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In the absence of the President, Mr. Sharma (Nepal), Vice-President, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 10.15 a.m.
The Acting President : I would like to remind members to make sure that at least one member of each delegation is in the General Assembly Hall by 10 a.m. sharp so that we can proceed with our very important meetings right on time, without losing our valuable time and opportunity. I thank members for their kind cooperation, and I hope that we will be able to meet on time, as the President has always insisted on doing. It is our own time, and it is to our own credit to meet as scheduled.
Agenda item 11 (continued)
Report of the Security Council (A/56/2)
Mr. Mejdoub (Tunisia) (spoke in French ):
First, the Security Council must devote the necessary attention to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem. The Council’s responsibility remains vital; there is no alternative to it.
Mr. Alcalay (Venezuela) (spoke in Spanish ):
My delegation, however, would like to share some thoughts on the content of the report as they relate to two areas.
First, with regard to the content itself, the great deal of space devoted to discussions in the Council on items such as Africa, the Middle East, the question of Palestine, East Timor, Iraq and the Balkans shows the continued importance of such issues.
Mr. Kuchinsky (Ukraine):
The tragic course of events in the Middle East in the past year required the consistent attention of the Council. However, the effectiveness of the Council’s reaction to the situation was once again undermined by its inability to act and put a stop to the ongoing violence and bloodshed in the Palestinian territory and in Israel and bring the parties back to the negotiating table.
Mr. Pradhan (Bhutan):
It is clear from the report of the Security Council that during the year under review the Council dealt with a wide range of complex international issues in Africa, Asia and Europe. Some of these were the intractable problems of the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. The continent of Africa figured prominently in the activities of the Council, relating to Eritrea and Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Angola, the Great Lakes region, Rwanda and the Central African Republic, to mention some of them. The Council continued to face a deadlock in Cyprus. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, events have taken a completely different turn after the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States and the military operations launched in Afghanistan against terrorist bases.
Mr. Andjaba (Namibia):
Every issue before the Security Council is important, for it impacts one way or the other the maintenance of international peace and security. The situation in Sierra Leone, Somalia, Angola, the Middle East, Western Sahara and East Timor, as well as the protection of children in armed conflict and peacekeeping operations, are all among the issues to which my delegation attaches great importance.
For many decades the people of Namibia were denied their right to self-determination and independence. As such, we can relate to the suffering of any people under foreign occupation, be it in Africa or the Middle East. In this regard, it is critical that the Security Council move swiftly to authorize the deployment of a United Nations observer force, to protect Palestinian civilians and ensure the full implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell Report.
Mr. Ahmad (Pakistan):
The twenty-first century, to be different from the previous one — which was the century of the worst carnage of our times — has to close the chapters of despair and disillusionment. The United Nations will acquit itself well in doing so if it can secure world peace and prosperity by resolving the Palestine and Kashmir issues on the basis of justice and equity, by restoring stable peace in Afghanistan through dialogue and reconciliation, by eradicating the curse of universal terrorism from our planet, by bringing to end the conflicts in Africa and by evolving a new development paradigm through cooperation in terms of trade, investment, partnership and interdependence.
Mr. Amer (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) (spoke in Arabic ):
It is clear that veto rights have prevented the Council from taking necessary measures to settle some issues. It could not lift sanctions from my country, although we have respected all the requirements in this matter, as illustrated by the Secretary-General, the majority of Members of the United Nations and the Security Council itself. This fact was also behind the Council’s action recently when it failed to send an international force to protect the Palestinian people from Zionist oppression. These examples show that the privilege of the right of veto is not used to promote international security; rather, it is a tool used for foreign policy purposes by some members. In this way, the Council becomes a tool for such foreign policy rather than a tool to be used by the international community as a whole.
Mr. Al-Kidwa (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic ): Members of the United Nations agreed in the Charter to confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. They also agreed that the Council should submit annual and, when necessary, special reports to the General Assembly for its consideration, and that these reports should include an account of the measures that the Council has decided upon or taken to maintain peace and security.
We believe that the General Assembly agenda item under discussion, ”Report of the Security Council”, is a very important matter indeed. It is not routine, irrespective of the quality of the report presented. The debate here is the time and place for the membership of our Organization to consider the Council’s actions, or inaction, in light of its ultimate collective responsibility for peace and security in the world.
If the Council fails to fulfil its responsibility due to a negative position of a permanent member, members may exercise their own collective responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in accordance with General Assembly resolution 377 (V) of 1950 entitled “Uniting for peace”.
Palestine, for reasons known, is not yet a full member of this Organization, but we are participating in today’s debate to complain about the failure of the Security Council to fulfil its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security — specifically, when the Council has failed to take the necessary measures concerning the dangerous situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, which has existed for more than a year, a situation that has endangered the whole Middle East and threatened international peace and security.
On 7 October 2000, a few days after the beginning of the sharp and broad deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, the Security Council adopted resolution 1322 (2000), which, inter alia, deplored the provocation carried out at Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem on 28 September 2000, and the subsequent violence there and at other Holy Places, and in areas throughout the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, resulting in over 80 Palestinian deaths and many other causalties. The Council condemned those acts of violence, especially the excessive use of force against Palestinians, and called upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide by its obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
That was a reasonable and adequate response on the part of the Security Council at the time. Unfortunately, however, the situation continued to deteriorate, and the calls made by the Council were not heeded by the occupying Power. The 80 Palestinian deaths increased to hundreds, the hundreds of injured became thousands, the destruction became widespread and economic and living conditions severely worsened, thereby endangering the entire region.
For our part, we sent more than 70 letters to the Security Council detailing the situation on the ground and calling for action by the Council. But no decision whatsoever was taken by the Council during that period, which lasted more than a year. Not even a follow-up of its own resolution 1322 (2000) was undertaken.
The Council’s inaction was not due to any lack of attempts or willingness on the part of the overwhelming majority of the members of the Council. In fact, many attempts were made to that end. The Council convened five public meetings to consider the situation, and a large number of Member States participated in the debate. Private meetings were also held with leaders of the region, including President Yasser Arafat. Members of the Council’s Non-Aligned Movement Caucus repeatedly submitted draft resolutions that were supported by other members, as did European members in some cases. But concrete action was never taken.
A draft resolution was put to the vote but was not adopted because it did not receive the necessary majority of votes — after a permanent member said it would cast a veto if there were such a majority. Public threats to use the veto on any similar draft resolution were made on two occasions by that same permanent member, and an actual veto was cast on 27 March.
Thus the Security Council was unable to shoulder its responsibilities with regard to this specific situation due to the negative stance of a permanent member of the Council, and due also, I might add, to the unwillingness of a few members to confront that permanent member, irrespective of their position on the issue. One might call that situation a case of compounded veto, in which the Council is prevented from taking action not only by the use of the veto but also by the threat of the use of the veto.
At any rate, what happened in the Council was tantamount to a suspension of the relevant provisions of the Charter in order to shield one State, in this case the occupying Power, from the relevant provisions of international law, the will of the international community and the Council’s own resolutions.
One might wonder here why lofty principles and values stop at our borders, and why international law ceases to function where our situation is concerned. If the Security Council is not willing to redress the situation, then what kind of message is being given to our people, who are under occupation?
Let me also say that all of the above is true, irrespective of how one or another party would describe the situation on the ground. The fact remains that an explosive situation posing a great and grave threat to international peace and security was allowed to exist for more than a year without the Council’s taking any decision.
All of this pertains to the situation on the ground, and, in this respect, over the years the record of the Security Council has been mixed. Twenty-five resolutions have been adopted; none were implemented by the occupying Power. Twenty-five drafts were vetoed, needless to say, by that same permanent member.
Concerning the overall situation in the Middle East and the need to establish peace in the region, the record is clear. The situation has been beyond the reach of the Security Council. In fact, the last time the Council dealt with the situation in the region and its political aspects was in 1967 — 34 years ago — when it adopted resolution 242 (1967), which remains the basis of the current Middle East peace process. The only exception to this might have been the reaffirmation of that resolution in 1973 and the presidential statement made prior to the adoption of Security Council resolution 681 (1990) on 20 December 1990. Nothing serious can justify this sort of extremely unusual behaviour by the Council, in clear disregard of its own responsibility and of the Charter of the United Nations. It is incomprehensible that continued attempts are being made to completely hamstring the Council with respect to the extremely important conflict in the Middle East, and even more so when it comes to the situation on the ground and the need to put an end to death and destruction.
We call on all members of the Assembly — including members of the Security Council — to rectify this situation.
The meeting rose at 1.10 p.m.