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7th plenary meeting
Friday, 25 September 2009, 9 a.m.
The meeting was called to order at 9.10 a.m.
Mr. Martínez Bonilla (El Salvador) Vice-President, took the Chair.
The Acting President (spoke in Spanish ): On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Blaise Compaore, President of Burkina Faso, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Compaore (spoke in French ): ...
In the Middle East, we welcome the successful conduct of elections in Lebanon and encourage that country to improve its relations with Syria and Israel. The restoration of stability and prospects for normalized relations with Lebanon’s neighbours represent an opportunity for calm consideration of a global settlement of the Palestinian question.
The Acting President (spoke in Spanish ): On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency General Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Sleiman (spoke in Arabic ): ...
One of the primary tasks entrusted to the Security Council is to strive to maintain international peace and security. Indeed, it is very unfortunate that the Arab Middle East, a region that gave rise to the three monotheistic religions, has been an area of tension, conflict and war ever since the Nakba, the tragedy that befell Palestine in 1948 and displaced its people.
Any settlement of the Middle East crisis must be based on a predetermined and comprehensive plan whose basic elements have been set out in the resolutions of international legitimacy, at the Madrid Peace Conference and in the Arab Peace Initiative. Above all, such a settlement requires the genuine political will of the parties to commit themselves to peace and its obligations.
However, the Israeli side has not demonstrated such will, because the soundness and usefulness of a just peace are still being discussed both by the Government and at the grass-roots level in Israel. Furthermore, Israeli threats of attacks and wars continue as ways to exert control and hegemony and impose a fait accompli, if not to bring about expansion, displacement and further encroachment on the rights of Palestinians and Arabs. Meanwhile, Arab countries have together introduced a comprehensive Peace Initiative, which was unanimously adopted at the 2002 Arab League Summit, held in Beirut.
It is thus essential that the international community take appropriate measures to compel Israel to fulfil its international obligations under the peace process within a specific and reasonable time frame, in accordance with the Declaration of the recent Arab League Summit held in Doha, Qatar. How can we persuade our peoples that the international community is capable of achieving a just and comprehensive peace and thus of putting an end to the various aspects of the Middle East conflict, including through an Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State with Al-Quds as its capital, if it cannot force Israel to halt its settlement construction, lift its unjust siege on Gaza and stop the Judaization of Jerusalem?
In that context, it is important to note that people have the right to reclaim their occupied territories by all legitimate and available means, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the relevant United Nations resolutions. Everyone here knows how Lebanon was able to liberate most of its territories occupied by Israel in the spring of 2000 after Israel had refused to implement resolution 425 (1978) , which called for its immediate and unconditional withdrawal from all Lebanese territories. That occupation lasted 22 continuous years.
Our meeting this year coincides with the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). On this occasion, Lebanon would like to stress that the Palestinian refugees’ solution is first and foremost a political solution. We fully support all efforts aimed at reinforcing the programmes and capabilities of UNRWA, enabling it to improve the living standards and human conditions of the refugees, in collaboration with the host countries, until a just and final solution to the tragedy of the Palestinians has been reached.
Clearly, such a just and final solution for the Palestinian refugees cannot deny them their natural and legitimate right of return to their lands and homes, nor can it be achieved without the host countries’ participation or in violation of their sovereignty, their special circumstances and their national interests. This is why Lebanon rejects any form of settling Palestinian refugees on its territories, for by such rejection it upholds the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, in accordance with Lebanon’s Constitution and national pact. Let it be clear that such a position will not be reversed. Nor will it be subject to compromise or negotiation. I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the countries that have lent their support to the Lebanese position on this issue and shown a willingness to defend it.
The experience acquired over the past 61 years has confirmed a set of truths. First, the Palestinian cause is at the core of the Middle East conflict. Secondly, Israel’s resorting to force to impose a fait accompli is futile and will weaken neither the will nor the determination of the Arab people to restore their rights. Thirdly, partial and unilateral solutions will not achieve genuine peace, and unjust solutions are short-lived.
The President : On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Zardari : ...
Pakistan also supports the rights of the Palestinian people as guaranteed in several United Nations resolutions. Durable peace in the Middle East requires that the issue of Palestine be addressed meaningfully.
Agenda item 8 (continued )
The President ( spoke in Arabic ): The Assembly will now hear a statement by the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority.
Mr. Abbas (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic ): I congratulate you, Sir, on your election to the presidency of the General Assembly. I wish you every success in your noble mission and recognize your long experience in international political affairs. I also extend our greetings and thanks to former President, His Excellency Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, whose positions and active efforts reflected the spirit and principles of this international organization, which is headed by His Excellency Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whom I also salute. I express our appreciation for everything he has done personally and through the organs and agencies of the United Nations, notably the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to assist the Palestinian people and defend their rights.
During this session we have a full agenda before us. The peoples of the whole world are looking to this body to determine what can be done to save our planet from the effects of climate change and global warming and to address the world financial crisis. Many countries, including small and developing countries, see the need to reform the United Nations, including the Security Council, so as to reflect the reality of the current international situation and to ensure more comprehensive representation of the international community.
These common concerns must not overshadow the fact that serious problems face the Middle East region in particular, first and foremost the lack of commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and the extent to which the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council are actually being implemented without the application of double standards. Everyone agrees on the need to achieve peace in the Middle East, to counter extremism and violence, and to establish the region as a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Yet the larger wound and deeper tragedy remains the suffering of our Palestinian people since the Nakba — the catastrophe — more than 60 years ago, to which the United Nations is a living witness. Its archives contain not dozens but hundreds of resolutions that have not been implemented.
The suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of Israel’s settler occupation is crystal clear to the world. Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, Israel has continued with its settlement policy on all Palestinian land, especially in holy Jerusalem, where that policy is being accelerated and escalated by many means, including the seizure of the homes of Palestinians in the city, the imposition of restrictions, even preventing Palestinians from building and sometimes from repairing their homes while new settlement neighbourhoods are established. Jerusalem is becoming completely isolated from its surroundings because of the illegal settlements and the apartheid wall.
We now face a unique situation. If international law stipulates the inadmissibility of the acquisition of the territory of others by force, how can we then deal with the current situation where Israeli settlement policies are undermining the goal of establishing a geographically contiguous Palestinian State in implementation of the will of the international consensus? That consensus is reflected in the many resolutions and principles, including the Road Map, which we all agreed upon and which is based on the principle of land for peace and on an end to the occupation that began in 1967.
Immense efforts have been exerted and many conferences have been held over the years, particularly since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Yet all of this has not led to an end to the conflict. President Barack Obama gave much hope to our people and the peoples of the region when he announced his vision for a peace agreement on the basis of a two-State solution and the cessation of all settlement activities. We welcomed the active American diplomacy to revive the peace process and all efforts of the international Quartet and its members: the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States.
All these active efforts and initiatives, which have been welcomed and supported by us and by the Arab States, are however confronted by the intransigence of Israel, which refuses to adhere to the requirements for relaunching the peace process. How is it conceivable that negotiations can be held on the borders and on Jerusalem while Israeli bulldozers are working to change the reality on the ground with the aim of creating a new reality and imposing the borders that Israel desires? How can one conceive of holding negotiations without agreement on the terms of reference and the objective of those negotiations, which the whole world has unanimously agreed upon, namely ending the Israeli occupation of the territories occupied in 1967, establishing the State of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital, reaching a just and agreed upon solution to the question of Palestinian refugees on the basis of resolution 194 (III) of 1948, and achieving peace on all the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks, as affirmed in the Arab Peace Initiative, which provides a precious opportunity that must be seized to achieve peace?
In this regard, I should like to express our deep appreciation of the important speech delivered to the Assembly by President Obama two days ago (see A/64/PV.3), in which he affirmed the necessity of ending the occupation that began in 1967 and the illegitimacy of the settlements. He also stressed the need to establish an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian State and to address all the final-status issues in the negotiations, foremost among these Jerusalem, refugees, borders, water and settlements, along with others. We reiterate that adherence to these principles, in addition to a complete freeze on all settlement activities, can salvage the peace process and open horizons for its success.
I reaffirm the eagerness of the Palestine Liberation Organization to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy. At the same time, I caution that the settlement policy and the building of the separation wall, which continue to be pursued by the Israeli occupation, will abort opportunities to relaunch the peace process. Time is running out and the risks are becoming greater as a result of the continued suffering of the Palestinian people under the last remaining occupation in the world.
We call upon the international community to uphold international law and international legitimacy and to exert pressure on Israel to cease its settlement activities, to comply with the agreements it has signed, to cease its policies of occupation and colonial settlement, to release the approximately 11,000 prisoners and detainees and to lift the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, which was subjected months ago to devastating aggression claiming thousands of civilian casualties among and causing unprecedented destruction of infrastructure and public facilities, including hospitals, mosques, schools and even United Nations facilities.
Our people, which continues to demand its rights and to be determined to remain in its homeland despite all of the suffering caused by the detentions, the blockade and the killings, is also keen to end internal division and to restore national unity. Our sister, Egypt, is making commendable efforts to achieve that goal.
In spite of all our suffering from the occupation and its practices, we continue to work to build and develop our national institutions. We have made significant progress in this regard both in upholding the rule of law and public order and in promoting economic and social development, despite the harsh conditions of the occupation and the blockade. We continue to make every possible effort for the success of the efforts of our brothers in Egypt to end the ongoing coup in the Gaza Strip and to restore our national unity by resorting to the ballot box and holding presidential and legislative elections on their constitutional date under the supervision and control of Arab and Islamic countries, the United Nations and the international community. In that way, democracy will be firmly institutionalized in our political life.
Hope will remain alive in our souls and we will not despair of regaining our rights on the basis of relevant resolutions of the United Nations, the historic role of which we reaffirm for attaining peace and upholding the principle of “might for right” and not “right for might”.
From this rostrum, I conclude by reaffirming our commitment to the Road Map, the Arab Peace Initiative and to all terms of reference of the political process. We call upon all parties to respect and abide by them to provide the opportunity to launch a successful and effective peace process. We are confident that all our brothers in sisterly Arab countries will adhere to the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for safeguarding our rights and opening the way towards genuine peaceful relations with Israel once the occupation is ended and the independent State of Palestine is established.
The President (spoke in Arabic ): I have great pleasure in welcoming His Highness Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of the State of Kuwait, and inviting him to address the General Assembly.
Sheikh Al-Sabah (Kuwait) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
We express much sorrow and pain that the question of Palestine has remained unresolved for over six decades, despite numerous international efforts and initiatives by a number of international and regional parties. A source of major concern is the deteriorating political, economic, social and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, as a result of the continued exercise by Israel, the occupying Power, of its illegal policies and practices, contrary to international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.
In this regard, we renew our condemnation of repeated Israeli aggression against the occupied territories, in particular, the military aggression against Gaza last December, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians, among them women, children and the elderly, were killed. That aggression also resulted in the unjustifiable destruction of homes, property and civilian infrastructure.
We call upon the international community, the Security Council in particular, to assume its responsibilities and take all necessary measures to stop Israel’s violation of international humanitarian law and its settlement activities as well as the policy of collective punishment it imposes on the Palestinian people. That policy is applied through its blockade of Gaza and its restriction of the freedom of access and movement of persons in all areas, including in the occupied territories. We also call for an immediate halt to Israel’s settlement activities, which are carried out under unacceptable pretexts.
The State of Kuwait also wishes to refer to the report (A/HRC/12/48) of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which clearly proves that the Israeli forces committed war crimes during the brutal aggression against Gaza last year. This represents a grave violation of international humanitarian law. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Security Council and the broader United Nations to assume their responsibility to stop these crimes against humanity and to punish the perpetrators in accordance with international law.
Because of its moral and national responsibilities, as well as its steady support for the Palestinian cause, the State of Kuwait, in addition to supporting international efforts to improve living conditions in Gaza and to rebuild what the Israeli aggression against Gaza destroyed, has voluntarily pledged to donate $500 million, $200 million of which is to rebuild Gaza. This is a portion of its commitments within the context of the League of Arab States to support the Palestinian Authority.
Kuwait also took the initiative of responding to the appeal that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) launched last December by donating the entire amount sought, $34 million, to cover the cost of urgently needed relief aid.
In this context, we believe that the suffering of the Palestinian people will continue until there is a permanent, just and comprehensive peace, which must mean ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, the establishment of a Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital, and total Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories it has occupied since 4 June 1967, in implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Acting President : I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Mr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, and inviting him to address the General Assembly.
Mr. Ramgoolam (Mauritius): ...
The Arab-Israeli conflict, with the question of Palestine at its core, remains an issue of deep concern not only to the region, but also to the world at large. We take heart in the efforts of the Administration of President Obama to impart new impetus to the Middle East peace process. And we could not agree more with President Obama that continuing to build new settlements flies in the face of logic if lasting peace is to be achieved.
As a long-time proponent of a two-State solution, Mauritius welcomes the Quartet’s commitment, renewed in Trieste in June, to actively and vigorously work for a comprehensive solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Arab League’s commitment to peace with Israel and the Arab Peace Initiative have been encouraging developments. We hope that those most directly concerned will display the courage and maturity to engage in meaningful dialogue in earnest.
The meeting rose at 2.10 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room U-506. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.