Latin American and Caribbean meeting on Palestine concludes with Caracas Declaration

Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. (UN Photo)


CARACAS — The Caracas Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the two-day United Nations Latin and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine in Caracas this afternoon, strongly condemned the continuing construction of the wall and the expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

The Declaration, which summarized the work of the Meeting, also condemned the recent resumption by Israel, the occupying Power, of military incursions and extrajudicial killings that threatened to unravel the fragile truce agreed to by Palestinian groups, provoked feelings of hatred and despair and undid what progress had already been achieved. The Meeting called on Israel to stop interfering with the election process, assist the Palestinian side and grant freedom of movement to candidates and voters during the campaign and voting period, including in East Jerusalem, and to allow political prisoners in Israel to participate.

Participants viewed the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank as a positive first step that could reignite negotiations within the framework of the Road Map. They welcomed the Brasilia Declaration of 11 May 2005 by which the South American and Arab countries reaffirmed the need to reach a just, durable and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

During the afternoon’s plenary, experts considered the plight of the refugees in camps both inside and outside the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to assist them. Several speakers pointed to the work of civil society and the need to strengthen public opinion with regard to support for the Palestinian cause. The effect of the news media was examined and suggestions made about how to influence their coverage.

All the expert panellists in the final plenary were women. Presentations were made by Professor of Latin American Political Science, University of the Andes, Venezuela, Omaira Zabib; Board Member of the Arab Cultural Centre and Professor, University of Sao Paolo Arlene Clemesha; Head, Political Department, Organization of Solidarity among the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America in Havana, Lourdes Cervantes Vasquez; Board Member of the Arab Movement for Human Rights, Buenos Aires, Tilda Rabi; and Professor, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana of Mexico, Doris Musalem.

In the closing session, statements were made by the Director of Multilateral Affairs at the Ministry of External Relations of Venezuela, Ilenia Medina, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, and the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Paul Badji.

The Rapporteur of the Committee, Victor Camilleri, introduced the Final Document.

Tomorrow, the Committee will host the United Nations Public Forum in Support of Israeli-Palestinian peace. A round table of experts from the Latin American and Caribbean meeting will examine public perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the role of the media; the impact and educational responsibility of think tanks and academic institutions; and the role of civil society in raising public awareness about the question of Palestine.

Plenary III: Support by Latin American and Caribbean countries for the realization by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights

Promoting support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people through the United Nations system; Action by Latin American and Caribbean States within the Non-aligned Movement, the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community and other intergovernmental mechanisms; and civil society initiatives in the region.

Closing Session

ILENIA MEDINA, Director of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of External Relations of Venezuela, said there was not much that could be added to what had been said. Her Government was happy to see the Final Document contribute to the international discussion of the question of Palestine. There were many marvellous presentations by women. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry was more committed than ever to the topic and hoped the item would remain on the General Assembly agenda. Putting a human face on the tragedy was important. She reiterated the President’s intent to try to bring other countries into the Committee. The social items covered by today’s speakers covered the domain of the media. In the context of the Public Forum, it could be examined in greater depth. In the context of globalization, the role of the media was crucial.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said the Final Document would serve as a guiding document to those who were in the midst of the struggle for a Palestinian State. It would help to encourage other Governments in Latin America to join the Committee. The Palestinian struggle had gone on too long, but it did not seem that it would end soon. Palestinians needed and appreciated the support which ensured that they were not alone in the struggle. It would give them the additional strength they needed to be successful at the end of the day.

PAUL BADJI, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, reviewed the work of the panels of distinguished experts and said that the Meeting had been the beneficiary of two days of constructive deliberations.

He recalled that the Meeting had highlighted the immense humanitarian and socio-economic challenges that continue to plague the Palestinian people. Their battered economy needed to be rebuilt so they could experience some tangible improvements in their daily lives. The Palestinian Authority, which was embarking on institutional reform, needed urgent economic and political support, particularly as it strove to strengthen Palestinian democratic institutions.

Other speakers focused on the importance of maintaining international legitimacy in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They emphasized the important role of the United Nations, including the General Assembly, in ensuring the implementation of resolutions and respect for legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention. There was concern that international law was being undermined by Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Latin American and Caribbean region’s moral, legal, material and political support had been indispensable in the Committee’s implementation of its mandate over the years.

Roundup of Meeting

Representatives of 27 Governments, 3 United Nations agencies, 10 non-governmental organizations and 25 representatives of the media attended the two-day meeting. Held at the Hotel Hilton, Caracas, the meeting was divided into three plenaries and involved the participation of 16 experts.

The Latin American and Caribbean Meeting was followed by the United Nations Public Forum in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace. Both events were convened in accordance with General Assembly resolution 59/28 and 59/29 of 1 December 2004, by which the Assembly requested the Committee to continue to promote the realization of Palestinian rights, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people. It also asked the Committee to continue to support Palestinian and other civil society organizations in order to mobilize international solidarity and support for the achievement of Palestinian rights and a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. The Assembly further asked the Committee to involve additional civil society organizations in its work.

ALCIDES RONDÓN, Vice-Minister of External Relations of Venezuela for Asia, Middle East and Oceania, opened the two-day meeting, which began on 13 December. Plenary I heard presentations by experts on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Among the topics discussed were Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, the humanitarian and socio-economic challenges facing the Palestinian people and the urgency of strengthening Palestinian Authority institutions.

Plenary II examined international efforts at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. Panel experts discussed supporting the efforts of the Quartet and other actors; maintaining international legitimacy in efforts at achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace; and the permanent responsibility of the United Nations.

Plenary III was devoted to “Support by Latin American and Caribbean countries for the realization by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights”. Under that theme, experts explored means of promoting support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people through the United Nations system. It also considered action by Latin American and Caribbean States within the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community and other intergovernmental mechanisms as well as civil society initiatives in the region.

Committee Background

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which observed its thirtieth anniversary this year, was established by General Assembly resolution 3376 (XXX) of November 1975. By that resolution, the Assembly mandated the Committee to recommend a programme to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights as recognized by General Assembly resolution 3236 (XXIX) of 22 November 1974. In its first and subsequent reports to the Assembly, the Committee stressed that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, must be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions and the following principles: the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and from other occupied Arab territories; respect for the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized boundaries; and the recognition and exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination. Each year the Assembly has renewed the Committee’s mandate and requested it to intensify its efforts.

The Committee is composed of the following Member States: Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Cyprus, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine

Observers to the Committee are Algeria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Niger, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Yemen. Palestine, African Union, League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference are also observers.

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