The General Assembly today wrapped up its annual consideration of the question of Palestine and the situation in the wider Middle East, adopting six traditional resolutions, underscoring, above all, that sustained international involvement was urgently needed to support both the Palestinian and Israeli sides in revitalizing the peace process and towards the speedy resumption of negotiations leading to a final settlement.
Convinced that achieving a final and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine –- the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict –- was the key to stability in the Middle East, the Assembly adopted, by vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Australia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu), a text stressing the need for Israel’s withdrawal from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
The resolution welcomed the recent agreement on movement and access between the two sides -– leading to the opening of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt last Friday — in the wake of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. The Assembly stressed the need to ensure that the new commitments followed the agreed timeline, and also emphasized the need for the parties, with the help of the international community, to speedily and fully resolve the remaining issues in the Gaza Strip, including a durable arrangement for the airport, construction of the seaport and removal of rubble.
On Jerusalem, the Assembly adopted a resolution reiterating its determination that any actions taken by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the Holy City are illegal and, therefore, null and void, and have no validity whatsoever. It did so by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 7 against (Costa Rica, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 12 abstentions.
That text reaffirmed the international community’s interest in protecting the city’s unique spiritual, religious and cultural character, and stressed that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Jerusalem –- which took into account the legitimate concerns of both sides –- must include internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure freedom of religion and of conscience, and permanent, free and unhindered access of all to holy places.
The resolution on the Syrian Golan, adopted by a recorded vote of 106 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 62 abstentions, stressed the illegality of Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Syrian Golan since 1967, and determined once more that the continued occupation and de facto annexation constitute a stumbling block to achieving a just, comprehensive peace in the region. (See Annex V.)
In addition to resuming talks with Syria and Lebanon, and respecting commitments and undertakings reached during the previous talks, the world body also once again demanded a complete withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan to the 4 June, 1967 line.
Also today, the Assembly adopted three texts concerning the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Division for Palestinian Rights, and the Department of Public Information’s special information programme on Palestine, all by recorded votes.
Explanations of vote were made by the representatives of Canada, Uruguay, Australia, United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Argentina (also on behalf of Brazil) and Iran. The Observer for Palestine made a general statement, as did the representative of Syria. The representative of the United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) made a statement before action on the texts. The Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.
The General Assembly met today to take action on several draft resolutions related to the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East. Under its item on Palestine, the Assembly had before it four texts. A draft resolution on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/60/L.28), would request the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people.
A text on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (document A/60/L.29), would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to continue to provide that Division with the necessary resources, to ensure that it continues to carry out its programme of work, and to ensure the continued cooperation of the Department of Public Information (DPI) and other units of the Secretariat, in enabling the Division to perform its tasks and in covering adequately the various aspects of the question of Palestine.
A draft resolution on the special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (document A/60/L.30), would have the Assembly request the DPI, in cooperation and coordination with the Committee, to continue its special information programme through 2006-2007, in particular, to disseminate information on all the activities of the United Nations system relating to the question of Palestine; to expand its collection of audio-visual material on the question of Palestine in all fields; and to organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem.
A draft resolution on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/60/L.31), would have the Assembly, while welcoming the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank as a step towards the implementation of the Road Map, call on both parties to fulfil their obligations for such implementation by taking parallel and reciprocal steps, and stress the urgency of establishing a credible and effective third-party monitoring mechanism. It would call on 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.
Furthermore, the Assembly would demand that Israel immediately cease its construction of the wall, and demand the complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan. It would stress the need for the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, and for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination and to their independent State. It would also stress the need for resolving the problem of Palestinian refugees in conformity with its resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948.
Regarding the situation in the Middle East, the Assembly had before it a draft resolution on the Syrian Golan (document A/60/L.32), which would have it declare that the Israeli decision of 14 December, 1981, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan, is null and void and has no validity whatsoever, and demand once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June, 1967. The Assembly would also call on Israel to resume the talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to respect the commitments and undertakings reached during the previous talks.
By the provisions of a draft resolution on Jerusalem (document A/60/L.33), the Assembly would reiterate its determination that any action taken by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on Jerusalem are illegal and, therefore, null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and would deplore the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to that city. It would stress that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and should include internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent and unhindered access to the holy places by the people of all religions and nationalities.
Action on Drafts
In explanation of position before the vote, ADAM THOMSON ( United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, welcomed the recent positive developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the forthcoming multi-party elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council foreseen for 25 January, 2006. They represented significant steps towards implementing the Road Map and should be taken into consideration in existing United Nations structures.
In relation to streamlining the Assembly’s work, he continued, it was gratifying that the Palestinian delegation withdrew its draft resolution on Palestinian children in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this year and incorporated elements into an existing resolution. Also, existing structures, such as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, should be updated to better reflect political developments and realities on the ground. Its terms of reference should also be re-examined to reflect the spirit of the peace process. With two new members who had historically held a different view from the Union on that matter, the Union’s voting pattern would reflect its respect for their position.
In conclusion, he said the Union remained committed to the two-State solution laid out in the Road Map and agreed to by the parties. The result would be a viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent Palestinian State, side by side in peace with Israel, both within recognized and secure borders.
The Assembly adopted draft resolution A/60/L.28, entitled “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People”, by a recorded vote of 106 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 59 abstentions. (See Annex I.)
By a recorded vote of 105 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 59 abstentions, the Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” contained in document A/60/L.29.
Also by a recorded vote, with 160 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu), the Assembly adopted the resolution on “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat” (document A/60/L.30).
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution contained in document A/60/L.31, entitled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”, by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Australia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu).
Speaking in explanation of vote, after the vote, GILBERT LAURIN ( Canada) said that in the absence of clear evidence of the value added by the work of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, his delegation maintained its reservations to that body and believed that scarce United Nations resources should be diverted elsewhere. Canada held similar reservations to the work of the Division for Palestinian Rights and believed that the funds supplied to that body could be used for more strategic means, towards the protection and promotion of Palestinian rights and to a peaceful settlement. Canada had voted against the texts. Finally, he said that the text on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine should have included a clear condemnation of terrorist bombing, and since that had not been the case, Canada had taken the difficult position of abstaining in the vote this year. Nevertheless, Canada supported the peace process.
SUSANA RIVERO ( Uruguay) said her delegation maintained its position that there be an urgent and genuine return to the Road Map and negotiations towards a lasting and just solution, bringing peace for both Palestinian and Israeli sides. That should include the principle of two States, living side by side in peace and security.
ANDREW SOUTHCOTT ( Australia ) said that his delegation was concerned that a number of resolutions taken up by the Assembly this year had been unbalanced in their criticism of Israel. The singling out of one side for blame in the current situation was very unhelpful. Australia remained concerned by the high level of United Nations resources allocated to anti-Israeli activity, including the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The annual resolutions endorsing those Secretariat units did nothing to streamline or rationalize the Secretariat’s work structure or to make its work more balanced. Similarly, the special information programme was not a constructive use of United Nations resources. The relevant resolutions served only to distract the parties from more pressing issues and did nothing to help the peace process.
The Assembly then turned to the texts on the situation in the Middle East.
The Assembly first adopted, by a recorded vote of 106 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 62 abstentions, the draft resolution on “The Syrian Golan” (document A/60/L.32).
It then adopted, by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 7 against (Costa Rica, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 12 abstentions, the draft resolution on “Jerusalem” (document A/60/L.33).
In explanation of position, ROSEMARY DAVIS (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said she had abstained on the resolution regarding the Syrian Golan, even though she had voted in favour of a resolution on that matter earlier this month in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), because the current text contained references that could undermine bilateral negotiations. The situation in the Middle East was fragile and the momentum for the Road Map must be maintained. A just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the situation in the Middle East, including on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, must be based on Security Council resolutions that emphasized the inadmissibility of territory acquired by force, and the need for a peace in which all States in the region would live in security. A final peace settlement in the region would not be complete without taking account of the Israel-Syria and Israel-Lebanon aspects. Negotiations should resume as soon as possible.
CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina), also speaking on behalf of Brazil, said he had voted in favour of the resolution on the Syrian Golan because it basically dealt with the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by force as precluded by the Charter. That vote did not reflect a position on the reference in an operative paragraph to the line of 4 June, 1967. Israel and Syria should restart negotiations on an urgent basis so as to resolve the matter in accordance with previous resolutions and the principle of land for peace.
Mr. LAURIN ( Canada) said he had voted against the resolution on the Syrian Golan, just as he had last year, since the resolution put responsibility for actions to be taken on one side only, not both. He had voted for the resolution on Jerusalem since the question of Jerusalem was an issue to be negotiated. Israel should resist actions prejudicial to the situation.
ABBAS BAGHERPOUR ( Iran) said he had voted for the resolutions for reasons already articulated. In short, a durable peace in Palestine would be possible through justice; an end to discrimination and to occupation of any Palestinian territories; the return of all Palestinian refugees; and resorting to a democratic means of determining the wishes of the people, so as to establish a democratic Palestinian State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
Speaking after action was completed, RIYAD MANSOUR, Observer of Palestine, said that the votes that had taken place, endorsing the rights of the Palestinian people in the usual overwhelming way, had been a clear indication of the will of the international community to uphold international law, as well as what was right and just. His delegation was gratified that new countries had come on board to support the various United Nations programmes devoted to Palestinian rights. The Assembly had sent the people living under the brutal Israeli occupation, hope that they were not alone and that they had the support of the international community until the occupation was brought to an end, and until they had their own State like all other delegations in the room.
For those who thought that the resolutions had been anti-Israel, he suggested that rather, the texts were upholding international law. It was the job of the Assembly to ensure that all countries abided by international law.
He hoped that those that had different opinions, particularly about the work of the United Nations organs working on behalf of Palestinian rights, would be able to continue dialogue with the Palestinian delegation. He praised the positive spirit of the negotiations, particularly with the European Union, and added that he hoped that next year, the Palestinian people would be much closer to having an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD ( Syria) said that the trend of today’s voting showed that the international community clearly supported the right of Arab populations to their lands that had been occupied by Israel for more than 30 years. He was concerned, however, that some delegations were using the Assembly’s move to streamline and rationalize its work, particularly reducing the number of tabled resolutions, as a way to suggest fewer texts on Arab-Israeli matters. Syria was in favour of streamlining the Assembly’s work but it would hope that such reform efforts would be implemented fairly, across the full spectrum of items on the Assembly’s agenda.