Appeals for Urgent Support to Stabilize Palestinian Authority’s Finances heard as Palestinian Rights Committee Convenes

Secretary-General Kofi Annan addresses the 2006 session of the Palestinian Rights Committee. (UN Photo)


Voting in large numbers two weeks ago, the Palestinian people had underlined their commitment to building democracy and achieving self-determination, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning, in statement to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people.

Describing the election outcome as a watershed in Palestinian political history, the Secretary-General noted that discussions had begun on forming a government. As the Quartet and the Security Council had recently made clear, the international community would be watching very carefully to see how a new government would rise to the challenges of fulfilling the obligations and responsibilities that would fall upon it. They included Palestinian-Israeli agreements starting with the Oslo accords and the Arab Summit resolutions and ending with the resolutions agreed upon by the international community, particularly the Road Map.

Emphasizing that the Palestinian economy, security services and government institutions all needed continued support, as well as far-reaching reforms, he said the most urgent need was to stabilize the Palestinian Authority’s finances, and appealed to donors for the required support at the present critical time. In addition, Palestinian territory remained under occupation, settlement activity continued in certain areas and nearly 400 checkpoints restricted movement throughout the West Bank, despite a recent agreement to ease such restrictions. Fluid communication between Gaza and the West Bank had yet to be established, and a barrier continued to be built, despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice.

The Quartet was deeply concerned about those matters, and had reminded Israel that it must meet its obligations, he said. At the same time, the clear majority of Palestinians did not wish to pursue violence or terrorism against Israeli citizens. They understood and accepted that Israel, a Member State of the United Nations, had a right to exist as a State, alongside the State of Palestine, which Palestinians deserved and wanted to achieve. They wanted the agreements and obligations that their elected representatives had already entered into, including the Road Map, to be implemented, not abandoned.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said the elections marked the first time in an Arab country that a ruling party had lost an election and then peacefully transferred the cabinet to the winning party. That was further evidence of the Palestinian people’s commitment to democracy. President Abbas had reiterated the Palestinian commitment to all the treaties and agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Authority. Moreover, he had reaffirmed the commitment of the Palestinian side to the Road Map and its intention to uphold its obligations.

Meanwhile, the economic aid provided to the Palestinian people must not be halted or interrupted, he said, adding that the international community must not punish the Palestinians for exercising their democratic right to elect their representatives. As such, the choice they had made deserved respect and support. Hence, those who had made negative pronouncements about revoking financial assistance should re-evaluate and rescind those positions. Any decision to stop aid would have a “tremendous negative impact” on the daily lives of the Palestinian people and compound their already dire humanitarian situation.

He said that the tragic plight of the Palestinian people, living under occupation, should be transmitted to every household in order to create a more boisterous voice calling for an end to occupation once and for all. In supporting the Secretary-General’s personal role and as a Quartet member, everyone must think collectively on possible ways to bring a just solution to the conflict based on the Road Map and relevant United Nations resolutions. The Observer Mission of Palestine stood ready to work with Committee members and observers, as well as the Secretary-General, to find way to achieve that.

At the outset of today’s meeting, the Committee elected Paul Badji, Permanent Representative of Senegal, as its Chairman; Ravan Farhadi (Afghanistan) and Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz (Cuba) as Vice-Chairmen; and Victor Camilleri (Malta) as Rapporteur.

The Committee also heard the Chairman’s report on the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine, held in Caracas, Venezuela, on 13 and 14 December, and followed on 15 December by a Forum of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the 2006 session of the Palestinian Rights Committee. (UN Photo)


In other business, the Committee took note of the Chairman’s report and approved its draft programme of work, regarding which he responded to delegates’ concerns by assuring them that he had taken to heart the matter of United Nations management reform, which would eventually have an impact on the Committee. Given its General Assembly mandate, the Committee should be more visible and proactive so that criticisms against it could be swept away. The streamlining of the Committee had already begun and it no longer carried out its activities in a mechanical fashion.

Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. Badji noted that the Committee remained just as relevant today as it had upon its establishment three decades ago, despite the fact that some appeared to wish for the its elimination, as well as that of other United Nations structures dealing with the question of Palestine.

Other speakers today, included the representatives of Mali, Syria, Cuba, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Venezuela.

The representative of the League of Arab States also spoke.

Statements

United Nations Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that the Palestinian vote two weeks ago in large numbers underlined the Palestinians’ commitment to build their democracy and achieve self-determination. The Palestinian Authority had ensured security on election day, showing that the insecurity of the recent past could be overcome. And, the Palestinian Central Election Commission, with the support of the United Nations and the international community, did an excellent job of organizing the voting. The Secretary-General congratulated President Abbas, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people on that achievement. He thanked the electoral observers from all over the world for their contributions, and he respected the decision of the Palestinian people.

Calling the election outcome a “watershed in Palestinian political history”, he noted that discussions had begun on forming a government. That was a sensitive moment indeed. President Abbas, speaking after the election, underlined the obligations and responsibilities that would fall on any new government, including, in his words, “Palestinian-Israeli agreements starting with the Oslo accords and the Arab Summit resolutions and ending with the resolutions that have been agreed upon by the international community, in particular the Road Map as the sole framework that is being posed now for implementation”.

The clear majority of the Palestinian people did not want to pursue violence or terrorism against Israeli citizens, the Secretary-General said. They also understood and accepted that Israel, which was a Member State of the United Nations, had a right to exist as a State, alongside the State of Palestine, which Palestinians deserved and wanted to achieve. They wanted the agreements and obligations that their elected representatives had already entered into, including the Road Map, to be carried forward and implemented, and not abandoned.

He said that as the Quartet and the Security Council had recently made clear, the international community would be watching very carefully to see how a new government rose to those challenges.

Meanwhile, the international community was fully aware of the plight of the Palestinian people, he said. Their territory remained under occupation. Settlement activity continued in certain areas. Nearly 400 checkpoints restricted movement throughout the West Bank, despite a recent agreement to ease such restrictions. Fluid communication between Gaza and the West Bank had yet to be established. A barrier continued to be built on occupied Palestinian territory, despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice. The Quartet was deeply concerned about those matters, and had reminded Israel that it must meet its obligations.

The Palestinian people also faced serious humanitarian and development challenges, he said. The economy, security services and government institutions all required continued support, as well as far-reaching reforms. The most urgent need was to stabilize the Palestinian Authority’s finances. The Secretary-General appealed to donors from the region and the wider international community to provide the support that was required at the present critical time. He stressed his personal commitment to help the Palestinian people achieve, by peaceful means, what was rightfully theirs: a viable, contiguous, independent State of Palestine, living at peace with the State of Israel. “Let everyone commit unequivocally to this goal, he said. “And let us then work together to achieve it.”

Committee Chairman PAUL BADJI (Senegal), speaking in his national capacity, said that, for his country, promoting the rights of the Palestinian people did not mean working against the rights and interests of Israel, with which Senegal had diplomatic relations, as well as relations of respect and mutual trust. The just-ended year of 2005 had coincided with the thirtieth anniversary of the Committee’s establishment. He recalled that on 10 November 1975 the General Assembly had decided to establish the body to promote the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, which it had defined as including the right to self-determination, independence, national sovereignty, as well as the right to return to their homes and properties, from which they had been displaced and uprooted. Three decades later, the General Assembly could take stock of how much remained to be done in achieving those legitimate goals, which remained just as relevant today, despite the fact that some people appeared to wish for the elimination of the Committee, as well as other United Nations structures dealing with the issue of Palestine.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said that, for the second time in the history of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian people, living under Israeli occupation, went to the polls to vote on their new legislature. Voter turnout had been an astonishing 77 per cent. The international community, including the international observers monitoring the elections, had applauded the Palestinian people for conducting the elections in a free and fair manner, and demonstrating their commitment to democracy. It had been a very proud day for the Palestinian people, not only because of the “festival of democracy” displayed, but also because it had been accomplished under Israel’s military occupation. Even more extraordinary had been that the elections had taken place at a time when the Palestinians were facing the severest imposition of restrictions, including to their freedom of movement.

He said that it had been the first time in an Arab country that a ruling party had lost an election and then peacefully transferred the cabinet to the winning party. That was further evidence of the Palestinian people’s commitment to democracy. Despite all the difficulties of occupation and the policies of the Israeli Government, President Abbas had been committed to holding the elections on the set date and had proceeded accordingly. He had made it unequivocally clear that the elections were a “sine que non” for future progress and would commence, regardless of the insecure environment under occupation. He had reiterated the commitment of the Palestinian side to all the treaties and agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian National Authority. Moreover, he had reaffirmed the commitment of the Palestinian side to the Road Map and its intention to uphold its obligations therein. He had also stated his expectation that the future new cabinet would uphold those positions.

Meanwhile, the economic aid provided to the Palestinian people must not be halted or interrupted, Mr. Mansour said. The international community must not punish the Palestinian people for exercising their democratic right to elect their representatives. Irrespective of divergent opinions regarding the political parties elected by the Palestinian people, it must be remembered that that had come about in a democratic manner. As such, the choice made by the Palestinian people deserved respect and support. Hence, he appealed to those parties who had made negative pronouncements and suggested to revoking financial assistance to the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation to re-evaluate and rescind those positions. Any decision to stop aid would have a “tremendous negative impact” on the daily lives of the Palestinian people and compound their already dire humanitarian situation.

Clearly, he continued, the Palestinian national struggle faced tremendous challenges. The Palestinian people suffered the consequences of the imposition of hundreds of checkpoints, the imprisonment of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners, the illegal policy of extrajudicial executions and a myriad of other merciless examples of occupation against the Palestinian people, permeating every aspect of their lives. Indeed, the occupation and the illegal policies and practices of the Israeli occupying forces had made the life of every Palestinian man, woman and child intolerable. If programmes related to the question of Palestine were needed 30 years ago, it would make sense that, today, the Palestinian people were in even greater need for their continuation and strengthening. More than that, additional programmes should be contemplated to ensure that the crimes of the occupation were not concealed, but revealed.

He said that the tragic plight of the Palestinian people living under occupation should be transmitted to every household, in order to create a more boisterous voice calling for the termination of the occupation, once and for all, and to ensure that an entire people would never be “under the boot of a brutal occupier”, while the international community remained paralysed. In supporting the Secretary-General’s personal role and as a Quartet member, everyone must think collectively on possible ways to bring a just solution to the conflict based on the Road Map and relevant United Nations resolutions. His delegation stood ready to work with the Committee members and observers, as well as the Secretary-General, to find way to achieve that.

Mr. BADJI ( Senegal), Committee Chairman, said the Committee had sent its congratulations to the Palestinian people on the successful holding of elections. They had, thus, taken another critical step, as required by the Road Map, which should lead to an independent and viable Palestinian State which should coexist side by side with Israeli in security and peace. The international community should continue its assistance to the Palestinian people to relieve their difficult existence.

He then reported on the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine, held in Caracas, Venezuela, on 13 and 14 December, and followed on 15 December by a United Nations Forum of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace. During the regional meeting, held under the theme “Achieving the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people — the key to peace in the Middle East”, experts had discussed the impact of the continuing construction of the wall in the West Bank in defiance of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. Speakers had talked about international efforts to revitalize the political process between the parties and addressed the question of Latin American and Caribbean support for a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Presentations in the plenary sessions and at the Civil Society Forum had been made by 18 experts from Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Europe and the Middle East, including Palestinians and Israelis, he said. At the close of the meeting, the participants had adopted the Caracas Declaration, in which they condemned Israel’s recent resumption of military incursions and extrajudicial killings that threatened to unravel the fragile truce agreed by Palestinian groups and undo what progress had already been achieved. They had strongly condemned the continuing construction of the wall and the expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, in defiance of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.

Venezuela had introduced an additional item for the final document entitled “Humanitarian and socio-economic challenges facing the Palestinian people”, with a view to giving greater visibility to the Palestinian cause, he said. The participants had also called on the Latin American and Caribbean States members of the Committee to redouble their efforts to promote the incorporation of other countries of the region as members or observers, with a view to strengthening the Committee’s efforts to achieve peace and respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

He said the participants had welcomed the Brasilía Declaration, adopted on 11 May 2005 at the South American and Arab Countries Summit, which had reaffirmed the need to reach a just, durable and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of the principle of land for peace, relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the Madrid framework and the Arab Peace Initiative that ensured the realization of security for all countries in the region. The Civil Society Forum had followed, with discussions focusing on such issues as how civil society in the region could contribute to helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the need to organize an information-sharing network within the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Related Links

  • Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People