Fourth Committee takes action on situation in Palestine

Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kidwa, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly. (UN Photo)


Concluding its work for the current session, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon took action on nine draft resolutions and one draft decision — approving five texts relating to the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and five on Israeli practices in territories occupied since 1967.

The Committee approved a draft on assistance to Palestinian refugees by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 1 against (Israel) with 8 abstentions (Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Cameroon, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and United States, after which Antigua and Barbuda announced it should have voted in favour). By the draft, the Assembly would call on all donors to make the most generous efforts possible to meet the Agency’s anticipated needs, including those mentioned in recent emergency appeals. The Assembly would also note with regret that repatriation or compensation of the refugees had not yet been effected.

A text on UNRWA’s operations, approved by a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 6 against (Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States) with 2 abstentions (Albania, Cameroon),would have the Assembly express its appreciation for the tireless efforts of the Agency in light of increasingly difficult conditions. The Assembly would also call on Israel to take effective measures to ensure the safety of the Agency’s personnel and the protection of its institutions and facilities, as well as to cease obstructing the work of UNRWA personnel and to speedily compensate the Agency for damage to its property.

Other UNRWA-related drafts approved today, by recorded votes, included a text on persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities, as orally revised, and Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues.

By approving, without a vote, a draft decision, as orally amended, on expansion of the UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, the Committee would recommend, among other things, that the Assembly invite Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland to the Commission’s membership.

Among draft resolutions on Israeli practices, the Committee approved a text on Israeli settlements, by which the Assembly would reiterate that those settlements in the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development. The Assembly would also reiterate its demand for the complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and call for the full implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would welcome the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank as a step towards the implementation of the “Road Map”. In that regard, it would call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. It would emphasize the need for the parties to speedily resolve all remaining issues in the Gaza Strip. In addition, the Assembly would demand that Israel comply with its legal obligations under international law, as mentioned in the 9 July advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

The text was approved by a vote of149 in favour to 7 against ( Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States) with 7 abstentions (Albania, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu).

The Committee also approved a text, on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, by a vote of144 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 11 abstentions.

By that draft, the Assembly would demand that Israel, the occupying Power, cease immediately all practices and actions taken in violation and in grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the protection of civilians in wartime, including all settlement activities and construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as well as extrajudicial executions. It would also condemn all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction, especially the excessive use of force by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians, as well as express grave concern at the use of suicide bombing attacks against Israeli civilians. It would further welcome the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank as a step towards implementation of the Road Map.

The other drafts on Israeli practices, also approved by the Fourth Committee by a recorded vote, were on: the work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (Annex V); the applicability of the Geneva Convention (Annex VI); and the occupied Syrian Golan (Annex IX).

The Committee Chairman, Yashar Aliyev ( Azerbaijan), made concluding remarks.

Explanations of vote and general statements were made by the representatives of Japan, Australia, Canada and Syria, as well as by the observer for Palestine. The representatives of the Bahamas (on behalf of Latin American and Caribbean States), Indonesia (on behalf of the Asian group) and Nigeria (on behalf of the African group) made approving comments on the conduct of the session.

With this afternoon’s meeting, the Fourth Committee completed its work for the current, sixtieth, session of the General Assembly.

Background

In order to conclude its work for the sixtieth session, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was meeting this afternoon to take action on draft texts relating to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of Palestinians and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

The Fourth Committee was first to act on draft resolutionson: assistance to Palestine refugees (document A/C.4.60/L.9); persons displaced as a result of June 1967 and subsequent hostilities (document A/C.4/60/L.10); on UNRWA’s operations (document A/C.4/60/L.11/Rev.1); and on Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues (document A/C.4/60/L.12); as well as on a draft decision on the increase in the membership of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission (document A/C.4/60/L.18/Rev.1).

The Committee was then to take action on: the work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/C.4/60/L.13); on the applicability of the Geneva Convention to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (document A/C.4/60/L.14); on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/C.4/60/L.15/Rev.1); on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem (document A/C.4/60/L.16/Rev.1); and on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/C.4/60/L.17).

The draft resolution on assistance to Palestine refugees (document A/C.4/60/L.9), would have the General Assembly note with regret that repatriation or compensation of the refugees, as provided for in paragraph 11 of its resolution 194 (III) of December 1948 and subsequent resolutions, has not yet been effected and that the situation of the Palestine refugees continues to be a matter of grave concern. The Assembly would also note with regret that the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine has been unable to find a means of achieving progress in implementing that same resolution, and would request the Commission to exert continued efforts in that regard.

Also by the text, the Assembly would affirm the need for the continuation of UNRWA’s work, and the importance of its operations and services for the well-being of the Palestinian refugees and the stability of the region, pending the resolution of the Palestine refugee question. The Assembly would call upon all donors to continue to make the most generous efforts possible to meet the Agency’s anticipated needs, including those mentioned in recent emergency appeals.

By a draft on persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities (document A/C.4/60/L.10), the Assembly would reaffirm the right of all those persons to return to their homes or former places of residence in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. Expressing its deep concern that the mechanism agreed upon by the parties (in the 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements) for the return of displaced persons has not been complied with, the Assembly would stress the necessity of an accelerated return.

In the meantime, the Assembly would, by further terms of the text, endorse the Commissioner-General’s efforts to provide humanitarian assistance on an emergency basis and as a temporary measure to persons in the area who are currently displaced and in serious need of continuing assistance. It would strongly appeal to all Governments, organizations and individuals to contribute generously to the Agency and to other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

A draft on Operations of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (document A/C.4/60/L.11/Rev.1) would have the Assembly express its appreciation to the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, as well as to all Agency staff, for their tireless efforts and valuable work, particularly in light of the increasingly difficult conditions throughout the past year. The Assembly would also express its appreciation to the Agency’s Advisory Commission.

Further, the Assembly would take note, with appreciation, of the report of the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA for its efforts to assist in ensuring the Agency’s financial security, as reflected in the Agency’s programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007. It would commend the continuing efforts of the Commissioner-General to increase the budgetary transparency and efficiency of the Agency. It would also acknowledge the support of the host Governments for the Agency, and welcome the convening, in June 2004, of the Geneva conference by the Agency and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to increase support for UNRWA.

The Assembly would, by other terms of the text, express concern about the temporary relocation of the international staff at UNRWA headquarters from Gaza City, and the disruption of operations at the headquarters. It would call upon Israel to comply fully with the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention on protection of civilians in time of war. The Assembly would also urge the Government of Israel to speedily compensate the Agency for damage to its property, and also call upon Israel to cease obstructing the movement of UNRWA personnel, vehicles and supplies, and to cease the levying of extra fees and charges.

By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would call upon Israel to abide by Articles 100, 104 and 105 of the United Nations Charter, and by the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations and the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, in order to ensure the safety of UNRWA personnel, the protection of its institutions and the security of its facilities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Further, the Assembly would request the UNRWA Commissioner-General to proceed with the issuance of identification cards for Palestine refugees and their descendants in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Affirming that the functioning of the Agency remains essential in all fields of operation, the Assembly would note the success of UNRWA’s microfinance and microenterprise programmes, and call upon the Agency, in close cooperation with the relevant agencies, to continue to contribute towards the development of the economic and social stability of the Palestine refugees in all fields of operation.

By further terms, the Assembly would reiterate its request to the Commissioner-General to proceed with the modernization of UNRWA’S archives through the Palestine Refugee Records Project. The Assembly would also reiterate its previous appeals to all States, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations to continue to augment the special allocations for grants and scholarships for higher education to Palestine refugees, in addition to their contributions to the Agency’s regular budget, and to contribute towards the establishment of vocational training centres for Palestine refugees.

The Assembly would urge all States, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations to continue and to increase their contributions to the Agency so as to ease the ongoing financial constraints, exacerbated by the current humanitarian situation on the ground, and to support its valuable work in assistance to the Palestine refugees.

By the text of a draft resolution on Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues (document A/C.4/60/L.12), the Assembly would reaffirm that the Palestine refugees are entitled to their property and to the income derived therefrom, in conformity with the principles of equity and justice.

By other terms, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to take all appropriate steps, in consultation with the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, for the protection of Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel, and call, once again, on Israel to render all facilities and assistance to the Secretary-General in the implementation of the present resolution.

Further by the text, the Assembly would call upon all the parties concerned to provide the Secretary-General with any pertinent information in their possession concerning Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel that would assist him in the implementation of the present resolution. It would urge the Palestinian and Israeli sides to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues in the framework of the final status negotiations of the Middle East peace process.

By a draft decision (document A/C.4/60/L.18/Rev.1) on the Increase in the membership of the Advisory Commission on UNRWA, the Assembly would decide to invite Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, whose contributions to UNRWA activities have exceeded an annual average of $5 million over the past three years, to become members of the Advisory Commission. It would invite the European Community to attend the Commission’s meetings, whereas Palestine would be invited to attend and fully participate in the meetings as an observer, while the League of Arab States would be invited to attend the meetings as an observer.

By a draft on the work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/C.4/60/L.13), the Assembly would reiterate its demand that Israel cooperate with the Special Committee.

By other terms, the Assembly would deplore those policies and practices of Israel that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, as reflected in the Special Committee’s report. It would express grave concern about the continuing crisis situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 28 September 2000, as a result of Israeli practices and measures, and especially condemn all Israeli settlement activities and the construction of the wall, as well as the excessive and indiscriminate use of force against the civilian population, including extrajudicial executions.

The Assembly would, by further terms, request the Special Committee, pending complete termination of the Israeli occupation, to continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, especially Israeli violations of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949. The Special Committee would also be requested to consult with the International Committee of the Red Cross in order to ensure that the welfare and human rights of the peoples of the occupied territories are safeguarded.

By other terms, the Assembly would request the Special Committee to submit periodic reports to the Secretary-General on the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. It would further request the Special Committee to continue to investigate the treatment of prisoners and detainees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on the applicability of the Geneva Convention (document A/C.4/60/L.14). By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm that the Geneva Convention is applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, and demand that Israel comply scrupulously with the provisions of that Convention. It would call upon all High Contracting Parties to the Convention to continue to exert all efforts to ensure respect for its provisions by Israel in the occupied territories. The Assembly would also reiterate the need for speedy implementation of the relevant recommendations contained in its resolutions of its tenth emergency session, including resolution ES-10/15 of 20 July 2004.

Also before the Committee was a draft resolution on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/C.4/60/L.15/Rev.1), by which the General Assembly would reaffirm that those settlements are illegal, and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development. It would also call upon Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to those occupied territories, and to abide scrupulously by the provision of the Convention, in particular article 49.

The Assembly would welcome the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, and the dismantlement of the settlements therein as a step towards the implementation of the “Road Map”. In that regard, it would call upon Israel, the occupying Power to comply strictly with its obligations under international law with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and would emphasize the need for the parties to speedily resolve all remaining issues in the Gaza Strip, including the removal of rubble.

Further by the text, the Assembly would reiterate its demand for the complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and call for the full implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions. It would also demand that Israel comply with its legal obligations under international law, as mentioned in the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice.

By other terms, the Assembly would stress the need for full implementation of Security Council resolution 904 (1994), in which, among other things, the Council called upon Israel to continue to take and implement measures, including confiscation of arms, with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers, and called for measures to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians in the occupied territory. The Assembly would reiterate its calls for the prevention of all acts of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and property, particularly in light of recent developments.

The Committee also had before it a draft resolution regarding Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory , including East Jerusalem (document A/C.4/60/L.16/Rev.1). By its terms, the Assembly would reiterate that all measures and actions taken by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, in violation of the relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in wartime, and contrary to the relevant Security Council resolutions, are illegal and have no validity. The Assembly would demand that Israel comply fully with the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention and cease immediately all measures and actions taken in violation and in grave breach of the Convention, including the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as well as extrajudicial executions.

By the draft’s terms, the Assembly would welcome the Israeli withdrawal from within the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank and the dismantlement of the settlements therein as a step towards the implementation of the Road Map, but would call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Further, the Assembly would demand that Israel cease all practices and actions that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people and that it scrupulously abide by its obligations under human rights law. It would also demand that Israel comply with its legal obligations as mentioned in the advisory opinion of 9 July 2004 rendered by the International Court of Justice and as demanded in resolution ES-10/15 of 20 July 2004, by, among other actions, dismantling the wall constructed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and making reparation for all damage caused by its construction.

The Assembly would also stress the need for unity and territorial integrity of all the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods within that territory, including the removal of restrictions on movement into and from East Jerusalem, and the freedom of movement to and from the outside world. It would also stress the need for full implementation of the Sharm el Sheikh understandings.

Further provisions of the text would have the Assembly condemn all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction, especially the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians, and express grave concern at the use of suicide bombing attacks against Israeli civilians.

By a draft on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/C.4/60/L.17), the Assembly would call upon Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981), in which the Council decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect, and demand that Israel rescind its decision.

The Assembly would also call upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and to desist from the establishment of settlements. It would determine that all legislative and administrative measures and actions by Israel that purport to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan are null and void, constitute a flagrant violation of international law and of the Geneva Convention, and have no legal effect.

Also by the text, the Assembly would call upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan and from its repressive measures against the population. It would also deplore Israel’s violations of the Geneva Convention and call, once again, upon Member States not to recognize any of the legislative or administrative measures referred to in the present draft resolution.

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