Palestinian Rights Committee seeks end to Israeli settlement activities, reversal of building of separation wall

The General Assembly would call on Israel to halt all settlement activities, and stress the urgent need for it to stop and reverse construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, according to one of four draft resolutions approved today by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

By further terms of that text, the Assembly would call for implementation of the “Road Map”, and urge Member States to expedite the provision of economic, humanitarian, and technical assistance to the Palestinian people and Palestinian Authority to help alleviate the people’s suffering, rebuild their economy and infrastructure, and support the restructuring and reform of their institutions.

The other texts approved today by the Committee would have the Assembly: request the Secretary-General to provide the Secretariat’s Division for Palestinian Rights with the necessary resources; request the Department of Public Information to continue its special information programme on the question of Palestine through 2003 and 2004; and request the Committee to continue promoting the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for, and assistance to, the Palestinian people.

The Committee Chairman, who called all four resolutions “realistic and sensible”, said they should receive the Assembly’s overwhelming support. He also urged Committee Members to express their active solidarity by co-sponsoring the texts.

Speaking after approval of the drafts, the Palestine Observer said the most important current development in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was Israel’s construction of its “conquest expansionist” wall; if allowed to continue, the wall would destroy the two-State solution and the potential for peace in the region.

Referring to a draft before the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee, concerning the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he said the unsolicited text, which had been presented to the Assembly by the United States, without prior consultations with Palestine or the Arab-concerned parties, needed improvement. For that reason, the Arab Group had tabled five amendments to the draft, which would help avoid different legal and political bases for the functions and operations of UNRWA.

Background

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to review developments in the Middle East peace process and the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. It was also expected to consider four draft resolutions on the question of Palestine.

Those concerned: the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine; the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat; the special information programme of the Department of Public Information (DPI) on the question of Palestine; and the work of the Committee itself.

Summary of Drafts

By one draft, on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, the General Assembly, convinced that achieving a final settlement of the question of Palestine was imperative for lasting peace and stability in the Middle East, would call for implementation of the “Road Map”.

In the context of the Road Map, the Assembly would stress the importance and urgency of establishing a credible and effective third-party monitoring mechanism. It would also stress the need for a commitment to the two-State solution, the principle of land for peace, and the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Calling upon Israel to stop all settlement activities, and gravely concerned about Israel’s construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, the Assembly would also stress the urgent need for Israel to stop and reverse that construction, including in and around East Jerusalem.

Further, the Assembly would urge Member States to expedite the provision of economic, humanitarian, and technical assistance to the Palestinian people and Palestinian Authority to help alleviate Palestinian suffering, rebuild the Palestinian economy and infrastructure, and support the restructuring and reform of Palestinian institutions.

By the draft resolution on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat the Assembly would consider that the Division continues to make a useful and constructive contribution. It would request the Secretary-General to provide it with the necessary resources to ensure that it continues to carry out its work as detailed in the relevant earlier resolutions.

The Assembly would also ask the Secretary-General to ensure the continued cooperation of the Department of Public Information and other units of the Secretariat in enabling the Palestinian rights division to perform its tasks and in covering adequately the various aspects of the question of Palestine.

The Assembly would request the Committee and the Division, as part of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, to continue to organize an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations. It would encourage Member States to continue to give the widest support and publicity to that observance.

The draft on the special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information (DPI) would have the Assembly consider that the programme was “very useful” in raising the awareness of the international community concerning the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, and that it was contributing effectively to an atmosphere conducive to dialogue and supportive of the peace process.

In that context, it would request the DPI to continue, with the necessary flexibility as may be required by developments affecting the question of Palestine, its special information programme for the biennium 2003-2004. The aims, in particular, would be: to disseminate information on all United Nations activities relating to the question of Palestine; to continue to issue and update publications on the various aspects of that question; and to expand its collection of audio-visual material and continue the production and preservation of such material and the updating of the exhibit in the Secretariat.

The Department would also be requested to: organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the area, including the territory under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and the occupied territory; organize international, regional and national seminars or encounters for journalists, aiming in particular at sensitizing public opinion to the question of Palestine; continue to promote assistance to the Palestinian people in the field of media development, in particular, to strengthen the training programme for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists initiated in 1995.

According to the draft text on the Committee itself, the General Assembly would request the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for, and assistance to, the Palestinian people. It would authorize the Committee to make such adjustments in its approved work programme as it might consider appropriate and necessary, in light of developments, and to report thereon to the Assembly at its next session and thereafter.

The Assembly would also ask the Committee to keep the situation under review and to report and make suggestions to the Assembly, the Security Council or the Secretary-General, as appropriate. It would further request it to continue to extend its cooperation and support to Palestinian and other civil society organizations, in order to mobilize international solidarity and support for the achievement by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights and for a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.

In a related provision, the Assembly would invite all governments and organizations to extend their cooperation to the Committee in the performance of its tasks.

Statements

PAPA LOUIS FALL (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee, said the resumed tenth emergency session of the General Assembly, which had convened last month at the request of the League of Arab States because of the Security Council’s failure to act earlier on Israel’s wall, had adopted a resolution on illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory (document A/RES/ES-10/13).

Drawing attention to the recent “Geneva Accord”, which was drafted by prominent Israelis and Palestinians and constituted an unofficial attempt to break the region’s current political stalemate, he announced that the new Palestinian cabinet, which had been established earlier this month, would tomorrow be approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Turning to the draft resolutions at hand, he said they had been updated to reflect recent developments on the ground and in the peace process, and streamlined to avoid repetition and lengthy references to past resolutions.

The texts, which he called “realistic and sensible”, were approved without a vote.

He then strongly urged Committee members and observers to actively participate in the debate on Palestine that would take place in the General Assembly plenary on 1 December.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations, said the drafts just approved were extremely important for Palestine. The most important current development related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the construction by Israel of the “expansionist wall”, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. He said that “conquest expansionist” wall involved the confiscation of large areas of Palestinian lands and their de facto annexation, with the destruction of the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians. If allowed to continue, the wall would end the potential of the two-State solution, and the potential for peace in the region, for some time to come. As such, the wall must be stopped and the existing parts must be dismantled. He underlined the serious reaction of the international community to that extremely critical matter, both at the United Nations and elsewhere. Unfortunately, he added, the Security Council had failed to adopt the necessary resolution on the subject, due to the veto of one permanent member. Nevertheless, the General Assembly reconvened its tenth emergency special session, culminating in the overwhelming adoption of that resolution, which had been presented to it by 25 members of the European Union.

Noting that the text contained clear language about the need to stop the building of the wall, he said it specifically demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, cease its construction. Furthermore, it requested the Secretary-General to report on the matter, and indicated that, upon receipt of that report, further measures would be adopted, if necessary, within the United Nations system. To him, that was the “code word” for the involvement of the International Court of Justice, on which several United Nations members had already introduced a draft resolution to the emergency special session. Specifically, the Court’s advisory opinion would be sought on the repercussions of the Israeli construction of that wall. A compromise to put that request temporarily on hold was reached, in order to receive the broadest possible support in the Assembly for the language of the approved draft resolution.

He said he expected, however, to go back to that emergency session, probably this month, upon receipt of the Secretary-General’s report, to reconsider the matter, especially in light of the “extremely negative” response of the occupying Power to the resolutions and to international outcry. That Government, he continued, intended to proceed with the wall, thus leaving the international community little choice but to respond more harshly. Hopefully, Committee members would support the next initiative in that regard.

He said the United Nations had recently been engaged in the usual exercise of adopting the annual resolutions. On the resolutions concerning United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Assembly annually adopted seven texts, but in response to calls for streamlining those, the co-sponsors of the usual seven decided to reduce their number to four. Now, the Fourth Committee [Special Political and Decolonization] was expected to act on those. There was an unsolicited draft presented by the United States, without prior consultations with Palestine or the Arab-concerned parties. He had been trying hard to reach agreement with the United States, to avoid repetition and a dual-reporting mechanism, and to avoid different legal and political bases for the functions and operations of UNRWA, something he could not live with. Although progress had been made towards reaching agreement, there had been no successful conclusion. As a result, the Arab Group had tabled five amendments to the United States draft. Today, the European Union had requested a postponement of the vote, and after much hesitation, “this side of the aisle” reluctantly decided to go along with that request.

He added that the vote would take place on Thursday. His position would remain clear and consistent; as long as he was able, he would not accept any attempt to adopt any resolution that was void of the necessary legal basis, in other words, the obligations of the occupying Power, Israel, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, without which he could not accept any draft language. Referring to an Israeli draft on assistance to Israeli children, he said that text only pretended to be dealing with Israeli children; it took the format and even the beginning of the paragraphs of the Palestinian draft on Palestinian children. As such, it showed “huge insensitivity and disrespect” to the suffering of the Palestinian children. Furthermore, it added political issues which, in principle, went far beyond the scope of competence of the Third Committee. With regard to its content and language, it was “utterly unacceptable”. The draft, unfortunately, abused the title of children and was aimed at achieving illicit political goals. It was anti-Palestinian and not pro-Israeli children. If that “obnoxious” draft was put to a vote, he called on the Committee members to vote against it.

Concerning Israeli credentials, he said it had been decided in various forums that, while those were accepted at the United Nations, they should not cover the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem. That position was perfectly in line with international law and international legitimacy, as well as with the body of all relevant United Nations resolutions. That did not imply any reservations on the presence or participation of Israel in the work of General Assembly or at the United Nations, at large. It did, however, express correct positions with regard to the occupied territories. Hopefully, when the time came, the relevant amendment and initiative would receive the necessary Committee support.

Referring to a Russian initiative at the Security Council in the form of a draft resolution endorsing the Road Map, he said that the draft had not been accepted by the Israeli Government. Mr. Sharon and his Government had made “a lot of noise” against it, which had solidly proved, once more and beyond a doubt, the posit of that Government on the issue of the Road Map; it did not want the Road Map. He was not sure what the Russian Federation delegation would do about that in the Council, but he was under the impression that it would proceed with its draft, as was presented to the Council members and the concerned parties.

Among some important developments outside the United Nations, he said, were the “Geneva understandings”, which had been concluded between politicians from both sides — Israeli and Palestinian. Unfortunately, those did not have legal status. The Palestinian side at several levels, however, had expressed general support for those understandings, as had Secretary-General Kofi Annan and United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Again, the reaction of the Israeli Government had been extremely negative. It was scared, as if achieving peace was something that should be avoided at all cost. The Geneva understandings could be very useful, whenever formal negotiations were started between the two sides.

He noted that the new Palestinian Government would be presented to the legislative council tomorrow. He said he hoped those members would be allowed by the occupying Israeli forces to reach the venue of the meeting. He expected the Government to receive a vote of confidence, which would mean that it would then immediately begin to function normally. That was an achievement for the Palestinian side, despite the extremely difficult situation on the ground and the continuous pressure. The Palestinian people and their leadership had responded favourably to some requests from inside and outside, while also managing to preserve their presidential system, which embodied the struggle of the Palestinian people. He sought an empowered Prime Minister, who could lead an effective government. The necessary balance had been achieved, despite the pressures.

The Chairman referred to the United Nations Asian Meeting on the Question of Palestine, to be held on 16 to 17 December in Beijing, and the Public Forum in Support of Middle East Peace, to be held on 18 December in the same city, and thanked the Government of China for agreeing to host those events.

WANG GUANGYA (China) said his Government had always supported the Committee’s work and attached great importance to peace in the Middle East. He said his Government would cooperate closely with the Secretariat to make the meetings successful.

Mr. AL-KIDWA also thanked the Government of China for agreeing to host the meetings. He noted that the Asian Meeting would be especially significant because of China’s large size and political importance.

The Committee approved the provisional programmes for those events, and the Chairman announced that the Committee delegation to Beijing would comprise: Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla (Cuba); Ravan Farhâdi (Afghanistan); Victor Camilleri (Malta), and Mr. Al-Kidwa.

He also announced that the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People would be observed in the Trusteeship Council Chamber on 1 December, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.