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        Economic and Social Council
18 November 1999

Original: FRENCH


Substantive session of 1999


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on Monday, 26 July 1999, at 3 p.m.

President : Mr. WIBISONO (Indonesia)






Corrections to this record should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Official Records Editing Section, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.


Mr. DEMBRI (Algeria) said that the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories of Palestine and of the Syrian Golan was a classical example of denial of the right to self-determination. That occupation had had a direct and serious impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by the Arab peoples in the occupied territories and on their living conditions. The corollary of that occupation was the settlement policy pursued by the Israeli authorities, which was paralleled by a policy of expulsion of Palestinians and confiscation of their lands. The Israeli settlement policy was designed to stifle the natural growth of Palestinian localities by establishing settlements all round them; that policy was not of a nature to encourage the two communities to live in an atmosphere of good neighbourliness.

The living conditions of the Arab peoples in the occupied territories were particularly difficult; they derived no benefit from the provisions, rights and protections laid down in the fourth Geneva Convention and which the international community had recognized as applicable to them. The repeated and arbitrary closure of the territories occupied by the Israeli authorities constituted a blameworthy collective punishment, since it had not only immediate repercussions - on workers unable to go to their places of work, sick people shut off from access to treatment, peasants unable to sell their produce - but also medium- and long-term effects on the schooling of children and on the health and nutrition standards of the Arab peoples.

One of the preconditions for peace and stability was an improvement in the living conditions of the Arab peoples. The peace agreements should give rise to concrete changes with a view to the building of mutual trust. The ending of the Israeli occupation, thus enabling the Arab peoples to take responsibility for their own affairs and to fix their own destinies, was therefore a matter of urgency. At the same time it was incumbent on the Israeli authorities to take the necessary measures to reverse the pernicious consequences for the Arab peoples of the settlement policy and to bring to an end the many and repeated violations of international law. Finally, the representative of Algeria requested the President to take note of his protest at the late distribution of the note by the Secretary-General dated 25 June (A/54/152-E/1999/92).

Mr. AL-HUSSAMY (Syrian Arab Republic) considered that the occupation by force and the settlement of lands was one of the most serious examples of aggression, since the two measures brought in their wake a real repression of the population. The economic and social consequences of those measures could be reversed only by the ending of the occupation. In that connection he particularly drew the attention of the members of the Council to paragraphs 4, 5, 18, 19 and 55 - 60 of the note by the Secretary-General (A/54/152-E/1999/92). He also recalled the contents of resolution 53/196, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 December 1998, and resolution 1998/32 approved by the Council on 29 July 1998.

The Syrian economy was suffering from the consequences of the illegal occupation of the Golan, not only because it had been deprived of the natural resources of that region, but also because it had to bear the burden of thousands of displaced persons. The Syrian delegation requested the Council to give all due attention to the matter under consideration and to call once again on Israel to abandon its settlement policy, to respect all the provisions of the fourth Geneva Convention, to cease plundering the resources of the Arab territories and to end the occupation thereof. The obstacles to the economic and social development of the region as a whole could only be removed through the return of lands to their legitimate owners within the framework of a general peace settlement.

Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) thanked the United Nations system and the countries which were assisting the Palestinian people, who were impatiently awaiting their freedom from Israeli military occupation. He asked the United Nations bodies and the freedom- and justice-loving countries to increase their support for the Palestinian people to enable the latter to exercise its sovereignty in accordance with the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the relevant United Nations resolutions and the rules of international law.

He drew attention to the provisions of Council resolution 1998/32 and the note by the Secretary-General (A/54/152-E/1999/92). He said that the creation of a Palestinian State was being prevented by obstacles created by the occupation authorities. On 24 July 1999 the Palestinian authorities had expressed grave concern over the fact that settlement activities were continuing notwithstanding the commitment of the new Israeli government to implement the Wye River Memorandum. They had called upon the new government to put an end to the settlement policy, which recalled one of the apartheid regime in South Africa and which, as the Secretary-General demonstrated in his note (A/54/152-E/1999/92), not only compromised the peace process but also had serious economic and social repercussions on the situation of the Palestinians. The Palestinian delegation would submit a draft resolution on the subject.

Mr. ABDELMONEIM MOSTAFA (Observer for Egypt) recalled that the peace process initiated in 1991 at the Madrid Conference had been compromised by the intransigence of the previous Israeli Government, which, notwithstanding condemnation by the international community, had persisted with its policy of illegal settlements, confiscation of lands and closure of Palestinian territories. The deplorable acts described in the report on the living conditions of the Palestinian people (E/1999/92) confirmed that that policy constituted a systematic violation of the economic and social rights of the Palestinians.

It was to be hoped that the new Israeli government would reactivate the peace process by putting an end to all the practices which constituted obstacles thereto, and first of all the creation of settlements in the occupied territories. As representatives of international legality the United Nations bodies should continue to press Israel to respect its commitments towards the Palestinian people and to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Egypt would continue to work with all the parties concerned to arrive at a just, fair and global peace in the Middle East. The Egyptian delegation noted with regret that the reports under consideration had not become available until the last minute and requested that the rules governing the publication of Council documents should be complied with.

Mr. QAZI (Pakistan) regretted that the failure to implement the agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization was causing continuing hardship to the Palestinian and Arab populations in the occupied territories. As the Secretary-General had pointed out in his note (A/54/152-E/1999/92), the policy of occupation and settlement pursued by the Israeli authorities was having harmful economic and social repercussions, which were aggravated by border closures and obstacles to the free movement of goods and services. He stressed the urgency of reversing that situation and welcomed the stated intention of the new Israeli government to revive the process of peace in the Middle East; however, in the absence of implementation of the Wye River memorandum and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, that process would remain fragile and flawed. The sufferings of the Palestinian people could only be alleviated through the full realization of their economic and social rights.

Mr. PELEG (Observer for Israel) expressed regret that the statements made by the previous speakers contained no element of a nature to advance the peace process in the Middle East. Referring to the recent change of government in Israel, he emphasized that the reactivation of the peace process was a matter of priority for the new Prime Minister, Mr. Ehud Barak, and that he had already had consultations at the highest level, including talks with President Arafat, with a view to implementing the Wye River agreements. After paying tribute to the memory of King Hassan II, a professed champion of peace, he invited the members of the Council to support the efforts being made to revive the peace process by refraining from politicizing the discussions and by rejecting any proposal which prejudged the outcome of the negotiations on a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Palestinian question.

Mr. WIRAJUDA (Indonesia) said that the results of the recent elections in Israel had awakened new hopes for the resumption of the peace process. However, one of the principal obstacles to securing lasting peace was still the issue of settlements. The continuance of the establishment of those illegal settlements was undermining the territorial integrity of Palestine and was liable to set at naught the recent efforts to establish confidence and justice.

Indonesia warmly welcomed the Wye River Memorandum as well as the avowed determination of the new Israeli Prime Minister rapidly to implement the peace agreements. The resumption of negotiations on the Golan issue would be a significant step forward in the peace process in the Middle East. However, the settlement of that problem should not be achieved at the expense of a comprehensive peace.

In the meantime, in view of the living conditions of the Palestinian peoples, it was essential that the bodies within the United Nations system, and in particular the Council, should continue to provide them with the assistance they needed to overcome their difficulties and to build a nation. To create conditions conducive to peace the international community as a whole should promote development in the region by every possible means. Indonesia, for its part, reaffirmed its unswerving support for the action being taken by the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights.

The President stated that the Council had completed its consideration of items 9 and 11 on its agenda.


The meeting rose at 5.10 p.m.

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