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

29 November 1996


On International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People,
Says UN Should Vocally Criticize Those Who Would Derail Peace Accord

Following is the text of a statement this morning by President of the General Assembly, Razali Ismail (Malaysia), at a meeting to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, 29 November:

Traditionally, the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People has provided an opportunity for the international community to renew its pledge of support for the aspirations and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. This year, the observance of 29 November should be an occasion to denounce the forces that threaten to derail the longawaited peace accord in the Middle East.

The question of Palestine remains the most intractable conflict situation in the United Nation's history. Less than five years ago, historic decisions were taken by courageous and far-sighted leaders of Palestine and Israel. Encouraged and supported by Powers from outside, these leaders overcame their fear of committing themselves to a common destiny and took decisions to agree on mutually reinforcing steps that would lead to common programmes and joint endeavours in the future.

The prospect of a just and durable peace for the peoples of the Middle East, at that point an exciting notion, is now seriously at risk because of a wafer-thin majority that seeks to build a "secure" future on foundations of military superiority and the antagonisms of the past.

The United Nations should be a vocal critic of those who want to derail the peace accord. There are milestone United Nations resolutions that recognize the rights of the Palestinian people to manifest their aspirations. The Palestinians are arguably the final group of people whose struggle for a homeland continues to be denied, though they came tantalizingly close with the peace accord. The international community must continue to support the land for peace initiative, using Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

In this context, the United Nations should lend every authority to ensure that radicalism in power does not lead to the re-emergence of the politics of desperation. Security in the region as a whole is undermined by reneging on important agreements. Seeking recourse in extremism, from any side, will put an end to all hopes for a common future.

Young people from all countries of the region have never known or benefited from the fruits of peace and stability. This tragedy and injustice is compounded when we consider the reservoir of skilled people who are ready and willing to assist in the process of development, which allows social justice and human security to grow and flourish. The region deserves to benefit from such rehabilitation processes, and from governance that takes full account of the needs and choices of all sectors of society.

Palestinians had accepted the peace accord despite residual concerns, in the hope that peace would usher in such a development. They had believed that the accord would help initially mitigate and eventually overcome the adverse impact of almost five decades of fighting, which had destroyed much of the infrastructure in Palestine and the occupied territories.

The viability of a Palestinian homeland is now progressively being diminished by policies of continued closure, repression and restricted movement, that denies the rights of Palestinian people. This, in turn, affects the much expected inflow of financial and other resources so necessary for development, which have not materialized. Even though $2.4 billion had been pledged over a period of five years following the Oslo peace accord, these commitments are at risk as long as the Palestinian territories remain virtually under siege. Regrettably, there are huge gaps between the pledges made and the actual amount received. This non-fulfilment in itself weakens the peace process.

Meanwhile, the human rights situation in the occupied territories continues to deteriorate. Palestinians are being intimidated and physically abused. The expansion of illegal settlements, the delay in the redeployment of troops from the West Bank city of Hebron, and the decision to open an entrance to a tunnel in the vicinity of East Jerusalem, have led to an escalation of violence.

Steps from a government bent on taking action in defiance of international opinion erodes the confidence and trust so necessary for peace to prevail. It also underlines the ineffectiveness of the United Nations to defend the integrity of international accords. Given one-sided power backing,such flagrant abuse of international agreements has elicited little outrage, much less punitive response.

Without doubt, the question of Jerusalem remains the crux of the efforts for lasting peace. Given its critical importance, any attempt to change its status cannot be condoned by the international community. The relevant United Nations resolutions on this issue must be complied with. The status of Jerusalem, the holy city to some of the major religions of the world, can only be resolved in the final process of peace shared by all in the region, and not by unilateral actions.

As President of the fifty-first General Assembly, I need to reiterate that the United Nations has a permanent responsibility with respect to the question of Palestine until the question is resolved in fairness and honour for all, and in accordance with the principles of the Charter and the relevant United Nations resolutions. I believe it is moot to look in expectation at those who were the architects of and parties to the Madrid and Oslo accords and to urge them to ensure that all commitments solemnly entered into are being fulfilled.

Peace must be given a chance to take root and to flourish, but peace can only be meaningful and durable if the Palestinians are part of that peace. The international community must not only stand ready to help with words of encouragement, but by substantive action to ensure that peace, justice and stability prevail. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People can do much more to contribute to the Palestinian cause by bolstering efforts to promote the decisions of the United Nations regarding the question of Palestine. The Committee must make itself ready to continue to serve the Palestinians in all circumstances, perhaps more so than before.

* *** *
For information media - not an official record