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

Fifty-sixth General Assembly
24 December 2001



Discussions of the Middle East in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) reflected deep concern over the escalating violence that had begun in September 2000. Drafts on the Israeli practices that had led to more than 700 Palestinian deaths were among the 24 resolutions and three decisions the Committee approved. On peacekeeping, a closer partnership between the United Nations and troop contributors was called for, along with better rapid reaction capability and comprehensive strategies for conflicts. The situation in the Western Sahara was addressed among other decolonization issues. On information questions, the outreach activities of the Department of Public Information (DPI) were emphasized in light of DPI’s rapid response to the crisis of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the host country.


On 20 December, the Assembly's Tenth Special Emergency Session held its fifteenth meeting to consider "Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory" as a consequence of the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, during which it adopted two resolutions. The first resolution demanded the immediate cessation of violence and called for implementation of the previously agreed recommendations in the Mitchell report and a monitoring mechanism to oversee a ceasefire. The second resolution reiterated the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied Territories with regard to protecting civilians.


Two of the more than 30 resolutions approved by the Committee this session were by a recorded vote. By a vote of 131 in favour to 3 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, United States), and 2 abstentions (Cameroon, Nicaragua), the Committee approved a resolution which would have the Assembly recognize the right of the Palestinian people to claim restitution as a result of any exploitation, loss or depletion of or danger to their natural resources. By a vote of 74 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 47 abstaining, the Committee also approved a text which would have the Assembly urge the international community to adopt urgent steps to eliminate the use of unilateral economic measures not authorized by relevant organs of the United Nations or inconsistent with the principles of international law.


Fourth Committee

Discussions of Middle East-related issues in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) reflected deep concern over the escalating violence, as the renewed fighting that began between Israelis and Palestinians in September 2000 showed few signs of diminishing.

Following a heated general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, the Committee approved five related draft resolutions, including one recommending that the General Assembly condemn the excessive use of force that had resulted in more than 700 Palestinian deaths. Several delegations, explaining their abstention from the vote, said the text singled out only one party, while both sides had a responsibility to end the violence.

The drafts on Israeli practices were among a total of 24 draft resolutions and three draft decisions approved by the Fourth Committee. Besides Israeli practices, the Committee also considered questions of Palestine refugee relief; peacekeeping; decolonization; information; effects of atomic radiation; and the peaceful uses of outer space. The Committee deferred action on a peacekeeping draft.

As the Committee considered the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), many speakers criticized Israel's economic blockade of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as its restrictions on free movement by Palestinians and Agency personnel. The delegates said such policies exacerbated UNRWA's chronically dire financial situation and hindered its already strained capacity to alleviate the plight of Palestinian refugees. Israel defended the restrictions, citing its wider security concerns.

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For information media - not an official record