Press Releases

    GA/PAL/943
    18 December 2003

    ASIA AND PACIFIC MEETING ON PALESTINE CONCLUDES WITH
    FINAL DOCUMENT WELCOMING SECURITY COUNCIL
    ENDORSEMENT OF ROAD MAP

    Experts in Concluding Session Discuss Support

    In Asia for Inalienable Rights of Palestinian People

    BEIJING, 17 December -- The United Nations Meeting for Asia and the Pacific on the Question of Palestine welcomed the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 1515 (2003) in which the Council endorsed the Road Map and called on the parties to fulfil their obligations under the plan and to realize the vision of two States living side by side.

    In a Final Document issued at the closing session of the two-day Asia and Pacific meeting, participants viewed the resolution as a strong indication of the Council’s intention to remain fully engaged in efforts towards achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. 

    The construction of the separation wall in the occupied West Bank and around East Jerusalem was seen as an extension of the illegal annexation by Israel of Palestinian land in violation of its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The Final Document called on the Council to make Israel comply with the General Assembly’s demand to stop and reverse the construction of the wall.  The Assembly’s request to the International Court of Justice to determine the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall was an important step towards upholding international law, the participants said. 

    During today’s meeting, experts considered support in Asia for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Andrew Vincent, Director of the Middle East Studies Centre of Macquarie University in Sydney discussed Australia's "schizophrenic fear of Asia" which had led it throughout its history to ally with great and powerful friends, first Britain and now the United States.  The statements and actions of its leaders on the question of Palestine revealed a one-sided approach which was based on the desire to please the United States and to placate the vocal and powerful pro-Israel lobby.

    Senator Pensak Chagsuchinda, of the Thai National Assembly, said increasing attention was being paid to the unique role that parliamentary bodies and the inter-parliamentary organizations could play in supporting Palestinian rights.  Parliamentary assistance might include special confidence-building measures; assistance in the establishment of and participation in external bodies like truth and rights commissions; strengthening the oversight of the security sector; and maintaining constitutional reform processes that might help to mitigate the violation of human rights.

    Researcher on Jerusalem affairs Albert Aghazarian said that some people thought the Palestinians kept missing trains, or chances.  In fact, they had not been missing chances or trains that were going where they wanted to go. There should not be movement for movement's sake or negotiation for negotiation's sake.

    Li Huaxin, Deputy Director General of the Department of West Asian and North Africa Affairs in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of China said the international community and the United Nations had a responsibility to intensify their mediation efforts to bring the Middle East peace process back on track.  China would work together with other Asian countries and the world to contribute to an early restoration of Palestinian rights.

    In his closing statement, Acting Director-General of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Zhang Jun said that the Meeting was sending to the international community the positive signals of peace, dialogue and support for the Middle East..

    Other closing statements were made by the Head of the delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian Peoples, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, and the representative of Palestine, Ziad Abu Zayyad.

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

    Tomorrow, the Committee will host a Public Forum in Support of Middle East Peace.  Experts from the United Nations Meeting for Asia and the Pacific on the question of Palestine will participate in a round table which will explore 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.

    Panel III: Support in Asia for the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People:

    Themes:  Action by Asian States within the United Nations system, non-aligned movement and other international organizations; and support by parliaments and inter-parliamentary organizations.

    Statements

    ANDREW VINCENT, Director, Middle East Studies Centre, Macquarie University, Sydney, said he was not speaking as an apologist for Australia’s Middle East policy but as an outside observer.  Australia’s schizophrenic fear of Asia had led it throughout its history to ally with great and powerful friends, first Britain and now the United States.  It had accepted the United States agenda unquestioningly and like many countries, had increased security measures and began to profile people from the Middle East.  Two years ago, Australia had taken part in the invasion of Afghanistan and one year ago it lost many of its citizens in the Bali bombing.  Muslims began to be targeted in Australia, and local talk-back radio ran hot with anti-Muslim sentiment.  Some months ago, the Assistant Treasurer had visited Israel and the occupied territory and had avoided visiting President Arafat, unlike the more courageous New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.  At about the same time, the then leader of the opposition Labour Party gave a speech to the Melbourne Jewish Community which was notorious even by Australia standards.  Some of the more vocal party members who wanted to debate the question of Palestine in parliament were silenced.

    There were, however, many Australians that viewed the question of Palestine with deep misgivings, he said. In October, Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies had decided to award the high profile Sydney Peace Prize to Hanan Ashrawi.  A fierce campaign began to discredit Ms. Ashrawi and intimidate community leaders involved in the prize.  Despite the pressure, the visit went ahead with much attendant publicity.  As a result of such events, the pro-Israel lobby attracted some very unfavourable publicity which seriously divided Australia's Jewish community.  An attack on Hanan Ashrawi was seen as an attack on free speech itself by many. 

    The Australian position supported the Road Map and condemned violence but its voting record in the United Nations and the statements and actions of its leaders on the question of Palestine revealed a one-sided approach.  That approach was based on the desire to please the United States and to placate the vocal and powerful pro-Israel lobby.  Australia was a major trading partner with the Middle East and it was only a matter of time before that one-sidedness would have commercial consequences.  It was already having consequences in Australia's social cohesion as anti-Arab sentiment stirred up by the war on terrorism had become a fact of life in the multicultural suburbs of Australian cities.  The search for terrorists increasingly targeted the Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities.  There was even talk of a Department of Homeland Security.  Australia's position on the question of Palestine left much to be desired.

    PENSAK CHAGSUCHINDA, Senator, National Assembly of Thailand, said globalization and international and multilateral cooperation would be rejected by the public if their welfare and security was threatened or compromised.  The United Nations and the international community must be alert to the pace and stages of globalization and adjust to non-traditional and non-conventional changes in order to lead the world through that transition.  All world institutions, including parliamentary institutions, must be adaptable and innovative in making changes. 

    She said increasing attention was being paid to the unique role that parliamentary bodies and the inter-parliamentary organizations could play in supporting Palestinian rights.  Parliamentary assistance might include special confidence-building measures, assistance in the establishment of and participation in external bodies such as truth and rights commissions, strengthening the oversight of the security sector and maintaining constitutional reform processes that might help to mitigate the violation of human rights.  It might also be necessary to offer technical assistance to liberation organizations or resistance movements to help them make the organizational and cultural changes needed to become political parties.

    She stressed the importance of human rights which she said were highly respected in Asia, where parliaments and inter-parliamentary organizations put the rights of individuals before anything else.  Human rights could not be separated from economic, social, cultural and political conditions.  Parliamentarians could encourage the establishment of a parliamentary department of international humanitarian law.  At the same time, parliaments must be innovative in the governance of national and world affairs.  They must lead the world on the basis of democracy and good governance.  Parliaments must be credible protectors of democracy and human rights.  They must reform themselves and be accountable with regard to democratic ideals and human rights.  It was imperative that parliaments, parliamentary organizations and civil society join hands to shape public opinion regarding the root causes of the conflict and the legitimate rights of Palestinians and Israelis.

    ALBERT AGHAZARIAN, Researcher on Jerusalem affairs, said there was a Palestinian concept that when one received a blow, it hurt but then, it could have been worse.  It was said that the Palestinians kept missing trains, or chances.  He felt that they had not been missing chances or trains that were going where Palestinians wanted to go.  There should not be movement for movement's sake or negotiation for negotiation's sake.  As far as the Road Map was concerned, he did not see a map or a road.  If someone killed another, one could argue that the killer felt more pain because the killed was dead and could not feel anything.

    Regarding globalization, he said it was with us whether we liked it or not.  Anyone who said no to globalization was missing the point. The first group to use networking as a form of political organization was a minority in Mexico. 

    In Plenary II, there had been a discussion of the influence of myths.  One myth was that there was unipolar system.  To every action there was a reaction.  That was a dynamic organization of history.  Perhaps Palestinians should encourage popular international support such as that illustrated by outsiders who came to help harvest the olives or to stop the destruction of homes.  That kind of popular reaction might be more effective than going into talks.  He was encouraged by the success of the Asian people.  There was tremendous work to do.  When the people lead, leaders follow, he said.

    LI HUAXIN, Deputy Director-General, Department of West Asia and North Africa Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, said that his country, like many other Asian countries, had undergone arduous struggles for its independence and national liberation. As a result, it was generally sympathetic to and supported the just struggle of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights. The Government of China had provided unselfish support and assistance to the Palestinian people at every historical stage of their struggle to restore their legitimate national rights.  In particular, since the outbreak of large-scale conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in 2000, China had also provided humanitarian assistance on many occasions to the Palestinian Authority.

    He said China attached great importance to working in coordination and cooperation with the United Nations on the question of Palestine and had consistently supported a more active and effective role for the United Nations in dealing with regional disputes and maintaining world peace.  China had always proceeded on the merits of the matter when the question of Palestine was being discussed in the United Nations.  With a view to an early resolution of the question of Palestine and seeking to uphold justice, China continued to work tirelessly to restore the legitimate national rights to the Palestinian people as soon as possible.

    The question of Palestine had now reached a critical juncture.  The launching of the Road Map had brought new hope for the resolution of the question.  The signing of the Geneva Initiative reflected the aspiration of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples for regional peace.  The international community and the United Nations had a responsibility to intensify their mediation efforts to bring the Middle East peace process back to a normal track as soon as possible.  China would work together with all peace-loving and justice-seeking countries of Asia and the world to contribute to an early restoration of the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people.

    Roundup of Meeting

    Representatives of 72 governments, three intergovernmental organizations, 7 United Nations agencies, 11 non-governmental organizations, and 50 representatives of the media attended the 16-17 December event.  Held at the conference centre of the Jingguo Garden Hotel in Beijing, the meeting included three plenaries and involved the participation of 16 experts. 

    Today’s meeting will be followed tomorrow, Thursday, 18 December, by a Public Forum in Support of the Middle East Process.  Both events were held in accordance with General Assembly resolution 57/107 of 3 December 2002, by which the Assembly requested the Committee to continue to exert all effort 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 took up the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.  Among the topics explored were illegal policies and actions of the occupying Power against the Palestinian people; the urgency of international protection of the Palestinian people; and humanitarian emergency and the destruction of the Palestinian economy.

    Panellists in Plenary II discussed strengthening international support for a peaceful solution of the question of Palestine including:  salvaging the political process; upholding the primacy of international law; and action by the non-aligned movement and intergovernmental organizations.  

    Plenary III was devoted to consideration of support in Asia of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including action by Asian States within the United Nations system, non-aligned movement and other intergovernmental organizations and support by parliaments and inter-parliamentary organizations.

    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 General Assembly 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 of the Committee.

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