Mr. Ka, Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee, also reported on the results of a recent non-governmental organization Symposium on the question of Palestine held at Geneva. He said the NGOs had denounced Israeli acts of intimidation, humiliation and punishment of Palestinians, including closures of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, as well as restrictions on travel, freedom of worship and the free movement of people and goods.
M. Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the Israeli Government persisted in violating agreements with the Palestinian people. Israel's recent decision to allow the building of new units in the existing settlements was an indication of resumed colonial activity and could reverse the peace process as a whole. He said he would seek action by the Security Council on the matter if the Israeli Government persisted with those plans.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Afghanistan, Malta, Indonesia and Cuba.
The Palestinian Rights Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to hear a report by its Chairman on the International Non-Governmental Organization Meeting/European NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine, held at Geneva from 2 to 4 September on the theme of building a non-governmental organization partnership for a just and comprehensive settlement of the question of Palestine. The Committee was also discussing recent political developments in the occupied territories.
Reporting on the Geneva meeting, IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Committee Chairman, said that current restrictions imposed by the Government of Israel on freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank had dictated the choice of Geneva as venue for the meeting, instead of the territories under the Palestinian Authority, as was originally intended. The meeting was attended by 21 experts, as well as representatives of 80 non-governmental organizations, 26 governments, nine United Nations agencies and bodies, three intergovernmental organizations, four non-governmental organization coordinating committees and a Palestinian delegation.
He said the panel discussions addressed recent political developments, as well as key issues of a just and comprehensive settlement -- namely, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, Palestine refugees and displaced persons, and the question of Jerusalem. The discussions reflected the concern of all participants regarding implementation of agreements and the continuation of the peace process. There was a clear commitment on the part of all participants to work towards a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine.
In a final statement, the participating non-governmental organizations welcomed the positive developments in the Middle East peace process but expressed great concern at repeated delays in implementation of the agreements in letter and spirit, he said. Certain measures by the Israeli Government had created significant obstacles to the peace process. Those obstacles had undermined confidence and posed a real threat to a just and lasting peace.
The ongoing incarceration of Palestinian prisoners and detainees was of great concern to the NGOs, as was the intimidation and closure of Palestinian institutions, Mr. Ka continued. The NGOs denounced Israeli acts of intimidation, humiliation and punishment against Palestinians, including closures of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. They also denounced the restrictions on travel, freedom of worship and the free movement of goods and people between the West Bank and Gaza.
He said the NGOs urged that the United Nations play a key role in the search for a negotiated settlement. They also asked that countries housing Palestinian refugees observe and preserve their civil, social and political rights until they are allowed to exercise their right to return. The United States and the European Union were asked to urge Israel to comply with the agreements.
Congratulating the Palestinian Authority on the conduct of its first elections, the NGOs declared their obligation to lobby their respective governments, expressing concern that Israel should comply with the agreements, he said. Participating non-governmental organizations were also called upon to publicize any violation of Palestinian human rights and to develop cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian NGOs.
The Chairman said the Bureau of the Committee would remain engaged in the process of consultations with NGO representatives in coming months, with a view to improving the effectiveness of the NGO programme, broadening participation in events organized by the Committee and promoting strengthened solidarity with respect to NGO activities in support of the Palestinian people.
Turning to recent political developments in the occupied Palestinian territory, Mr. Ka informed the Committee of certain actions taken by the Bureau of the Committee since its last meeting. In a 10 September press release, the Bureau had expressed satisfaction at the resumption, on 4 September, of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Bureau welcomed the meeting between the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, as an important step towards full implementation of the agreements already reached between the two sides. He said the Bureau had expressed the hope that the meeting would clear the way for a continuation of substantive discussions on matters pertaining to the permanent status of Jerusalem. The Bureau had also restated the Committee's strong support for the current peace process, and its determination to spare no effort in promoting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination and statehood.
Regarding a decision taken by the Security Council to simplify its list of items, he cited a 16 August letter in which he conveyed the Committee's objection to a decision to delete the items relating to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, the Palestine question and the Middle East problem. The letter stated the Committee's belief that, pending a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict -- the core of which was the question of Palestine -- those items should remain on the list of matters to be addressed by the Security Council.
M. NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, expressed displeasure that the Secretariat had been unable to provide Arabic interpretation for today's meeting. He added that he would be sending letters today to all Permanent Representatives and Permanent Observers at the United Nations on recent political developments in the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as his thoughts on the General Assembly's work on the Palestinian question at its current session. The current status of the Middle East peace process was not encouraging. The Israeli Government, with its new Prime Minister, had adopted guidelines which contradicted the letter and spirit of its two binding agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The Israeli Government had made it clear that the agreed timetables would not be respected, and it persisted in violations of those agreements, he said. It had also resumed colonial settlement activities in the occupied territory, which violated the 1949 Geneva Convention and could reverse the peace process as a whole. The Israeli Defence Minister had also recently decided to allow the building of 1,800 new units in an existing settlement, in addition to 2,200 units that were pending. Recent positive developments, such as the meeting between President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, as well as the more recent meeting between Mr. Arafat and the Israeli Defence Minister, had not led to any positive change on the ground.
He stressed permanent responsibility of the United Nations with respect to the question of Palestine. At its current session, the General Assembly should restate its just positions regarding the rights of the Palestinian people. Specifically, it should continue its efforts to keep the peace process alive, stressing the principle of statehood for Palestine, and the issue of Israeli colonialism. He intended to move the relevant resolution on that subject to the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and to introduce in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) a resolution on permanent sovereignty of people over natural resources.
He said the Assembly should also stress the issue of lack of compliance by Israel with agreements reached. It should also lay stress on other Israeli practices, especially the siege imposed on the Palestinian territory and the confiscation of Palestinian land. He would also seek specific action by the Security Council on the issue of Israeli colonialism if he concluded that the Israeli Government was persisting with its plans in that sphere.
Mr. Al-Kidwa also expressed concern at the lack of implementation by the Department of Public Information of the mandate given to it by the General Assembly on the question of Palestine. It was hoped that serious movement would be seen aimed at implementing the relevant resolutions of the Assembly on that matter.
RAVAN A.G. FARHADI (Afghanistan) stressed the need for cooperation and coordination during the current session of the General Assembly. The Committee's purpose was very clear: it was in favour of the peace process and on the side of justice. Now it must redouble its efforts, in view of the events of the past months in the Middle East. The question of the statehood of Palestine must be restated by the Assembly. There were many legal bases for such an action.
He deplored the developments with respect to Israeli settlements in Palestine since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to power. The question of natural resources was also assuming renewed importance. Here, as in other areas, cooperation between the Committee and the Palestinian delegation would be of great importance, as new resolutions would have to be drafted on all those questions. He encouraged Committee members to speak their minds in the General Assembly.
JOANNA DARMANIN (Malta) said her country viewed the resumption of talks in the Middle East as positive. The question of the expansion of Israeli settlements was of particular concern.
ISSLAMET POERNOMO (Indonesia) said his country was very concerned about Israeli practices and violations of agreements already reached. Indonesia was ready to cooperate closely with the Committee's efforts during the current session of the General Assembly.
RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said the statement by Afghanistan was a timely reminder of the difficulties that lay ahead for the Committee in the General Assembly. Cuba was ready to work at keeping channels open.