Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

Fifty-Ninth General Assembly
Second Committee
32nd Meeting (PM)
15 November 2004



Delegates Conclude Discussion of Permanent
Arab Sovereignty over Natural Resources in Occupied Territories



The Second Committee met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of the permanent sovereignty of Arab peoples in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan over their natural resources.  (For background information, see Press Release GA/EF/3094 of 10 November.)  It was also expected to begin discussing the eradication of poverty and other development issues, and to take action on draft resolutions relating to sustainable development.



KHALIFA ALAUJAN (Bahrain) stressed that according to international law, occupying Powers possessed no sovereignty over occupied lands and were obligated to respect property and natural resources.  Israel, however, had exhibited a total lack of respect for United Nations resolutions and treaties in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, and had impeded internationally supported peace initiatives.  It had continued to expand settlements, exploit natural resources and confiscate land and water resources in occupied areas.  It had set up check points and barricades, which hindered transport and kept occupied peoples from exploiting their natural resources.

Complicating the situation in the occupied territories was the increasing number of displaced Palestinians, which had reached 16,000 in 2003, he said.  Palestinians living in refugee camps –- some 1.3 million -- lacked basic needs, including electricity and sewage.  Moreover, more than 10,000 Palestinians had lost their homes due to demolitions carried out by Israel.  The International Court of Justice had ruled that the separation wall that Israel was building to divide the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was against international law, but Israel had continued to build it.  The occupation had led to a significant increase in the rate of poverty and unemployment, as well as a decline in medical services and the suspension of educational programmes.

BASHEER ZOUBI (Jordan) expressed his condolences to Palestine and the United Arab Emirates for the recent passing of their respective Presidents.  He said the Secretary-General’s report revealed that during the review period the situation in the occupied territories had worsened in almost all topics and indicators, including deaths and injuries; arbitrary arrests and detentions; population displacement; property destruction and confiscation; mobility restrictions and closure policies; Israeli settlements; natural resources, water and the environment; public health; as well as education and access to humanitarian assistance, among others.  The economic deterioration in the territory under Israeli occupation had led the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to refer to Palestine as a “war-torn economy”, characterized by the same structural factors, external and fiscal constraints and private-sector performance as other war-ravaged countries.

Since the signing of the 1993 Oslo Agreement, he said, Jordan had maintained its support for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East with Israel and Palestine, as well as other neighbouring countries, as its partners in peace-making.  Israel’s continuing practices and policies could seriously impede peace and the vision of the two-State solution called for in the Quartet’s Road Map.  Israel’s continued defiance of United Nations resolutions on the question of Palestine further exacerbated the dangerous impact of its policies.  He expressed concern over the spillover effect of Israel’s occupation, noting that a youth and education report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) had revealed that at least 498 schools had closed during the 2002-2003 school year due to movement restrictions that confined children to their homes.  Israeli forces had destroyed or damaged at least 269 schools.

HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) said that civilians had been killed, people displaced, homes destroyed, and assassinations committed during Israel’s illegal occupation of Arab territories.  For example, an American teacher had been struck down by a bulldozer while trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian house in Gaza.  Israel had continued to flout all relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the principles of international law.  Yet, its delegation at the United Nations talked impertinently and insolently of the contributions Israel had made to development.  Perhaps Israel had forgotten to add that it had uprooted trees, destroyed water resources and converted the occupied territories into dry, arid land.  Those were also contributions that it had made.

Statistics had failed to show the dramatic situation in the occupied territories, where terrorism showed no discrimination between men, women and children, he said.  Israel had persisted in imposing its logic for war, despite the rights of the Arab population.  In addition to massacring countless individuals, Israel had prevented people in the occupied territories from building dams and digging wells.  It had also burned forests, deposited nuclear waste, and allowed colonizers to leave untreated waste in the occupied territories.  Its construction of the separation wall, which covered an immense area occupied in 1967, flouted the opinion of the International Court of Justice.

MAJDI RAMADAN (Lebanon) expressed his condolences over the recent passing of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.  He said the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan was a clear indictment of Israelis gruesome operations in those territories.  The Committee’s work was important for the attainment of sustainable development, poverty eradication and the Millennium Development Goals, including the sovereign right of people over their natural resources.  In that context, Israel was fully responsible for the illegal exploitation of the occupied territory’s natural resources.  The Committee’s approval of a resolution on that item would be testament to its commitment to ensuring that the Palestinian and Syrian populations in the territories had that right.

Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories were illegal, he continued.  Israel’s settlement policy sought eventually to annex Palestinian lands.  Planned settlement zones covered 49 per cent of the West Bank and 45 per cent of Gaza, while settler roads cut through Palestinian territory.  In the occupied Syrian Golan, Israel used most areas for military purposes and settlement building.  The separation wall under construction was three times higher than and twice as long as the former Berlin Wall.  Upon its completion, Israel would have annexed most of the occupied Palestinian territory’s ground water, destroyed land and thus denied Palestinian farmers sustainable livelihoods.

PRAYONO ATIYANTO (Indonesia) said that Israel’s long-lasting occupation of the Palestinian territory, which went completely against the will of the Palestinian population, had caused serious economic and social damage.  Most social and economic data showed an ongoing deterioration of living conditions among the Palestinian people, with more than half of them now living below the poverty line.

The Palestinian people were being hindered and impoverished in every possible way, rather that being allowed to join the march towards the goals of the Millennium Declaration, he said.  The situation was contrary to the spirit of globalization prevailing in today’s world, and because it did no justice to the legitimate interests of the Palestinians, it must not be tolerated.  General Assembly resolutions demanding respect for the sovereignty of States and the avoidance of extraterritorial coercive measures as instruments to attain national goals must be adhered to.

MEHDI MIRAFZAL (Iran) expressed his condolences on the recent passing of President Yasser Arafat, noting that his tireless efforts in various international and regional organizations for Palestinian liberation would never be forgotten.  He said that war crimes committed by Israel included recent military operations against civilians in Gaza.  They included the brutal killing of a large number of Palestinian civilians, among them children and women in refugee camps.  Such crimes, as well as Israel’s dispossession and destruction of all kinds of private and public assets, had left Palestinians and their socio-economic situation hopeless.

Israel’s illegal acts of aggression and oppression against the Palestinian people were deliberate attempts to preclude and torpedo peace efforts in the region, he continued.  Israel’s disregard for the international community’s demands and its continued violence and terror against the Palestinian people had made a dire situation worse.  It had carried out its crimes with impunity, undoubtedly emboldening it to continue its targeting of civilians, collective punishments, house demolitions, land confiscations, destruction of agricultural assets, confiscation of land and water resources, erection of the West Bank barrier, indiscriminate extrajudicial killings and targeted assassinations of Palestinian resistance leaders.  It was high time the international community took effective measures to protect and enforce the Palestinian people’s most basic rights and help end the vicious cycle of violence caused by Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.  Iran also called for the creation of a PalestinianState, with Al-Quds-al-Sharif as its capital, and for an end to Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan, as the only viable and sustainable solution.

SHAHID HUSAIN, Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the continued occupation of Palestinian territory had resulted in a colossal loss of investment.  At the beginning of 2003, foreign investment had fallen
90 per cent over the preceding three years, from $1.45 billion in 1999 to $150 million in 2002.  That loss in foreign investment, combined with physical damage and infrastructure deterioration, had resulted in a $1 billion drop, or 19 per cent in real per capita terms, in productive capital stock at the beginning of 2003.

The occupation had also worsened conditions for women, as violence in the environment exacerbated abuse at home, he said.  Exposure to political violence was the strongest predictor of violence in the family, whether between spouses, against children or among siblings.

He noted with concern that Israel now maintained some 40 settlements on Syria’s Golan Heights, housing 15,700 Israelis, and that the occupation had dismembered families.  Young Arab graduates from the Golan and from Syrian universities had only limited access to job opportunities back home.  If they visited their families in the Syrian Golan once a year during their studies, Israel refused them re-entry.  Last year’s Islamic Summit Conference had strongly condemned Israel’s policy towards the occupied Syrian Golan, as well as its policy of land annexation, settlement building, land confiscation, diversion of water resources, and its imposition of Israeli nationality on Syrian citizens.

ABDULMALIK MOTAHAR ALSHABIBI (Yemen) said the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan showed that the world was faced with a humanitarian catastrophe.  It was regrettable that in the twentieth century, the Palestinian people were suffering gravely and their socio-economic situation deteriorating while the world spoke of equality, freedom and civil rights.  The international community did not need more resolutions to become aware of their plight.  What was needed was a firm resolution to demand that Israel abide by international law and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.

Agreeing with the view expressed in the Secretary-General’s report that the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the region was the best way to resolve the conflict,  he said Yemen fully supported the right to sovereignty of the Palestinian people and the creation of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.  Yemen also stood in solidarity with the Syrian and Lebanese peoples over their struggle for sovereignty over lands occupied by Israel.

The Committee then took action on a resolution relating to disaster reduction.


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