Committee members express cautious optimism over recently released ‘road map’ for Israeli-Palestinian peace

Echoing the views expressed by several members of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning, the Permanent Observer for Palestine expressed cautious optimism over the recently released “road map” to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Updating the Committee on the latest developments in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, Nasser Al-Kidwa said the three-phased road map, formally introduced 30 April by the diplomatic Quartet comprising the Russian Federation, United States, European Union, and the United Nations, required both parties to unambiguously accept the goal of a negotiated settlement as described in the document.

At the outset of Phase One, both sides must issue unequivocal statements on mutual acceptance, with Palestine recognizing Israel’s right to exist and with Israel affirming its commitment to a two-State vision, with Palestine existing alongside Israel, as called for by United States President George Bush. Moreover, all official Palestinian and Israeli institutions agree to end all acts of violence against each other.

Mr. Al-Kidwa expressed hope that current discussions and developments in the coming weeks would lead to an appropriate beginning of implementation rather than providing a cover for further Israeli tactical positions to bury the road map, as had been the case in the past. He was not very optimistic, however. Just a few hours after the formal presentation of the road map — aimed at ending the current violence and terror attacks on the ground while achieving a settlement based on a two-State solution by 2005 — Israeli occupying forces had waged an offensive with tanks and gunships against the Rafah refugee camp, killing 13 Palestinians, including a two-year old boy.

Current political statements by Israeli officials, however, showed an unwillingness to proceed with implementation of the road map, he said, insisting that the document not be renegotiated. Moreover, while the Security Council had made some attempts to move the process forward, its resolutions were weak and lacked specifics on actual implementation of the document. Palestine was hopeful that the Council would adopt a more coherent, clear and strong position leading to the implementation, and also welcomed the Committee’s newly introduced statement on the matter.

Prior to the formal presentation of the road map, Palestinian officials had taken several landmark steps to restructure the Palestinian Authority, including creation of a Prime Minister post and amendments to the Palestinian Basic Law.

Mahmoud Abbas, the first Prime Minister appointed by Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat, had presented his new cabinet, which was then approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council.

These steps should help push the road map process forward, he said; however the task had not been easy, as the Palestinians functioned under Israeli occupation and oppression. The crux of the matter in the Middle East remained the Israeli Government’s refusal to accept the internationally adopted parameters for a political settlement for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to end occupation of Arab land and to accept creat ion of a Palestinian State.

Committee Chairman Papa Louis Fall (Senegal) agreed with the need for cautious optimism at the official announcement of the road map for Middle East peace. While he hoped that the road map would lead to specific results, given past experience, he shared in the pessimism expressed by others. The Quartet’s full determination was needed for the realization of the long awaited road map. The road map, fiercely opposed to by extremists on both sides, should be supported. The Palestinian conflict was, to a large extent, the central element that crystallized most of the high feelings in the Middle East. Indeed, it was at the very heart of the Middle East conflict. Only serious and determined effort would turn the road map into a roadmap for peace.

To show its support for the road map, the Committee then approved a draft statement welcoming the formal presentation of a performance-based road map to a permanent two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the draft text, which was read out by the Chairman, the Committee also welcomed other important, recent developments, notably the confirmation by the Palestinian Legislative Council of a new Palestinian cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. For many months, the Quartet — the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations — had been engaged with Israelis, Palestinians and others with a view to drafting a plan that would realize the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security by 2005.

By the draft text, the Committee stressed the need for both sides to accept and fully comply with the road map; begin its implementation; and continue to cooperate with members of the Quartet. The Committee supported the parties in the historic undertaking to bring peace to the region on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002), as well as previously signed agreements and the initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, endorsed by the Beirut Arab League Summit. The Committee also appealed to the Security Council to express its support for the road map and remain fully engaged on the issue.

In other business this morning, the Committee elected Victor Camilleri, the new Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations, as its Rapporteur. Mr. Camilleri, who previously served as the Committee’s Rapporteur from 1991 to 1993, replaced his country’s former Permanent Representative, Walter Balzan, who left New York in March to assume new functions.

In a statement to the Committee, Mr. Camilleri said that it was the third time that he would be directly involved in the Committee’s work and the second time as Rapporteur. Malta, which had been associated with the Committee since its creation, was dedicated to seeing the Palestinian people achieve their inalienable rights. The Committee’s task had been to promote those rights with all the persuasiveness available to the international community. Despite many setbacks, important progress had been achieved in the universal recognition of the basic rights of the Palestinian people to a State of their own. Recent developments had opened up a window of opportunity for the peaceful settlement of the issue. At such moments, however, it was necessary to temper optimism with caution.

Also this morning, the Committee approved the provisional programmes for two events scheduled to take place in Geneva: the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, on 15 and 16 July, and consultations with civil society organizations, on 16 July.

The Committee Chairman informed members that the Committee’s delegation to those events would consist of its two Vice-Chairman, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla (Cuba) and Ravan Farhadi (Afghanistan), as well as its newly-elected Rapporteur, Victor Camilleri (Malta). He and the Permanent Observer for Palestine, Mr. Al-Kidwa, would also attend the events.

The Committee also approved the applications of 12 non-governmental organizations that had fulfilled the established criteria for accreditation to the Committee.

The Committee Chairman noted that after reviewing the applications, the Committee’s Bureau had determined that the 12 organizations had declared their support for the United Nations Charter, the principles of international law and the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily its right to self-determination. They also had concrete programmes in support of the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Committee Vice-Chairman, Ravan Farhadi of Afghanistan said it was of utmost importance that the Committee endorse the road map. In light of past experience, there could be no doubt that cautious and qualified optimism was called for in the case of the roadmap. Welcoming the new Rapporteur, he said it was important that to note that Malta would soon become a member of the European Union. The fact that the Committee’s Rapporteur would soon be a member of the Union was politically important for the Committee’s future work.

Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, 271st Meeting (AM), GA/PAL/911