Press Releases

    GA/PAL/875
    20 November 2001

    USE OF TERM ‘PALESTINE’ BY US PRESIDENT ‘A STEP FORWARD’, PALESTINE OBSERVER TELLS PALESTINIAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE

    Committee Approves Four Draft Resolutions on Peaceful
    Settlement; Information; Division's, Committee's Work Programmes

    NEW YORK, 19 November (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly, expressing its deep concern over the tragic events in Occupied East Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 28 September 2000, would call for an immediate reversal of all measures taken on the ground since then, according to one of four draft resolutions approved today by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

    The draft entitled the "Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine" would stress the need for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination and the right to establish their independent State. It would reaffirm the need to achieve a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine -- the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    Also today, Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer for Palestine, noted that for the first time, however, an American President had used the term "Palestine" rather than "Palestinian State" in reference to the Palestinian Entity. That, coupled with the weight of Security Council resolutions, had sent a positive signal and was a step forward towards a balanced American position and increased American engagement in the peace process.

    The three other draft resolutions concerned the work of the Committee and the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, and the special information programme of the Department of Public Information (DPI). Under the terms of the DPI text, the Assembly would ask the Department 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.

    Committee Chairman, Papa Louis Fall (Senegal) explained that the draft on the peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question differed from last year's text with the addition of a number of editorial, as well as substantive amendments and updates in both the preambular and operative portions. Those changes had sought to reflect the recent developments on the ground and in the peace process, he said.

    The Permanent Observer for Palestine, Mr. Al-Kidwa, further reported that four Palestinian police officers had been injured last night by the occupying forces in a town north of the Gaza Strip. Two of them were arrested by Israeli Occupying Forces, and then executed and mutilated. It appeared that Israeli troops had shot and killed the two and then driven over the bodies with an armoured personnel vehicle. The bodies of the Lieutenant and his Deputy were handed over to the Palestinian Authority this morning.

    While committing that additional "war crime", the Israelis also shelled a school, which happened to be an American one, and totally destroyed the laboratory, he said. That kind of atrocity reaffirmed that that was not an occupying army but a "bunch of criminals", who received their orders from a famous war criminal well known to all. There "were no rules anymore" and those criminals had a free hand to do what they pleased. It seemed they would continue to do so until the international community stopped them through decisive actions.

    The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 29 November, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, to consider the "Question of Palestine".

    Background

    The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to consider four draft resolutions on the question of Palestine (no document numbers available) and hear an update on developments in the Middle East peace process and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.

    The first two draft resolutions deal with the work of the Committee and the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat. The third text concerns the special information programme of the Department of Public Information (DPI). The fourth is on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine and contains a number of editorial, as well as substantive amendments and updates in both the preambular and operative portions of the text, which reflect the recent developments on the ground and in the peace process.

    Committee Chairman, Papa Louis Fall (Senegal), was expected to brief the Committee on a number of developments since its last formal meeting on 10 October. He was also expected to report on the worsening security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, about which he had addressed a letter dated 23 October to the Secretary-General (document A/ES-10/120-S/2001/1000).

    Draft Resolutions

    According to the draft on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the General Assembly would express its appreciation to the Committee and consider that it can continue to make a valuable and positive contribution to international efforts to promote the Middle East peace process and the full implementation of the agreements reached, and mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people during the transitional period.

    The Assembly would authorize the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people; to make such adjustments in its approved programme of work as it may consider appropriate and necessary in the light of developments; to give special emphasis to the need to mobilize support and assistance for the Palestinian people; and report thereon to the Assembly at its next session and thereafter.

    Among its other provisions, the Committee would be requested to continue to keep under review the situation relating to the question of Palestine and report and make suggestions to the Assembly or the Security Council, as appropriate.

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

    The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to ensure the continued operation of the Department of Public Information 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. It would invite all governments and organizations to lend their cooperation to the Committee and the Division in the performance of their tasks.

    By the terms of the draft on the special information programme of the Department of Public Information (DPI), the Assembly would request the Department, in full cooperation and coordination with the Committee, to continue its special information programme for the biennium 2002-2003, in particular: to disseminate information on the activities of the United Nations system relating to the question of Palestine; to continue to issue and update publications on the various aspects of the question; to expand its collection of audiovisual material on the question; and continue the production and preservation of such material.

    The Assembly would also request the DPI 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; and continue to provide 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 resolution on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, the Assembly would call upon the concerned parties, the co-sponsors of the peace process and other interested parties, as well as the entire international community, to exert all necessary efforts and initiatives to immediately reverse all measures taken on the ground since 28 September 2000, in implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee (Mitchell Committee) recommendations, and to ensure a successful and speedy resumption of negotiations and conclusion of the peace process.

    The Assembly would reaffirm the need to achieve a peaceful settlement of the question, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict; and express its full support for the peace process, which began in Madrid, and the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements of 1993, as well as the subsequent implementation agreements. It would express the hope that the process will be reinvigorated and will soon lead to the establishment of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

    Under a further provision, the Assembly would stress the following needs: the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination; the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967; to resolve the problem of the Palestine refugees in conformity with resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948; to urge Member States to expedite the provision of economic and technical assistance to the Palestinian people during this critical period; and to emphasize the importance for the United Nations to play a more active and expanded role in the current peace process and the implementation of the Declaration of Principles.

    The Assembly would also stress the need to request the Secretary-General to continue his efforts with the parties concerned, and in consultation with the Security Council, for the promotion of peace in the region and to submit progress reports on further developments.

    Consideration of and Action on Texts

    Committee Chairman, PAPA LOUIS FALL (Senegal), briefed Committee members on a number of developments since their last formal meeting on 10 October. He reported on the worsening security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, about which he said he had addressed a letter, dated 23 October to the Secretary-General (document A/ES-10/120-S/2001/1000).

    He also highlighted the Committee's adoption of its annual report to the General Assembly (document A/56/35) on 10 October and noted that, on 11 November, the Committee had hosted a reception in honour of Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority. Attended by heads of State and government, many high-level United Nations and Palestinian officials, delegates, and other eminent guests, the reception was an "outstanding success".

    Next, he drew attention to the four draft resolutions before the Committee on: the Committee; the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat; special information programme of the Department of Public Information (DPI); and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. He also drew attention to a number of changes, which appeared in bold in the text.

    Members then approved the drafts on the work of the Committee, on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, and on the special information programme of the DPI.

    Turning to the draft text on a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, the Chairman said that a number of editorial and substantive changes had been made in the texts to reflect developments on the ground and in the peace process.

    The Committee then approved the draft resolution on a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question.

    Statements

    NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the draft resolutions just approved would cover the most recent developments on the ground in the Middle East, and at same time, maintain the broad support of Member States. He hoped the new texts would enjoy the same patterns of voting that had materialized over the past few years.

    Commenting on recent developments on the ground, he said last night four Palestinian police officers had been injured by Israeli occupying forces in Beit Lahiya, a town to the north of the Gaza Strip and two kilometres south of illegal Israeli settlements. After those policemen were injured two of them were arrested by the same Israeli forces and then executed. They were shot to death and armoured cars were then driven over their bodies.

    Mr. Al-Kidwa said it was hard to believe that such atrocities could happen in this day and age. The mutilated bodies were then handed over to Palestinian authorities this morning. According to a Reuters witness, who saw the bodies, the head of one of the victims had almost been flattened. Hospital officials also said they had never seen anything of that sort.

    He said that while committing that additional war crime, Israeli forces had also shelled an American school, hit it with four shells and totally destroyed a laboratory. That kind of atrocity again reaffirmed that Israeli forces were no longer an army, not even an occupying one, but a bunch of criminals who received their orders from a famous war criminal who was well known to all. There were no rules anymore, and criminals had a free hand to do as they pleased. And they would continue to do so until the international community stopped them through decisive actions.

    Unfortunately until now, continued Mr. Al-Kidwa, such decisive action was not forthcoming. Last month, and specifically on 22 October, there was an initiative to engage the Security Council and have action taken by them. Formal requests were made, and a draft was presented, which was later shortened. Many negotiations and meetings also took place, but all led to nothing.

    He said the entire episode of Israel’s reoccupation of Palestinian territory had now actually occurred without the Council being able to make a stand. Such failure had great political significance After the adoption of resolution 1322 of 7 November, the Council had failed to take any significant action on events which had lasted for over a year and while peace and security deteriorated. In fact, that body continued to be active in other fields despite promises to do something on the Middle East.

    The first step in resolving the immediate crisis in the Middle East was for the international community and the Council to take serious action. He believed, on the other hand, however, that the general debate of the General Assembly reflected the strong international consensus on the need to resolve the Middle East peace process and establish an independent Palestinian State. That position paralleled the equally strong consensus that condemned world terrorism and the events of 11 September -- the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

    He said United States President George W. Bush had stated, in the recently concluded general debate, that his Government would stand by its commitment to a just peace in the Middle East. Mr. Bush said that the United States was working towards the day when two States, Israel and Palestine, could live in peace within safe borders and that it would do all it could to bring the parties back to negotiations. Mr. Al-Kidwa said that it was the first time a United States President had used the word "Palestine" instead of a "Palestinian State".

    He went on to say that the United States statement in the general debate was an important step forward to a more balanced position on the Middle East peace process. At the same time, Mr. Bush had said that his country’s position depended on the ending of violence, terror and incitement. The United States statement was then followed by the illogical decision of its President to not meet Yasser Arafat, while he too was in New York. One conclusion that could be drawn from that decision was that Mr. Bush was attempting to strike a balance for domestic reasons.

    Mr. Al-Kidwa said that today, United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, would make a long promised statement, which would include a policy statement on the Middle East. Mr.Powell had indicated in an earlier meeting that this statement would be followed by action. Mr. Al-Kidwa said he hoped the

    Secretary of State’s statement would live up to the expectations of the people of Palestine and the Middle East, and not be thwarted by the efforts of Israeli leaders to prevent such a move forward. Highlighting such efforts he said that, just yesterday, a high-level delegation of the European Union had visited the Middle East region. They had met with Israeli authorities, who repeated their same old position aimed at preventing any movement forward. That position had prompted Xavier Solana to publicly state that such an attitude was "stupidity".

    He said it was also important to highlight that the annual meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement met on 13 November in New York and adopted a special declaration on Palestine. In it they confirmed their traditional support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, for the Middle East peace process and resolutions 242 and 338 as well as the principle of Land for Peace.

    Mr. Al-Kidwa also underlined the importance of reconvening on 5 December the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. That would be a major and important development to the situation on the ground in the Middle East.

    He said that soon the Assembly would vote on the resolutions just approved, and he trusted that it would be another opportunity for the international community to reiterate its basic position vis-à-vis the question of Palestine. It would also be another chance to show solidarity with the just struggle of the Palestinian people and once more send a message to the occupying Power that it could not continue its present policies and practices against the Palestinian people.

    The CHAIRMAN said that while Mr. Al-Kidwa’s statement brought tragic facts to light, it was also enlightening and still offered hope for a resolution of the problem.

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