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


Fifty-fourth General Assembly
Plenary
67th Meeting (PM)
GA/9673
30 November 1999

ISRAEL AFFIRMS STATUS OF JERUSALEM AS ITS CAPITAL;

CALLS ON ASSEMBLY NOT TO PREJUDICE OUTCOME OF FINAL STATUS TALKS


The representative of Israel this afternoon reiterated to the General Assembly that Jerusalem was the united capital of the State of Israel, as established by King David more than 3000 years ago.

He said this in response to a draft resolution before the Assembly, which if adopted would declare Israel's imposition of its laws, jurisdiction and administration on Jerusalem as illegal, null and void.

"We are aware that our Palestinian partners do not share our views on this issue, yet we expect that they do share our commitment to a negotiated solution, to which both sides have obligated themselves in all Israeli-Palestinian agreements", the Israeli speaker said. "With this commitment in mind, and with the negotiating process already underway, Israel feels that it is inappropriate for the Assembly to prejudice, through its resolutions, the outcome of these talks." Direct talks "with our Palestinian partners" had succeeded as long as the essential framework and timetable of Israeli-Palestinian agreements had been preserved; in particular it had been agreed that such issues as Jerusalem would be resolved directly, in the permanent status negotiations, he recalled.

The Permanent Observer for Palestine said Israel's position challenged the will of the international community. The Security Council had repeatedly stressed that Jerusalem was an indivisible part of the occupied territory and any measures to change its legal and demographic status were therefore null and void. The future of the city could not be determined by Israel taking a position and imposing it on Palestinians. "We cannot and will not accept this", he stressed.

Jordan's representative said serious and bold solutions were ones that treated problems properly, rather than hoping they would disappear. That principle should be applied to the peace process. While Israel continued to undertake unilateral actions that ran counter to the peace negotiations it had accepted, it was difficult for the peace process to move forward. His country had signed an agreement with Israeli in 1994, hoping it would act as an example of what Israel could achieve with other Arab States. Regrettably, that had not been the outcome.

The representative of India said the Middle East, a cradle of human civilization, was of importance to the entire international community. The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum had proved that with will and determination, no odds were insurmountable. While the first steps towards implementation of the Memorandum had been taken, any unilateral action that might retard the peace process should be avoided.

Statements were made by the representatives of Israel, Yemen, Ukraine, Cyprus, Cuba, Palestine, Australia, Mauritania, Turkey, Brunei Darussalam, Ghana, Belarus, India, Peru, Japan, Jordan, Senegal, Norway, and Russian Federation. Statements in exercise of the right of reply were also made by the representatives of Egypt, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

The General Assembly will meet again tomorrow, 1 December at 10 a.m., to continue its consideration of the situation in the Middle East and the question of Palestine and to take action on draft resolutions on related issues.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to begin consideration of the situation in the Middle East and, more specifically, the question of Palestine. It had before it two reports of the Secretary-General -- one on the transfer of some States' diplomatic missions to Jerusalem, the other concerning efforts made by the parties concerned to implement Security Council resolution 53/42 on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. Also before it were two draft resolutions -- one deploring the transfer of diplomatic missions to Jerusalem, the other calling on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan.

Background

For background on the question of Palestine generally, see Press Release 9671 of 29 November 1999. Herewith a summary of texts frequently cited in the Assembly's debates on the issue:

Security Council resolution 242 (1967) laid down the principles for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East, calling for the withdrawal of Israel's armed forces from territories occupied in the Six Day War of 1967 (between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria), and for recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area, and their rights to live in peace with secure and recognized boundaries. Security Council resolution 338 (1973) called on parties to the 1973 Arab- Israeli war to cease hostilities and immediately commence negotiations aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.

On 13 September 1993, Israel and the PLO signed an initial Declaration of Principles on Self-Government Arrangements, which outlined a transitional period of not more than five years, with "permanent status negotiations" to begin not later than the beginning of the third year: "It is understood that these negotiations shall cover remaining issues, including Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbours, and other issues of common interest." Those talks were formally opened on 6 May 1996, but have been halted since the 1996 Israeli elections that brought Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud coalition to power.

Also frequently cited is the Wye River Memorandum (negotiated at the Wye Plantation in Maryland, United States, and signed in Washington, D.C. on 23 October 1998), which explicitly linked Israel's security concerns to the Palestinian side's concerns over having the territory facilities required for an independent state.

In the Memorandum, Israel committed to the withdrawal of its forces over a three-month period from an additional 13 per cent of the West Bank, with future redeployments to be negotiated in the final status talks. Israel also agreed to resolve issues relating to the promotion of Palestinian economic development, establishment of an international airport and maritime port in Gaza, and safe passage for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank.

In exchange, the Palestinian Authority agreed to combat terrorist organizations and prevent illegal weapons distribution and anti-Israel incitement, and to nullify Palestinian National Charter provisions that were inconsistent with recognition of the state of Israel. The two sides agreed to resume and accelerate final status negotiations, and to participate in various bilateral and trilateral (United States, Israel, Palestinian Authority) committees to oversee implementation.]

On 4 September 1999, Israel and the Palestinian side signed the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, which contains a timeline for implementation of all the commitments the two sides have made since the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993. It also states that the two sides have reaffirmed their understanding that the permanent status negotiations will lead to implementation of Council resolutions 242 and 338, and that they have agreed to conclude all permanent status issues within one year from the resumption of those negotiations, i.e., by September 2000.

Secretary-General's Report on Question of Palestine

The report of the Secretary-General on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/54/457) responds to a request contained in paragraph 9 of Assembly resolution 53/42 (adopted on 2 December 1998), which asked the Secretary-General to continue working with the parties concerned to promote peace, in consultation with the Security Council, and to submit progress reports. The Secretary-General sought the views of the Council on the situation, and queried Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as to steps they had taken to implement resolution 53/42. The report conveys the replies he received from the Council, the Government of Jordan and the Permanent Observer for Palestine, and his own observations.

In a letter dated 6 October, the Council stated that its members welcomed the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization as "an important step forward" that opened the way for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace within a reasonable time frame in the entire region, based on all relevant Council resolutions, particularly resolutions 242 and 338. They condemned vigorously all acts of terrorism and violence in the region, and called on the parties to implement fully their commitments under existing agreements and to refrain from actions that pre-empted the negotiations and worsened the situation. They expressed their determination to provide the necessary backing to the implementation of agreements.

In a note verbale dated 31 August, Jordan states that it is pursuing its ongoing endeavour to implement the provisions of the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli Treaty of Peace and the agreements to which it gave rise. Further affirming that the question of Palestine represents the essence and core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the note states that Jordan has made good use of its relations and contacts with all the parties in order to advance the negotiating process on the Palestinian-Israeli track, and is continuing, in contacts and meetings with the regional and international parties concerned, to advance the peace process on all tracks. It urges the Israeli Government to honour its agreements and commitments and in particular to implement the Wye River Memorandum and resume negotiations on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks from the point at which they were suspended.

In a note verbale dated 29 September, the permanent observer for Palestine says that initial steps in implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum have already begun, and expresses the hope that the United Nations will contribute towards the efforts being undertaken to help push the peace process forward. The Palestinian side suggests that Security Council involvement would be a very important factor in that process. The note lays particular stress on the need to respect the mutual recognition between the two sides and the basis upon which the process was initiated -- namely, the principle of the return of land for peace and the implementation of Council resolutions 242 and 338. The note states that the Millennium Summit should represent a deadline for reaching a final settlement, and states the determination of the Palestinian side to meet that deadline, so that Palestine can participate in the Summit as a Member State.

The Secretary-General in his observations states that the signing of the Sharm el- Sheikh Memorandum brings with it cautious optimism that the Middle East peace process has been brought back on track.

Report of Secretary-General on Middle East Situation

The Secretary-General's report on the situation in the Middle East (document A/54/495) is submitted in response to the Assembly's resolutions calling on States not to transfer their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980) (by which the Council objected to steps taken by Israel to alter the character and status of Jerusalem). It conveys replies received from the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Guyana, Jordan, Qatar and the Russian Federation, all of which states that they remained committed to the full and early implementation of the resolutions in question and had not done anything to contravene them.

In addition, the report notes that Jordan rejects any Israeli measures to strengthen its authority in Jerusalem but welcomes any progress made in the Syrian-Israeli track in the peace process with regard to the Golan Heights. The Russian Federation also advocates the return of the Golan to Syria and intends to continue with efforts to secure the swiftest resumption of talks between the two countries.

Draft resolution on Jerusalem

By the terms of a 23-power draft resolution (document A/54/L.40), the Assembly would determine that the decision of Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem is illegal and therefore null and void. It would deplore the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980) and their refusal to comply with the provisions of that resolution. It would call once more on those States to abide by the provisions of relevant United Nations resolutions.

Draft resolution on Syrian Golan

By the terms of a 22-power draft resolution (document A/54/L.41) the Assembly would declare that the Israeli decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void, as confirmed by the Security Council in its resolution 497 (1981), and would call upon Israel to rescind it.

It would also reaffirm that all relevant provisions of the Regulations annexed to the Hague Convention of 1907, and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War continue to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, and would call on the parties thereto to respect and ensure respect for their obligations under those instruments in all circumstances. The Assembly would determine once more that the continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and its de facto annexation constitute a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.

Further by that text, the Assembly would call upon Israel to resume talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to respect the commitments and undertakings reached during the previous talks. It would demand once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967. It would also call on the parties concerned, the co-sponsors of the peace process and the entire international community to exert all the necessary efforts to ensure resumption of the peace process.

YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel), citing his country's new diplomatic ties with Mauritania and expanded economic ties with other States in the region, said that, to complete the circle of peace, it hoped to join in peace agreements with Syria and Lebanon. However, it could not accept a precondition for beginning talks, particularly not a precondition that entailed prior acceptance of a final outcome based on the view of one party. The history of Middle East peacemaking had shown that negotiations were the best way to present each party's views. In negotiations, Syria would find Israel a willing partner in making difficult decisions. He stressed that Israel had no territorial dispute with Lebanon; its sole interest was to guarantee the safety and security of its citizens. But the Government of Lebanon had failed to enforce its sovereignty in the southern part of that country; it gave free reign to militants who called for Israel's destruction and targeted Israeli civilians with rocket attacks. Israel had repeatedly expressed its willingness to implement Security Council resolution 425 (1978) which called not only for Israeli withdrawal but also for the Lebanese Government to exercise effective authority in the southern area, but Lebanon had regrettably chosen to allow the conflict to continue.

He said that Iran made continued efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction while failing to recognize the right of every State in the region to live in peace and security. It also continued to sponsor and reinforce Hizbollah in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Iraq, despite being under the most intrusive arms control and disarmament regime, maintained clandestine chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programmes. It had directly threatened Israel with annihilation by chemical weapons and actually attacked Israelis with lethal missiles.

Direct talks "with our Palestinian partners" had succeeded, he said, as long as the essential framework and timetable of Israeli-Palestinian agreements had been preserved; in particular, it had been agreed that such issues as that of Jerusalem would be resolved directly, in the permanent status negotiations. In the light of the draft resolution before the Assembly, however, he reiterated that Jerusalem was the united capital of the State of Israel, as established by King David more than 3000 years ago. Although holy to three major religions, the city had never been the capital of any other nation.

"We are aware that our Palestinian partners do not share our views on this issue, yet we expect that they do share our commitment to a negotiated solution, to which both sides have obligated themselves in all Israeli-Palestinian agreements. With this commitment in mind, and with the negotiating process already underway, Israel feels that it is inappropriate for the United Nations General Assembly to prejudice, through its resolutions, the outcome of these talks."

He said that Israel was committed to strengthening direct cooperation with the Palestinians and bilaterally with its Arab neighbours. Rather than waging diplomatic assaults, all sides should take it upon themselves to abide by a "code of conduct" appropriate for partners in negotiation and reconciliation.

NAGIBA AHMED AL-NADARI (Yemen) said many resolutions on the situation on the Middle East had not been implemented, creating suffering in the region. Many opportunities for peace had been lost. Fortunately, there was a new chance, as new mediators were trying to revive peace in the region. It was high time for the international community to force Israel to respect the principles of international law and the Charter. There was no justification for Israel to receive special treatment.

She said that for peace to be built, it was essential that there be the political will to implement the relevance resolutions. She reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. Yemen supported all actions aimed at achieving peace in the Middle East.

VOLODYMYR KROKHMAL (Ukraine) said that the Middle East peace process would have been more vigorous and steady if confidence- and security-building measures had bolstered it and if agreements had been made on preventing arms proliferation and eliminating weapons of mass destruction. States in the region should accede to the international agreements on those issues. Establishing the region as a nuclear-weapon-free zone would also help the peace process. The United Nations should be responsible for ensuring the Palestinian people's exercise of their inalienable rights, including those of self-determination and statehood. Economic assistance must be rendered to the Palestinian people and to the region.

Facilitating the peace process in the Middle East was a pillar of Ukraine's foreign policy, particularly through bilateral and multilateral partnerships, he concluded. Ukraine would participate in the activities of multilateral working groups on Middle East economic cooperation. It would also provide military and civilian personnel for United Nations peacekeeping operations in the region.

SOTOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus) said that while his country was focusing on strengthening ties with the European Union, the promotion of relations with the neighbouring countries in the Middle East, remained a significant pillar of its foreign policy. His Government remained committed to playing its part, in a practical way, in the enhancement of the peace process. The withdrawal of foreign forces from occupied territories was a fundamental element of his country's position on the Middle East. At the same time, it recognized the right of all States to exist in peace with their neighbours within secure and internationally recognized borders. He called for respect of those principles and denounced, in the strongest terms, terrorism and violence against innocent civilians.

While Cyprus considered the Palestinian problem the core issue in the Middle East conflict, it also supported the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Syria, and the opening of talks between Israel and Lebanon. Only a comprehensive settlement would cement trust among the peoples of the Middle East. The opponents of peace, irrespective of their motives, remained attached to the old enmities and prejudices. Acts of terrorism were still possible. The new impetus to the peace process demonstrated that political will on the part of the sides involved, combined with sustained international efforts, could lead to the resolution of otherwise intractable conflicts that posed a threat to regional and international stability. That was true in the case of the Cyprus problem as well.

RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) said that peace efforts had been frustrated by the hostile and aggressive activities of the occupying power, which continued its violations of principles of international law and of the human rights of the Arab people.

The signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum had been an encouraging step towards peace, he said. However, there were still obstacles to a lasting peace. Israel's policy of illegal settlement was going on, together with other activities aimed at altering the legal status and the demographic composition of the region. In that context, the social and economic consequences on the Palestinian people were great. Poor sanitation, the limited educational opportunities and restricted freedom of movement, as well as the impossibility of the reunification of families, were daily facts of life.

Despite more than 25 Security Council resolutions and many more Assembly resolutions, there was no peace. That, he said, was due to Israel's total lack of respect for the principles of the international law. The United Nations had a great responsibility in that regard. It was necessary to put an end to Israeli aggression and occupation. It was time for Israel to show its readiness to negotiate and its commitment to peace and security.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said Israel still occupied other Arab Territories in addition to the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. It persisted in violating international law and United Nations resolution. He reiterated the necessity for complete Israeli withdrawal from the Syrian Golan, affirmed the necessity of resuming negotiations on the Syrian-Israeli track of the peace process, and further affirmed the necessity for Israel's withdrawals from Lebanese territory. He also called for the resumption of negotiations on the Lebanese-Israeli track. Israeli insistence on possessing nuclear capabilities and its refusal to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and place its nuclear facilities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency put the whole region in danger.

In addition, he continued, there was also Israel's insistence, as well as that of some of its friends, to continue in the sphere of general armaments. In the past, some friends of Israel used to claim that the armaments for Israel were a reaction to the armaments supplied by the former Soviet Union to some Arab parties. Now Israel declared publicly that it wanted to preserve its military edge. Peace would not grow under the mentality of deterrence and military edge, he stressed. The scarcity of water in the Middle East region represented one of the important problems that might be exacerbated during the coming years. It was regrettable that Israel had not ceased its theft of Arab water sources.

He said solutions should already have been found to many of the issues he mentioned. However, the intransigent Israeli position still prevented the effective resumption of negotiations. How could peace be achieved in the Middle East, he asked. Further, how could that important region become involved in a genuine development process utilizing its available potentials? The key to that strategic achievement was to address "our deep feelings as Arabs, and even our convictions, that an unprecedented and grave injustice has befallen us", he said. Some parties promoted certain values for themselves, while applying different values to others in the region. The principles of the Charter and international law were being put aside by certain parties when the issue concerned Israel. What was required was to end the double standard and uphold the same values and the same international law.

He said the representative of Israel this afternoon had exposed a position vis-à-vis Jerusalem when he made light of the position of the international community and challenged its will. Such a position violated international law and Assembly and Security Council resolutions. The Council had repeatedly stressed that Jerusalem was an indivisible part of the occupied territory and any measures to change the legal and demographic status were therefore null and void. The repetition of Israeli actions required condemnation by the international community and not reaffirmation of previous positions vis-à-vis international law. The future of the city could not be determined by Israel taking a position and imposing it on Palestinians. "We cannot, will not and would never accept this", he stressed.

He said until final status talks had taken place and peace established, the relationship between the two sides would always be one of the occupying power on the one hand and the occupied people on the other. Israel's questioning of the Arab diplomatic offensive at a time when it claimed talks were taking place was irony. Was it not the same Israel which was seizing Palestinian land, constructing settlements, practicing illegitimate policies in Jerusalem and hampering the economic development of the Palestinian authority while talks were also taking place? In addition the various representatives of Israel were calling on the Palestinian side to put international law aside, set aside United Nations resolutions and perhaps not complain to the international community about treatments meted out to Palestinians.

PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) said the year had not started auspiciously for the Middle East peace process, but the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum had breathed new life into the process by reestablishing trust and common purpose between the two sides. Member States should commend the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, acknowledge Egypt's facilitation, and applaud the United States' encouragement. The most complex, sensitive and challenging issues remain to be resolved; to that end, she welcomed efforts to reach a framework agreement by February. Renewed efforts must be made to engage Syria and Lebanon in the process, on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Australia condemned terrorism in all forms and condemned the recent bombing in the Israeli city of Netanya, she said. She hoped both Israeli and Lebanese citizens would no longer be victims of tit-for-tat violence. Australia had strongly opposed last July's meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to discuss enforcement of the Convention in the Occupied Territories. The timing of that conference, days after the formation of a new Israeli Government, had been astonishing, and the dangers of politicizing an effective humanitarian instrument were of serious concern. She hoped the emergency session would not need to be resumed.

She was concerned that, for over a year, no weapons inspections had taken place in Iraq. Australia looked forward to an early conclusion to the Council's consideration of an omnibus Iraq resolution. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East was a troublesome issue. Australia urged all Middle Eastern countries to commit to the non-proliferation instruments, and appealed in particular to Israel to give serious consideration to joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. She urged all Middle East States to overcome their differences on the issue prior to next year's review conference.

M. MAHFOUDH OULD DEDDACH (Mauritania) reaffirmed his country's support for the Middle East peace process and said that a just settlement should be based on the Madrid process. In order to achieve this, Israel must withdraw from the Golan, southern Lebanon and all occupied Arab land. The international community looked forward to the return of the peace process to its proper track, which meant it must be pursued on all tracks.

Mauritania supported Syria's call for peace negotiations to start from the point at which they had stopped. There was no substitute for peace. This had been Mauritania's position since the Madrid Conference. He stressed that his country's position would never change on this issue and called for the implementation of all the relevant Security Council resolutions.

VOLKAN VURAL (Turkey) said that the opportunity to establish durable peace and stability in the Middle East must be seized by the countries of the region. Although there was a desire on both sides to move the peace process forward, what was most needed was an atmosphere of confidence. This required adherence by all the parties to previous commitments. It was the earnest expectation of Turkey that both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership remain engaged in the full implementation of the Madrid and Oslo Accords.

Terrorism, violence and extremism continued to be serious risk factors for peace and stability, he said. Socio-economic deprivation, unless urgently attended, could undermine diplomatic and political achievements. Both parties still had considerable obligations and responsibilities to fulfill. Discontinuation of the illegal settlement activities in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, was a priority.

The Palestinian issue was at the core of the Middle East question, he said. It would not be possible to reach lasting peace and stability unless it were solved in line with the just, legitimate and rightful aspirations of the Palestinian people. In this regard, the living conditions of the Palestinians needed urgently to be improved, in order to build an adequate level of economic and social well-being and prosperity.

HAJI JEMAT HAJI AMPAL (Brunei Darussalam) said that lasting peace in the Middle East region should be based on the relevant Security Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace. The freezing of settlement activities and the evacuation of settlers were also vital to lasting peace. Attempts to change the demographic nature of the occupied Arab lands would only exacerbate tensions.

He welcomed the negotiators' indication that the question of Palestine could be resolved soon and reiterated Brunei's support for the ongoing peace dialogue as a means to a just and comprehensive settlement. The conclusion of the negotiations on the final status would be a major breakthrough. He expressed appreciation to members of the international community who had contributed to revitalizing the peace process and renewed its momentum. He also expressed his country's continued support for the Palestinian people.

NANA KWESI ARHIN (Ghana) said that following recent positive signs in the Middle East, a return to the way of peace seemed possible again. Both parties should stay the course until a comprehensive and lasting peace based on the principle of land for peace, as well as relevant Security Council resolutions, had been achieved. The principle of land for peace seemed be the best hope for peace in the Middle East. Israel's withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories, including East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan, Southern Lebanon and western Bekaa, was a necessary condition for the achievement of lasting peace. He was gravely disturbed by Israel's continued disregard for the international community's objections to the building of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.

Ghana hoped that Lebanon's sovereignty over southern Lebanon would be restored, he continued. The continued illegal presence of an occupying force in southern Lebanon was a constant source of violence. Ghana urged both sides to compromise and demonstrate to the world their readiness to pursue peace. Indeed, peace in the Middle East could be achieved, but only through constructive negotiations, dynamic compromises and the sincerity of both parties to abide by existing agreements.

ULDAZIMIR VANTSEVICH (Belarus) said there had been developments in the peace process of paramount significance. In particular, the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum had given impetus to a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. Those achievements showed the willingness of Palestinians and Israelis to move closer to the establishment of an atmosphere of peace.

The United Nations had played an important role in the achievement of peace in the region, he said. It was important that the resolutions that had been adopted were implemented. Moreover, the efforts of the international community were essential as well.

He said that progress must be achieved in regard to the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks. To that end, it was important to refrain from actions that would have a negative impact in the peace process. In that context, any sort of terrorism and extremism to pursue political goals should be condemned.

KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said the Middle East, a cradle of human civilization, was of importance to the entire international community. The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum had proved that with will and determination, no odds were insurmountable. He was happy to note the first steps towards implementation of the Memorandum had been taken. Any unilateral action that might retard the peace process should be avoided. India urged the parties to implement the Memorandum in good faith and sincerity, as this would create the necessary conditions for the final status negotiations.

Progress between the PLO and Israel had not been matched by progress on the Lebanese and Syrian tracks, which had been stalemated for years, he said. Nonetheless, progress on those tracks was equally important to the creation of a just peace based on Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 425 and the "land for peace" principle. He trusted that early steps would be taken to end the impasse, as India looked forward to expanding its extensive cooperative relations with the region in years to come.

MANUEL PICASSO (Peru) said that the Middle East was a region of great historic, religious and cultural significance and encouraged all States, particularly those that were directly involved in the continuing unrest there, to continue to negotiate intelligently to establish an area of peace, reconciliation and understanding. The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum was a clear example of the wishes of the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to continue to advance towards a permanent solution of their differences. Countries in the Middle East could count on the support and help of friendly nations to help them achieve that goal.

Peru, he said, was also familiar with the "ups and downs" of negotiating disputes with countries at its boundaries. On the road to final agreements with Ecuador and Chile, there had been many difficulties. But with time, patience and the sincere desire of the people to achieve lasting peace, his region was now building a new political framework based on cooperation, integration and respect for international treaties. "If there is one thing that this experience has taught us", he said, "it is that there cannot be any limits or excuses not to make the necessary efforts to seek peace".

Finally, he emphasized the need for the complete fulfillment of General Assembly resolutions based on the Charter and in particular, on Security Council resolutions 242, 338, and 425. These, he said, were the basis of the Middle East peace process and would continue to promote world peace -- a peace that would benefit all peoples of different religions, cultures and nationalities -- in an irreversible manner.

RYUICHIRO YAMAZAKI (Japan) noting that the Wye River Memorandum had been beset with problems and obstacles, said the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum in September had been especially welcome. By signing it, the new Israeli Government had demonstrated its renewed and constructive commitment to the peace process. He was pleased to note the steady implementation of the latter Memorandum, as exemplified by the opening of the southern route of safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza. Each step in its implementation was extremely important, not only for the tangible progress it provided, but also because it helped build trust between the parties in their negotiations towards the ultimate goal of peace.

Japan was determined to take every opportunity to foster an environment that was conducive to direct negotiations between the parties concerned, he said. Last month, Japan had hosted the ministerial level Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Tokyo to coordinate and promote the assistance efforts of donor countries. At that meeting, Japan had announced that it would play a political role, in addition to providing economic assistance. The Middle East process was at a critical juncture. The opportunity for genuine progress was perhaps greater now than it had been for many years, he observed.

HASAN ABU-NIMAH (Jordan) he called that the late King Hussein of Jordan had dedicated his life to peace, reconciliation and stability in the region, and said that his message would be taken up by King Abdullah. Jordan was pleased with recent progress in the peace process. Although many items in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum remained unimplemented, some modest but important steps had been taken. The road to peace continued to be a long and tortuous one; there was therefore a need to reaffirm and reactivate the role of the United Nations.

He stressed that peace in the region must be lasting and comprehensive. Jordan had signed an agreement with Israel in 1994, hoping it would have a positive effect on the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The hope had been that the Jordan-Israel peace treaty would lay the foundation for peace and stability in the region and act as an example of what Israel could achieve with other Arab States. He regretted that this had not been the outcome.

He added that serious and bold solutions treated problems properly, rather than hoping they would disappear. This principle should be applied to the peace process. While Israel continued to undertake unilateral actions that ran counter to the bases of the peace negotiations it had accepted, it was difficult for the peace process to move forward. He called on Israel to implement the peace agreements and refrain from actions that would erode confidence in its commitment to the peace process.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) encouraged the Palestinians and the Israeli people to do all they could to implement the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum as well as all the previous agreements. It was a matter of the highest priority for them to find common ground on fundamental issues. Senegal would continue to make its modest contribution to solving the conflict in that region.

Turning to the situation in Syria and Lebanon, he said it was important that Syria, Lebanon, and Israel pursue their peace talks. He expressed regret about the failure of provisions of resolutions 53/37 and 53/78, adopted in December 1998, referring to the transfer by certain countries of diplomatic missions that were still in Jerusalem, and to the occupation of Syrian territories.

The international community as a whole and the United Nations in particular must do their best to keep the peace process on track and achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East, he went on. He called upon multilateral protagonists to redouble their efforts to restore peace in the region.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) shared the concern of other Member States regarding Israeli settlement activities on the West Bank. Israel should stop any further settlement activities which could change the situation on the ground. At the same time, he called on the Palestinian Authority to intensify its efforts to promote security.

He said that the peace process contained political and economic elements. The economic development of the Palestinian territories was critical to a just and lasting peace and would also benefit Israel. In this regard, recent statements by the observer for Palestine on good governance and the rule of law as fundamental factors for economic and social development were to be commended.

He said there was a need for the United Nations to provide encouragement to regional efforts to give a new momentum to the peace process. Norway was committed to all aspects of the process, and believed that strong support from the international community was also needed.

GENNADY GATILOV (Russian Federation) said it was evident that peace process begun in Madrid had achieved some progress with respect to the question of Palestine. A comprehensive settlement between the two parties was a key component of the achievement of peace in the region. Energy must be exerted to fill the gap between the parties and to find solutions. In that regard, implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum could help to build confidence and trust. Moreover, the establishment of an independent State of Palestine would serve as a key factor in peacebuilding.

He expressed confidence that peace would not be achieved without the return of the Golan Heights to Syria and the restoration of the territorial integrity of Lebanon. In that context, mutual respect was needed.

Despite achievements in resolving the question of Palestine, there still were many obstacles, including the establishment of settlements in the occupied territories. Moreover, the economic development of Palestine constituted a matter of priority and a prerequisite to peace. In that regard, the initiative of Bethlehem 2000 was welcome.

Rights of Reply

HOSSAM ZAKI (Egypt) said the statements made by Israel this afternoon on its cooperation with his country could not be denied. That relationship did extend to a number of fields. What was strange was that the representative of Israel made reference to the Mubarak Plan for the reclaiming of desert land in Egypt. It had been implied that their cooperation covered that project and that Israel was helping Egypt to increase its arable land. Any student of history would realize that Egypt was the birthplace of agriculture in the world. In the past 50 years, much effort had been made to expand agriculture outside the Nile Valley. Agricultural efforts to reclaim desert land were based on Egyptian know-how, expertise, and sweat.

SHAHROUKH SHAKERIAN (Iran) said Israel had made senseless accusations against his country, when Israel was the chief source of instability in the Middle East, resorting to terrorism to expand its position. The occupation of Lebanon was an indication of that policy. The resistance and determination of the Lebanese to liberate their homeland was their right by international law. Also, how could Israel, with its stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, venture to accuse another country, which was part to all the major conventions on disarmament, of the same thing. Israel had constantly rejected disarmament instruments despite persistent calls by the international community. It was the only non- party to the NPT in the Middle East. Israel was also not subject to the regulations applied in other areas of disarmament. As a result, it had amassed a worrisome arsenal of biological weapons.

He also rejected the claim made today by one speaker about the territorial integrity of Iran with regard to islands in the Iranian Gulf. He hoped the United Arab Emirates would respond positively to calls for bilateral discussions.

MOHAMMAD J. SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) reiterated that Iran was occupying three islands that were under the sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates.


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For information media - not an official record