The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this afternoon adopted its annual report to the General Assembly and reaffirmed that its own role continues to be necessary until a comprehensive, just and lasting peace is reached.
In a series of recommendations contained in the report, the Committee invited reconfirmation of its mandate by the Assembly and considered that a broadening of the Committee's membership to include countries that support its objectives would enhance the contribution of the United Nations to promote peace.
Also in its recommendations, the Committee stated that one of the events under its auspices should be held as soon as possible in the territory under the Palestinian Authority to address various aspects of the transition period.
The draft report was introduced by the Committee Rapporteur, Joseph Cassar (Malta).
The Committee also heard reports by its Chairman, Keba Birane Cisse (Senegal) on the combined International NGO Meeting/European Symposium on the Question of Palestine held in Vienna from 29 August to 1 September, and the Eleventh Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Countries held at Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, from 14 to 20 October.
In other remarks, the Chairman said the Committee would meet in the future to consider the draft resolutions on the question of Palestine to be presented to the Assembly. He also drew attention to the special meeting organized by the Committee to celebrate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November.
Other statements were made by the representatives of Ukraine and Malaysia. The Observer for Palestine also spoke.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this afternoon to consider the draft report of the Committee to the General Assembly and to hear the Chairman's report on the International Non-governmental Meeting and European Symposium on the Question of Palestine held at the Vienna International Centre in Austria from 29 August to 1 September. It was also scheduled to hear the Chairman's report on the Eleventh Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries held at Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, from 14 to 20 October.
Included in the Committee's draft report to the Assembly (document A/AC.183/1995/CRP.2 and Add.1), which covers the work of the Committee since the forty-ninth session, are the draft recommendations of the Committee to the Assembly. According to the recommendations, the Committee would reaffirm that the United Nations has a permanent responsibility with respect to the question of Palestine until a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement is reached and that its own role continues to be useful and necessary during the transitional period.
Also under the terms of the draft recommendations, the Committee would consider that a broadening of its membership to include countries that support its objectives but have not yet participated in its work, would enhance the contribution of the United Nations to promote peace at this important stage.
Considering that its seminars on issues confronting the Palestinian people have been particularly useful in bringing together experts in the relevant fields, including Palestinians and Israelis, as well as donor countries, United Nations departments, agencies and organizations, and non- governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the field, the Committee expressed its intention to call for the holding of an event under its auspices in the territory under the Palestinian Authority to address various aspects of the transition period.
The Committee would reaffirm that the settlement of the question of Palestine must be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, and the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights, in particular the right to self-determination. The Committee would continue to adjust its work to contribute to the peace process, and would invite the Assembly to reaffirm its mandate with overwhelming support.
The Committee would also stress its role in bringing together and developing a network of NGOs interested in the question of Palestine and in promoting solidarity activities, as well as concrete assistance. It would emphasize the contribution of the Division for Palestinian Rights and would request the Division to continue its activities, including those related to the computer-based information system on the question of Palestine. The Committee would request the Secretary-General to maintain the political structure and composition of the Division and to continue to provide it with the necessary resources.
Also under its recommendations, the Committee would consider that the Special Information Programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information continues to be useful in raising the awareness of the international community and in contributing to an atmosphere conducive to peace, and would request that the programme reflect the new experiences of the Palestinian people and provide assistance in the field of Palestinian media development.
The draft report describes the Committee's objectives and perspectives during the year. Reviewing the situation relating to the question of Palestine and efforts to implement the Committee's mandate, the Committee noted that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have proceeded despite repeated delays and acts of violence which caused many innocent victims on both sides and aroused the concern and condemnation of the international community.
The main body of the report gives an account of the activities of the Division for Palestinian Rights and those of the Committee which includes seminars and symposiums held under the Committee's auspices, communications with the Secretary-General and the Security Council, attendance at international conferences and meetings as well as statements, resolutions and communiques relating to the question of Palestine adopted by United Nations bodies, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and intergovernmental organizations. It also describes seminars and symposiums held under the auspices of the Committee as well as the activities of the Division of Palestinian Rights.
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was established in 1975 by the Assembly to consider and recommend a programme to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their rights. The officers of the Committee are as follows: Chairman, Keba Birane Cisse (Senegal); Vice-Chairmen, Ravan Farhadi (Afghanistan) and Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parilla (Cuba); and Rapporteur, Joseph Cassar (Malta). Other members of the Committee are Belarus, Cyprus, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and Yugoslavia.
International NGO Meeting and European NGO Symposium
KEBA BIRANE CISSE (Senegal), Chairman of the Palestine Rights Committee, reporting on the United Nations International NGO/European NGO Symposium on the Questions of Palestine held in Vienna from 29 August to 1 September, said the central theme of the combined meeting was "The Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations -- Palestine, NGOs and the implementation of United Nations Resolutions". Invited experts had made presentations on the present political environment; various aspects of the final status of negotiations; the current socio-economic situation; and the need for strengthening activities by NGOs.
He said the discussions were sometimes marked by differences of opinion on current developments and the strategies to be pursued by the NGO community, but all participants showed a clear commitment to work towards a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine.
In the final communique adopted by the NGO participants, he said they welcomed the positive developments in the Middle East peace process. They expressed concern, however, over the repeated delays in the implementation of the letter and spirit of the agreement, which posed a great threat to the achievement of a just and lasting peace. They exhorted Israel to honour its commitments in a timely manner. The Committee was called upon to convene an NGO meeting in Jerusalem or another location in the region in order to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinians on the ground.
Also in the final communique, the NGOs expressed their opposition to Israeli actions designed to predetermine the final outcome of the talks, and called for concerted efforts by NGOs to publicize violations of Palestinian human rights, and to lobby governments regarding those concerns. Particular mention was made, in this regard, of the ongoing incarceration of political prisoners, the closure and intimidation of Palestinian institutions; the restrictions imposed on international and Palestinian NGOs aimed at disrupting their work; and the repeated closure of East Jerusalem. Israel was also urged to assure safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank for goods and people.
Report on Cartagena Non-Aligned Conference
The CHAIRMAN then introduced the report on the Eleventh Summit Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned States, held at Cartagena, Colombia, from 14 to 20 October. As was traditional, the Committee had participated in the Conference as an honoured guest.
In the final document of the Conference, some 10 paragraphs had been devoted to the Palestinian question. The Heads of State and Government had expressed the conviction that the Declaration of Principles between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel formed the basis for a Palestinian state. They had called for a speedy extension of the agreement, stressing the need for continued United Nations involvement until agreement was reached leading to a complete withdrawal by Israel from all territories occupied since 1967.
They had further recommended that the Assembly reiterate the most important components of such an agreement, including Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and settlement of the refugee question.
The Conference's support, said the Chairman, was deeply appreciated by the Committee. Stress had been laid on the importance to the ongoing peace process of the principle of land for peace and inclusion of the question of the Syrian Golan and of Lebanon. The Conference had declared null and void all decisions taken by Israel regarding the occupied territories. While fully supporting the desire of the Palestinian people for independent statehood, it was essential that the United Nations continue to be involved.
Introduction of Report
Introducing the draft report of the Committee, the Rapporteur, JOSEPH CASSAR (Malta), drew attention to the fact that the current report had been prepared in the context of the new significant developments which had taken place since the last report of the Committee.
KOSTYANTYN P. ELISSEEV (Ukraine) said he would like the report to take into account the results of the Cartagena meeting. It would strengthen the report and give a more complete picture of the activities of the Committee and the international community on the question of Palestine. He also recommended that the report include a timetable of events that were important to the Palestinian people.
The Rapporteur, Mr. CASSAR (Malta), said there would indeed be a reference to the Cartagena Conference and its final document in paragraphs 40 and 41 of the report. He stated that a new paragraph would be added to the final report, condemning the assassination of Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and expressing the hope that that event would not compromise the peace process to which both the Palestinian people and Israel were committed.
Adoption of Report
After a chapter-by-chapter consideration, the Committee then adopted the report for forwarding to the General Assembly.
YAHYA ZAINUDDIN (Malaysia) sought clarification on the last sentence of paragraph 5, regarding possible extension of the Committee's membership.
The CHAIRMAN said that the proposal was not new: the Committee had continually called on participation by all countries in the work of the Committee. If it were not possible for some countries to be full-fledged members of the Committee they could have observer status. Although he had not been formally approached on the issue, growing interest had been expressed in the work of the Committee, particularly by developed countries. Recent events had possibly speeded that trend, he suggested.
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said the Palestinian people needed the Committee now more than ever in their effort to realize their inalienable rights, particularly the right to self-determination.
Regarding the participation of other delegations in the work of the Committee, he said that on a national level, he had been engaged in informal discussions with some delegations about the possibility of their joining the Committee. He recalled that each year, the Secretary-General distributed a letter to all delegations inviting them to participate in the work of the Committee.
He said it would be worthwhile to stress the importance of the work of the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Department of Public Information. He noted, however, that not all of the activities mandated by the General Assembly had been implemented by the Department and called attention to the fact that the News Mission had not taken place. He suggested that it might be useful to hold a News Mission in connection with the Palestinian elections which were scheduled for 20 January 1996.