United Nations 1 December 2003
The General Assembly today kicked off its debate of the situation in the troubled Middle East, focusing on a host of challenging issues, from the importance of restoring calm in Iraq, to quelling tensions in the Syrian Golan and bringing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — which many believed was the key to ensuring peace throughout the entire region.
It was now more important than ever, stated Australia’s representative, for the international community and the United Nations to work together to overcome the destructive forces in the Middle East and build a better future for its people. Addressing Saddam Hussein’s legacy of oppression and abuse in Iraq was a major challenge but her country and its coalition partners were determined to stay the course in that country. Steady progress was being made towards rehabilitation, and Iraqis were taking increasing responsibility for their own security, she added.
She also welcomed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) recent adoption of a resolution on Iran’s nuclear programme, which acknowledged Iran’s promises of full cooperation with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, suspension of uranium enrichment and reprocessing and immediate adherence to a safeguards-strengthening Additional Protocol. On the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, she strongly supported the “Road Map” peace plan, which calls on both sides to take a series of reciprocal steps leading to the establishment of two States — Israel and Palestine — living side by side in peace and security.
The Observer for Palestine said the Middle East conflict and its core issue — the question of Palestine — meant that at least part of the region had been unable to fulfil the goals of self-determination. And while the Arab region was in urgent need of socio-economic development and democratization, ignoring the historical backdrop, namely, the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, was not the way forward. In all cases, and despite the necessity of moving the situation in the right direction, the Arab-Israeli conflict would remain the centre of gravity in the region until it was resolved.
Conversely, Israel’s representative said that one could pretend that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the cause of all that was wrong in the Middle East — that illiteracy, lack of development and the deficit in freedom and democracy from Yemen to Syria were all products of Israel’s policy of countering terrorism that targeted its citizens. However, to understand and improve the situation in the Middle East, one must examine the lack of democratic values and institutions in the region and analyse the phenomena of extremism, fundamentalism, intolerance, incitement and anti-Semitism, among other factors.
Switzerland’s representative said the spiral of violence over the past few months had made it urgent to give fresh impetus to a process of negotiation, and to send a clear signal of hope to all the peoples concerned. The Palestinian Authority must restore the security and credibility that it needed if it were to remain an indispensable partner for peace. The reform of its institutions and the organization of free elections would renew the foundation of its legitimacy. He called on the Palestinians to do everything within their power to stop the attacks on civilians and urged them to find a leadership that was determined to fight terrorism.
At the same time, he said that while Israel undoubtedly had the right to fight terrorism, the disproportionate use of armed force only worsened the vicious circle of violence. Also, the construction of the separation wall gravely jeopardized the “two-State vision”. It had been constructed beyond the “Green Line”, encroached on the territories occupied in 1967 and paved the way for illegal confiscations. That obstacle to the peace process had to be removed.
Also today, the Assembly concluded its consideration of “the question of Palestine”. Covering some of the same important issues, delegations highlighted the importance of both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to follow the commitments each side had taken under the Road Map. The representative of Indonesia said that although it appeared the plan had hit a “road block”, it was vital for the international community to establish a credible monitoring mechanism to get the initiative back on track and ensure its successful implementation — a view echoed by many speakers.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Zambia, Madagascar, United States, Cuba, Sudan, Norway, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Russian Federation, Kuwait, Turkey, Jordan, Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, India, Ukraine and Malaysia.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel and Iran, as well as the Observer for Palestine.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 3 December, when it is expected to take action on draft resolutions on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East. It is also expected to take action on a number of other outstanding draft texts.
The General Assembly met today to continue its consideration of the question of Palestine and to begin its consideration of the situation in the Middle East.
For a summary of the background information on the question of Palestine, please see Press Release GA/10211 issued on 1 December.
On the situation in the Middle East, the Assembly had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document A/58/278), which contains replies received from Member States in response to his note verbale of 19 June 2003 pertaining to the implementation of the relevant provisions of Assembly resolutions 57/111, entitled “Jerusalem”, and 57/112, entitled “The Syrian Golan”, both of 3 December 2002. Replies were received from Israel, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, Syria and Trinidad and Tobago.
Also before the Assembly was a draft resolution on Jerusalem (document A/58/L.27), by the terms of which the Assembly would deplore the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980), and would call once more on those States to abide by the provisions of the relevant United Nations resolutions, in conformity with the world body’s Charter.
The Assembly would also reiterate its determination that any actions taken by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever. It would also stress that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of both 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, free and unhindered access to the holy places by all the people of all religions and nationalities.
By the terms of a draft resolution on the Syrian Golan (document A/58/L.28), the Assembly would demand once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions. It would determine once more that the continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and its de facto annexation constitute a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.
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. Further, it would call on all the parties concerned, the co-sponsors of the peace process and the international community to exert all the necessary efforts to ensure the resumption of the peace process and its success by implementing Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).