to create a Palestinian State, which was the only path to creating peace in the Middle East.

PHOMMA KHAMMANICHANH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned movement, said the International Day of Solidarity marked six decades of the Palestinians’ arduous struggle to attain their inalienable rights to self-determination, national independence and refugee return.  The occasion was a reminder that the road to peace in the region could not be achieved by force.  Lasting peace required the realization of statehood for Palestinians and the guarantee of security for Israelis.  Thus, all efforts aimed at ending the occupation and creating a just and permanent solution should be supported.

He was gravely concerned at the lingering violence in the region and dire humanitarian situation of Palestinians.  De facto sanctions imposed for two years had impacted every aspect of Palestinian life, while restrictions on Gaza had had severe socio-economic impact.  The extension of Israeli settlements, construction of the separation wall, and setting up of checkpoints in the West Bank had denied people free movement and triggered an upsurge of violence in the area.

Sustainable peace and stability in the region would remain elusive as long as the national rights of Palestinians were not ensured, he continued, reiterating his Government’s firm solidarity with the Palestinians.  He stressed a just solution based on all relevant resolutions, the land-for-peace principle, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.  Urging the global community to redouble their efforts to ensure full implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, he said that only in that way could a negotiated two-State solution be reached.

Situation in Middle East

Introduction of Drafts

MAGED ABDEL AZIZ (Egypt) said it was a source of optimism that today’s debate coincided with a new international approach to address the Arab-Israeli conflict more seriously, notably after the Annapolis conference, which represented a first step to resuming Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.  That development had come after Arabs had reiterated their commitment to a just and comprehensive peace, as reflected in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.  He called on States to support final status negotiations on the Palestinian track.

The Annapolis conference, with participation of all concerned Arab parties, including Syria, and the agreement to launch talks aimed at creating an independent Palestinian State would provide a conducive environment for achieving settlement, notably through Israel’s withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since 1967.  He looked forward to continued American leadership in that process and a more effective role by the Quartet.  The end of occupation must be comprehensive and derived from direct negotiations on all tracks.

He said the draft resolution on Jerusalem (document A/62/L.22) reaffirmed that General Assembly and Security Council resolutions were the main terms of reference for the special status of Jerusalem, and confirmed that any just solution to the question of the holy city must take into account the legitimate concerns of both Palestinians and Israelis.  The second draft dealt with the Syrian Golan (document A/62/L.23) and reaffirmed Security Council resolution 497 (1981).  It also confirmed the application of the 1907 Hague Convention and the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and renewed calls for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights to the 1967 borders.  The drafts’ co-sponsors believed that the time had come to see the Middle East from a comprehensive perspective, as the peoples of the region aspired to achieve peace, stability and development.  That could not be achieved without an international will determined to provide the political support needed for a breakthrough that would lead to full Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967.

DANIEL CARMON ( Israel) said the situation in the Middle East was rapidly changing.  Although some had previously embraced the misleading narrative that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the cause of regional instability, facts on the ground showed precisely the opposite:  that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the consequence of instability caused by the rising extremism that was sweeping the region.  The Annapolis conference had highlighted the growing recognition that the real danger came directly from Islamic extremism and its champion, Iran, which sponsored terrorism around the globe, sought nuclear weapons, and relentlessly defied the international community’s will.

He said that the real Middle East situation was best articulated by the Syrian parliamentarian, who had said late last week that there was an “alliance stretching from Teheran to Gaza”.  Today, Syria was home to extremist forces and instability, hosting the headquarters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, among others, and facilitating Hizbullah’s rearming in southern Lebanon.  Iran’s long arm and shadow could be seen behind almost every Middle East conflict, from Hizbullah in Lebanon to Hamas in the Palestinian areas, to the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq.  Its destabilizing activities were also visible in the Interpol warrants for the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre of Buenos Aires in 1994 and the bombing of the Israeli embassy there in 1992.  Indeed, Iran had long funded and supported global terrorism even while its Holocaust denial campaign and its calls for Israel’s destruction added rhetorical flair to its murderous and bloody operations around the globe.

The recognized urgency of the Iranian threat had enabled the assembly of a like-minded group of moderate Muslim and Arab States in the region, evident in the gathering at Annapolis, which had reflected regional hopes for peace and the Arab world’s fear of the ominous threat posed by Iran, he said.  The international community should stand up and confront the enemies of peace, or progress would never be made.  The tools to deal with the extremist threat existed.  Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) must be fully implemented in Lebanon, where Hizbullah was breaking the arms embargo by transferring weapons across the Lebanese-Syrian border.  For the Palestinian areas, the Road Map clearly stated each side’s obligations and responsibilities, particularly the need to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and end incitement and violence.  While the terrorists had shown they would not back down, the international community could not surrender.  They continued to hold Israel’s missing and captive sons, Gilad Shalit, Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

He said that the regional situation led to two wholly contradictory conclusions.  On one hand, there had never before been such potential for peace and harmony.  On the other, there had never been such potential for instability and tragedy.  The choice between those two fates could only be made by the region’s people and their leaders.  Israel had just celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem.  That courageous, historic first visit by an Arab leader to Israel and his speech to the Israeli Parliament was credited with changing the geopolitics of the entire Middle East and opening the path to peace.   Jordan’s King Hussein had subsequently travelled the same path to peace, and today, Israel, Egypt and Jordan had known more years of peace than confrontation -- years in which open dialogue had been possible.

Today’s realities showed that the time was ripe for an agreement to be reached between the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said.  Indeed, there was a commitment by the respective leaders to the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian process, supported by the Coalition for Peace, the moderate Arab and Muslim States and the international community.  Hopefully, the right choices would be made for the betterment of the region and of its peoples’ shared future.

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba), in his capacity as Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the situation in the Middle East, characterized by the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, the continuation of the construction of the separation wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the complex situation in Lebanon, and the occupation of the Syrian Golan, were realities affecting, not only the region, but the entire international community.  The Movement reiterated deep regret that, for 40 years, the Palestinian people had suffered continuously under brutal Israeli military occupation of their land, denied their fundamental human rights, including the right to self-determination and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

He said that Israel, in flagrant challenge to, and disrespect for, the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and in violation of General Assembly resolution ES-10/15 of 20 July 2004, which reaffirmed the illegal character of the construction of the separation wall on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, continued to build that wall.  The Movement remained concerned at the wall’s huge physical, economic and social devastation; it divided the Occupied Palestinian Territory into isolated and fenced cantons, destroying entire communities and splitting East Jerusalem from the rest of the Territory.  The wall would isolate more than 230,000 Palestinians.

At the same time, he said the Movement was satisfied with the steps undertaken by the Lebanese Government to implement Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), particularly through the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces in the region south of the Litani River and along the Blue Line.  It also welcomed the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces along the northern and eastern borders of Lebanon, aimed at ensuring security and stability at the borders.  It, however, remained deeply concerned at the ongoing Israeli air and land violations of the Blue Line in breach of resolution 1701 (2006).  All parties should cooperate in protecting Lebanon’s sovereign rights in that area.

He added that the Movement was acutely aware of the enormous challenge facing Lebanon from the 1.2 million cluster bomblets launched by Israel during its aggression against that country last year.  It condemned the use of those weapons by Israel and deplored the resulting death toll.   Israel must provide the exact location of those deadly weapons, along with maps of mines planted during its occupation of southern Lebanon.  All actions by Israel, the occupying Power, which purportedly modified the legal, physical and demographic conditions and institutional structure of the occupied Syrian Golan, as well as Israeli measures to implement its jurisdiction and administration there, were null and void and had no legal effect.  All such measures were a clear violation of international law, international agreements, the United Nations Charter and decisions.

TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR ( Bahrain) said the Middle East was fraught with tension and conflict, unlike any other region, due largely to Israel’s continued occupation of Arab lands.  The people of those territories had suffered some 40 years of domination and threat.  It seemed that the Israeli occupation sought to achieve a fait accompli through a continued expansion of settlements and its ongoing construction of a separation wall in the West Bank.  Indeed, the illegal settlement activity and construction of the wall were among the most serious threats to the overall Middle East peace process.  Moreover, Israel continued to defy international law and the will of the Security Council by refusing to withdraw from the Syrian Golan Heights.  Those keeping track of Israel’s illegal activities, including in the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, had reported recently that Israel was now building settlements and outposts in that region and they “were now open to receive new settlers”.

Turning to the peace process, he said that past history had shown that unilateral and military solutions only led to more violence.  The Quartet-backed Road Map peace plan remained the most comprehensive way forward, even though the accord’s fulfilment date -- 2005 –- had passed.  Implementation of Road Map agreements by both sides should be accompanied by implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative and build on the call for a two-State solution that had emerged from the international peace conference in Annapolis.  At the same time, Israel must cease its military incursions and settlement activities on all Arab lands.  He called on the international community to actively support the process that had been launched at Annapolis and to ensure that follow-up negotiations included talks on all tracks, including on the Syrian Golan and Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms area.

BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said more than 60 years had lapsed since the Palestinian tragedy, which had seen millions of Palestinians denied their rights, and half a million Syrians forced from their towns.  The Arab side had spared no effort to achieve a just and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and had agreed with provisions of international law to end that situation, which had impacted peace in the region.  He recalled the 2002 Beirut Summit, and the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions that asked Israel to end its occupation.  On the occupied Syrian Golan, he said it was clear that Israel was refusing peace and had escalated its aggression through an expansion of settlements, which undermined the global peace movement.

Israel, which had committed daily massacres against Palestinians and waged war against Lebanon, continued to advertise its intentions to defy international law, notably thorough its arrest of Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan, he said.   Israel had stolen water, imposed prohibitive taxes on farmers, confiscated holdings, and buried nuclear waste in the Syrian Golan Heights.  He had raised such issues in the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and was waiting for the submission of their reports to the United Nations.  Refusal to respect international law could be seen in Israeli leaders’ statements on continued occupation of the Golan.  Activities, such as the continued construction of a 2 million cubic metre dam only 10 metres from the ceasefire line, violated international law and resolutions 242 and 338.

He called on all States to vote in favour of the draft resolution on the Syrian Golan, and on Israel to observe lawfulness in its international relations.  Dozens of Syrians were in prison, simply because they had refused to accept the occupation and be identified as Israelis.  They were suffering and his delegation had transmitted that information to the United Nations, so that Israel could be made responsible for that misconduct.  Citizens refused to be “Judaised” and insisted that the occupied lands come back to the “motherland”.

Suspicious movements in the Syrian occupied Golan were distressing, he continued, noting the Israeli air force violation of Syrian airspace as proof of Israel’s intent to choose the path of aggression.  The Security Council’s failure to condemn those flights only urged Israel to step up its stance.  One super-Power’s use of veto rights had become a monopoly to protect Israel, and he reminded delegates that some countries had waged wars without United Nations agreement.

Syria had taken part in the Annapolis conference and was committed to all agreements that would produce lasting peace in the region, he continued.   Israel must give up occupation of all Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan.  Moreover, his Government had constantly reiterated that “peace was a strategic choice”.  Indeed, his country was not hindering the peace process.

The only truth in the Middle East was that Israel did not wish to live in peace, he said.  Indeed, Israel had introduced nuclear weapons since the 1950s and refused to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).   Syria respected the principles of the United Nations Charter.  The international community had a duty to end Israeli occupation and aggression, which were the only reasons for ongoing tension in the region.

MUNASSER SALEM NASSER LASLOOM ( Saudi Arabia) said it was high time for the Palestinian people, who were suffering under the yoke of an odious occupation, to retrieve their rights and establish an independent State with the holy city of East Jerusalem as its capital.  He noted a new note of optimism -- hope even -- that this suffering, which weighed on the conscience, would end.  The Palestinian people may yet be able to enjoy their rights after years of delays and excuses, although the danger that the ray of hope may fade away again, becoming another link in the chain of disappointment, remained.

Saudi Arabia had accepted the invitation of President Bush to attend the Annapolis conference to reaffirm its support for accomplishing a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, he said.  Today, everything hinged on that process, which had been frozen for many years, thereby giving free reign to the forces of extremism.  The time had come to end the conflict and to pay tribute to the aspirations of the region’s peoples.  If war continued, it would enflame the entire region.  No one would be able to escape it.  In Annapolis and side by side with the other Arab nations, Saudi Arabia had also reaffirmed its desire to put an end to the occupation of the Golan and the Shebaa Farms.  The fact was that the United States and the Quartet had voiced full support for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within a defined timetable.

The guidelines seen in past agreements like the Road Map, the Arab Peace Initiative, the Madrid peace conference and the principle of land for peace should be honoured, he said.  Further, a mechanism should be created to closely monitor the progress among the parties and measure to what extent the agreements were being implemented throughout the negotiation process.

In light of the Secretary-General’s comments in his report, Saudi Arabia could see that Israel had not met its commitments under the Road Map.  Thus, Israel was invited to stop settling the Palestinian Territories.  The continuing erection of the separation wall was further preventing the circulation of goods and people.  Indeed, Israel had not respected the agreement of November 2005 for the free circulation of people and goods, instead setting up more roadblocks and checkpoints.  Given those facts, as they were presented in the Secretary-General’s report, and in light of the climate of optimism resulting from the Annapolis conference, his country felt it was necessary to warn Israel to fulfil its obligations.  The removal of settlements outside the borders, the release of prisoners, a cessation of the construction of the separation wall, and the removal of checkpoints and roadblocks were needed.

Israel claimed it sought peace, yet that was not true, he said.  Saudi Arabia had not sat by idly watching developments.  Rather, it had created many initiatives seeking peace.  He stressed that peace did not come through the barrel of a gun and, after having bet on war for so long, it was time for Israel to act for peace.  Indeed, peace would not come if there was occupation of land in the region.  In speaking of peace, it was necessary to consider the situation of Iraq and Lebanon.  To that end, he said there was a need to support the territorial integrity of Iraq.  It was also necessary to refrain from interfering in its internal affairs.  Iraq was an integral part of the Arab entity, and its people, in all their multiplicity, were a brother country.  The Kingdom was aware of the Iraqi people’s suffering and would work to help them overcome their tragic situation.  He also renewed the Kingdom’s support for its Lebanese brothers, who it was hoped could agree on a presidential candidate.  He urged his Lebanese brothers to display wisdom in overcoming their current circumstances and disagreements.

PETER MAURER ( Switzerland) welcomed the results of the Annapolis conference and expressed hope that the process the parties had embarked upon would bring the expected results.  The Annapolis process would only be able to win support on both sides and succeed if it led to a tangible improvement in the everyday lives of Palestinians and Israelis.  The political process would win credibility through a parallel process of economic recovery of a similar scope.  Therefore, he welcomed the plan of the Quartet’s Special Envoy Tony Blair and the forthcoming donor’s conference in Paris.

All discussions must be inclusive, he said, calling for the resumption of the intra-Palestinian dialogue and saying that the political parties must overcome their differences in order to address their people’s hopes for peace.  Only by following that path would the Palestinian Authority be able to re-establish its authority over the entire Occupied Palestinian Territory, ensure security, good governance and respect for human rights, and establish itself as a reliable partner capable of implementing its commitments with regard to the peace process.

Turning to the situation in Gaza, he said that even if his delegation fully understood the security concerns expressed by Israel and Egypt and could comprehend that the Palestinian Authority could not accept the fait accompli presented by armed groups in Gaza, it was, nonetheless, the international community’s common duty to recall the obligations of international law.  The Palestinian civilian population of Gaza must not be punished or made hostage to the political situation.  There was an urgent need to open the border crossings, in conformity with the Agreement on Movement and Access of November 2005.  The territorial unity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be maintained and respected.  While the situation in Gaza presented a particular challenge, the situation in the West Bank was also far from satisfactory.  Annapolis promised, through its references to the Road Map, a number of measures that he hoped would be implemented very soon.  In particular, he recalled the freeze on the expansion of settlements, evacuation of settler outposts and measures to relax restrictions on movement, as well as unrestricted freedom of access for international and humanitarian personnel.  The obligations of the Road Map were also applicable in the Gaza Strip.

He added that rocket attacks on Israeli localities neighbouring Gaza were unacceptable and clear violations of international humanitarian law and a reminder of the importance of the fight against terrorism -– also an integral part of the Road Map.  While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the centre of the whole Middle East issue, its effects extended far beyond the region, and other conflicts between Israel and its neighbours must not be forgotten.  He hoped the efforts of the international community would also embrace the concerns of Syria and Lebanon in the near future.  While encouraging the people of Lebanon to overcome their differences, he also urged all powers with interests in that country to exercise their positive influence with the aim of strengthening the unity of the country.  The involvement of many States, including Switzerland, in helping the Lebanese people emerge from the current deadlock demonstrated the importance of the country and the need to respect its integrity.

BAKI ILKIN ( Turkey), aligning himself with the statement of the European Union, said he welcomed the joint declaration of the Annapolis conference and applauded the commitment of both sides to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.  In order to achieve the ultimate goal, it was essential that both Israelis and Palestinians act with utmost restraint.  He called on Israel to reconsider its policies, since they had not delivered the sought-after sense of security.  Ending settlement activities and easing the pressure of the occupation could change a lot on the ground.  The living conditions in Gaza had reached intolerable levels.  Punitive measures that harmed the well-being of the entire population were unacceptable.  At the same time, Palestinians should be steadfast in stepping up their efforts to remove radical elements from the scene.

He said that, after years of broken promises and bloodshed, it was crucial that Israelis and Palestinians agreed on concrete steps and focus on economic and trade areas where the merits of cooperation could be felt in tangible terms.  Without addressing the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, the picture could never be completed.  Heartened by the Syrian participation in the conference, he hoped to see some progress on that track, as well.  In Lebanon, he would like to see a sense of national unity prevailing over factional, religious and ethnic considerations.  As for Iraq, the integrity and unity of that country held the key not only to regional, but also to global security and stability.

JIDDOU OULD ABDERRAHMANE ( Mauritania) said that, while the outcome at Annapolis was promising, the road ahead would be “long and hard”, requiring efforts and support of the entire international community.  Further, the legal framework for ending the illegal occupation of Arab territories by Israel and to comprehensively address all core issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict had already been set out in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly.  It was time for Israel to seize the opportunity to return to international legality and work for peace on all tracks, including the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.

He said that Israel should also release all Palestinian prisoners, end military sieges in Palestinian villages and towns, and bring to a halt its construction of the separation wall in the West Bank.  For its part, Mauritania would support all international efforts to achieve peace that were based on the implementation of the long-agreed legal framework and international legitimacy, in order to ensure stability and prosperity for the entire Middle East region.

MOHAMMED F. AL-ALLAF ( Jordan) said that now that the Annapolis conference had ended, negotiations had entered the next stage.  The proposed timeframe for those negotiations meant that the international community had no time to waste; work should begin immediately.  Failure would feed extremist forces and ensure the spread of instability in the region.

He said that the question of Palestine was the constant concern of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, not only because it was the core of the Israeli-Arab conflict, but because of Jordan’s intimate involvement in the future of Palestine.  Jordan believed that focusing on the social and economic needs of the Palestinian people would guarantee progress on that front and for everyone in the region.

Saying Annapolis had been an important step, he emphasized that the meeting’s momentum must be sustained, in order to create a just and lasting solution based on all agreements and resolutions.  Jordan would work with all parties on all the issues that hindered progress towards achieving a Palestinian State on Palestinian soil.  Indeed, it would work with both sides to do what was necessary.  Yet, halting violence was not the responsibility of one party alone.  Israel must remove obstacles and checkpoints, halt the construction of the separation wall, which encroached on Palestinian lands, and help the Palestinian people to carry out economic development.

It was also time for Israel to build confidence by leaving the areas of the West Bank it had occupied since 2000 and stop all activities in East Jerusalem that threatened the peace process, he urged.  At the same time the Palestinians should instigate reforms that would help create more stability.  Further, Israelis should carry on the work of organizing their security forces and establish control of their lands.  He also reaffirmed Jordan’s support for the Palestinian Authority and the leadership of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.  His country looked forward to the Paris conference next month.

Going forward, political negotiations should be serious and clearly defined, he said.  They should also be accompanied by immediate measures to reduce the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Jordan would support both parties to reach agreement on all principal issues, and it would work to establish a Palestinian State according to previous agreements, particularly the Arab Peace Initiative.  In fact, future negotiations should include reference to this initiative.  Because of Jordan’s location, as well as its unlimited support for the Palestinian people, the upcoming 2008 negotiations would be a focal point for his Government.

He said his country considered finding solutions to all principal issues within the timeframe established in Annapolis of utmost concern.  For the region to enjoy stability and peace, progress must be comprehensive and, therefore, should consider the issue of the occupied Golan Heights and address the Lebanese-Israeli track.  Indeed, efforts to reach a solution to Israel’s occupation of all Arab territories must be intensified.  There was an urgent need for true national reconciliation in Iraq, based on the unity of the State, and Jordan was committed to Iraq’s efforts to establish stability.  Jordan also supported a stable political process in Lebanon.

ABDULLAH AHMED AL MURAD ( Kuwait) said the Middle East region risked further deterioration of its security and stability due to the continued illegal policies and practices of Israel.   Israel continued its assassinations, summary executions, random use of military force, closing of crossing points, and construction of the separation wall, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.  Such practices flagrantly violated the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Moreover, Israel had exploited the international community’s inaction by carrying out illegal measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem.  Its violation of Palestinians’ basic human rights would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and further divide Palestinian lands.   Kuwait renewed its support for the Palestinians’ struggle to obtain their legitimate rights, by establishing their own State with Jerusalem as its capital.  While they lacked such rights, there would be no lasting or just solution to the Palestinian question.

Kuwait renewed its demands for Israel to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan and emphasized the illegitimacy of its activities in that area, he said, noting that continued annexation of the Golan was a true impediment to lasting peace.  Kuwait would support Lebanon in preserving its security, unity and territorial integrity, and he called on Israel to cease its violations of Lebanese airspace.  The global community must support the Lebanese Government in spreading its authority over its territories.

On the Annapolis conference, he said it represented an important and serious resurgence to creating a Palestinian State within a specified time frame.  He welcomed the holding of the conference, as it represented a turning point for the region.  He emphasized the importance of discussing all tracks, including the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, to achieve a comprehensive regional peace, adding that the coming months would be a “litmus test” of Israel’s seriousness in achieving peace.  Perhaps the Secretary-General’s presence at the Quartet group meeting in mid-December would add impetus to the process.  In closing, he said Kuwait hoped that talks would resume with a view to reaching a peaceful settlement.  Confidence-building measures were needed, foremost among them creating a region free of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.

TARIQ ALI FARAJ AL-ANSARI ( Qatar) said that finding a just solution to the Palestinian question was the best way to end the Middle East crisis, and he welcomed recent efforts by the United States to achieve a just peace based on the coexistence of two States, Palestine and Israel, living side by side.  He noted that Qatar co-sponsored draft resolutions L.22, on Jerusalem, and L.23, on the Syrian Golan, and called on all delegations to support them.  He said, further, that the sufferings of Arabs in the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon should not be forgotten and called on Israel to turn words into deeds by refraining from policies that contravened international law, among them, building the separation wall in occupied Palestine.

He also criticized Israeli policies of kidnapping, assassination and detention of leaders and representatives of the Palestinian people; Israeli excavations under and around Al-Aqsa Mosque; the targeting of Palestinian and Lebanese cities and villages; and the demolition of houses, places of worship, and hospitals.  He regretted that the Security Council lacked the will to implement relevant resolutions, particularly Security Council resolution 242 and General Assembly resolution 194, calling for Israel to negotiate with Arab countries affected by the conflict, to end occupation of their territories, and to apply the Geneva Convention on protecting civilians during time of war.  He called for withdrawal from the Syrian Golan and Lebanon.  Further, he said that the call for non-interference in Lebanese internal affairs was a message to everybody.

He said that the people of the Middle East felt threatened by the non-adherence to the NPT and the failure to place Israeli nuclear facilities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  He also said that the situation in Iraq affected neighbouring countries and required the full support of the international community to maintain the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of that country, while recognizing the responsibility of Iraqi leaders to find a formula for national reconciliation.  He stressed the need to rectify the historical error committed against Iraq and its negative impact on the global economy and security, noting that occupation and oppression were among the root causes of terrorism.

R.M. MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) welcomed the Israeli and Palestinian joint understanding achieved at the Annapolis conference, but cautioned that the history of the Palestinian issue had shown that reaching a just solution was a complex endeavour.  Indeed, 2005 had not seen the creation of a two-State solution, as had been agreed.  He hoped the new process would avoid the shortcomings of the past, but to avoid becoming another “wasted opportunity”, both sides must show a strong commitment to peace, and all parties should refrain from actions that would undermine those efforts.

He said it was equally important to resolve outstanding core issues, for which the relevant Security Council resolutions, along with the Arab Peace Initiative, provided a solid foundation.  Persistent Israeli occupation of Arab land was the root cause of the conflict and, thus, efforts to revive the peace process must include parallel Syria-Israel and Lebanon-Israel tracks.  At the same time, Palestinians must settle their own differences, as no true peace could be achieved without “peace at home”.  Likewise, an all-inclusive, transparent, political dialogue in Lebanon was key to reconciliation and democratic transformation, and Indonesia attached great significance to continued consultations among all Lebanese factions to break the political impasse.

Indonesia was deeply concerned at the threat posed to Lebanese by unexploded cluster munitions used by Israel in the 2006 conflict, and he called on States to urge Israel to provide detailed data on the exact place, quantity and type of those munitions to the United Nations, as soon as possible.  On the deteriorating conditions of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territory, he called on the international community to support the peace process by providing assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.   Indonesia looked forward to the upcoming Paris conference and would co-sponsor, with South Africa, an Asia-Africa conference for Palestine next year, which would focus on capacity-building.

HJALMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) fully supported the ongoing bilateral talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, welcoming also the revitalization of the Middle East peace process at Annapolis.  He strongly urged the parties to use the new momentum to move the peace process forward, with the aim of reaching a comprehensive peace settlement within the specified time frame.  He called on the Quartet and the global community to support them in their endeavours.

He said such positive developments must be matched by concrete progress and confidence-building on the ground, adding that Iceland was deeply concerned at continued violence in the Middle East and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, where most of the population remained dependent on food assistance from UNRWA.  He called on Israel to ease access in and out of Gaza, as that was essential for ensuring the viability of the Palestinian economy.  It was also important to ensure that security measures did not entail collective punishment.

On settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, he called on Israel to cease all settlement activities, dismantle illegal outposts and comply with its international obligations with respect to altering the status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  He also recalled the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall.  As progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was essential for achieving stability in the Middle East, final status issues must be on the agenda in upcoming talks.  Ensuring that both sides were reflected in the political process required true leadership; restraint, when that was most difficult; and determination to “outflank the spoilers”.  With that, he called on the international community to support the parties, including through timely presentation of “bridging proposals”.  The international community must also find ways to involve women in the peace process in a consistent and structured way.

TAKAHIRO SHINYO (Japan), speaking on both agenda items, said that after 60 long years of conflict and repeated setbacks stemming from the continuing violence on the ground, “we seem to have a genuine chance, for the first time since the year 2000, to advance the Middle East peace process”.  Everyone knew what the outcome must be:  a Palestinian State, living side by side with Israel in peace, security and prosperity.  The question was how to accomplish that goal.   Japan believed that peace in the region could only be achieved through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, based on the foundations laid by the “land for peace” principle, as well as relevant Security Council resolutions, the Quartet-backed Road Map peace plan, and the Arab Peace Initiative.  Following that path would lead to a lasting peace and prosperity in the region, including Syria and Lebanon.

With all that in mind, he recognized that the Israeli and Palestinian sides had long been discussing relevant issues, such as borders, refugee returns and security arrangements, among others, but had been unable to translate any proposed initiatives into reality on the ground.  Thus, he wholeheartedly welcomed the parties’ decision at Annapolis to immediately launch good faith bilateral negotiations.  As the parties pressed ahead, with the help of the wider international community, Japan remained “deeply concerned” about the continued split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, since Hamas had taken control of the Strip by force.

“There will be no Palestinian State without Gaza,” he said, and stressed that it was incumbent on the international community to find ways to help the Palestinian Authority reinstate law and order in the Gaza Strip and to involve all Palestinians in the peace process.  He added that his country was also concerned about the deepening socio-economic and humanitarian situation in that area.   Japan believed that the achievement of a two-State solution required the enhancement of Palestinian democratic governance capabilities, through human resources development, rehabilitation of Government structures, and the establishment of a viable and sustainable economy.

“The entire international community must come together to show strong support for the peace efforts of these two dedicated leaders,” he said of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas, calling for broad assistance to the Palestinian effort to achieve their own State.  He added that the upcoming donor conference in Paris and the Annapolis follow-up meeting proposed by the Russian Federation would help build international momentum to that end.  For its part, Japan had been actively promoting political dialogue between the parties and confidence-building measures.  It had recently undertaken an initiative to create a “corridor of peace and prosperity” to assist the Palestinians in developing a viable economy, by creating an agro-industrial park in the Jordan Valley.  The park would provide jobs for Palestinians and export products to the Gulf and other countries.

OSMAN HUSSEIN ELAMIN ( Sudan) said the Arab-Israeli conflict was at the heart of much of the tension and instability in the Middle East.  The issue was so important that it must be kept permanently on the Assembly’s agenda.   Israel had been flouting international law for 40 years and continued to display “arrogance” by, among other things, refusing to cooperate with the Secretary-General’s investigation into the incident in Beit Hanoun.  It was also continuing its settlement expansion, as well as building its “segregation” wall in the West Bank, occupying the Syrian Golan and the Shebaa Farms in Lebanon.

What was worse was that the international community remained silent while Israel trampled international law, he continued.  The only way out of the situation was to first achieve peace in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, based on relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly.  Also, he said he must draw the Assembly’s attention to the troubling situation in the “brotherly country” of Iraq, and called on the body to work to alleviate the suffering there.


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For information media • not an official record

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