Press Releases

    GA/PAL/877
    13 February 2002

    MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS BADLY NEEDS RENEWAL OF
    ENERGY, CONVICTION SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL TO
    PALESTINIAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE

    Urges Recommitment to Principles of Oslo, Madrid;
    Committee Elects Officers, Adopts 2002 Work Programme

    NEW YORK, 12 February (UN Headquarters) -- The Middle East peace process badly needed a renewal of energy and conviction, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning. The parties, he added, should recommit themselves to the principles of Madrid and Oslo and return to meaningful political dialogue aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement.

    In the past 16 months, he continued, the situation on the ground had deteriorated to unprecedented levels. The death toll now exceeded 1,100, with up to 20,000 injured on both sides, the overwhelming majority Palestinian.

    The Tenet understandings and the Mitchell recommendations, which established clear and specific obligations for both sides, provided the basis for restoring the peace process, he said. Their scrupulous implementation would re-establish the necessary security conditions, as well as the necessary political commitments. Making progress on security-related issues alone, however, without addressing the occupation, would not bring lasting security. Ultimately, that could only be done by reviving the peace process.

    Committee Chairman Papa Louis Fall (Senegal), speaking in his national capacity, said the peace process could not prosper without halting the use of violence and terror by unrepentant hardliners, whether Israeli or Palestinian. The peace option had been emphasized by the Secretary-General’s repeated appeals for the urgent implementation of the Mitchell and Tenet recommendations.

    He said there were many obstacles impeding the prospect for peace. The Committee was more determined than ever to fulfil its mandate to give back to the Palestinian people all of their inalienable rights. Israel and Palestine both had the right to a sovereign existence within internationally guaranteed and secure borders. Tolerance was the virtue that would make peace possible.

    Nasser Al-Kidwa, Observer of Palestine, said that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, was one marred daily by the incessant bloody Israeli military campaign being waged against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership since 28 September 2000. For over 16 months now, the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation had suffered countless violations of their human rights, war crimes and State terrorism at the hands of the Israeli occupying forces.

    Clearly, he said, the Israeli Government had no intention of observing any kind of ceasefire or calming the volatile situation on the ground and preventing its further deterioration. On the contrary, its policies and actions sought to incite and escalate the violence and intensify the crisis. Those actions had reached an unprecedented criminal level aimed at not only destroying the Palestinian Authority and any potential for peace, but also destroying what was left of the Palestinian infrastructure to inflict maximum suffering and agony on the Palestinian people.

    Also this morning, the Committee re-elected Mr. Fall (Senegal) as Chairman; and Bruno Rodriquez Parrilla (Cuba) and Ravan Farhadi (Afghanistan) as Vice-Chairmen. Walter Balzan (Malta) will serve as Rapporteur. The Committee also took note of developments since its last meeting at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and approved its programme of work for 2002.

    In addition, the Committee approved the provisional programmes for the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People (16-17 April) and the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization Meeting in Solidarity with the Palestinian People (18 April), to be held in Nicosia, Cyprus.

    Statements were also made by the representatives of Namibia, Indonesia, Cyprus and Guinea.

    The next meeting of the Committee will be announced.

    Background

    The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to conduct the election of its officers and to consider its draft programme of work for 2002. It was also expected to consider developments in the Middle East peace process and the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. The provisional agenda for the meeting is contained in A/AC.183/2002/L.1.

    Statements

    MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the situation in the Middle East, especially in the occupied Palestinian territory, had seriously deteriorated. The Palestinian people, particularly the women and children, continued to suffer due to Israeli occupation. The use of the most deadly weapons, including F16 bombers, and the illegal blockades of towns and cities by the occupying Power could not be allowed to continue. Also, the continuing humiliation of Chairman Yasser Arafat, placed under house arrest, was unacceptable. The United Nations, particularly the Security Council, could not continue to ignore the carnage in Palestine due to the occupation. He attached great importance to the central role of the Secretary-General and urged him to continue his efforts to bring about lasting peace to the people of Palestine.

    As a starting point, he said, Israel must withdraw its troops from the Palestinian territory. That would pave way for the peace process to resume. What was required was political will by all those involved to bring the peace process back on track. The Committee, for its part, had the responsibility to mobilize the international community. It was the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to be free and independent. To do so effectively, the Committee must have strong and visionary leadership.

    The Bureau, as presently constituted, would be able to provide that leadership, he added. Therefore, he proposed that Papa Louis Fall (Senegal) be re-elected as Chairman of the Committee. He also proposed that Bruno Rodriquez Parrilla (Cuba) and Ravan Farhadi (Afghanistan) be re-elected as Vice-Chairmen and Walter Balzan (Malta) as Rapporteur.

    MOCHAMAD SLAMET HIDAYAT (Indonesia) fully endorsed Namibia’s proposal for re-election of the present bureau. The situation on the ground had quickly deteriorated. He reiterated his delegation’s support for the mandate of the Committee.

    Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that in the past 16 months, the situation on the ground had deteriorated to unprecedented levels. The death toll now exceeded 1,100, with up to 20,000 injured on both sides, the overwhelming majority Palestinian. The peace process was going through an extremely trying period. It had lost momentum and badly needed a renewal of energy and conviction. The parties should recommit themselves to the principles of Madrid and Oslo and return to meaningful political dialogue aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

    The Tenet understandings and the Mitchell recommendations, which established clear and specific obligations for both sides, provided the basis for restoring the peace process, he continued. Their scrupulous implementation would re-establish the necessary security conditions, as well as the necessary political commitments. Making progress on security-related issues alone, without addressing the occupation, would not bring lasting security. Ultimately, that could only be done by reviving the peace process. The urgency and gravity of the situation was such that preconditions that could all too easily be thwarted by extremists should not be allowed to become barriers to further progress. It was, therefore, vital that all aspects of Tenet and Mitchell should be advanced as a package.

    The demand for a major improvement of the security situation needed to be linked to initiatives on the political front, to facilitate the return of the parties to the negotiating table, he added. The international community must encourage both parties to take the steps required to break the present impasse.

    The Palestinian leadership now faced very great challenges, he said. The destruction of the Palestinian Authority’s infrastructure would only increase the difficulty it had in meeting both its political and its security commitments. Certainly, the virtual house arrest imposed on President Arafat should be lifted. The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen, had been actively involved in repeated efforts to defuse the current crisis, restart the peace process and coordinate donor assistance to the Palestinian people. In particular, together with representatives of the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union -- the so-called "quartet" -- and other partners, he had been working with the parties on the immediate task of achieving a ceasefire and reactivating the political process.

    Following his re-election as Committee Chairman, PAPA LOUIS FALL (Senegal), speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the honour bestowed on Senegal and conveyed his gratitude to the Committee for its vote of confidence. He also congratulated the members of the Bureau and thanked them for their constant support in dealing with a complex issue. He also appreciated the Secretary-General’s commitment to relaunch the peace process and welcomed his revitalizing presence in the meeting. The peace process could not prosper without halting the use of violence and terror by unrepentant hardliners, whether Israeli or Palestinian, and without the genuine commitment on the part of Tel Aviv to the logic of the peace process.

    He said there were many obstacles impeding the prospect for peace. The Committee was more determined than ever to fulfil its mandate to give back to the Palestinian people all of their inalienable rights. Israel and Palestine both had the right to a sovereign existence within internationally gauranteed and secure borders. The Committee intended to expand its operation with all people of goodwill to bring about a just and lasting resolution based on Security Council resolutions. He paid tribute to Yasser Arafat for his courage and wisdom during tribulation and attempts to marginalize him. Palestine’s national legitimacy had remained completely intact. He urged all members of the Committee to promote the immediate resumption of peace negotiations. Tolerance was the virtue that would make peace possible.

    NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, was one marred daily by the incessant bloody Israeli military campaign being waged against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership since 28 September 2000. For over 16 months now, the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation had suffered countless violations of their human rights, war crimes and State terrorism at the hands of the Israeli occupying forces.

    Clearly, he said, Mr. Sharon’s Government had no intention of observing any kind of ceasefire or calming the volatile situation on the ground and preventing its further deterioration. On the contrary, the policies and actions of the Israeli Government definitely sought to incite and escalate the violence and intensify the crisis. Those actions had reached an unprecedented criminal level aimed at not only destroying the Palestinian Authority and any potential for peace, but also destroying what was left of the Palestinian infrastructure to inflict maximum suffering and agony on the Palestinian people. Moreover, those actions were accelerating the dangerous slide of the whole region towards war and confrontation.

    While he appreciated all that the international community had been doing in an effort to bring those Israeli attacks and policies to an end, more could have and should have been done. That had not been the case, probably due to the despair and frustration at positions coming out of Washington, D.C. -- positions which had effectively allowed Mr. Sharon and his Government to escape the peace

    process, to thwart the existing agreements, to put aside and refuse implementation of the Mitchell recommendations, and to wage an all-out attack against the Palestinian Authority and its leaders.

    On terrorism, he said that while he condemned terrorist bombings that targeted Israeli civilians, he utterly rejected, as a matter of principle, attempts to confuse that with any resistance in the occupied Palestinian territory.

    The Chairman, Mr. FALL (Senegal), informed the Committee of developments that had taken place since the Committee’s last meeting at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

    Introducing the Committee’s draft programme of work for 2002, he said the programme reflected the Committee’s ongoing concerns and objectives in the light of the evolving situation. Section I summarized the relevant General Assembly resolutions adopted at the fifty-sixth session containing the respective mandates of the Committee, the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Department of Public Information. Section II outlined priority issues and reaffirmed the view that the programme of activities, mandated by the Assembly, had continued to make a positive contribution to heightening international awareness of the question of Palestine.

    In 2002, the Committee would emphasize the urgency of salvaging the peace process, he said. In particular, it would continue to advocate the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations and the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations towards concluding a final settlement. Economic assistance to the Palestinian people was a critical underpinning of peace in the region. The Committee would remain engaged on issues relating to the state of the Palestinian economy and the urgency of providing international assistance to the Palestinian people. In keeping with its mandate, the Committee would continue to work towards the exercise by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and statehood.

    Section II also referred to the mandate given to the Department of Public Information to expand its collection of audiovisual material on the question of Palestine and to continue the production and preservation of such material, he added. The Division of Palestinian Rights would be cooperating with the Department on the project to preserve and modernize the United Nations collection of films and videos on the question of Palestine.

    Section III of the work programme dealt with the proposed activities of the Committee and the Division for Palestinian Rights, he continued. In sub-section A, it outlined the action to be taken by the Committee in 2002, including the activities of the Chairman. Sub-section B dealt with the programme of meetings and conferences to be organized in 2002. In response to the deterioration on the ground in 2000-2001, the Committee would focus on salvaging the peace process. Sub-section C focused on the Committee’s cooperation with civil society and stressed the importance of civil society in mobilizing international solidarity.

    Section III also specified activities aimed at strengthening the cooperation between the Committee and the non-governmental organization community, he said. The Committee believed that in 2002, non-governmental organizations should continue to focus their efforts on mobilizing support to salvage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in accordance with international legitimacy. Sub-section D described the work to be carried out in 2002 on the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL). Additional work would be required to continue to administer the UNISPAL Web site and to upgrade the system’s capacity to accommodate increased usage.

    Sub-section E outlined other elements of the programme of work of the Division for Palestinian Rights, including the preparation of publications and training for staff of the Palestinian Authority, he said. The experience of the previous years of the training programme should be evaluated in consultation with the Observer Mission of Palestine. Regarding the annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Committee recommended that it be observed on Friday, 29 November 2002, and that the usual programme of activities be envisaged, including a Palestinian exhibit.

    SOTIRIOS ZACHEOS (Cyprus) congratulated the Chairman and the members of the Bureau on their re-election and welcomed the decision to organize the international meeting in support of the Middle East peace in Cyprus. Cyprus was honored to host that meeting. The decision indicated the commitment of Cyprus to contribute to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. The present situation was unacceptable. The cycle of violence must end. There was need for a new Middle East, characterized by justice, dignity and security for all. The viability of a Palestinian State was a sine qua non. Cyprus would work closely with the Committee and the Secretariat to secure a successful and productive meeting.

    Updating the Committee on recent developments on the ground, Mr. AL-KIDWA highlighted some positive, although timid changes that had taken place. He drew attention to some statements made yesterday vis-à-vis the United States stance towards the Middle East. In addition, the Security Council had placed the item of the Middle East on its monthly agenda, which was a welcome development. The Council had held a briefing in which it received a report by the United Nations Special Coordinator and another briefing might be held the day after tomorrow. He hoped the Council might send a mission to the region, to see for itself the situation on the ground and what further steps could be taken.

    He called on the Council to fulfil its obligations under the Charter. He also highlighted the continuing responsibility of the United Nations in that respect. It should ensure a follow-up to the endeavours undertaken last year.

    Mr. DIALLO (Guinea) congratulated the Chairman on his re-election and wished the members of the Bureau success in its work. Guinea was committed to participating in the Committee’s work to give new impetus to the peace process. He thanked the Chairman for his words of encouragement to the Committee.

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