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        Economic and Social Council
17 April 2001

Original: ENGLISH


Fifty-seventh session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Friday, 6 April 2001, at 3 p.m.






The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.

The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation (agenda item 5) (continued) (E/CN.4/2001/L.3, L.4, L.5)


Draft resolution on the situation in occupied Palestine (E/CN.4/2001/L.4)

Mr. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) introduced the draft resolution saying that it dealt with the humanitarian aspect of the situation and had the potential to promote stability in the region.

Mrs. IZE-CHARRIN (Secretary of the Commission) said that the representative of Viet Nam and the observer for Turkey had become sponsors of the draft resolution.

Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) urged the members of the Commission to consider carefully their vote on self-determination for the Palestinians, which was primarily a political issue to be determined in the context of bilateral negotiations between the parties concerned. His Government supported the principle of self-determination and the right of peoples in every region to govern themselves. More than 20 years previously, in the framework of the Camp David agreements, Israel had recognized the legitimate right and just requirements of the Palestinian people. Through the Oslo process also, Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to recognize their mutual, legitimate political rights, to be achieved within the framework of the peace negotiations.

Until recently, the two sides had been negotiating outstanding permanent status issues - including the future status of the disputed territories - but those negotiations had been suspended as a result of the violence which had been initiated by the Palestinians. Negotiations on an end to the violence had commenced that week, and peace talks were bound to resume once the violence ended.

The draft resolution before the Commission pre-empted the outcome of the permanent status negotiations and would only undermine attempts to reach a successful conclusion. Furthermore, the language used was more sweeping and definitive than in previous years. The Commission should leave the issue for the parties to resolve, thereby strengthening their incentive to negotiate.

Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the draft resolution dealt with the crux of the problem in the Middle East, namely, the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. That legitimate right was not negotiable since it had been reaffirmed in United Nations resolutions and, moreover, was a prerequisite for peace in the region. The recent negotiations between Palestine and Israel had been about the withdrawal of forces, not self-determination.

It was not true that talks had resumed that week. A meeting had been convened on the personal initiative of the Israeli Foreign Minister, at which he had said that he was not authorized by his Government to take any decision. Moreover, the Palestinians leaving the negotiating table had been fired upon by Israeli forces. His delegation urged the Commission to vote in favour of the draft resolution. It was only when the Palestinian people were freed of Israeli occupation that they would be able genuinely to enjoy their rights.

Mrs. IZE-CHARRIN (Secretary of the Commission) said that the draft resolution had no financial implications.

The CHAIRPERSON said that a roll-call vote had been requested.

Mr. ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala), speaking in explanation of vote before the voting, said that his delegation recognized the right of the Palestinians to achieve self-determination through the establishment of their own State or of an autonomous area within Israel. Their enjoyment of that right depended, however, on agreements yet to be concluded with the Israeli Government. It was important that the rights of the Jewish people should not be undermined through increased vulnerability as a result of a massive return of Palestinians. It was only by means of negotiations that a peace agreement could be reached. In voting against the draft resolution, his delegation would not be denying the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people but reaffirming the rights of the Jewish people, which had also been recognized in United Nations resolutions since 1948.

Ms. TAHIR-KHELI (United States of America), said that her delegation opposed the draft resolution (as it had similar ones in the past) because the text attempted to prejudge final status issues that the parties had agreed to reserve for bilateral negotiations. Her delegation did not dispute the right of the Commission to address legitimate concerns regarding the human rights practices of any country. Adoption of the draft resolution would not, however, help to break the tragic cycle of violence under way in the region; the parties themselves must do that. Nor would it bring the just, lasting and comprehensive peace that all desired. The road to such peace must begin with the difficult decisions that only the parties could take. The international community should encourage them to do so before further lives were lost.

United Nations texts, such as the one before the Commission, risked diminishing the prospects for peace in the Middle East. Repeated year after year, they failed to reflect the complexities of the situation. Nor did they offer a balanced assessment. Moreover, the draft resolution under consideration went beyond the competence of the Commission in concluding that self-determination was “a basic condition” for peace (final preambular paragraph) or that Palestinians had an “inalienable” right “to establish their sovereign and independent Palestinian State”. The issues dividing the Palestinians and Israelis must be resolved between them in the region; they could not be resolved in Geneva.
The sine qua non for a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace” was an end to violence and a resumption and completion of negotiations. Peace would require real compromise, which would involve real sacrifices on both sides. The parties themselves would need to take concrete steps and make genuine efforts to fulfil the principle of land for peace embodied in Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. Her delegation urged the Commission to vote against a draft resolution which had the very real potential to undermine the peace process.

Mr. DEMBRI (Algeria) said that no vote should be used to deny the Palestinian people their right to determine their own destiny.

The CHAIRPERSON said that, under rule 60 of the rules of procedure, a sponsor was not entitled to speak in explanation of vote.

At the request of the representative of the United States of America, a vote was taken by roll-call on the draft resolution.

Algeria, having been drawn by lot by the Chairperson, was called upon to vote first.

In favour: Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia.

Against: Guatemala, United States of America.

Abstaining: Canada, Romania.

The draft resolution was adopted by 48 votes to 2, with 2 abstentions.

Ms. GERVAIS-VIDRICAIRE (Canada) said that her delegation fully supported the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, in which the right to the creation of a Palestinian State was implicit. The interest of all peoples in the region, including the Palestinians, would, however, best be served through the negotiating process. Insufficient weight was given to that fact in paragraph 1.

Mr. NOIRFALISSE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and its associated countries, said that the Union had been able to support the draft resolution the text of which reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination without in any way prejudicing the negotiations on final status. The right of the Palestinian people to build a sovereign, democratic and viable State had been established; the timing was up to the Palestinian people. As had been stated on 25 March 1999, the creation of a sovereign, democratic, viable Palestinian State on the basis of existing agreements and full negotiations was the best guarantee of Israel’s security and the latter’s acceptance as an equal partner in the region. The Union continued to urge the parties to meet in a constructive spirit to seek an urgent resumption of their dialogue.

It reaffirmed that the basis of negotiations and of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace must be Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and other relevant United Nations resolutions. It reiterated the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, the right of all States to live in security and to exist within internationally recognized borders and the principle of land for peace.


The meeting rose at 6.20 p.m.

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