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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
11 December 2008


General Assembly
GA/PAL/1104

        Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

UNITED NATIONS LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN MEETING IN SUPPORT OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE OPENS IN CHILE

SANTIAGO, 11 December – The expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the grave humanitarian and security situation in the Gaza Strip were some of the main issues raised by keynote speakers during the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which opened today at the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in the Chilean capital.

Government representatives, United Nations officials, academics and civil society organizations gathered here to discuss broad international action, including Latin American and Caribbean States, in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace and for achieving a solution to the conflict based on a shared vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. They would also consider how Latin American and Caribbean States could effectively contribute to the current peace efforts through their action in national and intergovernmental mechanisms.

The Meeting is organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People as mandated by the United Nations General Assembly, and is hosted by the Government of Chile.

The opening session included statements by ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile Alejandro Foxley Rioseco, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority Riad Malki, and Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People Paul Badji.

The two-day Meeting includes three plenary sessions: “The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”, “International efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine”, and “Support by Latin American and Caribbean countries for a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. On Saturday, 13 December, representatives of civil society organizations and government officials will gather in the United Nations Public Forum in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Opening statements

ALICIA BÁRCENA, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, read out a message of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which he called on the Israeli Government to halt the funding of settler outposts, dismantle those built after March 2001, completely freeze settlement activity, open Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, and refrain from unilateral actions in Jerusalem, such as house demolitions, undermining trust or altering the status quo. Attacks by Israeli settlers against civilians must be stopped and properly investigated, Mr. Ban said in his message.

He also expressed serious concern over the recent deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel. “Rocket fire from Gaza continues to endanger Israeli civilians, and incursions into the Gaza Strip have caused Palestinian casualties and the destruction of homes and property. I reiterate my unequivocal condemnation of rocket fire by Palestinian groups into Israel and against crossing points. I urge all parties to exert efforts to fully uphold and extend the period of calm that entered into effect on 19 June and to respect international human rights and humanitarian law,” he said.

Mr. Ban stated that the denial of food and other life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of civilians was unacceptable and had to cease immediately. “I call on Israel to allow a steady and sufficient supply of fuel and humanitarian assistance, and to facilitate the work of the United Nations, including through unimpeded access for UN officials and humanitarian personnel,” he said. He also appealed to donors to deliver on their commitments and pledged that the United Nations system would continue to stand by the Palestinian people in these difficult times.

ALEJANDRO FOXLEY RIOSECO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, said his Government’s position was based on the observance of the principles and norms of international law, particularly those relating to the peaceful solution of controversies. He said Chile condemned the use or threat of using force, supported peace efforts based on international treaties and agreements, effective respect for human rights, and rejected all forms of terrorism, from wherever it came under any motivation.

Therefore, Chile supported the right of Israelis and Palestinians to their own free and sovereign State as called for by the General Assembly resolution adopted in 1947, and regretted that the resolution had only been complied with partially, with the establishment of only one State - Israel. In spite of the years that had passed, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital continued to be an unattainable goal, he said. It was also time for the Israeli people to be able to live peacefully, without fearing their own destruction. The Palestinian people had been the victim of a conflict that had dragged on for too long, and it had brought them destruction, pain, frustration in their desire for development, violation of their long postponed sovereignty, violence, indignities and unmerited hate, Mr. Foxley concluded.

RIAD MALKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, accused Israel of incessantly undermining the peace process by its illegal actions that were “totally contrary to the principle of land for peace and the objective of achieving a just, lasting and peaceful settlement based on the two-State solution.”

Despite the many resolutions, agreements and initiatives undertaken over the years, including the Arab Peace Initiative, to sustain and salvage the peace process, deliberate Israeli actions continued to harm the peace process, preventing it from overcoming the serious obstacles on the path to achieving its goals, he said. The main obstacle had been Israel’s illegal settlement campaign in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, by which, for over 41 years, it had been aggressively colonizing the land it had forcibly occupied in 1967, in grave breach of international humanitarian law.

The issue of settlement was not only one of the final status issues in the peace process but was also intricately related to and at the crux of the issues of Jerusalem, borders, water and security, and continued to complicate the efforts to justly resolve them, Mr. Malki said. In this regard, the Annapolis Conference in November 2007 had resulted in a united and firm call for the immediate cessation of illegal settlement activities, based on the recognition that it was a prerequisite for allowing the negotiations towards ending the conflict to progress and to bring an end to the grave historical injustices inflicted on the Palestinian people for more than four decades.

Mr. Malki said Israel continued to close all of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings, only allowing the infrequent opening of some of the crossings under many restrictions. Restrictions continued to be imposed on the import of foods, medicines, fuel, building materials and other essential supplies, which had caused a shortage in all necessities and extensive deprivation. Even purely humanitarian aid was being obstructed as recently witnessed. Palestinian exports also continued to be completely prohibited by the occupying Power, destroying thousands of livelihoods. “Every sector of life in the Gaza Strip has been disrupted by this criminal, punitive siege as a result of deliberate, unlawful policies by the occupying Power intended to punish the population and sink them into desperation,” he said.

PAUL BADJI, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted the significant gap between the political process and the stark reality on the ground. Of special concern, he said, was the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular in the Gaza Strip, where the civilian population was suffering from a closure imposed by Israel.

In the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, he said, Israeli military operations had continued with alarming regularity. Also, up until this day, Israel had not stopped its settlement activity, which was in clear contravention of its Road Map obligations under Phase I, unequivocally calling for an end to settlement expansion, including the so-called “natural growth”. The presence of settlements in an occupied territory was illegal under international law. Settler violence against the Palestinian population was intensifying, without serious counteraction by Israeli authorities. The Israeli military continued demolishing Palestinian houses, displacing families. In addition, there were some 600 movement restrictions in various forms, which were not only causing misery, insecurity and anxiety, but also making sustainable economic activity simply impossible.

“We all know the solution: an end to the occupation that began in 1967, and the establishment of a Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel, based on the 1949 armistice line and the related United Nations resolutions. What we need is a collective political will to demand that this goal be implemented to bring long overdue justice to the Palestinian people,” Mr. Badji stated.

Other statements

The representative of Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Movement’s determination to multiply efforts to resolve the Palestine question, including the adverse situation of refugees.

The representative of Indonesia said his Government was of the view that the forthcoming due date for a permanent solution by the end of 2008 as envisaged by the Annapolis Conference should not hamper the efforts of all parties to continue the negotiation process, address core issues on the question of Palestine and pave the way towards the common goal of peace.

The representative of Egypt said he supported the most basic right of all, to live safely in one’s own homeland, and called on Israel to put an end to targeting Palestinian leaders and punishing the Palestinian people. He also urged the international community not to turn a blind eye on Israel’s colossal human rights abuses inflicted on the Palestinian people.

The representative of Malaysia said that the 60-year-old conflict would continue for years to come unless the international community seriously looked at the core issues related to the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine. He cast doubt on Israel’s sincerity in the peace process, deplored the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and called for the cessation of all forms of aggression.

The representative of Ecuador urged countries to fulfil their commitments and condemned the violence and terrorism in the area. He also called on the international community to ensure protection of the civilian population in the occupied territories.

The representative the League of Arab States said the negotiations faced a dangerous impasse, with Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza, acts of collective punishment of the Palestinian population, building of the wall, and holding of thousands of Palestinian prisoners, all of which undermined international efforts to reactivate the peace process.

The representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) said under its programme, local authorities and communities, Palestinian and Israeli, discussed common environmental problems and implemented local projects to improve housing, sanitation and health conditions.

The representative of Lebanon stated that Western nations had converted the struggle of a people over territory and sovereignty into a religious conflict, and that myth had been impossible to revert. The myth was manifest in the wall, the settlements, the biggest prison in the world, where one million and a half Palestinians lived without water, light, hospitals, and died every day because they did not have access to medical care or medicine.

The representative of Colombia reasserted his Government’s support of the Road Map for a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in spite of the decade that had gone by without achieving its main goal of a lasting solution, and reiterated support for the right of both parties to have secure, internationally recognized borders.

The representative of Jordan said the wall, the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the crimes against civilians and the presence of settlements clearly obstructed the noble objective of peace, and pledged the efforts of his Government, together with the international community, the United Nations, the Quartet, and friends of Latin America and the Caribbean, to help the Palestinian people in the midst of a severe economic situation and aggressive Israeli practices.

The representative of Syria said that the Meeting reminded the participants of a captive people suffering from terrorism imposed by Israel and denial of basic commodities. He reaffirmed support of the rights of the Palestinian people to recover its territory and establish of an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The representative of Algeria stated that the persistent Israeli policy of occupation raised serious doubts about the intention of Israel regarding the status of the Palestinian territory. With these measures, Israel was clearly drawing a new map on the ground, paralyzing chances for a future establishment of an independent Palestinian State.

The representative of Iran said he expected the international community to heighten efforts to achieve peace in the Palestinian territory in order to end their suffering.

The representative of Morocco called on the international community to work united to protect holy places, and offered his Government’s full support to help ease the suffering of the Palestinian people.

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