RABAT MEETING ON PALESTINIAN RIGHTS
Experts Examine International Efforts at Salvaging Peace in Middle East
(Received from a UN Information Officer.)
RABAT, 25 June -- The United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People demanded this afternoon that the Israeli Government immediately cease construction of a system of barriers designed to arbitrarily separate the West Bank from Israel.
In a final communiqué, participants called on the Government of Israel to honour its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, immediately terminate all acts of violence against innocent civilians and cease all other illegal activities. They expressed the hope that the European Council’22 June "Declaration on the Middle East" and the 24 June statement by United States President George Bush would lead to the realization of the vision of Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders.
They also viewed the peace initiative by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as a constructive contribution to the achievement of peace and endorsed the idea of deploying an international presence to monitor a ceasefire and to restore confidence in the security and political fields.
According to the communiqué, the participants reiterated their support for the Palestinian leadership and welcomed the reform process initiated by Chairman Yasser Arafat. In that regard, the participants reaffirmed their recognition of the sovereign right of the Palestinian people to elect their leadership democratically and without interference.
During today’s meeting, the final session of a two-day event, experts considered international efforts at salvaging the peace process in the Middle East and African support for Palestinian rights. The meeting was sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
Statements were made by the Secretary-General of the African Parliamentary Union; Chairman of Africa Society; Vice-President of the National Assembly of Senegal; Moroccan writer Larbi Messari; and the Ambassador of Palestine to Nigeria.
The Rapporteur of the Committee introduced the final communiqué.
Closing statements were made by the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, as well by the representative of Morocco. The representative of Palestine also made a closing statement.
Tomorrow, the Committee will host the United Nations Workshop for African Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine. Under the theme "Action by civil society in Africa in solidarity with the Palestinian People", it will review action by African non-governmental organizations in pursuance of the recommendations of the August 2001 Non-Governmental Forum held in Durban; mobilization of public opinion in support of the Palestinian people; and development of action-oriented proposals by African non-governmental organizations and mechanisms for their implementation.
African Support for Inalienable Rights of Palestinian People
IBRAHIMA FALL, Secretary-General of the African Parliamentary Union, Abidjan, said the Union had adopted several resolutions and declarations expressing solidarity with and support for the Palestinians. The Israeli violence and other actions against the Palestinians served to further alienate hopes for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Peace required Israeli withdrawal and the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and other relevant resolutions.
Further, he said, the African Parliamentary Union called on both parties to respect and safeguard life, end the violence and return to negotiations. The Union worked closely with the Arab Parliamentary Union and had joined with other parliamentary unions to repeatedly express their condemnation of Israeli actions.
AHMED HAGGAG, Chairman of Africa Society, Cairo, said African support for the Palestinian people spanned five decades, as Africans knew what it was like to suffer occupation and colonialism, to be subjugated in their own lands and to be robbed of their rights and freedoms. That solidarity was strengthened as a result of the special alliance between Israel and the apartheid regime of South Africa. Furthermore, as Members of the United Nations, Africans had a moral duty to ensure that the Organization’s resolutions and decisions were implemented. If they were ignored, what would prevent the international community from ignoring other decisions, particularly those referring to Africa such as resolutions pertaining to conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea?
He said the African Group was a powerful bloc at the United Nations, comprising 53 States, or 28 per cent of its membership. Their solidarity with the Palestinian people had often been part of the reciprocal relationship between African and Arab Member States. Moreover, the three African members of the Security Council -- Cameroon, Guinea and Mauritius -- had an influential say, and in the past, Namibia had been the most vocal in defending the Palestinian rights in that forum. African delegates attending the World Conference against Racism in Durban last year had been steadfast in their support for including language on Palestinian rights and the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory in the final document.
Calling on African States to demonstrate their solidarity through participation in open debates and voting at the United Nations on questions pertaining to the occupied Palestinian territory, he said it was also important to participate in observances like the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November and to send messages of support to show the Palestinians that they were not alone. Further, it was crucial for African States to speak out and to remain at the forefront of international and regional efforts to reaffirm the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Those approaches were not revolutionary, but they were practical and implementable, he said.
IBA DER THIAM, Vice-President of the National Assembly of Senegal, said that the African and Palestinian peoples had both experienced gratuitous violence and the stigmas of colonization, and the question of Palestine had a special historical significance for Africans. He reviewed the many actions on the part of African regional groups to support the Palestinian people, noting that many African States had not even existed when the partition plan was enacted and had played no role in the adoption of resolution 181 (II) of 1947. In 1982, when Israel had marched into Lebanon, the African countries had stood with the Arabs in condemning the massacres in Sabra and Shatila. They had also condemned any attempt to seize Jerusalem. In 1987, when the first intifada had broken out, the African countries had taken the same stand. In 1988, they had welcomed the declaration of a Palestinian State.
Since the advent of the Sharon Government, he said, the Africans had condemned the Israeli policies of extrajudicial killings, deportation of Palestinians, looting, curfews, invasions of Palestinian cities and the settlements in Palestinian territory. They had also condemned the planned wall around the West Bank. It was time to speak out for a vision of peace and reconciliation, renouncing force and recognizing the rights of all nations to live in peace. He called for an end to a double-standard policy and attempts to undermine Chairman Arafat.
LARBI MESSARI, a Moroccan writer, said President Bush’s statement yesterday proved that the Committee must work harder to reaffirm the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. That statement had set down the pre-condition of a new leadership for the Palestinian Authority. However, the rest of the international community viewed matters in an entirely different light and called for Israel’s withdrawal and the establishment of Palestinian rights.
He said the Israeli Government’s campaign of destruction over the past two years had involved the persecution of journalists, both Palestinian and foreign. Many journalists had been the targets of attack or various forms of harassment by Israeli soldiers, especially since the start on 29 March of the current Israeli military assault on the West Bank. According to the report of the organization "Reporters without Borders", during 15 months of continuous violence against the Palestinians, the Israeli army had been responsible for wounding 45 journalists, some of them critically. Israel’s Ministry of Defence had acknowledged only nine cases and denied responsibility for all but one. At the end of the year, moreover, the Israeli authorities had decided not to renew the accreditations of Palestinian correspondents working for the international media.
Compiling a list of hardships endured by the Palestinian media during the three weeks following the reoccupation of Palestinian areas, Reporters without Borders had concluded that such aggression, intentional humiliations and threats of bodily harm represented a conscious policy to conceal from the international public the truth about Israeli army actions, he said. Attempts to suppress information extended to the Israeli media, as well, with the suspension of newspapers and the blocking of access to so-called military areas.
SAMIR DIAB, Ambassador of Palestine to Nigeria, said that two thirds of the Arab world were Africans. Arab support for the uprisings and the search for self-determination in African nations had taken various forms. In 1961, the Africans had given more attention to the question of Palestine, and with the establishment of the OAU, there had been even greater cooperation between Africans and Palestinians. The occupation of Egyptian territories had solidified African support, as had Israeli support for the apartheid regime.
He said many African liberation movements had been trained in the Fatah and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) camps, and in 1975 the Palestinian question had come to be considered an African issue. African countries had severed ties with Israel, given the PLO observer status at the OAU and declared full support for the exercise of Palestinian rights. Africans had condemned the inhuman acts against the occupied Palestinian and other Arab lands, and the disrespect of holy sites.
Last year, he said, African leaders had asserted the absolute need for Israel to respect international humanitarian law, calling for a halt to the policy of land confiscation. They had appealed to Israel to withdraw from the territories and condemned the destruction of the Palestinian Authority’s institutions and property.
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