Situation on the ground “very bleak”, Palestinian rights committee told

General Assembly Hall, UN Headquarters


The situation on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem was very bleak, and the overall political situation was very volatile, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was told today, as it met to consider recent developments, including in the political arena.

Highlighting recent meetings on the question of Palestine, both inside and outside the United Nations system, including regionally, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said that the positions taken had been clear and very similar, reflecting a broad consensus among members of the international community on the issues.

A recent communiqué of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), for example, had expressed deep regret at the non-implementation of the “Road Map” and at the grave aggravation of the situation by the Israeli Prime Minister’s disengagement plan and the recent exchange of letters between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he said. The ministers had affirmed that the plan and the letters were unacceptable and could not alter the terms of reference of the peace process or the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

He stressed that a central question was how, if at all, the international community would be able to ensure that any withdrawal from Gaza should be part of the Road Map. Sooner or later, the international community would have to calm down about the idea and face reality, namely that the plan was not part of the Road Map, but actually aimed at ending the Road Map and making sure that no similar withdrawal would ever take place in the West Bank.

An interesting outcome of the NAM meeting, he noted, had been the proposal by Malaysia’s Foreign Minister to convene a special meeting on Palestine at the United Nations at the beginning of the forthcoming General Assembly session, with the participation of both international and regional groups. The meeting would seek to mobilize the international community for ending the conflict in support of the two-State solution based on pre-1967 borders.

Malaysia’s representative told the Committee today that, since the ministerial meeting, a concept paper had been developed for the proposed United Nations meeting, for which a possible theme could be building a partnership for Israeli-Palestinian peace. An outcome text could reaffirm principles of international law, the two-State solution and the right of all peoples to live in security. Consensus might also be reached on a way forward to peace. The meeting could be held during the general debate, from 27 September to 1 October, he suggested.

Briefing members on activities since the Committee last met in April, Committee Chairman Paul Badji (Senegal) noted, in particular, the Security Council’s adoption on 19 May of resolution 1544, which called on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law, insisting, in particular, on its obligation not to undertake home demolitions.

Among the other activities he highlighted were the Secretary-General’s convening of the Quartet on 4 May, and the General Assembly’s meeting on 6 May. He also briefed on the United Nations International Meeting on the Impact of the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, which had been held in Geneva from 15 to 16 April 2004.

In other business, the Committee approved the provisional programme of the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to be held in Cape Town, South Africa on 29 and 30 June.

  • Provisional Programme: United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (PDF)

    The Committee also approved the applications of the following non-governmental organizations for accreditation to it: a United States-based NGO Working Group on Israel Palestine (NGOWGIP); and the European-based Association Francaise d’Amitié et de Solidarité avec les Peuples d’Afrique (AFASPA).

    The Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.

    Summary of Statements

    Committee Chairman PAUL BADJI (Senegal), briefing the Committee on activities since its last meeting on 6 April, said that the Security Council had met twice in April/May to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The Council’s meeting of 19 April had been held in response to the killing of the Hamas leader Dr. Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi. On 19 May, it had met to address the dangerously deteriorating situation in Rafah. That meeting had resulted in the adoption of resolution 1544, which called on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law, insisting, in particular, on its obligation not to undertake house demolitions. It also expressed grave concern regarding the humanitarian situation of Palestinians made homeless in the Rafah area and called for the provision of emergency assistance to them.

    Other events included the Secretary-General’s hosting of a meeting of the Quartet on 4 May, and a meeting of the General Assembly on 6 May to consider a draft resolution entitled “Status of the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory, Including East Jerusalem”, he continued. Adopted by a vote of 140 in favour to 6 against with 11 abstentions, the resolution reaffirmed that Palestinians had the right to self-determination and to sovereignty over their territory and that Israel, the occupying Power, has only the duties and obligations of an occupying Power under the Geneva and Hague Conventions. In June, the Bureau had met with the European Union delegation, he said.

    He also informed the Committee that he had received a letter from the Permanent Representative of Hungary, informing him of the decision of Hungary’s Government to resign from the Committee as of 1 May 2004. Following the meeting, he would bring the matter to the attention of the President of the General Assembly.

    NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that, unfortunately, the situation on the ground in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, was “very bad”. The Palestinian people continued to suffer as a result of the Israeli occupation and its practices and policies. The overall political situation also remained very volatile, without any serious resumption of the Middle East peace process. He shared the Chairman’s evaluation of the two important actions taken last month, namely Security Council resolution 1544 and General Assembly resolution 58/292, through which the international community had made its position clear on the question of Palestine.

    Also during that period, he said, several important regional meetings had taken place, including the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which convened a ministerial-level meeting. The Non-Aligned Movement of countries (NAM) also held a Palestinian Committee meeting at the ambassadorial level. Both meetings took place in Malaysia. In addition, two meetings were held recently at the ministerial- and summit-level in Tunisia. Clear positions had been taken with regard to the important political developments. Those included the so-called Sharon disengagement plan, the exchange of letters between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon, the communiqué adopted by the Quartet on 4 May, and the proceedings of the International Court of Justice on the expansionist wall.

    He said that the positions taken had been clear and very similar, reflecting a broad consensus among members of the international community on the issues. Referring to the communiqué adopted by NAM on the Palestinian question, he said that the ministers had expressed deep regret that the Road Map had yet to be implemented, and that the situation had been gravely aggravated by the Israeli Prime Minister’s disengagement plan, as well as by the exchange of letters with President Bush. The ministers had affirmed that the plan and the letters were unacceptable and could not alter the terms of reference of the peace process or the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

    A central question was how, if at all, the international community would be able to ensure, as the Quartet had stated, that any withdrawal from Gaza should be part of the Road Map. The development in the past few days on the Israeli side had affirmed that this understanding of the Sharon disengagement plan was valid — that that was not part of the Road Map, but actually aimed at ending the Road Map and making sure that no similar withdrawal would ever take place in the West Bank. In recent days, there had been a decision by the Israeli Government in that regard and, as usual on important issues, that decision had been undeclared, or secretive.

    He said that everything he had heard about the decision implied that the removal of settlements in Gaza would be postponed until March 2005. That had made clear that whatever timeline might be adopted in the future, one thing was sure — - the timeline agreed in the Road Map was gone. Meanwhile, the Israeli side had started to speak of astronomical figures in the event of any withdrawal from Gaza, giving everybody an idea about what kinds of claims the Israelis might make if any discussion on the West Bank were to ensue.

    Sooner or later, and he believed sooner, the international community would have to calm down those who were excited about Sharon’s idea and face reality, face the real aims, he said. The Road Map should be revived and the United Nations Security Council should be engaged, including with the possibility of the adoption of a comprehensive resolution. A serious push should begin towards the effective withdrawal from all the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem.

    Unfortunately, he said, the situation was not rosy. If it were possible to maintain unity and the position of the international community, then, in a few months, maybe the situation would start to change in a serious manner. Meanwhile, unity remained important, as did the Committee’s report and solidarity.

    Returning to the outcome of the NAM meeting, he said it had also adopted a very interesting idea aimed at building consensus on how to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieve peace in the region. The meeting had recognized the need to convene a special meeting on Palestine at the United Nations at the beginning of the forthcoming General Assembly session, with the participation of both international and regional groups. The meeting would seek to mobilize the international community for peace in the Middle East and for ending the conflict in support of the two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders. The idea had been proposed by the Foreign Minister of Malaysia, and further contacts in that regard would continue.

    He said that the African Meeting on Palestine in Cape Town at the end of the month would be an important development on the way to holding a successful international meeting in New York and to prepare for immediate actions when the International Court of Justice issued its advisory opinion on the separation wall. A readiness to act should be immediate, maybe beginning with the General Assembly, as the requesting organ for that decision. The Security Council also came to mind. So, there had been and would continue to be some important steps taken at the United Nations, and at the level of the international community in general, to offset the “very bleak” situation on the ground.

    RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia), referring to the NAM ministerial meeting on 13 May, said he wished to expand further on the proposal for the convening, at the United Nations, of a special meeting on Palestine at the beginning of the Assembly’s fifty-ninth session. Since the ministerial meeting, a concept paper had been developed regarding the proposal. The idea was to bring together various groups, organizations, regional and subregional groups to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to reaffirm the basic parameters for resolving it. Among the principles that could be agreed on for resolution was respect for the provisions of international law, the two-State solution and the rights of all peoples to live in security. Consensus might also be reached on the way for the international community to move forward toward the obtainment of a peaceful solution. The title of such a gathering could be further discussed. A possible theme could be building a partnership for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The idea was to work towards consensus.

    He said the meeting could be convened during the general debate of the Assembly’s fifty-ninth session, between the dates of 27 September and 1 October. The preferable venue would be United Nations Headquarters. Consultation on the document to be adopted should take place in advance, with the understanding that consensus was essential. Some of the consultations on technical work would take place in New York. All United Nations Member States and observers would be invited to attend the meeting. The Foreign Minister of Malaysia would be following up on the matter by consulting with his relevant counterparts. Letters were being sent to the various organizations.

    Committee Chairman, Mr. BADJI (Senegal) briefed the Committee on the United Nations International Meeting on the Impact of the Construction of the Wall in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory, including in and around East Jerusalem, which had been held in Geneva from 15 to 16 April 2004. The meeting had consisted of an opening session, three plenary meetings and a closing session. Participants had focused on the impact of the construction of the wall, on the situation on the ground, as well as on international efforts to stop the construction. They had assessed the significance of the development and its effects on the Palestinian population, and had discussed the Palestinian and Israeli reaction to it, as well as the international community’s response.

    The meeting had been very successful, generating an informative discussion and meeting its objectives in allowing the participants to expose the dangers that the wall posed in legal, political, humanitarian and economic terms for the Palestinian people, he said. At the closing of the meeting, the participants had adopted a Final Document, in which the participants had expressed their dismay at the project’s magnitude, its devastating effects on the Palestinian population and the destructive consequences for the political process. The participants had stressed a direct and dangerous challenge to the internationally-recognized 1949 Armistice Demarcation Line (the Green Line), violation of the letter and spirit of the Road Map, and creation of new facts on the ground that predetermined the outcome of any future permanent status negotiations.

    The participants had also expressed their grave concern over the dangerous current and potential humanitarian and economic consequences of the wall’s construction, noting that it would bring further dispossession for a significant number of Palestinians. Noting the complete lack of dialogue between the parties, the participants had also urged the international community’s active involvement.

    Related Links

  • NAM urges UN to send peacekeeping force to Palestine, NAM (13 May 2004)
  • Division for Palestinian Rights