Press Releases

    GA/PAL/918
    16 May 2003

    KYIV MEETING IN SUPPORT OF MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    CONCLUDES WITH FINAL DOCUMENT

    (Received from a UN information officer.)

    KYIV, 14 May -- The United Nations International Meeting in Support of Middle East Peace this afternoon urged the Security Council to endorse the "Road Map", call for its implementation and remain engaged on the issue.

    In a Final Document, participants stressed the importance of parallel progress in security, political and economic areas. They agreed that the continuing occupation by Israel of the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, remained the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and threatened the security and stability of the entire region.

    Expressing concern that the Israeli Government had so far failed to accept the Road Map, they urged that country to do so without delay. They said the constantly expanding illegal settlement activities, the controversial separation barrier and the deplorable loss of civilian life endangered the chances for a political settlement. They expressed appreciation for Ukraine’s offer of good services to promote negotiations between the parties.

    During today’s meeting, the final session of a two-day event, experts considered the theme of working for a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. Discussions revolved around the work of the Quartet and the recent presentation of its peace plan. Speakers referred to the continued responsibility of the United Nations for the question of Palestine as well as a sustained role for the Security Council. The role of civil society in supporting peace in the region was explored by several speakers.

    Closing statements were made by the Chairman of the Committee and the representatives of Ukraine and Palestine.

    The Final Document was introduced by the Rapporteur of the Committee, Victor Camilleri (Malta).

    Panel presentations were made by the Director of the Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy, the Assistant Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, the Vice-Chairman of the European Coordinating Committee for Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine and a Professor of the Institute of International Relations at Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University.

    Tomorrow, the Committee will host a Public Forum in Support of Middle East Peace during which there will be a round table discussion by experts who participated in the international meeting. Topics to be explored refer to public perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the unchallenged media; the impact and educational responsibility of think tanks and academic institutions; and the role of civil society in raising public awareness about the question of Palestine. In addition, representatives of civil society will have an opportunity to discuss, in greater detail, the role of civil society regarding the question of Palestine.

    Panel III: Working for a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine:

    Themes: Establishing a viable framework for the political process -- the Quartet’s Road Map; the permanent responsibility of the United Nations including the Security Council: the role of intergovernmental organizations and entities in supporting peace in the region; the contribution of civil society.

    Roundup of Meeting

    Representatives of 44 governments, two intergovernmental organizations, four United Nations agencies, 10 non-governmental organizations and 26 representatives of the media attended the 13-14 May event in Kyiv. Held at the Ukrainian House convention centre, the Meeting included three plenaries and involved the participation of 13 experts.

    Today’s meeting will be followed tomorrow, Thursday 15 May, by a Public Forum in Support of Middle East Peace, held at the Institute of International Relations in Kyiv. Both events were held in accordance with General Assembly resolution 57/107 of 3 December 2002 by which the Assembly requests the Committee to continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people. It also requests the Committee to cooperate and support Palestinian and other civil society organizations to mobilize international solidarity and support for the Palestinian people. To that end, Assembly resolution 57/108 specifically addresses the organization of meetings in various regions with the participation of all sectors of the international community.

    In Plenary I, experts considered the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, touching on the human cost of the violence, the expansion of settlements, the impact of the conflict on the Palestinian Authority, the destruction of the Palestinian economy and the deepening of the humanitarian crisis.

    In Plenary II, panelists discussed the prospects for resuming the political process. Discussion points included unblocking the political stalemate, modalities for ending the violence, restoration of the pre-September 2000 status quo, the urgency of improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people, and progress in the reform agenda: critical steps by the Palestinian leadership.

    Discussions in Plenary III centred on working for a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. Issues reviewed by the panelists were the establishment of a viable framework for the political process -- the Quartet’s Road Map; the permanent responsibility of the United Nations including the Security Council; the role of intergovernmental organizations and entities in supporting peace in the region; and the contribution of civil society.

    Committee Background

    The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was established by the General Assembly by resolution 3376 (XXX) of November 1975. By that resolution, the Assembly gave the Committee a mandate to recommend a programme to enable the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable rights as recognized by Assembly international resolution 3236 (XXIX) of 22 November 1974. In its first and subsequent reports to the Assembly, the Committee has stressed that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, must be the relevant United Nations resolutions and the following principles: the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and from other occupied Arab territories; respect for the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized boundaries; and the recognition and exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination. The Committee’s recommendations could not be implemented and the Assembly each year has renewed the Committee’s mandate and requested it to intensify its efforts.

    The Committee is composed of the following Member States: Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Cyprus, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine. Observers to the Committee are Algeria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Niger, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam and Yemen. Palestine, African Union, League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference are also observers to the Committee.

    Statements

    LUCY NUSSEIBEH, Director, Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy, Jerusalem, said the peace process was at a critical juncture which could either lead to a real and self-sustainable peace or condemnation to more years of increasing frustration. For the majority of Palestinians, life had become unlivable and they were looking for an alternative way forward. There was an increased interest in non-violent activities that were about justice and not about victory. Violence could be stopped if civil society became engaged. It was only through constant and sustained effort that the cycle of violence could be broken and the path to peace unblocked. The Israeli public must know that trust and peace were possible. With or without progress on the Road Map, there was a need to rebuild trust and to prepare the ground for peace at all levels. That meant working for a self-sustainable peace that ended every form of Israeli control and that provided security, space and a viable future for both peoples.

    She said every single Palestinian was affected every day by the harsh Israeli occupation. The official casualty figures showed only the numbers killed, but Israeli soldiers and settlers knew they did not show all the people who had merely fallen ill and died from sheer misery and lack of hope. There was a growing understanding among Palestinians that there could never be a military solution. Violence had proved unproductive. Most Palestinians practiced non-violence every day. Occupation was worse than war. The occupied people were not only adversaries but adversaries in the complete control of their enemy.

    The term civil society covered all people and groups who were not part of a government or intergovernmental body. It represented the choices people had in a society to work with a variety of alternatives. It implied a cross or trans-national society and could refer to any group that was connected to the Middle East problem. Whereas governments tended to be constrained by a formal mandate, civil society was flexible and could be responsive to any need at any moment. It could include far more input from women and women’s groups and work around the assumption of shared universal values. Civil society could more easily focus on one particular value or theme and rally people towards it. Cooperation among civil society groups could be productive in spite of the ongoing conflict, she said. It had the advantage of being able to work around the assumption of shared universal values. There were more realistic and open contacts between Palestinians and Israelis as they realized that there was a way of pulling together out of the current conflict. Fear was a terrible master that deafened people to reason and security was an overriding concern of the Israelis. It was essential to break the stereotype of a Palestinian as a terrorist. Polls showed strong Palestinian support for non-violence. The majority of both Palestinians and Israelis thought that the basic problem was lack of trust. There were growing numbers of Palestinians who were turning to non-violence as the only way forward. If non-violence could be strengthened among Palestinians, Israelis could understand that with the end of occupation, there would be a real peace. There also needed to be an active engagement by the international community. The onus was on Palestinian civil society to dissuade Israeli fears. The onus was also on Israeli civil society to respond to that gesture.

    SAID KAMAL, Assistant Secretary-General, League of Arab States, said the Organization was greatly affected by regional and international developments which might strengthen or weaken it. The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States had direct and daily contacts with the Palestinians. The League had basic principles for a just and durable peace in the region. Peace was a strategic option attainable by implementing the principle of land for peace, enabling the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights and the establishment of an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. The Arab peace initiative adopted at the Arab summit in Beirut provided a basis for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel responded with a military campaign that caused the deaths of many Palestinians.

    He said the separation wall was an Israeli plan to annex large areas of land. It would destroy any viability of a Palestinian State by separating Palestinian lands that could be easily controlled by Israel. Israel must accept the achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. It must accept the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian State in the Palestinian territory occupied since June 1967. At the same time, there must be acceptance of Israel by all Arab States.

    Since the announcement of the Road Map, he said, Israel had attempted to obstruct it with a series of amendments. The Arab Leagues’ position was that the Road Map must be implemented and not negotiated. He reminded participants that the Arab League was calling on the Palestinian Rights Committee to join it and the Organization of the Islamic Conference in organizing a round table to discuss the Charter’s provisions on the right of self-determination and the illegality of occupation. The Arab League was ready to organize such an endeavour now. Recalling Deir Yassin and other massacres, he said that the killing had begun a long time ago.

    THEOCHARIS PAPAMARGARIS, Vice-Chairman, European Coordinating Committee for Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine, said that since the end of 2002, the Israeli Government had expelled activists working for the Palestinian people and for non-governmental organizations, trade unionists and human right militants. Since the beginning of the year, American and British activists and members of the international observer missions for the protection of the Palestinian population had been killed by the Israeli Army in Gaza. As recently as 2 May, a British journalist was killed by the Israeli army in Rafah. Those killings and the great number of international civil observers injured were an act of deliberate Israeli policy to keep international observers and journalists away from the occupied Palestinian territory. What was the United Nations doing? he asked. Non-governmental organizations had prepared a plan of action and had appealed to the United Nations to create, as a matter of urgency, an international protection force. That force would constitute a first step in ending the occupation and applying United Nations resolutions for a just and durable peace. Non-governmental organizations had pressed for, and managed to obtain in April 2002, a clear resolution from the European Parliament demanding the suspension of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Israel for as long as Israel occupied Palestinian land.

    At the same time, he said, non-governmental organizations had asked the United Nations to express its opposition to the Israeli occupation by resorting to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. They had asked the United Nations to concern itself with the application of the 1949 Geneva Convention. At the Nicosia meeting sponsored by the Committee in April 2002, non-governmental organizations had stated their position and since then had continued efforts for a just solution of the Palestinian problem. The United Nations had a mandate to bring peace to the Middle East. Addressing the United Nations, he said, "Road Map or no Road Map, it is your duty to do so and our obligation to remind you of it".

    He said he did not think much would come out of the Road Map. The non-governmental organizations had only non-violent tools. Their only possibility was to mobilize and remind governments of their responsibilities. Non-governmental organizations must stand on the side of the Palestinians as well as on the side of courageous Arab and Israeli citizens inside of Israel in their lonely fight against Israeli policies.

    YURI SKOROHOD, Professor at the Institute of International Relations, Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University, said the efforts of the international community to solve the conflict should be made without delay. Effective and productive methods were needed. Another failure would have grave consequences and strengthen advocates of the use of force. The efforts to find a settlement that were taking place in a situation that was different from that of the 1990s. The masses of Palestinians and Israelis no longer believed in the process as they had in the 1990s. A tactic of small steps was necessary to make it possible to move forward.

    He said the Road Map was based on an optimistic assessment. There needed to be favourable conditions established for Palestinian-Israeli relations and at the global and regional levels for the plan to succeed. It was important to develop the proper approach. The Road Map could be seen as a working document aimed at generating discussion or considered as a final document in which only small changes could be made. The plan was not perfect as it did not take in all the needs of the participants, but the sponsors must ensure that amendments did not undermine the timeframe of the plan. The success of the Quartet would depend on willingness to go from unilateral action to a common search for a solution. The interest and needs of one side could not have priority over the interests and needs of the other. Israeli measures were a main reason for the worsening situation. Israel’s policies resulted in the radicalization of the Palestinians. It was up to Israel to change its approach. Israel now found itself in an escalation trap and its position was fully dependent on its previous decisions.

    The Palestinian side, he said, should assume that its attempts to stop terrorism was in its own interest. At a global level, it was important to have a continuation of the concerted approach by the key players. That would deprive the parties from undertaking alternative, less desirable solutions. The Quartet must act on a consistent and constant basis.

    Closing Statements

    IHOR KHARACHENKO, representative of Ukraine, said the meeting had been an open and constructive exchange of views and provided an opportunity to hear ideas that would facilitate movement towards a common goal. It recognized the significance of the Road Map. The settlement of the conflict should be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002), the principle of land for peace, the Arab League initiative and the Saudi plan. It should provide the parties with channels of communication at different levels. The United Nations should continue to maintain its position of responsibility on this matter. Each participant had a role to enforce efforts to bring about peace to the Middle East. He hoped the meeting had made an important contribution towards that goal.

    ZAID ABU ZAYYAD, Minister of Tourism of the Palestinian Authority, asked for the immediate implementation without any amendments, of the Road Map. The United Nations played a role and he hoped that the Organization and the Secretary-General would work hard for the implementation of all relevant resolutions. He asked for everyone to stop the Israeli aggression and to pressure Israel to remove all of its forces.

    PAPA LOUIS FALL (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noting the tightening of the vortex of violence, loss of life, wholesale destruction of infrastructure and private property in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, said the exchange of views over the last two days had been informative. He reviewed the presentations of the panelists and expressed the hope that the deliberations would contribute to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace n the Middle East.

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