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        General Assembly
26 October 1999

Official Records

General Assembly
Fifty-fourth Session
39th plenary meeting
Tuesday, 26 October 1999, 10 a.m.
New York

President: Mr. Gurirab ........................................... (Namibia)

In the absence of the President, Mr. Morel (Seychelles), Vice-President, took the Chair.

The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.


Agenda item 9

General debate


Agenda item 26

Cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States

The Acting President: In accordance with General Assembly resolution 477 (V) of 1 November 1950, I now call on the observer for the League of Arab States.

Mr. Hassouna (League of Arab States) (spoke in Arabic): Allow me to begin by congratulating the President as sincerely as possible on his election to the presidency of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly. We are confident that, thanks to him, this will be a successful session, particularly given how historic it is to have the last session of the century presided over by a freedom fighter well known for his experience, his skills and his diplomacy. The President has done so much for our brotherly country Namibia, a country highly recognized and respected throughout the Arab world.

As we stand at the threshold of a new millennium, the world is in an optimistic mood, as clearly expressed by all the delegations speaking during this session. In their statements, the various States have praised the role of the United Nations as a whole and have spoken of its noble tasks, as well as of their desire to see the Organization succeed in fulfilling its tasks and responsibilities despite the many new challenges we face as we move into a new century with so much change at the international, regional and national levels.

For its part, the League of Arab States is also looking towards the new millennium with confidence and optimism. We are looking forward to even more close and constructive cooperation with the United Nations and its specialized agencies, so that together we can offer the world peace, stability and mutual understanding and create a world based on dialogue between civilizations, on conciliation and on respect for moral values and the rule of law in the relations between nations and peoples.

The League of Arab States is the foremost regional organization, established in 1945 within the framework of the international order that emerged at the end of the Second World War. The League is now embarking on the third millennium with a full awareness of its increasing role as a partner of the United Nations in the various spheres of life — in politics, economics, society, culture, law and administration. We are supported in this endeavour by the current approach to modernizing its structures and mechanisms. These efforts include the establishment of, inter alia, a free-trade area among the Arab States, an agreement to combat terrorism, an Arab court of justice and mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes. All these measures are aimed at enabling our regional organization to cope with the new regional and global realities.

The report of the Secretary-General contained in A/54/180 outlines the contacts and consultations undertaken recently between the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, as well as between the League's Permanent Observer and high-ranking officials of the United Nations. Much has been done on questions of common interest. Representatives of the League of Arab States have had very high-level consultations, for example with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, during the last two sessions of the General Assembly. They have spoken on regional and international issues of concern to the Arab world, including the question of Palestine, the Middle East peace process, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and the Comoros.

There have undoubtedly been successful efforts in the containment or resolution of many crises, such as the Lockerbie issue, some phases of the conflict between the United Nations and Iraq, and the problem of Somalia. These successes are the result of the constant process of consultation and the constructive approach of the two sides in this dialogue.

The cooperative relationship between the United Nations and the Arab League took another turn for the better this year at the very fruitful meetings of the secretariats of the United Nations and the League of Arab States and their specialized agencies. The meeting of the secretariats took a very close look at the areas in which the two organizations work together and at areas where more could be done to cooperate. Among the most important achievements of this meeting was the agreement to hold a sectoral meeting at the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, in Beirut in May 2000, on the subject of youth and employment. This meeting would be of great economic and social importance for the Arab region. The Arab League would like to thank the Secretariat for its constant efforts to make sure that the enhanced relationship between our two organizations continues successfully.

Discussion of the report on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States is very much in tune with the efforts of these international organizations to establish a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and relevant Security Council resolutions. In pursuit of this goal, the League of Arab States would like to reaffirm the notion that the international community, as represented by the United Nations, should respect and support the components of such peace. This means supporting, inter alia, the resolutions of international legitimacy, such as Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978), the principle of land for peace, and the right of Palestinians to self-determination, including an independent Palestinian State. The Palestinian people should receive the necessary support in their struggle to gain their legitimate rights and establish their own independent State on their national territory, with Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli attempts to change the demography and geography of Jerusalem cannot bear fruit in the face of the resolute decisions of the Security Council.

The problem of Palestinian refugees must be justly resolved in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948, which stipulates their right to return to their land or the right to compensation, and the rejection of any attempts to settle them outside Palestine. The international community is called upon to fulfil its obligations towards the process of development and reconstruction in Palestinian lands, which would have a positive effect on the peace process. It has to ensure the success of the Palestinian festival, “Bethlehem 2000”, in celebration of the end of the second millennium since the birth of Christ — may God's peace be upon him.

Security Council resolution 465 (1980), stating that Israeli settlements are illegal and must be dismantled, must be respected. The Fourth Geneva Convention requires Israel to adhere to these provisions and the convening of a new peace conference if Israeli violations persist, particularly the removal of populations from Palestinian territory, especially in and around Jerusalem. Such brotherly countries as Syria have claimed that negotiations should be continued at the point where they left off and that Israel is required to withdraw fully from the Golan Heights to the line of 4 June 1967 and from South Lebanon as far as West Bekaa.

As for cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States, we are working together to settle several issues that are very important to the future of the Arab region. It is our hope that these joint efforts will bear fruit in the very near future and that the dreams and goals of the peoples of the region will be fulfilled, particularly the participation of Palestine as a full United Nations Member State at the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly; the full lifting of sanctions imposed against our brother peoples in Libya and Iraq, in compliance with resolutions of international legitimacy; the restoration of peace and stability to Somalia and the Comoros; the recovery by the United Arab Emirates of its full sovereignty over the three occupied Arabian Gulf islands; and the establishment of the Middle East as a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons.

In this respect, the role played by the League of Arab States in support of the efforts of the United Nations in the field of international peace and security has grown to the extent that the United Nations now relies on us, as a regional organization, in several areas. It is therefore essential that the League of Arab States should enjoy the same full diplomatic status as other regional organizations working under Chapter VIII of the Charter. It is clear that the League of Arab States should enjoy the same status as the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Organization of African Unity. Our acquisition of that status will make it much easier for us to do our work and to address practically the difficulties that arise in our dayto- day activities and responsibilities.

Finally, we reiterate our support for the United Nations, confident as we are of the nobility of the goals, purposes and principles of its Charter, and reaffirm our full commitment to them. We again pledge our continued fruitful and constructive cooperation with the United Nations in order to address the various common issues raised in the draft resolution before us. The consensus by which the draft resolution has advanced to this point reflects a universal recognition by the General Assembly of positive and effective cooperation with the League of Arab States. We are also confident that this consensus can be extended to other resolutions on the Middle East, given the legitimate positions and equally legitimate claims of the members of the League.

The Acting President: We have heard the last speaker in the debate on this item. The Assembly will now take a decision on draft resolution A/54/L.14. I would inform members that the Comoros and Iraq have become additional co-sponsors.

May I take it that the Assembly decides to adopt draft resolution A/54/L.14?

Draft resolution A/54/L.14 was adopted (resolution 54/9).

The Acting President: I now call on the representative of Israel, who wishes to speak in explanation of vote on the resolution just adopted.

May I remind members that explanations of vote are limited to 10 minutes.

Mr. Gilon (Israel): The delegation of Israel has joined the consensus on the resolution for the sixth time in a row. In so doing, we were guided by the desire to make peace with our neighbours, all of which are members of the League of Arab States.

Today, significant strides have been taken on the Israeli-Palestinian track and we see new hope for progress on the Syrian track as well. The peace process, which began in Madrid in 1991, was after all based on two tracks: the bilateral tracks between Israel and its neighbours and the multilateral tracks. We call upon our neighbours to seize the opportunity to quickly resume the multilateral tracks, lest we lose the diplomatic momentum of the present day and the chance to bring the fruits of peace to our peoples. Hesitation and preconditions serve no one; face-to-face dialogue and cooperation are in the interest of all parties in the region.

Israel supports cooperation between the United Nations and various regional organizations, including the League of Arab States. Indeed, such cooperation is based on provisions of the United Nations Charter. It is regrettable that Israel alone remains excluded from the regional group fitting its geographic location, owing to the political objections of some Member States. Israel calls upon the members of the League of Arab States to honour Israel’s equal right to participate in the Group of Asian States. The fact that Israel alone is still denied membership in any regional group directly contradicts the United Nations declared commitment to the sovereign equality of Member States, enshrined in the Charter.

This is the first resolution on an issue related to the Middle East to be adopted by the General Assembly at its fifty-fourth session. We are pleased that the resolution was adopted by consensus.

We would therefore— especially after listening to the previous speaker — take this opportunity to recommend that all parties to the peace process exercise restraint both in the language of resolutions to be submitted and in all related statements. We cannot build confidence in the Middle East by engaging in polemical debates in New York. The peace process is by its nature bilateral between the parties and inflammatory rhetoric offered in international forums surely belongs to another era.

We regret having to echo a plea so similar to last year’s. This is due to the failure of this forum to reflect substantive changes on the ground. We look forward to a day when the climate in the United Nations will catch up with the fact that a genuine peace process has been launched and that all sides have been moving towards progress and reconciliation.

By resolving today to promote, in word and in deed, an atmosphere of cooperation and growth in the region, the nations involved in the peace process can transform today’s hope into tomorrow’s reality. Let us hope they do not miss this historic opportunity.

The Acting President: May I take it that it is the wish of the Assembly to conclude its consideration of agenda item 26?

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